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Swan Song, Part One.

17 February, 2011 1 comment

I warned you there might be at least one more post on this after I got home, and I had my reasons.

Welcome to my Swan Song, Part One.

As I’m sure you are aware there are many changes being undertaken at the moment across the whole of the United Kingdom with regards to budgets, finance and the economy and this is being felt by Government Departments more than most. (If you aren’t aware, can I work at your job please!) This includes the huge amount of Civil Servants now fearing for their jobs and, a fact I find most surprising given our Nation’s Military’s current operational footing, the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces themselves. RAF trainee pilots being laid off, Navy battleships being scrapped, Army Regiments being amalgamated, you’ve probably heard it all.

Actually, you don’t know the half of it. Over the last 3 or more years small changes have been made which have a direct and devastating effect on the career prospects and lifestyles of the British Army soldier and this while the operational commitment is more intensive than ever.

Along with many working people in Britain the Armed Forces personnel are currently under a freeze on pay rises and will continue to be so for at least another two years. All this while the cost of living is rising at a rate which this author can’t remember seeing at any time previously. Before I deployed to Afghanistan in August of 2010 a Snickers bar was about 40 – 45p, fast forward to February 2011 and it’s nearly 55 – 60p, and that’s just a sweet! Take a look at the price of necessities such as fuel, gas, electricity and it must be apparent that very soon people will start going under financially and start to turn for help…

The question is: Who will they turn to? The banks are too busy lining their own pockets (did you see Barclays Bank Bonuses this year?), the Government are too busy paying off their own debts and bowing to the pressure from the banks (Aren’t the Conservative Party funded primarily from the City? Qu’elle surpis!). We’re heading for a disaster and the one place which had been previously considered a ‘safe bet’ when times were hard, the Armed Forces, is also under the knife this time.

The full Army career has been extended past the 22 years which it has been since time forgot*, the minimum length of service has been extended, allowances for living away from home were ratified (read condensed and reduced), more recently announcements have been made stating that allowances have been cut by up to 75% in places and on average 40-50%. This includes the overseas allowances, and living allowances. There’s talk of increasing the cost of Service Families Accommodation and even the Single Living In Accommodation. We still struggle to get medical and dental care for our families despite promises from the Government and NHS, we no longer get to choose where we’re housed when we get out, we’re low priority on Council Housing lists… need I go on?

* I’ll expand on this in more detail in Pt. 2 of this entry.

If you want to know the effect some of this has had on Service leavers then please try to find a copy of the recent Panorama special report – Forgotten Heroes. I did, and I went through a whole torrid range of emotions ranging from anger, distress, disgust and a little happiness… It’s hard viewing for someone who may well be in their shoes sometime soon.

There has been correspondence regarding the pensions of soldiers being at risk (not what has already been paid in of course, just future contributions and payments), the possibility of increasing the parental contribution to their children’s education costs (including a minimum contribution of up to £1,000 on top of that expected already). The H.M. Forces community website posted today (17th Feb 2011) that the Government have no plans as to how to deal with the 7,000 children returning home from Germany when the Army withdraw from the Rhine within the next few years (the fact they don’t know where they’ll put the soldiers is a different matter entirely!).

And amidst all this doom and gloom Messrs Cameron and Fox continue to chirrup about the Military Covenant; the promise of both Government and the wider community to support the Military who defend this Nation.

This is not acceptable.

Please don’t get me wrong. I disagree with much of what is being done in the name of economic recovery, the Big Society Bank, the pogrom on Civil Servants, the decimating of Local Council budgets. I’m not an economist, although I studied economics at school and worked in the financial sector for a few years, and so I can’t offer an alternative. I just believe that this knee jerk reaction to the result of decades of decadence has the capability of causing society as we know it to collapse. And yes, I’m most concerned about the cuts to Defence, why wouldn’t I be? It’s where I make my living!

There is far more to this than I’ve posted here, some of it is in the public domain, much of it isn’t. (I’m not even sure as to how much I’ve mentioned is common knowledge!)

All of this has led to serious decisions being considered by individuals at all levels in the Armed Forces, including this call sign, and it’s not conducive to an enjoyable time on Post Operational Tour Leave.

Here’s a link to one of the tracks I wrote with Morpheus Rising almost two years ago. Seems strangely prophetic now.

Brave New World (Live) – from Live @ The Boardwalk by Morpheus Rising

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination until part two of this blog’s Swan Song is published late March/early April. In the meantime I’m off to the studio to record with Morpheus Rising and prepare for the live dates we have planned…

Categories: Personal, Political