Veterans set to get more council help

MILITARY veterans applying for a county council job are set to benefit from a scheme supported by all councillors last week.

West Sussex County Council passed a motion committing to sign up to the Veterans’ Interview Programme, where job applicants coming from the armed forces who meet the essential criteria for the post can be expected to be offered an interview.

“We need to have some motivation for our ex -service men and women.”

Dr James Walsh, Littlehampton East county councillor

UKIP county councillor Graham Jones, who put forward the original motion and is a retired member of the airborne forces, explained that retired service veterans faced problems adjusting to civilian life, with the biggest issue being finding worthwhile employment.

While Bob Lanzer the county council’s cabinet member for corporate relations, initially raised concerns around the potential for the scheme to conflict with equalities legislation, but then supported the motion after receiving updated legal advice.

It was then passed unanimously by councillors at a meeting held in Crawley last Friday.

Afterwards, Mr Jones said: “Clearly, ex-military can’t expect preferential treatment as such, nor would they ask for that.

“However, adjusting to the civilian workplace isn’t always easy, despite the fact that many of the skills acquired in serving one’s country are actually deceptively relevant to civilian jobs.

“What I want to see is that civilian employers really do wake up to this.

“This is a perfect example of the county council needing to take a lead and my motion also secured a commitment to promote and encourage our numerous suppliers and contractors to sign up to the scheme wherever practicable.

“It is also an example of UKIP members with lifetime experiences taking the lead in promoting such worthwhile schemes.”

Candidates would have to prove that the armed forces were their last long-term employer and that they left the military in the previous three years.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Littlehampton East, Dr James Walsh, who is a former member of the Royal Navy and the Royal Navy Reserve, felt that people leaving the armed forces had many valuable and relevant skills, and argued that not even receiving a job interview could be demoralising.

He added: “We need to have some motivation for our ex -service men and women.”

Labour councillor Peter Lamb (Northgate and Three Bridges), who is also the leader of Crawley Borough Council, argued that nobody would challenge the authority over it, and they were receiving ‘very technocratic reasons why it could not be done’.

Meanwhile the county council’s leader, Louise Goldsmith – who has a son in the Royal Marines – said: “We need to give these men a chance.

“They are not looking for any more, but one chance in respect for all that they have done.”

She added: “I think we are all united in a voice of saying well done to our military.”

The council already has a West Sussex Community Covenant, which is a commitment by the authority to support the armed forces community across the county, including all serving and former members, reservists and their families.