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RAF chief: Staff concerns around culture to be addressed as a priority

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The head of the Royal Air Force has promised to address concerns raised about the service's culture "as a priority".

The RAF has been at the centre of a series of media reports in recent weeks, including accusations of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment within the Red Arrows.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, has written a letter to personnel, stating there are "legitimate questions being asked".

The service chief said those with concerns, including concerns that could expose the RAF to "significant criticism or harm" should go through a confidential defence helpline or the RAF Police if they do not feel they can raise the issue through the chain of command.

Alongside these issues, reports that the air force looked to prioritise certain demographics over white men in its recruitment and diversity strategy will be addressed at a board meeting early next month.

The note to personnel said the "quality" of "new entrants" has not suffered due to "attempts to widen" recruiting.

The full letter reads: "You will be well aware of the ongoing focus on the Royal Air Force in the media and on social media, on a number of topics, over the past weeks. I am acutely conscious that the coverage affects us all – whether regular, reserve, civil servant, or contractor – as well as our families and loved ones; and there are legitimate questions being asked which I am determined we will address as a priority.

"I am hugely proud of the passion and commitment I see from you each and every day across all our operational tasks and supporting activity. We have a well-earned reputation for excellence in all that we do to protect the UK, and I, like you, cherish that reputation dearly.

 "It is right that when issues are raised we take swift action to address them, and we continue to strive for an open and honest reporting culture within the service. I thank all of you for the part you play in that, our commanders and line managers especially. If you have a concern about an issue or risk that you believe contravenes the values and standards of the service or the Civil Service Code, or exposes the organisation to significant criticism or harm,  I encourage you to raise it through the correct channels, your chain of command in the first instance or, if you feel unable to do so for any reason, via the MOD’s confidential helpline or the RAF Police.

 "Recent news coverage has addressed our values and standards, our culture and behaviours, and our determination to meet the MOD's level of ambition for diversity. All of this will be the focus of an Air Force Board meeting on 7 September. As a leadership team, we are clear that unacceptable behaviours have no place in our service. We also remain committed to increasing our diversity and I can confirm categorically that neither our operational effectiveness, nor the quality of our new entrants has suffered as a result of our attempts to widen our recruiting from across society.

 "We continue to deliver against every operational task asked of us by the government; the RAF is deployed extensively, operationally active, and is indisputably lethal, and nothing in that regard has been or ever will be compromised by our drive to attract and recruit people from the widest pool of talent in the UK workforce.

 "We play a critical role in the security and defence of the UK and our allies, and that is where our primary effort must always be. I would ask that commanders and line managers at all levels continue to support your teams, and to ensure nobody feels isolated or marginalised. It is essential now more than ever that we pull together and focus on our essential purpose: global air and space power to protect our nation."