No army cuts expected, says MoD chief

 

The Chief of the Defence Staff today declared he was "pretty confident" the Army could cut its numbers by a fifth without any new redundancies.

General Sir David Richards moved to reassure soldiers fearing for their jobs amid reports that 16,500 personnel faced the axe, with 2,500 injured troops, including 350 who had lost limbs, vulnerable to redundancy.

"The Army has got to get down to about 82,000 by 2020 and that will be quite challenging but there's no new round of redundancies expected," Gen Richards said today.

"We are pretty confident we can get down to the 82,000 figure without any round of redundancies."

He dismissed reports yesterday that amputee soldiers were being targeted, saying there was "no such policy".

The Ministry of Defence said a memo leaked to the Daily Telegraph was the work of a relatively junior officer considering all options, and insisted there was no prospect of protection for the wounded being relaxed.

Blaming the memo on too much "enthusiasm" from the captain responsible, Gen Richards said today: "The figures that were leaked in that memo are speculative."

He admitted there was a limit to the number of roles suitable for disabled soldiers who chose to stay in the Army, but quashed suggestions wounded soldiers would be forced out.

He clamed "no-one recognises that at all", though he said officials were "working through various mechanisms" to cut numbers.

Speaking to BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, Gen Richards said: "No-one will be forced out of the Army.

"They won't leave until it is right for them."

He said the Army was "a young man's business" and senior commanders needed "to focus on being combat ready and well-trained".

The Government has ordered the Army to slash its numbers by nearly 20% by 2020 as a result of last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review of the UK's military needs.

More than 900 soldiers were among 2,870 service personnel who lost their jobs in the first round of redundancies earlier this year.

In July, Army chiefs warned that an extra 5,000 soldiers faced the axe by 2015, on top of the 7,000 redundancies announced for the first phase, which has already begun.

The memo revealed yesterday, which was sent to commanders in Afghanistan, suggested that number could eventually be significantly higher.

But the head of the Army, Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall, claimed: "There is no question of wounded soldiers being made redundant while their recovery is best served by remaining in the Army.

"Equally, in due course, they may be better off embarking on a new career beyond the Army, and we will do everything within our gift to assist that transition."

PA

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