» Veter­ans char­i­ties hit out at £205m travel bill for top brass » Plus bonuses for MoD civil ser­vants rocket to £16m a year

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Front Page - BY DAN WARBURTON

FORCES char­i­ties are in up­roar af­ter learn­ing MoD chiefs spent as much as £816 a night on ho­tels.

The bill for send­ing top brass around the globe hit £205mil­lion last year. And bonuses to MoD civil ser­vants rock­eted to £16mil­lion.

The fig­ures, on Armed Forces Day, come as troops face a cash cri­sis. Cam­paigner Tony Hayes said: “It’s ob­scene.”

DE­FENCE chiefs blew up to £816 a night at five-star ho­tels as troops face kit short­ages and live in squalid quar­ters.

One Min­istry of De­fence boss stayed in a Dubai ho­tel at an eye­wa­ter­ing £4,900 for six nights.

Other trips to the Emi­rates saw the MoD book a to­tal of 38 rooms which each cost more than £300-per-night.

In an­other case, an MoD worker and guest stayed in Li­mas­sol, Cyprus, for three nights at a cost of £2,200 – which comes to £733 a night.

Of­fi­cials even splashed out £500 for a one-night stay in BIRM­ING­HAM.

The fig­ures emerged as the MoD re­vealed it spent £205mil­lion on ho­tels, meals and trans­port last year. They come amid fears the mil­i­tary faces a £1.2bil­lion black hole by 2022.

Armed Forces char­i­ties branded the spend­ing a “be­trayal”. Tony Hayes, from the Veter­ans As­so­ci­a­tion UK, said: “Spend­ing of this kind is eth­i­cally wrong but it should be legally wrong. Troops are un­der-equipped and un­der-re­sourced while veter­ans are left on the heap, their ben­e­fits cut.

“All the while some MoD guy spends £800 on a ho­tel in Dubai. It’s ob­scene.”

Veter­ans in Ac­tion founder Billy MacLeod said: “It’s a be­trayal. This could be spent on PTSD. For £800 I could take a vet­eran for a three-week expedition where we could get to the root of his prob­lems.”

The Royal Marines Char­ity is build­ing a cen­tre for trau­ma­tised veter­ans. It will cost £2.4mil­lion – a frac­tion of the MoD’s spend on car rental, trans­port, use of a pri­vate ve­hi­cle, overnight stays and meals.

The av­er­age squad­die could only dream of vis­it­ing ho­tels used by the MoD. One of­fi­cial had two nights at

Omni Berk­shire Place ho­tel in Man­hat­tan, New York. Cost: £808. There was £822 for two nights at the Grand Ho­tel Rica in Oslo, Nor­way, plus £912 for three nights at the Lord El­gin ho­tel in Ottawa, Canada. And three rooms at the Con­corde Opera ho­tel in Paris were £316 each.

In Syd­ney, aides spent £10,226 on 30 nights at the five-star Meri­ton Kent Street apart­ments. Four MoD staff en­joyed two nights at the Monaco Ho­tel in Washington at £361 per per­son, per night. But some of the big­gest spends were yards from the MoD’s HQ in White­hall, Lon­don.

Of­fi­cials spent £9,246 for 22 nights at the five-star Royal Horse­guards Ho­tel, on Em­bank­ment. And 21 days at the Mer­cure Lon­don City Bank­side ho­tel cost £7,062. There was £1,085 for three nights at Mac­don­ald Ran­dolph Ho­tel, in Ox­ford, and £1,200 for three nights at a ho­tel in Glas­gow.

The MoD said: “We ex­pect staff to act re­spon­si­bly when in­cur­ring ex­penses and con­tinue to make sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings in travel costs. Ho­tels are only ap­proved when they are the most cost­ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion.”

Ear­lier this year it emerged homes on army bases sparked 36,000 com­plaints in three years. Some are plagued by rats and rid­dled with leaks.

STRUG­GLE Troops face cash cri­sis

SPEC­TAC­U­LAR HON­OUR Princess Anne salutes pa­rade STRIK­ING House­hold Cavalry Mounted Reg­i­ment in Sal­is­bury Red Ar­rows in for­ma­tion over the city

SMART Chelsea Pen­sion­ers march yes­ter­day DIG­NITY Troops in the his­toric streets

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