Armed Forces Strategy supported by West Sussex councillors
Councillors have unanimously backed West Sussex County Council’s draft Armed Forces Strategy.
The strategy, which lays out the work the council has carried out and will carry out to support current and former service personnel, was discussed during a meeting of the full council on Friday (March 19).
Peter Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield & Lucastes), who was appointed Armed Forces Champion in 2020, has been involved with the preparation of the strategy for more than a year.
He said: “It embeds our obligations into the DNA of the council.
“So it’s not just something where we’ve ticked a box and got a certificate somewhere. It becomes part of the day-to-day working of the council.”
West Sussex signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant in 2012 and achieved a Gold Award from South East Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association last year.
The key principles of the Covenant are:
• That no member of the Armed Forces community should face disadvantage in the provision of services compared with any other citizen.
• That, in some circumstances, special treatment may be appropriate especially for the injured or bereaved.
The aim of the strategy is to uphold those principles by:
• Recognising the sacrifices made by the armed forces community
• Encouraging support for the armed forces community
• Promoting understanding and awareness amongst the public
• Encouraging activities to help the armed forces community integrate into local life
• Supporting veterans and service families in employment at the council.
A number of veterans are now councillors, including David Edwards (Con, Bersted), Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East), Mike Magill (Con, Bourne) and Noel Atkins (Con, Durrington & Salvington).
Mr Atkins said some men and women were ‘at a loss to know how to integrate into civilian life’ when they left the armed forces, be it because of injury, PTSD or end of duty.
He added: “It’s so important when service personnel leave the service that they find a level playing field in civvy street, when seeking jobs and access to housing, training and council services.”
Mr Magill stressed the importance of the support network including the family of service men and women.
He said: “It’s vitally important in giving our service personnel that comfort and cushion knowing that, while they’re away serving their country, there is that support network at home.”
Mr Magill told the meeting that it was not in the nature of veterans to ask for help, so anything that could be done to ‘wrap a blanket round them’ when they needed it, was vitally important.
The strategy will now be approved by council leader Paul Marshall.