Ministers urged to fund resettlement of troops at Albemarle Barracks

Leaders at Northumberland County Council say they have been told they will receive no funding to help them cater for hundreds of forces personnel and their families who are being moved to the remote Albemarle Barracks

Royal Artillery soldiers are set to be replaced at Albemarle barracks
Royal Artillery soldiers are set to be replaced at Albemarle barracks

The Government was last night urged to rethink its decision not to offer financial support for the resettlement of troops to rural Northumberland.

Leaders at Northumberland County Council say they have been told they will receive no funding to help them cater for hundreds of forces personnel and their families who are being moved to the remote Albemarle Barracks.

The authority is writing to the Government to make the case for additional funds, claiming the cost of infrastructure improvements to help the influx to integrate into the county will amount to £3m a year in financially difficult times.

Ministers announced in March last year that, as part of the planned withdrawal of UK troops from German bases by 2020, the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, currently based at Hohne in Germany, will be moved to Albermarle in 2015.

The regiment currently has around 580 personnel, although this is expected to fall to 380 by the time of the move, due to cuts.

Labour leaders at the Northumberland council say they have received a letter from former minister of state for the armed forces, Andrew Robathan, informing them that they will be given no money on top of their shrinking annual settlement from Government to cope with the influx.

The base is home to 39 Regiment Royal Artillery until 2015, when that regiment is disbanded and its sub-units moved elsewhere.

Yet the council claims the arrival of the troops from Germany and their families will double the size of the base, and say the Government’s decision not to provide additional funding will mean the authority having to find £3m a year to carry out the necessary infrastructure improvements to help the influx to integrate into the county, such as investment in schools and public transport.

The base is served by just the one bus route to Ponteland. It has no banking facilities and relies on the retail and leisure services provided by NAFFI.

Labour council leader Grant Davey said: “The redeployment of service personnel, which will effectively double the size of Albemarle Barracks, will pose significant issues for the county council against the backdrop of savage coalition cuts to the county’s grant.

“We’re urging the government to acknowledge the issues that will face these service families in the most rural county in the country and we want the government to recognise the additional strain on our shrinking resources.

“We’re determined to live up to our obligations through the armed forces covenant and we’re urging the government to live up to its obligations to these families too.

“I would urge the coalition MPs in the county to join our campaign to make sure there’s a fair deal for forces families.

“The troops and their families will get a warm welcome in Northumberland but the Government has a responsibility to support the redeployment as part of their ongoing cuts programme in the armed services.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The MOD is planning for a substantial military presence to remain at Albemarle and is working with Northumberland Council to manage any impact on local amenities.”

He stressed that other government departments are responsible for the provision of many locally-provided amenities and said, that by 2018, there will be 200 fewer soldiers based at Albermarle.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer