Yesterday, I expressed relief that subsidised accommodation would be retained under the New Employment Model (NEM), but pondered at what cost. Today, Chief of Defence Personnel, Lieutenant General Andrew Gregory, has replied:
"There is no plan within the NEM for unfair or unaffordable changes to accommodation charges. In fact we are acutely conscious of the role that subsidised accommodation plays in the overall offer and the linkages to pay and the wider cost of living. People should expect to pay fair, affordable charges for good quality accommodation that better meets their needs."
It is proposed that the level of subsidy compared to the Market Average Rate will remain significant; and that the MoD will ensure that charges are subject to a specified ceiling as a proportion of income, phasing in the charges over a period of several years. Let us hope that the NEM team will consider our real income, (taking account of the continued freeze on our pay, the further reductions in our allowances, rising inflation and increasing costs of living) before hiking up the prices of our accommodation.
The myth-buster also acknowledges the role of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body (AFPRB) whose remit is to report and make recommendations directly to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Defence on the remuneration and charges for members of the Services, as 'a role the government is clearly committed to retaining'. The AFPRB as an independent pay review body, consider affordability, the need to recruit, retain and motivate suitably able and qualified people, and broader trends on pay comparability. Like much of the myth-buster series, the theory and principles have been well-expressed â but the detail of the practice has yet to be revealed. The theory that the AFPRB can independently represent the interests of Service personnel is clear at first glance, but how many of our rank and file have had the opportunity to influence this august body? Whilst BAFF applauds the lobbying of the Families' Federations for married Service personnel, who speaks up for the singlies who make up the majority of the Forces? In comparison to the Police and Health Services, who have or are about to have a similar pay review body, only the Armed Forces lack a professional staff association to fully represent our members.
Chief of Defence Personnel, Lieutenant General Andrew Gregory, said: "Personnel should be assured that the AFPRB will keep the Department honest and ensure the pace of implementation is safe and manageable." But this will take some assurance! The last chairman of the AFPRB, Professor Alasdair Smith, found that honesty comes at a price. In March this year, the Prime Minister 'declined to re-appoint the Professor' following the rejection of his recommendation that service personnel should be given a rise to reflect the pressure of redundancies and cuts. I will leave you to conclude whether Professor Smith was effectively sacked (as was widely reported), but I for one seriously doubt the AFPRB's ability to keep the MoD honest.