The past weekend has witnessed the nation traditionally recognising the sacrifice many members of our armed forces made during both World Wars and subsequent conflicts, not forgetting those who have given their lives while involved with peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
Is it not, therefore, an appropriate time for Hastings Borough Council (HBC), like many other local authorities across the country, to sign the Community Covenant which incorporates the Military Covenant?
This covenant identifies how veterans and serving personnel have, over many years, experienced disadvantages when seeking services from government departments and local authority agencies, particularly in the areas of housing and medical support.
As we see our frontline combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan, we as a society should be prepared to provide ongoing support for veterans, especially those who have been maimed or damaged as a result of answering governments’ calls to defend our national principles and values.
Being a signatory, representing SSAFA, to the East Sussex County Council Community Covenant, of which indirectly, HBC is party to, I have found it surprising, in my role as a volunteer involved with ex-service personnel and their families, that the majority of councillors, officers and staff are not aware of the military covenant or it’s significance, albeit it is the subject of an Act of Parliament.
On enquiry to the council, I could not establish whether or not HBC had signed a covenant in its own right. I did, however, locate a draft document dated February 2013 showing a facility forthe leaders of respective authorities covering Eastbouene, Hastings, Lewes, Rother and Wealden. If this was signed following that publication, certainly it was not made known publically, to my knowledge.
HBC signing a covenant, independently, should see the principles being promoted internally to council officers and staff at all levels.This will enable them to better identify with veterans, understand their problems and apply the guidelines within the covenant.
The council would also be required to appoint an ‘Armed Forces Champion’ whose role would be to act as a ‘champion’ to make sure that HBC delivers on its commitments to the armed forces community and any blockages in delivery are resolved.
Signing this covenant would indeed be a real and meaningful demonstration on the part of our elected council in openly recognising the contribution our veterans have made in securing peace for this country over almost 70 years.
I look forward to confirmation of HBC’s current policy and position, or of reading about a plan to see this covenant signed locally in the coming year, ideally through your columns.