Bereaved families attack pay freeze

The families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan have hit out at the public sector wage freeze that is set to affect three-quarters of the armed forces.

All public sector workers earning more than £21,000 will have their wages frozen for two years from next April, and on Wednesday junior defence minister Andrew Robathan revealed that could affect 140,000 service personnel.

Anthony Philippson, whose son, Captain James Philippson, was killed in June 2006 after British troops moved into Helmand, said it was “absolutely disgusting”.

Mr Philippson, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, said: “I find it difficult to believe, to be quite frank. I think they are making a very serious mistake. I don’t consider them (soldiers) public sector workers in any sense.”

Christine Bonner’s son Corporal Darren Bonner, 31, was killed in Helmand province in 2007. She also said soldiers are not the same as other public sector workers and should not be affected by the pay freeze.

Mrs Bonner, from Cambridgeshire, said: “I don’t think soldiers should be affected really, as far as a pay freeze is concerned. They’re probably more entitled to anything than anyone else, especially footballers – they kick a bag of air around all day long and our soldiers are out there fighting to keep our freedom.”

Their comments echo those of shadow defence minister Kevan Jones, who said the pay freeze would be a “severe blow to morale at a critical time” for the forces earlier this week.

In a written parliamentary reply to Liberal Democrat Bob Russell (MP for Colchester), Mr Robathan said most service personnel would continue to receive “annual increments” and so “will still get an increase at some point”. He also pointed to the doubling of the operational allowance for troops overseas.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Roughly a quarter of all military personnel will not be affected by this pay freeze and all military personnel will still receive progression-related pay.

“The operational allowance for those serving in Afghanistan has been doubled to over £5,000. This two-year pay freeze is driven by the need for overarching restraint across the public sector.”

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