SINGLE LIVING ACCOMMODATION (SLA)
104. We discuss later the condition of Service Families
Accommodation and its effect on morale. The living conditions
for unmarried personnel are equally important and regrettably
the standard of Single Living Accommodation (SLA) is as bad, if
not worse, than married quarters. The Adjutant General acknowledged
the poor state of much of the Army's SLA and its effects
... there is no denying at
all that a significant amount of it, about 34%, is in an unacceptable
condition. That translates into about 18,000 soldiers living in
very poor accommodation ... Does it have an effect? It is impossible
that it does not. ... there is a significant amount of money required.
There is no denying that the single living estate has been under-funded
in the past. One is not looking to put the whole situation right,
in the Army's case, in anything less than ten years.
Thirty-four per cent of naval single living accommodation
ashore is also graded at the lowest level
and when we visited RAF Cranwell we were told that the lowest
level of accommodation there (grade 4) was not due to be upgraded
until 2004. As an example, on the visit we were told that a breakdown
in the primitive centralised station heating system had resulted
in no central heating for several weeks of the previous winter.
The Minister agreed that some of the accommodation was 'dreadful'
and even though those accommodated in the worst grade did not
have to pay for it, the situation was 'unacceptable'.
For personnel returning from frequent operational tours, where
living conditions are often difficult, the prospect of living
in grade 4 accommodation for the foreseeable future could be the
trigger for them to leave the Services. The Minister agreed that
those this might be a retention issue for those who had served
for a number of years and who 'frankly require higher standards
of accommodation than we provide.'
105. Families' accommodation at least has an Agency
to supervise the upgrade, and a dedicated budget. The improvement
of the SLA relies on the individual Services finding money within
their own budgets. A study following the SDR found that the total
investment required to improve all SLA (116,000 bed spaces) in
the UK to the desired standard would be £1.85 billion. The
MoD provided us with details of some PFI projects in place to
improve SLA but has not set out a timescale for the overall project.
106. The Minister told us that he and his colleagues
are 'engaged in some fairly intense dialogue in the Department
at the moment as to how we can bring forward a programme for rectifying
this' and we sincerely hope that this is the case.
However, it does appear to us that the MoD and those responsible
in the Services are throwing their hands up in horror but not
actually addressing the issue. We question whether, in any case,
the Services are really setting their sights high enough in this
area: will the standard they are setting now be equal to what
young men and women would expect if they were working for other
organisations and renting or buying their own accommodation? The
new SLA we have seen is adequate but many young men and women
are still expected to share rooms with at least three others,
something they would not have to do in university accommodation,
107. The first priority for the MoD must be to
set a timescale and a detailed annual budget for improving the
SLA. If the Adjutant General's prediction that it will take at
least 10 years to complete the upgrade is correct, this is simply
unacceptable. In addition to ensuring that the worst accommodation
is improved as a matter of urgency the MoD needs to adopt a strategic
and considered approach in assessing the long-term accommodation
needs of unaccompanied Service personnel.
A MORE FAMILY FRIENDLY CAREER STRUCTURE
108. Like other institutions, the Services have to
balance the need for youth and energy against the need for wisdom
and experience. In their long term strategic plan, the Navy appear
to have accepted the need for a more flexible career structure
and one that takes account of the fact that younger people might
wish for excitement and mobility while those with families might
prefer greater predictability and stability. A more radical approach
to employment seems to be being contemplated to encourage personnel
to continue their service when they have families. The Navy have
raised the possibility of offering career breaks and the EOC believed
that this was something all the Services should consider.
Addressing the needs of personnel with children should be a priority.
The EOC commented that
...there remains a view that
to be in the Armed Services is incompatible with family lifeat
least for women ...
and that the way the Armed Forces deals with women
returning to work after maternity leave 'has been one of the most
difficult cultural problems to address'.
109. All three Services currently use re-engagement
of personnel at the end of their 22-year term to counter shortages
in key skill areas and a number of senior NCOs are offered commissions
at the end of their careers, to enable the Services to keep this
considerable depth of experience which they would otherwise lose.
The Services might also find benefit in showing more flexibility
generally in their approach to the age at which personnel must
retire from the Services. It is clearly not desirable to extend
the service of all other ranks coming up to their retirement age
of 40: fitness is a consideration and outflow of people at the
end of their careers is necessary to maintain promotion prospects
for younger people.
However, the Navy is already considering the recruitment of older
people, which might in itself have implications for the retirement
age. All three Services should look again at whether they are
getting the most out of the precious commodity of trained personnel
by requiring them to leave the service halfway through
their working lives.
110. The Armed Forces should do more to recognise
and accommodate the changing needs of personnel during their period
of service. We recommend that the MoD takes a more imaginative
approach to terms of employment in the Services and investigates
in detail the possibility of offering career breaks and guaranteeing
personnel with families more stability at periods in their career
when they need it. We further recommend that it explores ways
of making greater use of the resource the Services have in personnel
who have completed their 22 years' service.
188 See paragraph 79 above Back
Special Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1999-2000,
Iraqi No-Fly Zones: Government Observations on the Thirteenth
Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 930,
para 13 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, Iraqi No-Fly Zones, HC 453,
paras 57-58 Back
pp 39-40, paras 19.4-19.5, 19.9 Back
Report 2000, para 128 Back
p 46, paras 30.1-30.5 Back
Strategic Plan: The Next Fifteen Years, p 11; Q 196 Back
p 77, para 5.3.2 Back