Call me a cynic but the measures announced yesterday are carefully crafted to respond to criticism that the nation’s commitment to the Armed Forces is not currently being met without properly addressing the issues; they’re a temporary reprieve but there are greater problems ahead – a glimmer of sun in a forecast that remains stormy.
The doubling of the Operational Welfare Allowance which enables local commanders to support families whilst the soldier is away is a good thing. The doubling of the relief on council tax for those on operational tour is also great news. There is no doubt that families will welcome these two forms of additional support at time when they feel most vulnerable. However, with the forecast reduction in operational tours starting next year the number of families benefitting from the allowances will decrease. The freeze in basic pay and increasing charges means the real value of a soldier’s salary continues to diminish.
The news on housing seems positive but needs to be seen as part of the bigger picture. AFF has consistently commented that the pause on the housing spend (announced in July last year) will have a detrimental effect on our already struggling housing stock. So the £100 million ‘additional’ funding is welcome but it’s difficult to regard as new money and is still £40 million short of that allocated and withdrawn last year. It will be used for repairing and refurbishing 650 properties, purchasing 25 family homes and buying 600 en-suite bedrooms for Service personnel living unaccompanied but it does not begin to answer the problems surrounding the rebasing of families from Germany.
Clearly the measures announced will read well in the Telegraph this morning but there is still plenty of work for AFF.
Catherine Spencer, AFF Director Communications