THE SUN has reported how cabinet ministers have secretly raided £326million from a pot for forces charities to plug shortfalls in their own budgets.
The huge sum has been taken from the Libor fund and used to bail out what should be routine state spending.
In 2012 ex-Chancellor George Osborne said the £973m fines on banks would go to ‘Armed Force and Emergency Services charities’
But an in-depth investigation by The Sun newspaper has revealed ministers from the Treasury, MoD and Department for Education have repeatedly raided a third from the jumbo pot over the last five years.
They include improving Army barracks, installing sports facilities on military bases, buying air ambulances, maintaining cadet troops and £200million of the pot alone was claimed by education ministers to spend on creating thousands of new apprenticeships.
MPs from across the political divide were also enraged and pledged to launch their own probe into the scandal, with one senior Tory branding it “almost criminal”.
The investigation by The Sun also discovered many household name charities only ended up receiving just a tiny fraction of the now empty Libor pot – despite them being the original intended recipients.
Help For Heroes was given just £7.1m in grants – less than 1 per cent of the whole Libor pot.
Help for Heroes Chief Executive Mel Waters said last night: “Every month over 200 men and women are medically discharged from our Armed Forces, but it’s getting harder to raise money to help them rebuild their lives and become a force for good once more.
“It is extraordinary that this money has been used to top-up Government departments and other budgets when it could have done so much for our wounded Servicemen and Servicewomen.
“It is a disgrace that our brave Servicemen and Servicewomen are having to go cap-in-hand to bid for money for really basic needs.”
Campaigning Tory MP and Commons defence committee member Johnny Mercer said: “The amount that has been wasted here is almost criminal.
“A strategic opportunity has been lost, and I feel very bitter about it.
“This is vital public money, that George Osborne specifically targeted at a certain group who have served this country, not to bail out budgets elsewhere.”
Former Army officer Mr Mercer added: “I am going to ask the defence committee if we can conduct a full inquiry into what happened to the Libor fund”.
Profoundly disappointed that a strategic opportunity, brilliantly afforded to veterans care in the UK by @George_Osborne and his team in LIBOR fines, has been missed. Lots of good stuff done, but far too much of this, whilst girls and blokes in need. https://t.co/01NHZXhg1R
— Johnny Mercer MP (@JohnnyMercerUK) February 27, 2018
Unveiling the fund in 2012, George Osborne announced: “The proceeds from LIBOR fines would be used to support Armed Forces and Emergency Services charities”.
But the initial pledge was later expanded in October 2014 to include “and other related good causes”.
While the money spent falls into this category it is believed Treasury ministers deliberately wrote in the new caveat to allow the fund to be raided by other government ministers, without common knowledge.
Only £792million in grants from the Libor pot has been publicly declared so far, so the final figure syphoned off by ministers could be far higher.
The Treasury is still refusing to publish a full list of where close to £1bn in the fines has gone.
Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith has described this as “a total betrayal of the veterans and personnel who were promised that they would benefit from these funds”.
Ms Griffith added: “We know that the defence budget is in a complete mess, but this does not justify Ministers plundering money that was meant for charity to plug gaps in the MoD’s books.
“I will be writing to the Defence Secretary to demand an urgent explanation of why this has happened and a guarantee that this scandal will not be repeated.”
A landmark study by King’s College London recently revealed 83,000 troops have been afflicted by a physical or mental injury in wars over the last quarter of a century, from the First Gulf War to ongoing operations in Iraq.
And up to 57,000 partners and children of former troops will also have developed mental health issues because of their loved one’s service, the study also found.
Many of those thousands need ongoing and expensive help for the rest of their lives.
With government resources dwindling, the burden has fallen to charities who face being overrun by the huge need.