Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Army Reserves: Outsource and Big Society It

I find the latest revelations about Army Reserves recruitment staggering and worrying. The BBC reports a Sunday Times investigation (behind a pay-wall).

As part of the coalition government’s defence review, the number of regular soldiers is set to fall from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020, while reservist numbers are expected to rise from the current 19,000 to 30,000

Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, … told BBC News that the government had been “cynical” in deciding soldiers sacked from the regular army would “suddenly and miraculously” decide to join the reserves.

“Well, clearly that hasn’t happened and is unlikely to happen,” he said.
BBC News Website 11 August 2013: Army cuts: Reservists slow to enlist, leaked memo suggests

So lose 20,000 full-time paid regulars and replace them with 11,000 part-time (and lower paid?) reservists. And if you can’t persuade enough sacked soldiers (busy trying to establish a civilian life and job?). Presumably you rely on “Big Society” type volunteers? And how do you recruit them?

He [Col Kemp] also criticised the handling of recruitment since it was outsourced to civilian firm, Capita.

The new focus on Facebook and Twitter campaigns were no substitute for face-to-face meetings with soldiers, he said.

“It’s not just like walking into a normal civilian job – it’s actually quite daunting.

“It’s a different world and I think to have personal contact with people who have or are serving is really the most effective way of recruiting,” he said.
ibid

This seems crass – without any fanciful ideas “owing” anything to the armed services – this Government has no room for sentiment. I find it hard to get my mind around organisations like Capita (Serco, G4S etc.) persuading people in full-time jobs to take on the extra responsibility and time commitment of service in the reserves in return for getting shot at and possibly killed in places like Afghanistan. Doubtless Capita will recruit redundant soldiers to help them with this task; but some how I don’t see a redundant soldier being as effective at building enthusiasm and commitment as an actual serving soldier. It is hard to make it look like an even-handed commitment.

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