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New military housing plans paused after backlash

The Ministry of Defence has paused new military housing plans following a backlash over the new rules on entitlement.

Andrew Murrison, a defence minister, said the MoD was “pausing the rollout of the elements of the policy related to Service Family Accommodation” after listening to feedback and conducting a review.

“This includes the move to needs-based allocation and in the short term the widening of entitlement,” he said in the statement published on Tuesday morning.

The changes had been due to come into force next month.

The decision comes after defence sources told Sky News they feared officers could quit over the plan to update rules on the subsidised housing offered to personnel in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and – where relevant – their families.

These included changes such as the housing offer for a lieutenant colonel or colonel being downgraded, as the military moves to allocating homes based on needs rather than rank.

The MoD will still push ahead with plans “to improve the standard of Single Living Accommodation, help military personnel get on the housing ladder by refunding up to £1,500 expenses and give personnel more preference in how they live,” the minister said.

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Mr Murrison’s statement continued: “Our Armed Forces personnel make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our nation, which is why our Modernised Accommodation Offer (MAO) gives greater flexibility, backed by an extra £200m investment.

“This is on top of £4bn to upgrade accommodation and build new living quarters for our service personnel over the next decade.”

An online petition calling for a review of the “new accommodation offer” had attracted more than 7,400 signatures by 16 February.

The petition said: “If the policy is implemented as it currently stands, we believe that armed forces retention rates are likely to fall to even lower levels than those at present.

“This could have an irreversible effect on the capability of the armed forces over both the immediate and intermediate term.”

While the shift to needs-based housing was widely-welcomed, according to defence sources, many officers would also see an erosion in the kind of housing they are entitled to live in following a three-year transition period – which caused outrage in some quarters.

One source told Sky that under the current system, a lieutenant colonel or a colonel – or their equivalent rank in the navy and RAF – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-to-five bedroom house with a floor area of 155.5 square metres.

A major – one step down in rank – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-bedroom house 137 square metre floor area.

Under the new system, any officer of any rank would be entitled to a house with bedroom for themselves and an additional one for each child – meaning the higher-ranking lieutenant colonels or colonels would effectively see their housing allocation downgraded.

The source said that no compensation was being offered to make up for the loss of space.

Sky News Source