Service families' homes plight

Nearly half of all service families in East Anglia are living in poor quality homes, it has emerged.

Nearly half of all service families in East Anglia are living in poor quality homes, it emerged yesterday.

A total of 1,706 family homes in army, navy and air force bases across the region are in a sub-standard condition, 45pc of the forces' 3,725 homes.

The houses are plagued by problems such as faulty heating, inadequate security, draughty interiors and a lack of safety features to protect children.

The figures were released on the back of a report by the National Audit Office that showed that more than 40pc of army family homes across the UK fell below its “standard one” benchmark and that it could take more than 20 years to put right at current spending levels.

Keith Simpson, MP for Mid Norfolk and a defence expert, said: “The government has had nearly 10 years since its strategic defence review of 1998 to reach its target of repairing forces' accommodation.

“It is hardly surprising that the services have difficulties retaining servicemen and women if their families are living in such sub-standard accommodation.”

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In Cambridgeshire, 414 out of 546 forces' homes are substandard, 781 out of 1,871 in Norfolk and 511 out of 1,308 in Suffolk.

At Robertson Barracks, at Swanton Morley, the home of the Light Dragoons currently fighting in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, 56 of the 237 family homes are sub-standard.

In January the barracks was featured in a blacklist of shame for army bases with squalid living conditions.

Defence minister Derek Twigg accepted there were problems with some living quarters but said more than £5bn will be spent over 10 years on improvements.

The Ministry of Defence is the second largest landowner in the UK and has a worldwide estate valued at £18bn.

Out of an estate of 46,800 homes, more than 19,000, remain below the “standard one” benchmark.

The NAO report - which looked into the management of the MoD's estate - estimated that the total operational costs in 2005/6 were £3.3bn.

The Army Families' Federation has said the report had exposed the years of neglect and underinvestment in army housing.