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We appear to have got some consensus there.
In July 2013 the Government published a White Paper entitled “The Reserves in the Future Force 2020: valuable and valued”, which envisaged an ambitious revival and expansion of Britain’s reserve forces, under the heading of Future Reserves 2020, or FR2020. The roll-out of that programme was initially complicated by a combination of excessive bureaucracy, delays to medicals for recruits and IT problems.
In response, the three services—in particular the Army, where the greatest problem lay—committed additional resources to reinforce the recruiting effort, and now, several years on, that has borne fruit. As of May 2017, the trained strength of the Army reserve is 26,730 as against a target of 26,700; the maritime reserves, including the Royal Marine Reserve, stood at 2,590 against a target of 2,320; and the figures for the RAF reserves, including the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, were 2,140 against a target of 1,860.
Reserve recruiting now enjoys support from across British industry, including the Business Services Association, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors, and is an important part of the armed forces covenant. In addition, considerable success has been achieved by offering “recruitment bonuses” to ex-regulars who have left the services but have then joined their reserve counterparts.
There is no room for complacency. That has only been achieved with considerable investment, of both money and effort, by the regular as well as the reserve forces. If the targets in FR2020 are to be met, it is vital that this earmarked funding is continued and not sacrificed to in-year savings, which would run the risk of seriously compromising the momentum achieved to date. Overall, however, the reserves story is now becoming a successful one, and is far healthier than it was only a few years ago.
An important aspect of the overall quality of life in the services is represented by service accommodation, and this is where the Ministry of Defence must do better if it wishes to retain the support of service personnel and, particularly, of their families. Remember the saying: “Recruit the serviceman, retain the family.” The UK tri-service families continuous attitudes survey, published in July 2017, shows that the level of satisfaction with the maintenance of service families’ accommodation remains low following a large decrease in 2016. In particular—this follows on from the point made by Ruth Smeeth—there are issues surrounding the delays in the MOD’s housing contractor, CarillionAmey, responding to requests for maintenance and also with the quality of the maintenance and repair work subsequently undertaken. Only 34% of those surveyed said that they were satisfied with the responsiveness of the contractor and only 29% were satisfied with the quality of maintenance or repair work that it undertook.