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A quarter of Army private's salary could go to energy bills, Labour says

Forces families are on the frontline of the UK's cost of living crisis, says Labour, amid fears junior personnel in service family accommodation could pay almost £5,100 in energy bills.

In response to parliamentary questions from Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) forecasts tens of thousands living in family housing who buy direct from suppliers could see bills rise by 116% this year.

Defence predicts those in Type B-D homes (usually occupied by members of the junior ranks with up to four children) could see last year's average bills of £2,357.50 hit £5,094 in 2022-23.

Non-officer rank pay starts at £21,000 for privates, so those living in these conditions could lose a quarter of their salary to rising bills.

No Government help outside of the £400 cost of living winter payment is currently available.

For more than 500 personnel who do not buy energy directly from suppliers, heavily subsidised 'fuel and light' charges are still set to increase around 40% this year.

For corporals starting on £33,065, almost one-sixth of their pay would be eaten up – non-officer ranks forming roughly four-fifths of the 34,920 in service accommodation.

Family houses on a military housing estate on Salisbury Plain.
Family houses on a military housing estate on Salisbury Plain.

Officer ranks are also set to be hit hard – 2,900 in Type IV properties with two double and two single bedrooms could see energy costs rise from £3,959.74 in 2021-22 to £10,622.83 in 2022-23.

Labour has announced a fully-funded £29bn plan it said would prevent the energy price cap from rising through the winter, paid for by extra tax from oil and gas companies.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said the Conservatives are "failing" personnel and families, adding that a £29bn cost cap plan for the winter would "typically save households £1,000, paid for by taxing oil and gas producers who are making record profits".

"What is happening to our service families is no different to what is happening to households across the whole country, but if the first duty of a British government is to keep our nation safe, then surely the first priority of that government must be protecting the wellbeing of our Armed Forces and their families," he said.

A spokesperson for the MOD said: "We have worked hard to introduce a range of measures to support our personnel coping with the cost of living, including the biggest pay increase in 20 years, freezing daily food costs and extending wraparound childcare, saving families up to £3,000 per child per year."