Thursday, June 13, 2024

This is an ARCHIVED article at Information and links may well be out of date.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, millions of pounds in bonus payments to military bands have been axed as the Ministry of Defence desperately attempts to save more money:

For generations they have been the public face - and sound - of the military.

Military bands perform at everything from the FA Cup Final to charity fundraising events - and traditionally their reward for stirring sounds has been a small cash payment.

Now the 2,000 service musicians have been told that each payment, known as an "honorarium" will go straight to the Ministry of Defence.

The move will cost each of the members of the 30 bands around £1,000 a year, and swell official coffers to the tune of £2 million, a fraction of the £40m bonus pot MOD civil servants received last year.

But the move has been greeted with anger in the ranks, with bandsmen upset at a "mean and spiteful" action which they warn could threaten morale and have a serious impact on recruitment.
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One bandsman told The Sunday Telegraph: "Every single member of every band is totally committed.

"We work extremely hard and get no extra payment for our professional qualifications we also get as few as five weekends off a year and the extra payment we used to get helped with things like holidays.

"This mean and spiteful action has caused a great deal of upset and I know some musicians are fed up and are now considering their options."

Service musicians have received the "honoraria" for decades, if not longer, but defence chief have now ruled that it is in breach of government policy and military musicians will be paid nothing for playing at corporate events.

Unlike many members of other units no military bandsmen or women are entitled to any form of "special pay" even though the units contain some of the most highly qualified servicemen in the armed forces.

Military bands perform at more than 6,000 engagements every year in Britain and aboard. The workload - especially in the spring and summer - has been described as "exhausting" with some bandsmen having as few as five weekends off a year.

Of those 6,000, a total of around 400 are "commercial" events, where the bands have been hired by organisers to perform. As well as the FA Cup final, perhaps their most famous annual outing, the bands can also perform at corporate events.

Some of the most famous bands such as the Grenadier Guards are hired for as much as £10,000 per performance, with the majority of the money being paid directly to the MoD.

Up until May this year, any bandsman taking part in a "commercial" event would receive a payment of around £80 to £150 depending on the cost of the hire and the performance.

Most commercial events take place at the weekends or in the evenings when ordinarily the soldiers would be off duty and so the extra payment was regarded as a "bonus" for the additional hours of work.

It is now feared that many of the approximately 1500 professional musicians serving within the armed forces will leave in protest at the decision.

Patrick Mercer, the former infantry commander and Tory MP for Newark said: " Musicians are hard to recruit and stripping them of triflingly sums of money like this seems to me to be an excellent way of strangling recruitment and damaging morale even further."

All three services have struggled for years to recruit enough musicians to ensure every band has its full complement of members - a legacy of the decision to end the free teaching of musical instruments in schools.

As well as being professional musicians, military bandsmen also have a war role and many have seen active service in the past decade serving as stretcher bearers and in casualty handling stations.

Bandsmen have served in the Falklands War, the First Gulf War, the Kosovo campaign and also deployed with "Green Goddesses" to various Temporary Service Fire Stations around the firemen's strike during 2002.

In the early part of 2003, 39 Royal Marine bandsmen deployed with the Primary Casualty Receiving Facility on Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Argus providing casualty handlers and a further 26 ranks deployed with 3 Commando Brigade RM as decontamination teams during the Iraq War and there are currently members of bands serving in Afghanistan.

The decision to take the "honoraria" is the latest incident of defence chiefs being accused of damaging morale unnecessarily as they try to cut costs.

In February, they used email to inform front-line soldiers they were being sacked and weeks later, they warned thousands of personnel serving in Afghanistan that they might be made redundant later this year.

The latest cutbacks comes on top of a two-year pay freeze.

An MOD spokesman said: "Soldiers in military bands are paid for their unique skills which are developed at public expense. Any monies generated from commercial engagements are returned in full to the taxpayer."

Source article: Defence chiefs cut payments to military bands