The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to immediately lift the pay cap on the armed forces to address a growing recruitment crisis.
Currently, a newly trained private on £18,488 would see a £351 real-terms pay cut next year once inflation is taken into account. The Liberal Democrats would raise wages in line with inflation, meaning a newly trained private would get a pay rise of £536 up to just over £19,000.
Latest figures show the number of fully trained regular Army soldiers has dropped to 77,940, way below the 2020 target of 82,000.
Voting at conference, the party also called for improved support for the families of those serving in the armed forces and an urgent review into skills shortages.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary Judith Jolly said:
“Men and women who serve in our Armed Forces deserve the utmost support and respect for their sacrifice, but sadly this government has let them down.
“Too little has been done to address the chronic low morale amongst those currently serving, and the country is being put at risk by failures to recruit new people with specific skills needed for 21st century warfare.
“The Liberal Democrats today are proposing a number of new measures to support current, former and prospective Armed Forces personnel.
"These include lifting the 1% pay cap to give our armed forces the pay rise they deserve,
"We also need better support for families of those who serve and new recruitment initiatives for technical skills.
“We cannot afford to sit back and watch this situation deteriorate further. These actions are critical for the security of our country, and to ensure that those who serve and their families are given the support they deserve.”