Poor military housing hampers recruitment and retention, MPs warn

MPs have warned the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that the state of domestic barracks is “unacceptable”.

The House of Commons’ defence select committee published a report on Defence Estates, which highlights a number of concerns about living accommodation.

It said that the “disgraceful” accommodation is leading to problems with military recruitment and retention. And by neglecting domestic accommodation, the ministry risks losing experienced personnel during a particularly difficult period for the armed forces.

MPs began an investigation following a wave of complaints about the dismal state of rundown and neglected barracks and married quarters. The report revealed some facilities had overflowing drains, while up to eight military personnel were made to sleep in a single room.

Bob Ainsworth, the Armed Forces minister, welcomed the investigation and acknowledged that there were problem areas of the estate which require “significant work”.

Ainsworth said: “We are making progress in upgrading our housing and accommodation – a big task considering that we manage some 71,000 family properties and 165,000 bed-spaces worldwide. It’s also a big task because we are trying to reverse a legacy of decades of under-funding.

“To ensure continued improvement, my colleague Derek Twigg and I are taking an active lead in the work being done on accommodation. We want to ensure a step-change and to drive forward further work on accommodation. I’d like to reassure members of our Armed Forces and their families, that ministers are committed to doing all we can to provide good quality housing,” he added.

The ministry spent £700m on housing and accommodation last year, and said it expected to spend £5bn in the next decade.

In 2005-06, it modernised and upgraded 1,705 family homes. In 2006-07, it aims to upgrade another 1,200.

The report encouraged the MoD to continue with initiatives such as The Slam Project a housing programme which has already created 6,000 new bed places, with another 3,000 in the pipeline.

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