Fleetwood MP Cat Smith slams cutbacks to Armed Forces

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith (left) with Nia Griffth, the Shadow Defence Secretary
Fleetwood MP Cat Smith (left) with Nia Griffth, the Shadow Defence Secretary

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith says she is backing Britain's Armed Forces at a time when the services have been hit by cutbacks.

The Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood is supporting the Party’s 'Armed Forces Pledge', launched in connection with the celebrations for Armed Forces day.

Since 2010, the Armed Forces, and particularly the Army, have shrunk from 102,000 fully trained soldiers to little over 75,000, the smallest in modern times.

The MP says the Conservatives have presided over pay cuts to the Armed Forces, with the starting salary of a Army Private now £1150 lower in real terms than it was in 2010, despite increasing food and accommodation charges and cuts to social security payments for Forces families.

While facing these financial pressures the Armed Forces have continued to see service, with deployments continuing in Afghanistan and Iraq and the RAF combatting so-called Islamic State in Syria.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) argues it still has the the largest defence budget in Europe and says that by the end of last year, its budget was increasing in real terms by £1 billion.

As an example, last year saw 5,500 British personal involved in training exercises in Oman in the October alone.

The Armed Forces have long been a political hot potato, with a previous Conservative administration accusing the last Labour Government of slashing personnel "by a fifth" back in 2009.

But Ms Smith said the latest cutbacks are seriously undermining the Armed Forces.

She said: “It is clear that our Armed Forces have had a raw deal from this Conservative government.

"Short sighted defence cuts and failed privatisations have left our Armed Forces poorly paid, less well equipped and facing substandard food and accommodation – all while they continue to put their lives on the line for our safety and security.

"It is little wonder that retention and recruitment is a real challenge for our Armed Forces. This government is failing in its duty to support them.

“I am proud to support Labour’s Pledge to the Armed Forces. A Labour government will guarantee a better deal for servicemen and women.”

Ms Smith said of the pledges: “We will lift the public sector paycap and give personnel a fair payrise.

"We will ensure that all service members have access to decent accommodation, without the threat of being forced into the private rented sector.

"We will give personnel a voice and consult on introducing an Armed Forces’ representative body."

Ms Smith met with Nia Griffth, the Shadow Defence Secretary, to discuss specific local concerns. “Fleetwood has a proud military heritage, and is the home of many veterans.

"I was proud to explore this with Nia, and to discuss further the local aspects around the military. Veterans and service families from Fleetwood deserve our support, and I am confident that a Labour government will deliver the respect that they deserve.”