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24 Mar 21. Support for veterans under threat as Treasury considers 40pc budget cut. The Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA) could see its budget cut by 40 per cent under plans being considered by the Treasury.
On Wednesday night, the department came under pressure to scrap the plans that could reduce the OVA’s annual budget from £5m to £3m after a backlash from MPs and military charities.
Boris Johnson was forced to intervene while addressing MPs at the Liaison Committee, insisting that “there’s no decision that’s been taken about the Office of Veterans Affairs”.
The Prime Minister added: “We spend up to £18m through the NHS on specific mental health services that are targeted at veterans, £10m to support veterans’ mental health charities, we have national insurance rebates, obviously subsided for those higher veterans as well as cut price, free transport for veterans on public transport – something I remember pioneering when I was mayor of London and I’m very proud we’ve taken that into Government as well.”
During the Armed Forces Bill select committee on Wednesday morning it was established that the veterans office had only spent £1.6m out of a £5m budget for the 2020/21 financial year. It is understood that the cabinet office discussed reducing the budget to £3m as a result of the figures. A government source: “The position is that budget discussions are ongoing and are internal.”
Johnny Mercer, veterans minister, told the Armed Forces Bill select committee that the 40 per cent cut was “not the current plan”.
Mr Mercer said: “We will make this country the best country in the world to be a veteran. I’m committed to that, the Prime Minister is committed to that and we will continue along that path.”
However, the suggested cut was described as “worrying” by some.
Sir John McColl, chairman of Cobseo, the confederation of service charities, said: “If these cuts come to pass it is incompatible with the Prime Minister’s pledge to make the UK the best country in the world to be a veteran.
“We rely upon the Office of Veterans Affairs to provide a focus at the heart of government and a 40 per cent reduction in its capability would significantly affect the Government’s ability to provide appropriate support for veterans.”
Mr McColl added: “If the suggested reduction in the OVA’s budget comes to pass, it would cut the OVA off at the knees.”
The Help for Heroes charity said: “If this is true, we are very concerned on behalf of those we support.
“We campaigned for the OVA in 2019, as we knew more needed to be done to fulfil the nation’s promise to all those who have served.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
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