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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 12:16 GMT
Military 'faces retention crisis'
Army recruits
The army is focusing on recruitment rather than retention, say the Tories
Britain's armed forces are facing a "retention crisis," the Tories say, as figures showed thousands of personnel left the Army last year.

Instead of "throwing money at recruitment" the government should focus on keeping existing staff, shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said.

Figures from Defence Analytical Services Agency show 14,460 personnel left the Army in 2006.

The Ministry of Defence said it was spending money on improving retention.

In 2006 89m was spent on recruiting - an increase of just over 3.5m on the previous year. There were more than 12,700 new recruits last year- but almost 14,500 personnel left the service.

'Desperate'

An MoD spokesman said: "Currently recruitment and retention is challenging, but we have introduced a number of financial packages to help address this."

And he insisted: "No units will deploy into theatre without the full compliment of troops needed to fulfil their mission."

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox, said: "The government is throwing money at recruitment in a desperate attempt to keep up numbers.

"They should be focusing on the retention crisis which sees some of the most skilled and experienced soldiers quitting the Army."

He added: "Shorter gaps between tours of duty, concerns over kit, pay and allowances are starting to hit morale and adding further pressure on service families."

'Peril'

Tory MP and former Army officer, Patrick Mercer, told the Sun newspaper: "This is the greatest emergency facing the Army for many years, yet the government continues to talk about recruitment as if it is improving."

He added: "The facts are staggering. Battalions are reaching the point where they can hardly do their jobs in war - but they continue to be sent to the front.

"This can only put soldiers' lives in greater peril."

The Sun newspaper cited a leaked document revealing that infantry battalions were 2,788 men short - three times worse than in December 2004.

The revelations come a day after a senior officer criticised the standard of living accommodation for soldiers and their families.

Adjutant-general Lt Gen Freddie Viggers condemned cramped and decaying living quarters in barracks, saying soldiers and their families deserved better.


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