More than 1,500 military personnel are to lose their jobs in the final round of armed forces redundancies, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced.
Up to 1,425 members of the Army and up to 70 medical and dental officers from the RAF and up to 10 from the Royal Navy are to go, Mr Hammond told MPs in a Commons statement.
He confirmed that among the units affected would be the Brigade of Gurkhas which still had more troops than it needed, despite previous cuts.
The fourth tranche of redundancies is part of an armed forces re-structuring programme which will see the regular Army cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020, while the newly-renamed Army Reserve – formerly the Territorial Army – is being expanded from 19,000 to 30,000.
Mr Hammond said that by encouraging transfers between different parts of the Army in particular, efforts had been made to keep the cuts to an ``absolute minimum''.
“For the men and women of our armed forces, I know that this has been a painful process but completion of this final tranche will mark a turning point,” he said.
“With the bulk of our troops back from Afghanistan by the end of this year and coming back from Germany over the next four years, they will be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from belonging to armed forces that have put a period of change and restructuring behind them and are focused on building their skills and capabilities for the future.”
While the services had been instructed to maximise the number of voluntary redundancies, Mr Hammond acknowledged there were likely to be fewer than in previous rounds – in part because of a low historic rate of volunteers among the Gurkhas.
To ease the transition to civilian life, he said that the armed forces help-to-buy scheme would be extended to personnel taking redundancy who did not have their own home.
Despite the cuts, Mr Hammond said that the services would continue to seek new recruits.
“There is a constant need to replace those who are promoted or who complete their service with new talent. The armed forces require a constant flow of young fit recruits to maintain the structure required,” he said.
For Labour, shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker accused the Government of letting down the forces.
“Labour is clear about the need to reconfigure our armed forces after withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of a presence in Germany. But we would never do anything that would leave Britain’s security under threat,” he said.
“The Government is letting down our armed forces and their families, and taking risks with our nation’s safety. The IT fiasco at the Ministry of Defence is costing millions of taxpayer pounds and hampering recruitment to the armed forces. The promised increase in the number of reserves – to make up for the gap left by these redundancies – hasn’t happened.”