There has been a lot of speculation in recent months over cuts to the MOD’s budget. Figures indicate that squeezed funds have left barely enough equipment to properly equip 40,000 soldiers, less than half of the Army’s 82,000 ‘standing strength’.
I have real concerns about what these cuts may mean to the health, safety and welfare of our soldiers.
A review being conducted by the national security adviser Mark Sedwill is thought to be aimed at reducing the number of armoured vehicles, delaying upgrades to tanks and equipment, as well as removing amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. In addition there is reportedly consideration of the loss of 1,000 Royal Marines, and up to 12,000 soldiers from the Army.
In a recent report analyzing the affordability of the Government’s £160bn Equipment Plan for 2017 – 2027, The National Audit Office found that there is an affordability gap between its forecast funding and costs ranging from £4.9bn and £20.8bn.
Both military commanders, veterans and politicians are warning that the UK will be left with a Third World “hollow” Military and have expressed concern about our defence capability.
A lot of people are asking whether British forces are ‘fit for purpose’ but I don’t think that enough people are asking about the possible risks posed by cuts to the safety of our service personnel.
The MoD has a duty to service personnel which is similar to that of any other civilian employer. It has to provide a safe system of work, safe equipment and proper training.
Gaps in the budget may mean that health and safety training, and crucial equipment, is ignored. I am seeing cases of service personnel suffering from serious injuries as a result of defective equipment or because adequate training wasn’t provided.
We are also seeing individuals who have been catastrophically injured, such as former paratrooper Ben Parkinson, who suffered life changing injuries in Afghanistan in 2006, having to fight for care packages that have been promised to them and not materialised. His mother recently confirmed that equipment such as wheelchairs which were supposed to be provided further to his agreement with the MOD, were in fact provided by charities using funds donated by the public.
The Government must remember the health and safety of military personnel when considering budget cuts. This is not just a balance sheet exercise.
As a lawyer specialising in catastrophic injuries and their effects, I have acted for many clients who have suffered serious injuries at work, often in circumstances which were avoidable. In addition to the life changing effects of the injuries themselves, the costs of meeting an individual’s needs in respect of rehabilitation and therapies, care, aids and equipment, travel and accommodation to name but a few, are considerable. It is a false economy to cut costs which may lead to compromises in health and safety, only to have to pay out to meet the needs of the injured.