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ou probably don’t need me to tell you that there is a huge amount of change taking place at the moment, and there’s some pretty major stuff on the horizon too. The common theme

running through it all, regardless of its timing, is that nearly all of this change is having an impact, or will have an impact, on the serving RAF Family.

So, although I was delighted to be invited to pen the Foreword for the Spring edition of Envoy, I almost immediately ran into the problem of what to write about, as there’s not enough space here to cover it all. Then there was the question of how to pitch it: You would not expect someone in a position like mine to write a dark and gloomy piece, bemoaning all the changes and pointing out it was never like this when we had postings in Hong Kong and Singapore – or for that matter Lyneham and Cottesmore – and nor, I suspect, would most of you want to read it.

Equally, a bright and breezy piece ignoring the issues of the day and urging everyone to cheer up and look on the sunny side might be met with a degree of cynicism and accusations of being out of touch with reality. In fact I think the reality of what we are all seeing and experiencing at the moment is a mixture of the two: there are some gloomy bits and some sunny bits and how you view them probably depends mostly on your temperament (glass half full versus glass half empty...) and your individual circumstances.

So, whatever I say, some of you might agree and others will disagree. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact I think it’s a good thing and a sign of a vibrant community of people, the vast majority of whom care passionately about the future of the Service. But in understanding what’s happening, it’s vital that we are well informed on the key issues, so that we can make judgements from a position that is fuelled by fact, and not rumour and hearsay. And that’s why it’s important that, between us, we keep the communication channels open and make sure that, as well as the RAF telling you what’s going on, you say what you think.

Take the New Employment Model (NEM) for example: it’s the biggest and most far reaching review we’ve conducted in at least 40 years. Its impact will be significant, both for those serving now and their families, and for those who will serve in the future. NEM will consider Pay and Allowances, Training, Education and Resettlement, Future Accommodation and Terms of Service.

Let’s look at just a couple of aspects. Rumour control would have it that, amongst many things, NEM will force us out of Service Families Accommodation (SFA) and into the commercial housing market, having to buy our own houses, perhaps in an area where we don’t want or cannot afford to buy; that Single Living Accommodation (SLA) will be made unaffordable

for many; and that NEM will be a cost reduction exercise that will save millions by changing our terms and conditions of Service, our pay scales and our allowances packages.

The reality is actually about providing a better choice to RAF personnel and their families within existing resources and about a more balanced approach to the support we provide you – now and into the future. For example, (and this is just one area we are looking at) there is no intention to do away with subsidised accommodation. However, our SFA and SLA charges are currently very heavily subsidised – to the tune of several thousands of pounds per year – when compared to equivalent civilian subsidies. Yet the help we give to our people trying to get on the property ladder is much less substantial and has been stuck at the same rate for several years, so it’s actually been reducing in value. Although there’s no additional money available, we do have the chance to rebalance this by charging a bit more for accommodation that is of a good standard but also providing more help to buy your own place. Inevitably, there will be an extra cost for some but, equally, many others will benefit from just this one example.

NEM is also considering the options for providing much greater family stability than at present. By reducing the requirement to pack up the family bags and move every couple of years or so, there is the potential to ease problems with, for example, continuity of children’s education and employment opportunities for the non-serving spouse or partner. These are the two main reasons people give when asked why they are thinking about leaving the RAF, so if we can do something to help improve those issues then perhaps more of you will consider staying longer.

Before any decisions are made, we’ll be asking you this summer what you think about the proposals as they are worked up. We really do need your input so please do engage with the consultation process to get your voice heard; it’s really important that you understand what the proposals entail, so that you can form an opinion and have your say. My recent article in the RAF News (dated 1 Feb 13) covers much of the ground and your Families Federation will have a role in helping to find out what you think. Not only will it be supporting the NEM research, but it will also be running its own surveys on NEM related issues such as pay and accommodation through the middle of the year. I cannot urge you strongly enough to get on the Federation website and complete those surveys when they appear. Your views are important and are listened to. We need to hear what you think – please tell us!

Envoy Spring 2013 5

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