Defence cuts too deep, Labour warns

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Indy Politics

Sacking hundreds of Army and RAF personnel will have "long-term consequences" for the UK, Labour has warned.

About 920 soldiers and 930 RAF personnel were told they were being made redundant, 750 of them against their will, in the first wave of military job losses.

The head of the armed forces, General Sir David Richards, acknowledged that it was an "unsettling time" for all personnel and a "significant challenge" for those made redundant.

Personnel were made aware of decisions on their future as Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the armed forces as the people "who make our country great".

The Army is making around 260 compulsory redundancies, 140 of them Gurkhas, as part of the coalition's efforts to tackle the deficit and bring the defence budget under control.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) expects some Gurkhas facing the axe to transfer to other infantry regiments which are currently below full strength.

A total of 869 soldiers applied for redundancy but only 660 of them are being allowed to leave.

The head of Army manning, Brigadier Richard Nugee, said in April that the cuts to the 3,500-strong Brigade of Gurkhas were necessary following recent changes to the Gurkhas' terms of service that placed them on the same footing as the rest of the Army.

Some 622 British airmen and women sought voluntary redundancy, of whom 440 had their applications granted. The RAF is also making about 490 compulsory redundancies.

The plans to cut the posts were announced earlier this year as part of a programme which could see 11,000 redundancies across the RAF, Army and Royal Navy by April 2015 in an effort to tackle the deficit and bring the defence budget under control.

In a message sent to all personnel, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Richards said: "While for some redundancy may be seen as an opportunity, for others it will understandably represent a significant challenge for both the individual and their families.

"Your chain of command and our comprehensive resettlement package will give you support to ensure your successful transition, whether to shortage areas within the Armed Forces or to civilian life.

"I am aware that this continues to be an unsettling time and that this only represents the first tranche of redundancy.

"Throughout this period we need to remain focused on operations and maintaining the quality that makes our Armed Forces, person for person, the finest in the world."

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy told BBC Breakfast that while savings were necessary, "they are probably going too quickly, too deeply in cutting the deficit".

He added: "A bigger worry is that while we all know that the deficit is temporary, the cuts at this stage are permanent.

"Once you sack an RAF trainee pilot they aren't coming back, they're gone for good. So, this has got very long-term consequences for our country."