British Army stops recruiting abroad as anger grows over Capita crisis

Express

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06 жовтня 2019 11:11

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In January, teams from both the Royal Marines and Army were sent to South Africa in a bid to encourage 1,350 Commonwealth soldiers to sign up. India and Australia were also going to be targeted as part of the ambitious scheme. But last night, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted that, while the target was still in place, no further recruitment teams will be sent abroad during this fiscal year. An MoD spokesman said: "The Army is not sending [further] teams to Commonwealth countries to recruit."

January's recruitment drive netted 50 soldiers and 42 Royal Marines who should be graduating within the next few weeks.The successful candidates began training in Britain just two months after passing their initial interview.But under the Army's controversial outsourcing deal with recruitment giant Capita, British candidates can expect to wait 18 months. One NCO who took part in the recruitment campaign in Pretoria, South Africa, told the Sunday Express: "It was smooth and successful."We were accompanied by some MoD civilians but to the best of my knowledge, no one from Capita. It's what recruitment used to be like."Lt Gen Tyrone Urch, commander of the Army Home Command, is thought to be behind the drive to bring in military personnel from abroad. The National Audit Office recently found the Armed Forces is 8,200 members short of the required level.The Army, in particular, is down by more than 5,000 personnel, with Scottish regiments the worst hit.A report by the Commons Defence Select Committee blamed the shortage on Capita, which has a 10-year contract with the MoD to recruit staff.

But publicly, the Army - which is locked into a contract with a reported £50million penalty clause until 2022 - has defended the partnership.Last night, one prospective Army recruit said he had waited for nine months to get an interview before switching to the Royal Navy, which does not use Capita.Will, from Newport, South Wales, said: "The communication was poor and it took ages just to get an interview. I gave up - and I'm sure many others do, too."It does seem slightly unfair that the military is taking the recruiting process abroad and allowing them to face all the tasks in a couple of weeks.We never had that chance."While recruiting Commonwealth citizens is nothing new, the practice was halted in 2013 after former prime minister David Cameron introduced tough new rules for migrant workers.Three years later, in 2016, residency rules were waived to let in 200 Commonwealth recruits and in November, the entire policy was reversed by former defence secretary Gavin Williamson to "sustain operational effectiveness".At the time, Armed Forces Minister Col Mark Lancaster declared: "We're stepping up the numbers of recruits from the Commonwealth, knowing that they will bring key skills and dedicated service to our military."The decision to stop recruiting abroad comes as figures show thousands of existing Armed Forces personnel are failing fitness tests.

According to the MoD, 1,580 sailors, 740 serving soldiers and 1,260 members of the RAF did not pass their annual review last year.An MoD spokeswoman said: "All personnel must regularly undertake robust fitness tests."Personnel who have previously failed are invited to be formally retested and receive guidance from military fitness instructors."COMMENT BY MARK FRANCIS MPThe Army's recruitment contract with Capita has been an unmitigated disaster.Every year, targets for soldiers have been missed by thousands and many infantry battalions are now seriously under strength.Because some senior generals originally advocated outsourcing recruiting (unlike the Royal Navy and the RAF), the Army has been too proud to admit it got it hopelessly wrong.To this day, it remains in virtual denial.

The Army launched a big drive to recruit more Commonwealth troops, which has led, admittedly, to a marginal uptick in figures in recent months.Unfortunately, due, I suspect, to fear of embarrassing Capita, some of these measures have now been stopped.Commonwealth troops have a proud record of service in the British Army, stretching back through two world wars. But to entice them, the Army apparently fast-tracked their applications in two months, rather than Capita's year-long bureaucratic process. If true, why not just sack Capita and fast-track all the British recruits as well?Mark Francois MP is Ex-Armed Forces Minister

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