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RAF LAKENHEATH — Some U.S. troops serving at remote locations in the United Kingdom will see a slight increase in their cost-of-living allowance Thursday to help offset the lack of services available to people living at the larger bases in the country.

Recent survey results showed that troops living near “full-service” locations — RAFs Lakenheath, Mildenhall, Alconbury, Molesworth and Menwith Hill — mainly purchase items on base rather than the local economy. Therefore, those servicemembers’ COLA will not change.

In October, some 4,800 troops across the U.K. responded to a Living Pattern Survey, which evaluates the spending habits of servicemembers and their families once every three years, according to Maj. Norm Dozier, commander of the 48th Comptroller Squadron. About 9,300 active-duty servicemembers are assigned to U.K. locations.

The survey asks troops how much shopping they do on and off base, as well as which off-base stores and services they use most often. It also gathers data on items such as food, clothing, phone and Internet service, transportation, entertainment and other products and services.

In general, if troops spend more on base, the less COLA they’ll receive to shop off base.

“COLA helps us maintain purchasing power so you can buy about the same amount of goods and services here as you would if you were in the States,” Dozier wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The survey responses, conducted online, helped compile an updated version of the point system used for COLA indexes. The point system is used as a guideline to determine ongoing COLA rates seen in paychecks.

Actual monetary amounts that servicemembers earn depend on duty station, rank, time in service and number of dependents. The updated indexes are not scheduled to change for another three years, until the next survey.

Even though COLA indexes play a big part in shaping COLA, they are not the only factor. COLA rates can fluctuate as a result of exchange rates — calculated about every two weeks — and Retail Price Schedules, which estimate the local economy’s inflation rate by collecting prices of goods and services.

A Retail Price Schedule was last conducted in November, Dozier said.

Servicemembers who won’t see any extra money in their paychecks had mixed feelings about the recent results. Some were glad that they wouldn’t be losing money, but others were frustrated that they wouldn’t see an increase.

“We’re getting murdered over here,” said Staff Sgt. John Shapley, with regard to the exchange rate between the British pound and U.S. dollar, which continually lingers at about a $2-to-1-pound conversion.

Shapley, a vehicle operator dispatcher for the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, would like to see COLA rates in the U.K. go up to help alleviate the cost of purchasing items off base, he said.

But Navy Petty Officer 2nd class Richard Farrington, who works at RAF Molesworth’s Joint Analysis Center, said he sees nothing wrong with the current COLA rates.

“It’s fine with me,” said Farrington, who added that he lives on base and mostly shops there as well.

Staff Sgt. Al Lomax, a patrolman for the 100th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, likes the fact that he won’t be losing any money.

“It’s a good thing. I do a lot of shopping off base,” Lomax said.

However, Lomax admitted that he’s been stationed in England for only about four months and hasn’t really noticed COLA adjustments.

“People who have been here a lot longer probably see the changes as far as it being up or down. As I stay here longer, I’ll probably be like, ‘where’s my money?’ Right now, I don’t see a problem,” he said.

Updated cost-of-living indexes

These are the new cost-of-living indexes for the U.K., which will take effect Thursday. The figures are based on the latest Living Pattern Survey and Retail Price Schedule data.

The point system is a guideline to determine ongoing COLA rates that servicemembers see in their paychecks. Actual monetary amounts that servicemembers earn depend on duty station, rank, time in service and number of dependents. These indexes will not change for another three years, when the next Living Pattern Survey is scheduled.

Alconbury/Molesworth, Cambridge, Harrogate/Menwith Hill, Lakenheath and Mildenhall: COLA index stayed at 140 points.Fairford/Croughton, London Metro (UK388) and Oxford: increased from 148 to 150 points (+2)Bath, Helston, Plymouth, Portland, Portsmouth, Digby and Yeovilton: increased from 156 to 158 points (+2)High Wycombe and Daws Hill: increased from 160 to 162 points (+2)Central London: increased from 172 to 174 points (+2)St. Mawgan: increased from 150 to 154 points (+4)Salisbury/Wilton: increased from 148 to 152 points (+4)Scotland and Wales: increased from 156 to 160 points (+4)To check out your COLA rate, go to Click here

Source: 48th Comptroller Squadron


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