The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP delivered the Autumn Statement on Thursday 5 December. Included in the statement was an announcement that the military special reserve is to be reduced this year by a further £900 million, which the Chancellor said is a result of reduced operations in Afghanistan. In the Autumn Statement document, the Government has also outlined that the Defence resource budget is to be reduced by £277 million for 2014-15 and £272 million for 2015-16.
The Sunday Times reports that the MOD has spent more than £160 million making civil servants redundant only to hire hundreds of temporary staff to cover shortages. The newspaper says that the officials who took redundancy packages of approximately £30,000 each are believed to have returned to their own jobs. A total of 334 staff at the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) agency took voluntary redundancy in 2012-13, however since November 2012, 443 staff have been hired to fill gaps left by those made redundant at the agency’s site in Bristol. The Sunday Times says that defence sources report the MOD is having to re-employ people on short-term contracts to do exactly the same job as those made redundant.
Answers to written questions
- Labour MP Andrew Gwynne asked the Home Secretary, what discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the transfer of funds from the MOD Police Civil Nuclear Constabulary and British Transport Police to fund the expansion of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Policing Minister Damian Green MP said the Home Secretary has not discussed with ministerial colleagues transferring resources from those organisations to enable the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to deal with all serious and sensitive cases involving the police.
He added that the Government has not yet made an announcement on the funding of the transfer of resources from police forces to the IPCC, and that announcements will be made in line with the police annual settlement process. The Provisional Police Grant Report will be laid in Parliament in December.
- Defence Minister Alison Seabeck MP asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office what external advice was sought by his Department during the drafting of the joint report to the Secretary of State for Defence on the Viability of the Material Strategy Procurement.
Cabinet Office Minister Nick Hurd MP replied that the review was conducted by a Crown Commercial Lead in the Cabinet Office, and Commercial Operations Director in the MOD, both of whom have external commercial backgrounds. He added that reviewers consulted widely among parties involved in the GoCo procurement and the MOD’s operations.
Lord Levene commends defence reform progress but urges swift decision on procurement
Lord Levene has conducted his second annual review of the implementation of defence reform by the MOD. In a letter to the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP, Lord Levene praised the MOD for “embracing complex and radical change to improve both efficiency and financial management”.
Lord Levene produced the 2011 Defence Reform report and made 53 recommendations on how to transform the MOD into a more efficient and effective organisation that could better accommodate the needs of the Armed Forces. Since the report, Lord Levene has monitored the changes that have been made and has been positive about the reforms which have been implemented so far. In his letter to Hammond, Lord Levene highlighted that the MOD’s £38 million budget deficit had been successfully eliminated and described it as a “remarkable achievement”. He also said that there was clear evidence that the MOD is more “business-like and finance-focused” and commended the Department for increasing accountability and reducing bureaucracy by delegating responsibility to the heads of each service.
Commenting on the current procurement situation, Lord Levene stated that he favoured a revamp of the department’s procurement process, rather than outsourcing to a private contractor: “In my opinion, the quickest and most straightforward solution would seem to be via DE&S plus”. He emphasised that a decision on DE&S was needed “urgently” to end uncertainty within the Department. On departmental structuring, Lord Levene said that it was important that the MOD Head Office continued to delegate financial and planning responsibility to the Top Level Budgets (TLBs) at the four military Commands but that he remained concerned that a reduction in the number of civil servants had not been matched by a reduction in the number of defence ministers.
In response to the letter, Hammond said he welcomed Lord Levene’s recognition of the substantial progress made since his last review. Hammond said he particularly welcomed the finding that the MOD was more “business like and finance-focused”. He went on to state that he acknowledged the need to maintain momentum and said the Department was making steady progress in the implementation of the change agenda.
Army to seek more money for ‘Defence Engagement’ in 2015 review
The Times reports that the Army has set aside £100,000 a year to send British troops to the world’s trouble spots to assess demand for new training missions designed to prevent conflict. The figure comes on top of £3.5 million to fund a softer form of military power, but the package is considered insufficient and the Army is planning to seek more money in a review of defence due to take place in 2015.
The newspaper says that a series of maps revealed to them suggests that the Gulf and the Middle East are identified as priorities for greater engagement by training local security forces and increasing local links. General Sir Peter Wall, head of the Army, said that such activities could improve stability and prevent wars. Sir Peter said the Army had identified areas of strategic interest to Britain and divided them into nine regions with a brigade allocated to each one. Soldiers would be encouraged to learn the language of their region, build ties with visiting staff officers and, where the need arose, facilitate training missions.
Only £100,000 has been so far earmarked each year to pay the travel costs of brigade commanders and their staff dispatched to the target countries. A defence source told the Times that there was a question of “where the resources will come from” and said the full cost of Defence Engagement had yet to be worked out.