By SHAUN MILNE
A former Government minister is calling on the MoD to axe its senior military commanders by at least half to free up millions of pounds for front-line troops and their families.
Written answers to a series of Parliamentary Questions in the House of Lords reveal that a salary pot of £6.762 million is shared between 47 military chiefs.
A further £2.656 million has been spent on official residences that go with the posts for 19 senior top brass.
As well as the salaries exceeding £100k each, further associated expenses for ‘entertaining’ is costing the taxpayer around £77,000 a year.
Now there are calls for Lieutenant Colonels, Admirals and Generals to fall on their swords to free up cash for frontline staff.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, who served in the Government under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said it was time retired generals and serving officers put their servicemen and women first rather than always blaming others for shortfalls.
Labour Peer Foulkes, who submitted the questions to International Defence and Security Minister Baroness Taylor, said: “It is somewhat hypocritical for the top brass to be calling for more resources when you consider their own expenditure.
“The way to speed up releasing more money for troops is to cut back on the top brass. Even the Tories through Liam Fox are saying the same.
“More than £10 million is being spent on salaries, official residences, entertainment and other expenditure on these individuals.
“This could be improved by culling that number by half – saving around £5 million a year – which could immediately be re-distributed where needed most.”
Lord Foulkes said there was a ‘super-structure’ in place which was top heavy with “too many chiefs all with assistants”.
He said there was even a case for asking whether each of the Armed Forces needed its own officer in charge, or if they could come under a centralised command.
He added: “Some of these people have never even seen front line service and spend their time sitting around Whitehall.
“When you take into account the number of support staff, drivers, assistants and so on – the cost is actually many times more.
“We don’t need that kind of super-structure. In fact, we may not even need a head of service for each branch of Army, Navy and Air Force.
“And this is a criticism of the Government too.
“We control the numbers of senior officers we have. But too many retire to the House of Lords and begin pointing the finger of blame after they’ve enjoyed the residences and salaries.
“If these senior officers really cared, as they say they do, then they would start by reducing their own numbers.”
Lord Foulkes said he was “satisfied” that the Government was doing all it could to ensure that there had been improvements in getting equipment and numbers to the frontline in theatres as far afield as Iraq and Afghanistan.
But he said any savings from his radical plan should be used not only to bolster the frontline, but to help the boots on the ground care for their families back home.
He said: “The money should be used to reward those on the front line. They should see more money in their pay packets, they should be able to support their families, and we have to look at the quality of their housing.”
The answers to Lord Foulkes’ questions revealed that there are 47 officers ranked at Lieutenant-General, Vice-Admiral or Air Marshal and above in the UK forces.
Between them they receive aggregated salaries totalling £6,762, 207 which were broken down by £3,322,416 for 23 senior ranking Army officers; £1,913,074 on 13 senior ranking Air Force officers and a further £1,526,717 on senior ranking Royal Navy officers.
Between 2007-2008, the most recent figures available, it was also revealed that 19 of what are deemed ‘Official Service Residences’ cost £2,656,398.
Some £375,174 was made up of rent, almost £101,000 in what was called ‘unplanned maintenance’ and £1,991,140 on ‘household staff’.
Another £4,482 was spent hiring consultants and designers and works service managers to prepare reports for the properties.
The answers also show £40,098 was spent on what was termed ‘improvements’ and £63,963 on ‘planned maintenance’ and £68,182 on utilities bills.
The written answers also showed that between April 1 2007 and 31 March 2008, £77,366 was spent by the group of 47 on entertaining, but no breakdown was available on which individuals cost the public purse most.
A request for information on the cost of official cars was turned down on the grounds that pulling the records would require a ‘disproportionate cost’.
But a statement added: “Official cars are an extension of the office and provide a more private space for Senior Officers to work in and so make best use of time spent travelling.”
Although none of the 47 were named individually, they will have included the likes of Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and Chief of the General Staff Sir David Richards.