UK

Run-down MoD estate threat to defence, says audit watchdog

Portsmouth naval base Image copyright Getty Images

The Ministry of Defence's failure to invest in its barracks, depots and bases could undermine the armed forces' readiness to fight, a report has found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said much of the MoD's property was in a "poor and deteriorating" state which could "affect defence capability".

It said poor housing for service families was affecting morale and recruitment of personnel.

The MoD has said it will invest £4bn in training facilities and accommodation.

'Jeopardise capabilities'

The report found financial pressures had meant the MoD only carried out essential maintenance on its estate since 2009 which had led to a "steady decline" in its overall condition.

It said: "There is a significant risk that the poor condition of the estate will affect the department's ability to provide the defence capability needed.

"The estate is an important element of defence capability, enabling the armed forces to train and undertake operations, and providing accommodation for personnel and their families.

"The department's inability to invest sufficient funds may jeopardise the delivery of new and existing capabilities."

The National Audit Office found constraints on funding had led to decisions that were "poor value for money in the longer term".

Image copyright MOD
Image caption Concerns over maintenance of facilities at RAF Brize Norton featured in the report

This included the decision to sell and lease back the majority of service family accommodation which was now limiting the MoD's ability to manage it cost effectively.

The NAO also criticised a deal made with Capita in 2014 that saw it become the MoD's "strategic business partner" to help it achieve savings.

It said the private company had not "performed adequately against agreed performance indicators".


Other problems highlighted include:

  • In Portsmouth, there was a lack of funding to replace 80-year-old power cables to the port which could affect the ability of its two new £6.2bn aircraft carriers to operate from the base.
  • Failure to fix a leaking roof at RAF Valley, Anglesey, meant the roof had to be replaced even thought the building is due to be demolished when a replacement building is completed
  • The Army was not able to keep its military vehicles at "high readiness" at one of its main depots in Ashchurch, Gloucestershire because of a lack of investment
  • At RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, home to the air-to-air refuelling fleet, infrastructure had to be closed down for safety reasons and a temporary fuel facility installed because of a lack of maintenance

The report said: "The risks to military capability from the estate will continue unless further actions are taken to address the shortfall in funding to sustain the estate."

The MoD's estate currently accounts for 1.8% or 424,000 hectares of the total UK land mass. It plans to sell off 30% of its land by 2040.

Last week, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the MoD would be selling off another 56 bases and the money raised from sales would be reinvested back into defence.

The NAO acknowledged the MoD did now have a plan to modernise its estate.

In a statement the MoD said "we've outlined a long-term military-led strategy" to invest £4bn in training facilities and better service accommodation.

NAO said it will still have to find a further £8.5bn to bring its estate up to scratch.

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