23 Mar 07. Poor forces housing ‘for decades’. Pictures of poor conditions were sent to the BBC by soldiers. A significant number of UK service personnel could be living in poor quality accommodation for the next 20 years or more, a report has claimed. The National Audit Office study says more than 40% of homes are sub-standard with no final date for an upgrade. While many improvements have been made, more resources are needed, it adds. Defence Minister Derek Twigg accepted there were problems with some living quarters but said more than £5bn will be spent over 10 years on improvements. The Ministry of Defence is the second largest landowner in the UK and has a worldwide estate valued at £18bn. The report – which looked into the management of the MoD’s estate – estimated that the total operational costs in 2005/6 were £3.3bn. The report says much has been done to improve service personnel’s accommodation, and in some cases, targets have even been exceeded. Since 2001/02, about 20,000 single living “bed spaces” have been built and about 12,000 service family houses have been upgraded. However, out of an estate of 46,800 homes, more than 19,000 remain below the “standard one” benchmark, it says. It goes on to say: “The scale of the remaining problem is, however, such that unless more resources can be found, a significant number of service personnel and their families are likely to be housed in poor quality accommodation for 20 years or more.” Conservative MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said the MoD faced a “battle royal” to improve homes. He said he acknowledged work was being done to address the situation but was unsure whether resources were being targeted in the right way. “While roofs are left to leak, money has been found to build new sports pitches. “It is not right that, here in the UK, they should have to put up with shabby living and working quarters,” he said. Sammie Crane from the Army Families’ Federation told BBC News there had been “years of neglect and under investment”. “If this country is going to commit troops overseas it’s got to look after those troops, and one of the ways is housing them properly and making sure there’s a proper investment,” she said. “There is money going in but it needs to be more, it needs to be targeted.” Mr Twigg though said: “Armed Forces personnel and their families deserve good quality accommodation, and the MoD is committed to providing this. “We acknowledge that there are problems with some service accommodation, and are working hard to improve it.” In January, BBC News published pictures sent in by soldiers of barracks and shower blocks with cracked walls, mildew and broken pipes. At the time, Chancellor Gordon Brown pledged to improve military accommodation. (Source: BBC)
22 Mar 07. BAE Systems today dedicated a new 6,000-square-foot facility near Robins Air Force Base to support and upgrade U.S. Air Force equipment and software. The BAE Systems Readiness and Sustainment Center is located 5 miles west of the Air Force base in the Advanced Technology Park, 132 Osigian Blvd.
JOB LOSSES AND STRIKES
16 Mar 07. Airbus staff hold rally over cuts. The day of action is in protest at 1,600 proposed job cuts in the UK. Around 900 workers at the Airbus factory in Flintshire have staged a rally in Chester in protest at the expected loss of hundreds of jobs. The plane maker is axing 10,000 posts across Europe over four years to cut its costs, with 1,600 going in the UK. Half the losses are expected at the Broughton site, which makes wings for the A380 superjumbo. Airbus says its costs are far too high and must be reduced to speed up production and improve competitiveness. Unions believe the job cuts will be shared equally between the 7,000 staff at Broughton and the Airbus plant at Filton near Bristol. Around 400 people gathered in Chester town hall, while hundreds more were outside to listen to the meeting through loudspeakers. Alyn