THE retired head of the British Army enjoyed thousands of pounds worth of perks for his living quarters and transport funded by the British taxpayer in the year before he left office.
General Sir Francis Richard Dannatt, succeeded as Chief of Staff last month, cost the taxpayer £160,000 for accommodation and a chauffer-driven limo complete with £35,000 a year driver.
He also undertook 40 separate trips within the UK on military helicopters, at the very time when there were complaints a shortage of aircraft for the front-line troops in Afghanistan.
He undertook the journeys to attend various conferences, meetings and official ceremonies.
Details of the General’s costs to the public purse have been revealed in written answers to a series of parliamentary questions first tabled last month by the Labour Peer George Foulkes.
Sir Richard has been an outspoken critic of the Labour Government’s record on defence.
He was in turn lambasted by Lord Foulkes who claimed he was ‘threatening to undermine our efforts in Afghanistan and give succour to the enemy’ in a fiery war of words between the pair last month.
Foulkes was in turn subjected to a mauling in the media, and accused by the Conservative’s shadow defence minister Liam Fox of launching a “cowardly” attempt to smear the General.
The information was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as a result of Foulkes’ questions.
The ultra-loyal Labour Peer could not be contacted for comment about the results yesterday.
However the detailed answer are now public and sure to re-ignite the row with some already claiming that Sir Richard had “fallen short” of his standards.
The Labour peer tabled three written questions to the Ministry of Defence relating to Sir Richard’s expenses, including queries concerning his accommodation expenses and his use of expensive helicopter trips.
In her reply Baroness Taylor, the Minister for International Defence and Security, said: “Accomodation for the Chief of the General Staff in 2008-2009 was lease at a cost of £108,408 with £10,485 being expended for the associated contracted cleaning services.
“For the last known period, a dedicated staff car was leased, under the provisions of the UK White Fleet Contract, for the Chief of the General Staff at a cost of £4,993 per annum. With this vehicle was assigned a dedicated qualified driver at an indicative annual salary of £34,662 in 2008-2009.”
40 official trips in military helicopters
Sir Richard also took 40 separate trips in military helicopters over a combination of 20 journeys during his time in office last year.
Baroness Taylor replied: “All these journeys were for official purposes with seven being visits to units, four to attend/speak at conferences, four to attend meetings, three to attend official ceremonies, one a combination of conference and unit visit and the remaining one a combination of meeting and official representation.
“Additionally, on 5 and 6 June 2009, the Chief of the General Staff used a helicopter for the return journey to and from Normandy to attend the D-Day commemorations.”
A spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance said it was disappointing to see a breakdown of the figures.
They added: “General Dannatt has been really good at keeping his expenses and costs down on most things, so it’s sad to see him fall short of that standard.
“There is no way anyone should fly round in a helicopter when they already have a personal chauffeur.”
In defence of Sir Richard Dannatt, Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: “There is no target that Brown’s bullyboys will not pick upon to protect themselves or divert attention from their catastrophic management of the military.
“New Labour is now the most corrosive and corrupting influence in British politics.”
And a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: “The CGS is required to travel across the UK and internationally to fulfil his role as the professional head of the Army.
“Occasionally this requires the use of helicopter transport or an official car, but this is solely for travelling to engagements with an impact on Defence and Army business.”
Lord Foulkes, who claimed his questions were legitimate, said previously: “It is perfectly proper for members of parliament to table questions asking for information about the use of public money and resources.
“If the information is embarrassing, it will embarrass him. If it’s not, it won’t.”
General Sir Richard Dannett was succeeded as Chief of the General Staff by General Sir David Richards on August 28, 2009.
Dannatt now holds the ceremonial position of Constable of the Tower of London.