Defence Safety Authority (DSA) inspectors found that an ‘unacceptable degradation’ of barracks for soldiers had revealed fire safety concerns.
The Guardian reported on the report, which found that financial cuts had led to the issues, with the DSA’s director general Lieutenant General Richard Felton ordering the inspection after fires at bases in Tidworth, Wiltshire and Lisburn, Northern Ireland, respectively in the Aliwal and Thiepval barracks. The single living accommodation, used by unmarried soldiers, featured faulty equipment as well as ‘broken or unserviceable infrastructure’, alongside the fire safety issues.
Though the review had not been released, the DSA’s annual report published last October revealed that 373 fires had been reported across armed forces owned buildings in 2017-18, and noted the ‘apparent disinvestment or lack of priority afforded to fire safety across our infrastructure’. This was ‘being mirrored in the ambivalence of the very people it is there to protect’, with the chance of a fire resulting in ‘significant loss of life, loss of capability and damage’ to the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) reputation set to ‘remain high’ unless ‘major weaknesses’ are addressed.
Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, a former army officer and member of the Commons defence committee, noted: ‘Animals would not be housed in such dangerous conditions. It is disgraceful how ministers talk up our armed forces at every opportunity, and yet, away from the spotlight, ask our most loyal public servants to endure totally unacceptable and lethal living environments.’
In response, an MoD spokesman commented that the ministry was investing £4bn in modernising sites nationwide, and added: ‘All occupied buildings owned by the MoD meet national building and fire regulations and we regularly inspect our sites to ensure they meet safety standards. We are making improvements to fire safety across our sites, including bolstering our resources for fire assurance.’