Autumn Budget cuts to MoD spending ‘could hit soldiers and their families hardest'

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Military personnel would bear the brunt in terms of salaries and pensions due to cuts announced in the Budget, say sources – Cpl Timothy Jones/Crown Copyright Handout

The Ministry of Defence was the only department to face a cut in its day-to-day spending over the next four years in the Budget, raising fears it would be soldiers and their families who suffer most.

The Chancellor’s autumn Budget set out that the MoD would experience a decrease of 1.4 per cent in average annual real-term growth from 2021 to 2025 in day-to-day departmental spending.

Last year, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, secured a £16 billion spending increase for the department.

However, Government sources warned that the cuts announced in the Budget would mean that while the department had cash to spend on big ticket items such as frigates, military personnel would bear the brunt in terms of salaries and pensions.

It also comes at a time when the Government will cut the size of the Army by 10,000 troops, taking it to the smallest size in 300 years.

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, secured a £16 billion spending increase for the Ministry of Defence in 2020 – Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Other defence sources were quick to point out that the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to increase the defence budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation every year.

John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “Ministers talk about the rise in capital funding, but not the real cut in revenue funding over the next four years.

“This is the Achilles’ heel of defence plans. No other department has a cut in day-to-day spending between now and 2024-25. This means less money for Forces recruitment, training, pay and family support. The Defence Secretary never should have agreed it.”

Treasury sources suggested that the cut was in fact a real-time rise of 1.5 per cent “when you take into account their capital settlement”.

‘Striking’ cuts criticised

Prof Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, called the cuts “striking”.

“Last year, the MoD got the advantages of certainty in relation to its capital budget, which was then in deep crisis,” he said.

“But this year, it has become clear that the MoD budget as a whole is growing more slowly than any other major department over the five years to 24-25, apart from FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office] which is being hit harder.”

The Budget document also showed other departments had suffered in annual real-term growth from 2019 to 2025, with the Foreign Office facing cuts of eight per cent, although Treasury sources said the provision to move 2.7 per cent of Official Development Assistance takes the figure into the positive.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is also set to have cuts of 1.5 per cent over the period, however this was explained as a consequence of a switch in the focus of youth provisions from resource spending to capital spending.

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