Army housing plan that caused revolt among military wives paused for fear of losing ‘good people’

James Cartlidge
James Cartlidge acknowledged 'angst' about MoD housing proposals - GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images

A Ministry of Defence accommodation plan that faced a backlash from military wives was shelved over fear of losing “good people” from the Armed Forces, a minister admitted on Tuesday.

James Cartlidge, the minister in charge of procurement, conceded there had been “a lot of angst” about proposals that would have allocated housing to servicemen or women by their number of children instead of rank.

The Telegraph revealed on Monday that the scheme had been scrapped amid fears it was so unpopular it could have prompted an exodus of officers.

Speaking at a session of the Commons defence select committee, Mr Cartlidge said there was “no magic wand” to transform the wider military estate.

‘We have these issues’

“We have the estate that we do and as you’ve heard there is this programme, it will take time,” he told MPs.

“Likewise in single family accommodation, we have these issues we are addressing.

“There is a finite budget at the end of the day, even though we have increased it significantly.

“We know we need to do more, we do not want to lose good people. And that is why we took the decision overnight to pause and review.”

The number of people leaving the Armed Forces increased by almost a fifth at the end of 2023.

‘There’s been a lot of angst’

Mr Cartlidge added that the U-turn showed “we do care what the feedback is, we have listened, we’ve heard what people have said”.

“There’s been a lot of angst that’s come out and we want to respond to that.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we’re losing personnel over this, we want to get the policy right.”

Asked by Mark Francois, a Tory MP and former Armed Forces minister, whether issues with military accommodation were fuelling the exodus, Mr Cartlidge replied: “My anecdotal experience actually is the people I’ve met leaving, it isn’t because of this.”

It came as Army wives warned the Government that the “war” on military accommodation was not over following the about-turn by Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary.

Imogen Howells, who created an online petition that called on the Ministry of Defence to review the accommodation offer and gained almost 20,000 signatures, told The Telegraph: “We’ve won the battle but we haven’t won the war.”

‘We are absolutely delighted’

Pippa Goodman, 31, whose husband is a major in the Army, said the MoD would need to “rebuild” the trust of the military communities.

“We are absolutely delighted to hear that the MoD is temporarily pausing the rollout of aspects of the modern accommodation offer,” she said.

“It is crucially important that all service personnel and their affected families are adequately consulted to better shape the policy and ensure it is an improvement for all.”

Staff have historically been rewarded with larger homes as they progress through the ranks of the Army, Navy and RAF.

Under the new plan, however, a junior ranking person with one or more children would have been entitled to live in a larger house than an officer of higher rank with no children.

The committee also heard that Michael Green, the chief executive at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, did not know how long between 200 and 300 gas and electricity safety certificates across the military estate had been out of date.