Essex: Army housing slammed by wife and MP
06:00 16 June 2011
ARMY housing in Colchester has been described as ‘the worst in the country’ by the wife of a Colchester soldier.
In a letter read out in the House of Commons by the town’s MP Bob Russell, the un-named wife says the married quarters in Colchester’s Merville Barracks were the worst she had ever lived in and the system in place to rectify faults was ‘laughable.’
The wife, who has been married to a soldier for 20 years and lived in various houses during that period, said: “The direct line puts you through to a call centre in Liverpool, to talk to someone who has no idea of the conditions you live in or the stresses you endure while your husband’s away. They will then expect you to take a day off work so a tradesman can turn up, and it’s then a lottery as to the standard of the repair.”
Speaking on Tuesday evening, the Lib Dem MP said the state of Army housing was a ‘national disgrace’ and urged the government to find the money needed to modernise Army housing as MPs debated the Armed Forces Bill.
The wife added: “We’ve given up complaining to the Defence Housing Executive, as all we get are curt replies from staff who seemingly have never served or been married to a serving member. It is apparent they have never seen inside the properties.”
Mr Russell went on to point out the vast difference in quality between family housing and single people’s accommodation for Army personnel in Colchester.
“When it comes to the accommodation of our military personnel, successive Governments have failed. The last Conservative and Labour Governments failed. When it comes to single people’s accommodation, Merville Barracks in Colchester is the best to be found anywhere in the country – but that only sharpens the contrast with the unacceptable housing for married families,” Mr Russell said.
He also asked why the government was able to find money to improve former Army housing for civilian families and not for Army families as well.
In response, Defence Minister Andrew Robathan, said: “I take on board Mr Russell’s serious concerns about housing, which is an on-going problem that we wish to improve. We inherited a bad situation.”
But on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the MOD defended Army family housing in Colchester saying the majority met top standards: “Our Armed Forces and their families deserve a good standard of accommodation. The MOD recently invested £8 million in fully upgrading over 135 Service Family Accommodation (SFA) properties in Colchester. We continue to provide a comprehensive maintenance service to ensure that military homes are maintained to an appropriate standard.
“Of the 953 SFA properties at Colchester, 876 are currently at the top two Standards for Condition. In addition, 106 properties are also scheduled for minor improvements this year as part of our Asset Replacement Programme.
In another warning issued by Mr Russell, the MP also claims that nearby schools where Army personnel send their children will not have enough space once 100 former Army houses are occupied by civilian families.