Command Pay Office UKLF

(Photo John Unsworth)


Creation of Command Pay Offices 1909

Official announcement of the rebirth of the Army pay Department was on 26th October 1909. It was published in a Special Army Order (294) three days later, although the revised arrangements did not start to operate until 1st January 1910. Except that the District Services offices were now renamed "Command Pay Offices", there was remarkably little change in the location and number of the various establishments. Regimental Pay Offices, now known by that name, were undisturbed.

In each Command an officer was appointed with the title "Command Paymaster". He took over those duties of the Chief Accountant of the now defunct Accounts Department which were appropriate to the Army Pay Department. Most importantly he was to act as financial adviser to the Major General in charge of Administration in matters relating to the pay and cash accounting services within the Command and in such other matters as might be referred to him by the General. In respect of advice, however, the Army Order laid it down that:

"In matters of financial importance, when the General Officer in charge of administration considers it desirable to obtain independent financial advice in addition to that of the Heads of Administrative services (including the Command Paymaster) he may consult the local auditor; but the advice of this official will neither bind the General Officer in charge of Administration nor relieve him of the responsibility for the action taken".

The Command Paymaster was to command the Army Pay Department and the Army Pay Corps within his area and to exercise supervision and control over all Accounts Offices in the Command. He was to have direct charge of the Command Pay Office and the Cashier

Immediately prior to the "Great War", Command Pay Offices (CPOs) were located in all home commands and their role was different from that of army pay offices: it included being responsible for the audit of accounts, pay sheets and expense claims, and the authorising and payment of civilian contractors' bills for work incurred by military units within their command. The Command Pay Office London District also fulfilled an APO role, being responsible for the accounts of the Brigade of Guards and Territorial Force establishments within the London County Council area.

The strength of the Army Pay Services in 1914 was 1,070 comprising all ranks (all male) made up of 180 paymasters commissioned into the APD and 890 warrant officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) of the Army Pay Corps (APC). The salaries of commissioned officers of the Army were administered through civilian army agents. Command Pay Offices acted as a link between the army agent and the War Office Finance Branch.

Writing in 1982 Major General O. J. Kinahan CB said:

Since 1960 we have seen development on an unprecedented scale, most of it made possible by the opportunity for enhancement afforded by the introduction of computerised systems into pay and personnel administration.

Over that period the Royal Army Pay Corps has eliminated the need for large military staffs in Fixed Centre Pay Offices and assumed much wider representation at headquarters and units, with still greater involvement in officers’ and soldiers' pay administration at that level and an increasing role in financial counselling. The advent of the 'electronic age' has seen the number of Regimental Pay Offices in the United Kingdom dwindle from 15 in 1960 to 5 in 1982 and the closure of such Offices elsewhere in the world. Moreover, all the Command Pay Offices in the United Kingdom have been amalgamated into a single Office. The Fixed Centre Offices now in existence have a high proportion of civilian staff.

Command Pay Offices BAOR and UKLF amalgamated on October 1 1991 to form the Army Finance and Audit Office at Ashton under Lyne.

But not for long:

Hansard: Army Finance and Audit Office

HC Deb 19 January 1995 vol 252 c693W 693W

§ Mr. Sykes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the future of the Army finance and audit office.

§ Mr. Soames

As part of Front Line First, proposals to devolve the functions of the army finance and audit office, currently based at Ashton under Lyne, down to unit level were detailed in a consultation document issued on 21 July 1994.

During the consultation period, understandable local concerns were expressed both about the loss of jobs in Ashton under Lyne and the weakening of Greater Manchester's long and proud links with the army. Points were also raised about the detailed costings used, and the effectiveness of the proposed alternative auditing arrangements but no new significant defence-related arguments have emerged. Having given careful consideration to these points, I am satisfied that the proposal to close AFAO is sound on both management and financial grounds, and I have decided that it will close on 31 March 1996, whereupon the audit task will be devolved to unit level. We will, of course, continue to consult the trade unions about the detailed implementation of these measures.