Councillors call for a strengthening of the Armed Forces Covenant
Published: 16 December 2022
Councillors have agreed to campaign with forces charities for a strengthening of the Armed Forces Covenant which is designed to improve the lives of service personnel.
A motion proposed by Cllr Martin Pearce, Lead Councillor for Communities and Homeless Prevention, was overwhelmingly backed by councillors.
Cllr Pearce said he welcomed new legislation to support Forces communities in Exeter. The new provisions in the Armed Forces Act 2021 covers education, housing, and healthcare.
But he said the Act was a missed opportunity because it does not cover other areas like service accommodation, pensions, and social care and fails to fully enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law.
His motion stated that the Council:
- Stands firmly behind our UK Armed Forces and fully supports the aims of the Armed Forces Covenant
- Welcomes the new Armed Forces Act but sees the legislation as a missed opportunity to improve the lives of veterans in Exeter
- Notes with disappointment that the Act which makes Exeter City Council and local public bodies legally bound to have “due regard” to the Covenant when providing support to Forces communities but exempts central government from any such duty, creating a two-tier Covenant for veterans
- Notes with further disappointment that Labour-led proposals backed by service charities and ex-Service chiefs to enshrine the Covenant fully into law but Conservative MPs voted down these plans to improve Armed Forces accommodation, employment support and pensions and to end the scandal of visa fees for the families of Commonwealth and Gurkha personnel
- Resolves to continue the campaign with Forces charities to see the Government strengthen the Covenant and improve vital services to veterans
Cllr Pearce said: “The new improvements in the Armed Forces Act to support Forces communities in Exeter are very welcome and from day one, I will be working with Cllr Phil Bialyk, Leader of Exeter City Council, to ensure forces personnel, veterans and their families are fully supported in our area.
“Yet it is disappointing that Tory ministers repeatedly refused to fully enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law and have instead chosen to outsource their responsibilities for delivering for Forces communities to local authorities.
“Whilst some of the provisions on housing, healthcare and education are welcome, the Armed Forces Act remains a missed opportunity to deliver real improvements to the day-to-day lives of our service personnel, veterans and their families.”