Ex-commanders slam 'unjust' pay cap
Six former armed forces chiefs have urged George Osborne against a 1% cap on pay rises for service personnel, calling the move "unjust".
In an open letter to the Chancellor published in The Sun, they said a real-terms pay cut would damage the morale of members of the forces.
Calling on Mr Osborne to reverse the decision in next week's Budget, they said the cap was "particularly inappropriate" at a time when welfare payouts were rising by 5.2%.
The letter's signatories were former chiefs of the defence staff Lord Guthrie, Lord Boyce and Lord Craig, former army boss Lord Dannatt, ex-First Sea Lord Lord West and former RAF chief Sir Peter Squire.
They wrote: "While the nation is asking many of its military to face great danger in Afghanistan and other areas around the world, we do not believe this is just. We are also concerned about the effect a real-terms pay cut will have on the morale of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, who are already under great financial strain. We found this decision particularly inappropriate when coming at the same time as the announcement that welfare benefit payments will this year see a 5.2% increase."
They asked Mr Osborne to make armed forces personnel exempt from a public sector-wide 1% cap on salary increases to recognise the "particular sacrifices" they make.
The group also asked the Chancellor to return decision making for service personnel's pay levels to the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body. Service personnel are facing a two-year pay freeze - unless they earn less than £21,000 a year - followed by two further years in which rises will be capped at 1%.
The pay review body warned of the potential loss of "talented and experienced" members of the armed forces in response to cuts to pay and pensions. In its 2012 annual report, the body said it had heard "widespread concern" that the pay freeze, cuts in allowances and high inflation meant "a noticeable reduction in real income for many personnel".
In response to the body's report, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: "Tough decisions have had to be made to tackle the MoD's financial black hole. However, to recognise the unique and important role of the armed forces this government has doubled the tax free operational allowance to £5,280, awarded a £250 increase for those earning below £21,000, and maintained the incremental pay system during and after the pay freeze.
"Armed forces will also be exempted from the average 3% increase in public sector pension contributions. In addition, the report itself says 'morale and motivation among those serving on operations, particularly in Afghanistan, appear generally to be very good'."