An annual pay rise for military personnel has been delayed for the second time in two years, the Sunday People can reveal.
The hold-up has been condemned by defence chiefs and MPs.
The armed forces were expecting a pay rise in April but the Ministry of Defence has admitted it stalled.
Last year’s pay rise was also delayed and not paid until months later.
One senior MP said the delay showed the Government’s “indifference” to troops who risk their lives to protect the rest of us.
Low pay is recognised by the MoD as one of the reasons why many serving personnel leave.
A recent survey found only half the members of all three services felt they were paid adequately.
Just two out of five reported high morale.
Recommendations on wages are made by the independent Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body. But the Government is under no obligation to accept its proposals, especially if ministers view pay rises as unaffordable.
British troops are already some of the most poorly-paid public servants, with many of their families forced to relay on tax credits to make ends meet.
Recruits in training are paid around £15,000 a year, rising to £20,000 when they qualify.
Last year the forces got a 2.9 per cent pay rise, while those on the very lowest salaries received a six per cent increase. But that followed several years of below-inflation rises.
British troops are currently involved in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Thousands have also been involved in the Covid-19 crisis.
Next month, around 200 will deploy to Mali, where they will be involved in the fight against Islamic State.
One Afghanistan veteran said: “The pay is terrible. I like the job and that’s why I’m staying in.
“But when you see your civilian mates with nice cars and clothes, doing a job which doesn’t require them to risk their lives, you wonder if you are in the right career.”
Colonel Richard Kemp, ex-commander of UK troops in Afghanistan, said: “The armed forces are not paid enough and delaying their pay increase for the second year running should not be happening.
“One of the main reasons people leave is inadequate pay. There are also other causes of low morale at the moment, some of which cannot be easily resolved.
“The pay rise our troops deserve, and are entitled to, would help balance some of these. Failure to do so sends the message to the armed forces that they are not valued. That impacts morale.”
Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan, whose Portsmouth constituency is the home of the Royal Navy, said: “The decision to delay the pay award, for the second year running, confirms this Government’s indifference to our troops.
“Already this year, the MoD’s own continuous attitudes survey has revealed a decade of discontent in the armed forces under the Tories.
“The Government has failed to recognise the immense value of our armed forces. This risks further declines in morale and shows their shoddy record has serious ramifications for national security.”
The MoD said: “The Government is currently considering the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body’s recommendations. Any pay rises will be backdated to 1 April 2020.”