Army recruits’ starting salaries are worth nearly £1,200 a year less under the Tories, Labour reveals today.
Theresa May yesterday claimed Saturday’s annual Armed Forces Day was “an opportunity for us all to pay tribute to our servicemen and women here and around the world for their dedication and service, and to those who have served in previous generations”.
But Labour released figures showing how after almost a decade of real terms pay cuts, a private’s starting salary is £1,159 lower in real terms today than in 2010.
Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith said: “As a country, we are rightly proud of our highly-skilled servicemen and women, ready at a moment’s notice to do whatever is necessary to defend our country.
“But under the Conservatives, our Armed Forces have had a raw deal. The Government has delivered short-sighted defence cuts and failed privatisations that have let down personnel and taxpayers alike.
“The next Labour government will guarantee a better deal for servicemen and women.”
It comes as Jeremy Corbyn attempts to avoid criticism of snubbing Armed Forces Day for the third year in a row by attending a small local event in his constituency.
He was accused of disrespecting the army, navy and airforce two years ago when he went to Glastonbury instead, and last year for going on an NHS march.
Last July ministers announced they were ending the public sector pay freeze, with the Armed Forces seeing 2% rises.
But even that was below the level of inflation.
As well as scrapping the public sector pay cap, Labour are laying out a set of pledges for soldiers and their families.
This includes a review of outsourcing with the aim of reducing outsourcing.
They will commit to providing decent housing for forces and their families and better access to schools with a dedicated local authorities admissions strategy for the particular challenge of frequent school moves.
The party also wants to create a body to give service men and women more of a voice which would be similar to the Police Federation.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses demanded better backing for veterans to become entrepreneurs.
About 340,000 – 6% – of small businesses are run by ex-military personnel.
A report out today, ‘A Force For Business’, recommends better help for those leaving the Armed Forces, including a greater focus on the option of self-employment and the key skills needed to succeed in enterprise”.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: “Setting up and running your own business requires courage, determination and a strong work ethic. These are attributes which service leavers have in spades, and why self-employment is a route well worth considering by those coming towards the end of their time in the Armed Forces.
“For those seeking employment, small businesses can often be better than bigger ones at spotting and nurturing talent, rather than discard a service leaver’s job application because some of their skills and qualifications aren’t necessarily from a traditional academic route.
“But there is room for greater support and advice to service leavers on the options of self-employment or finding work within an existing smaller business, and there should be more of a focus on the key skills needed to succeed in enterprise.
Lt Col Ren Kapur, chief executive of X-Forces Enterprise, said: “Many skills developed within the Armed Forces community are in high demand in the commercial world of employed work; cyber security, drone technology, telecommunications, logistics, prosthetics, and artificial intelligence, to name just a few.
“These extremely valuable skills must not be lost to the commercial world, either employed or self-employed – it is likely that these individuals can experience and flourish in both after serving their country so well.”