In his Budget speech today, Chancellor George Osborne announced a range of measures to support Armed Forces personnel and their families.
These measures demonstrate the Government’s commitment to honouring the Armed Forces Covenant. They are:
- Accommodation - £100m of further investment in accommodation for Service personnel and their families. This funding will become available for Financial Year 2013-14.
- Doubling of the Families Welfare Grant - an additional £2m per year to support families of those deployed. The doubling of the Families Welfare Grant to £4.40 per person per week will allow local commanders to enhance the direct support that they provide for families while their loved ones are deployed. This uplift comes into effect from April 2012.
- Doubling of Council Tax Relief (CTR) - CTR will double to just under £600 for an average six-month deployment. This will continue to be paid at a flat rate to all eligible personnel. This uplift comes into effect from April 2012.
The £100m for further investment in accommodation will be used by the MOD for repairing and refurbishing 650, and purchasing 25, family homes. In addition the MOD will be buying 600 en-suite bedrooms for Service personnel living unaccompanied.
Families Welfare Grant
The Families Welfare Grant was introduced on 25 April 2003 when the grant stood at £1 per person per week of deployment. On 1 November 2008 it was increased to the current £2.20 per person per week of deployment.
Doubling the grant to £4.40 per person per week deployed amounts to just short of £2m of extra funding per year (based on around 15,000 personnel deployed at any one time).
The Families Welfare Grant is used to directly enhance the support to families of those deployed. We have around 15,000 personnel deployed at any one time and so, given the deployment cycle throughout the year, the grant benefits over 30,000 families per year.
The Families Welfare Grant allows commanders to focus relatively small funds very effectively and directly on those that need it. This may be to help keep dispersed families better informed or to run activities to bring families together, through coffee mornings, briefings or trips out, to encourage their mutual support for each other, both emotionally and practically. Such gatherings also help welfare staffs to uncover individual cases of need in families otherwise reluctant to come forward.
- centralised childcare facilities for families’ briefings and activities
- pre-deployment activities
- homecoming activities
- IT/communications suites
- day trips and children’s activities, e.g. entertainment (theatre, cinema, pantomime), supported shopping trips, theme parks, adventure/outdoor activities, and
- deployment diaries and charts for families.
Council Tax Relief
Council Tax is payable on residential properties in the United Kingdom, other than Northern Ireland, where rates are payable. All Service personnel who own or rent a private property in England, Scotland or Wales remain liable to pay Council Tax on their own property to their local authority.
All Service accommodation in England, Scotland and Wales is formally exempt from the Council Tax regime and the MOD instead pays Contributions in Lieu of Council Tax (CILOCT) to local authorities, broadly equivalent to the amount of tax that would otherwise be due. The average contribution, determined by the type of property occupied, is then recovered from Service occupants with their accommodation charge.
Overseas and in Northern Ireland, Service personnel are charged the same levels of CILOCT in respect of the services provided by the MOD (or on its behalf by an agency in the host nation) which would normally be provided by a local authority in the UK.
The MOD’s Council Tax Relief (CTR) scheme, for all Regular and Reserve Service personnel serving on operational deployments overseas, was announced in September 2007. CTR is paid to those who pay Council Tax, Rates in Northern Ireland, or CILOCT for Service Families Accommodation, and are serving in designated overseas operational areas, including Afghanistan and specified operational ships at sea.
CTR was doubled with effect from 1 July 2011 as part of the Government’s commitment to support the launch of the Armed Forces Covenant. Payment is tax-free and is currently worth just under £300 for an average six-month deployment. Following the announcement by the Chancellor in his 2012 Budget statement, CTR will be worth just under £600 for an average six-month deployment based on the average Council Tax per dwelling in England. This will continue to be paid at a flat rate to all eligible personnel.
For those in Single Living Accommodation, CILOCT charges cease when they are deployed on operations.
CTR is paid to around 9,500 individuals per annum. Following the announcement by the Chancellor in his 2012 Budget statement, the cost of CTR will double to some £5.6m per annum. Annual expenditure on CTR will go up and down according to the number of claims, which is driven by the number of personnel serving in operational locations during any given period.