DEFENCE chiefs have given a pay hike to thousands of pen pushers – while imposing a three-year squeeze on brave troops.
They have breached the government one per cent cap to boost the wage packets of desk-bound staff.
Official figures show 28,750 civil servants got a rise above the government imposed limit last year.
This is on top of similar increases enjoyed by 19,760 civilian staff last year and at least 17,000 in 2015.
But the move sparked fury last night with ministers accused of running a “divide and rule” regime.
Armed forces who put their lives in peril have seen their salaries frozen or caped at one per cent over the past three years.
Thousands of troops are surviving on tax credits and many have complained they have been forced to use food banks to feed their families.
The military is also facing a series of defence cuts which could see the infantry brigades cut and the number of helicopter units reduced from five to four. Other cuts could also see the number of tanks and armoured personnel carrier slashed.
Labour blasted the rises last night and demanded all defence employees are treated the same.
Shadow Treasury Minister Jonny Reynolds said: “The Tories are trying to pursue a divide and rule approach with our public sector workers.
“It’s a disgrace that Philip Hammond won’t give a proper pay rise to our armed forces and other public sector workers.
“It is time the Tories ended the pay cap and if they won’t Labour will.”
The figures, which exclude senior civil servants and staff working in agencies, mean 70 per cent of MoD staff had a pay rise which breached government rules.
Separate figures show that the MoD has spent over £84 million on recruiting campaigns and a further £3.3 million on social media.
Trained soldiers currently earn £18,500 a year, almost £9,000 below the average UK salary.
Low pay, and cuts to overseas exercises, foreign postings and adventure training have all been cited by serving personnel as reasons why troops are leaving the armed forces.
Soldiers recently told the Armed Forces Pay Review body that they have been left feeling “undervalued “ as they face the “perfect storm” of below-inflation pay rises, tax hikes and increased rents.
They complained that that they were effectively getting a pay cut because of the rising cost of living and warned that they could leave the services.
An MOD spokesman said: “Pay settlements allow the flexibility for employees at the lower end of pay scales to receive more than a one per cent pay rise, as long as this is affordable within the overall one per cent pay agreement.”
Labour MP Kevan Jones, a former defence minister, added: “These figures expose as a sham the Tories’ claim of being on the side of our armed forces.”