An entirely misleading article. Bear in mind that the money for nearly all MoD travel expenses (except where Service transport and accommodation is involved) comes out of the same bucket. I have little doubt that this figure covers the costs of MoD Civil Servants, embedded contractors and uniformed personnel of all ranks totalling several hundred thousand people for hotel accommodation, subsistence (meals), car hire, MT leasing contracts, rail warrants, air flights (usually economy class) and the exceedingly rare taxi for attending equipment project meetings, MoD and NATO conferences, weapons acceptance trials, tactical exercises, Service recruiting presentations, conducting operational analysis and tactical development in places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, training at foreign establishments or in the field, providing maintenance and logistical support for ships and other units visiting places in the UK or while deployed abroad, etc, etc, etc. I worked in the MoD and on battle staffs in four of my last five jobs in the RN and spent roughly half my time away from base, often in remote locations.
The sum might also pay for the odd cup of tea and packet of biscuits for people attending the endless round of meetings at various MoD establisments and commercial organisations or while smoothing programme arrangements with local officials. When possible, Service personnel stay in Service accommodation but even this can be thin on the ground these days. As a result, they often have to stay in hotels or B&Bs, like their MoD Civil Service and embedded contractor counterparts i.a.w. their non-military conditions of service. This is usually arranged through the MoD's centralised booking service. Accommodation is fixed price and a set sum is available for meals except in rare cases where 'actuals' are approved for good reasons. If only MPs were equally restricted in their choice and payment.
If we had adequate trials, training and exercise facilities in this country then we wouldn't have to send our Armed Forces and supporting personnel to such places as AUTEC in the Caribbean and Scandinavia, BATUS in Canada and other far flung locations.
Naval_Gazer has summed this up very well. Service personnel and Contractors/Consultants do indeed clock up against the relevant UIN of the MoD Basic Level Budget they are working for/attached to. Air fares are normally economy and one could argue that MoD policy of only using EasyJet put BA Connect out of business on the Bristol/Glasgow (and Edinburgh for Rosyth) sector leaving just one operator; EasyJet who can now do whatever they want. Travel and Subsistence is not taken lightly and, for SO1s and below, approval must be sought to incur it.
It's yet another mischievous none story and I'm surprised at the Telegraph. This fuels the specious argument that the Defence Budget is more than big enough, if only it was better spent.
This is just like the report being discussed here a day or two ago, run in several papers concerning the MOD contract for flags. They both talk of what the MOD is spending and relate it to supposed lack of money for equipment, focussing on the need to replace Snatch Land Rovers and quoting the same campaigners.
The papers running these articles are falling prey to PR from pressure groups and jumping on the bandwagon of trying to prove that money is being wasted.
Of course the MOD spends a lot of money on travel and accomodation! This figure covers, over 400,000 regular and reserve personnel, plus about 90,000 MOD civil servants.
Now we could argue over whether that number of Civil Servants is needed, but setting that matter aside for now, for a total of over 500,000 people needing to travel all over the World the amount quoted doesn't seem so large!
And all expenses have to be backed up by a full VAT receipt,or certainly were in my days,......not like our wonderful MPs.Yes the troops need more and better equipment but this sort of article does very little to advance that cause.
Having spent 14 years at the Funny Farm in London from 1989-2003, I must admit I never saw much of this: it took me 5 years to get my first bit of overtime, and that was only to change buildings over a weekend. Yer average Civil Serpent is a very poorly paid low man on the totem pole Injun. It's only when you get among the high ups that you find the greed and fiddles, which most of them regarded as "RHIP". Now where did I hear that before ?
As a civil servant myself, I can comment on my limited experiences. I try to keep the travel budget down to a minimum; I'm entitled to travel 1st class on trains but ask to go second as it saves money. I have cheapy meals (well under a tenner) and try to find cheapy hotels.
The only thing I don't do is stay in messes if I can help it. I try to find a cheapy hotel nearby that has tv, ensuite. It's not luxury but if I'm going to be hundreds of miles from home without all my usual creature comforts I feel this is a small indulgence.
The real "hits" to the public pocket come abroad. I would fly Crab Air to the Gulf only (a) there's no guarantee of a place and (b) it takes 2-3 days as opposed to a few hours in civvy air. You have to book flexible air tickets (because the programme often changes) - always economy to save money - and you have to book hotels through Fleet Travel. I spent one night in Oman in March at a cost of over Â£200 (!). Not my choice. I would have been happy staying on the RAF base (had I known it existed) with free accomm/food.
As for wasting taxpayers' money, UPOs are pretty good at that by misbooking flights and things...
To help set the record straight, this letter was in yesterday's Telegraph (link):
Sir - The majority of the Â£730 million highlighted in the â€œhotels, restaurants and transportationâ€ section of the defence spending figures was spent on transportation of our troops to operations, along with vehicles and equipment â€“ not on hospitality (report, July 1).
Furthermore, the Â£330 million quoted from the â€œmotor vehicles and partsâ€ section is only a small part of the money we spend on military vehicles. The spend on armoured vehicles and tanks is actually classified under â€œweapons and ammunitionâ€ and not the motor vehicles section.
The MoD spent Â£4.5 billion on equipment in 2006/7, including providing Titan and Trojan armoured engineer tanks and Bulldog armoured vehicles. A further Â£150 million was allocated for the new Ridgback protected vehicle.
Baroness Taylor, Minister for Defence, Equipment and Support, London SW1
One of the things I recognised when I was in the regular service was a complete lack of appreciation of the cost of time. People thought that since the cost was sunk anyway it didn't actually matter too much if you spent 2-3 days travelling each direction. Similarly meetings ended up with 20-30 attendees because nobody had a value on their time.
I think there is a very good argument for use of civair, where the time element can be valued. The cost of that extra four days could quite easily compensate for the increase in ticket costs.
The other aspect of that is the time it takes to get travel approved, which can easily add a couple of days; writing business cases, arguing with very senior people over trivial costs etc.
...and you have to book hotels through Fleet Travel....
One of the things with my last unit was that they expected us to do the legwork and provide a detailed quotation several weeks in advance, then they'd sit on the booking until the week before so not be able to exploit the low costs that had been identified in the proposal.