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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 14:30 GMT
Who is responsible for military homes?
The Ministry of Defence's acknowledgement there are "serious problems" with some accommodation has highlighted the complex arrangements needed to manage the vast defence estate.

The situation is complicated by the privatisation of MoD properties, the management of older housing stock, and the funding of newer developments under a private finance initiative.

HOUSING STOCK

The MoD has 49,000 homes and 150,000 "single living units" at more than 200 sites worldwide.

But the government does not own all its accommodation.

Picture of barracks sent in by soldier
The government agrees forces housing "must be improved"

In 1996, the housing stock was sold to a private company, Annington Homes, and properties leased back to the MoD.

Ministers have also committed to spend 5bn in the next decade on housing and accommodation, while in April 2006, the MoD signed an 8bn PFI deal to upgrade accommodation for single soldiers.

The 35-year contract will see the rebuilding and refurbishment of barrack blocks at six sites in England and Wales.

ACCOMMODATION BUDGETS

The MoD says it is solely responsible for the standard of armed forces' accommodation, but that each of the three services can "augment" their own accommodation out of their own budgets.

New barracks
1bn is being spent over a decade to improve barracks

But the money allocated to maintaining, repairing and improving personnel's homes is not ring-fenced.

The MoD insists however that this money is not diverted to fund the additional costs of military operations, which comes directly from the Treasury.

Money allocated to PFI-deals is also not ring-fenced, but the MoD says it is paying the developer to maintain properties to a high standard for the length of the contract.

LICENSEES

A major concern to the people living in military accommodation is that they are not tenants.

Because MoD housing was privatised in 1996, the ministry has become the tenant, with the occupants living in them under "licence" from the defence secretary.

Sally Osment, Deputy Chairman of the Army Families Federation (AFF) says this does have a bearing on the state of their housing: "People don't feel ownership, they can't affect how the property is managed.

"The licensee is the service person. But it is often the spouse who deals with the repairs, they get all the hassle, but none of the ownership."

Mrs Osment agrees that improving such a large number of houses is "a bit like painting the Forth Bridge". But she says the programme of refurbishments has been "piecemeal".

"You can find yourself moving from a really nice house to a bad one. That's quite demoralising," she said.

REPAIRS

Many of the pictures sent to the BBC News website of military housing highlighted the poor standard of repair at some properties.

The organisation responsible for maintaining homes is a private sector joint venture called Modern Housing Solutions (MHS).

Exposed wiring
Gary Durban sent this picture of his family's accommodation in Bicester

It provides a 24-hour helpline for forces families to report faults, but the MoD accepts that there were teething problems with the service.

However, it insists that since August 2006, MHS has been meeting its response targets.

MHS's website tells service personnel it will attend an emergency call in three hours, rectify an urgent problem in five days, and carry out routine maintenance inside 20 days.

An MoD spokesman said it had "final responsibility" for military housing.

"We're accepting there is a problem and we're putting it right."


SEE ALSO
Q&A: Military housing
04 Jan 07 |  UK
Is soldiers' housing good enough?
03 Jan 07 |  Have Your Say
Your pictures: Housing for troops
04 Jan 07 |  In Pictures
Soldiers and families discuss homes
04 Jan 07 |  Have Your Say

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