Almost 2,500 leave the Westcountry's military estates
Almost 2,500 military and civilian personnel have departed the Westcountry's major bases since the coalition came to power, the Western Morning News can reveal.
The figures emerged as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) prepares to announce the future of bases and barracks in the naval estate, which could have a major impact on the region.
The military, and the Navy in particular, forms a major plank of the economy of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, providing jobs for around 15,000 people at eight key bases.
In a Freedom of Information request to the MoD, the WMN asked how many service and civilian personnel have been made redundant or left of their own volition since the May 2010 general election at military bases across the region.
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A total of 490 service personnel have taken redundancy and 1,460 have left of their own accord before the end of their contract through various release programmes.
The Government expects 5,000 UK naval personnel to depart by 2015, indicating the Westcountry is taking the brunt of the cuts.
Furthermore in the region, 340 civilians have taken redundancy, and a further 180 staff have left via retirement or resignation.
Officials insist the number of people leaving the Armed Forces does not represent the actual cut to the headcount, as some of the posts vacated may have been filled.
But it could not say how many of those that have left have been replaced.
The cuts are part of an MoD plan to claw back a £38 billion black hole, slashing 25,000 servicemen and women in total. It will leave Britain with a standing maritime force of around 30,000 – the smallest in recent memory.
As part of the cuts, four Type 22 frigates were axed from Devonport Naval Base and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment at Chivenor was disbanded.
Much hinges on where next generation Type 26 frigates are located, with Devonport vying with Portsmouth for the ships.
An announcement on the future of the Navy estate is expected in the next few weeks.
While it could have an impact on basing in the region, ministers have repeatedly offered assurances that Devonport's future is safe as one of Britain's three principal naval bases.
Speculation has mounted over whether basic naval training at HMS Raleigh and officer training at Dartmouth could be brought onto one site.
After ministers announced two weeks ago 45 Commando in Arbroath would not be moving to the South West as planned, questions were raised over the future of Raleigh.Ministers had heavily hinted Raleigh would be the new home of 45 Commando.
Former Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey told the WMN the MoD had "no choice" but to cut manpower given the deep cuts imposed by the Treasury.
But the North Devon MP argued the Navy had taken too much of the burden compared to the other two armed forces.
The Lib Dem said: "I think the cuts to the Navy have been more brutal. I think the Navy are being asked to do more than they can given their current capability."
Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, agreed. Mrs Murray, whose daughter is an officer in the Navy, said: "There is very little fat to trim from the Navy from now on. We have to make sure the services are operating on an equal basis."
She is seeking assurances on the future of Raleigh.
She said: "We need to make sure there is not a closure there. Raleigh is hugely important for the economy of South East Cornwall."
Military cuts in the region
since May 2010:
Devonport Naval Base
Military – Redundancy: 220 Voluntarily left: 740
Current headcount: 5,020
Civilian – Redundancy: 140 Voluntarily left: 70
Current headcount: 800
3 Commando Brigade and 29 Commando
Military – Redundancy: 10 Voluntarily left: 150
Current headcount: 870
Civilian – Redundancy: 10 Voluntarily left: 10
Current headcount: 60
Military – Redundancy: 10 Voluntarily left: 160
Current headcount: 890
Civilian – Redundancy: 0 Voluntarily left: 0
Current headcount: 60
Britannia Royal Naval College
Military – Redundancy: 0 Voluntarily left: 0
Current headcount: 410
Military – Redundancy: 80 Voluntarily left: 150
Current headcount: 2,090
Civilian – Redundancy: 50 Voluntarily left: 30
Current headcount: 340
Military – Redundancy: 150 Voluntarily left: 210
Current headcount: 2,470
Civilian – Redundancy: 120 Voluntarily left: 60
Current headcount: 500
Military – Redundancy: 10 Voluntarily left: 30
Current headcount: 1,050
RAF St Mawgan
Military – Redundancy: 10 Voluntarily left: 20
Current headcount: 200
Civilian – Redundancy: 20 Voluntarily left: 10
Current headcount: 90