A Yorkshire MP fears the Government is poised to waste millions of pounds moving the headquarters of a local army brigade across the region
Hugh Bayley, the MP for York Central, said it is likely to cost the Ministry of Defence nearly £20m to proceed with a plan to build new accommodation at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire for a newly-merged brigade – when there is already sufficient space at one of its existing headquarters at Imphal Barracks, York.
The move is part of the Government’s controversial Army 2020 programme which will see the size of the Armed Forces shrink by a fifth by the end of the decade.
The York-based Headquarters 15 (North East) Brigade will merge with Catterick-based Headquarters 4 Mechanised Brigade next year, to form a new Headquarters 4 Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East.
But Mr Bayley – president of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly – said moving the new brigade’s headquarters to Catterick will cost around £18m because new accommodation will be needed.
He said: “There is big money to be saved – so why move it? I haven’t had a satisfactory answer and I want them to think again.
“From a city perspective there are 120 high-quality jobs which we would like to retain, and I would guess it would be easier to recruit high-quality staff to an urban centre like York.
“But the most important argument is that at a time when the MoD is embarking on yet another round of defence cuts, if it’s possible to provide perfectly adequate accommodation in York and save £18m then it does seem silly to build a headquarters elsewhere.”
In 2010 the Government rejected a similar plan on the grounds that “there was no existing suitable office accommodation available... and the cost of converting other accommodation was not commensurate with the savings we could achieve.”
Mr Bayley is demanding to know what has since changed. In a written answer, Defence Minister Anna Soubry said the MoD has not yet estimated the cost of moving the new brigade to Catterick.
“The work to map the posts in the current Headquarters 15 (North East) Brigade and Headquarters 4 Mechanised Brigade into the future brigade is still ongoing,” she said.
“It is therefore too soon to assess how many posts, both civilian and military, will map into the new structures or to estimate any associated costs.”