West Devon Borough Council has reinforced its commitment to supporting the armed forces by appointing two champions to become spokespeople for the cause.
It has also agreed to apply for the bronze level in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme to become an armed forces-friendly organisation open to employing reservists, veterans, cadet instructors and military spouses or partners.
Cllr Caroline Mott (Con, Bridestowe) who proposed the move asked that the council go one step further than reaffirming its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. The covenant ensures that no person who has served within the military is disadvantaged compared to other citizens.Two councillors with an Armed Forces background are also being given special roles to champion veterans. Ex-servicemen Cllr Robert Oxborough (Ind, Mary Tavy) becomes armed forces champion and Cllr Kevin Ball (Con, Okehampton North) is now the council’s lead member for armed force charity SSAFA.
Council leader Mandy Ewings (Ind, Tavistock South West) said: “We have a lot of military families and veterans and current officers who serve within our communities and it’s important we do our level best for them in the same way that they have done their best for us in representing our country, “
Cllr Ball served in the Royal Navy from 1978 to 1989 and said it took him two years to “adjust to civvy street.”
He continued: “I was only in for 11 years, but for guys and girls who have been in it a lot longer, it is a huge transition from service to civilian life. Charities such as SSAFA do incredibly important work but can only do that work when they get put in touch with the people who need it and very often the people who need it don’t want to say they need it.
“So really we are in roles as members that allow us to pick up conversations that allow us to support them in their need. Through our contacts hopefully we can do that.”
Cllr Oxborough who spent 17 years in the army said it was “an honour and a privilege” to become the council’s champion for the Armed Forces Covenant. He said he never spent more than two years in one place and understood how disruptive service life could be.
“I was fortunate but there are many people who leave the forces with significant issues and problems. It is a consequence of service life,” he said. “There is a lot of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) out there, and people need a lot of special help and guidance as do those who come with disabilities as a result of having lost limbs or other parts of their body due to engagement on active service. It is a special need.
“These people have given up a huge amount of their time so others who are not part of the armed forces can go about their daily lives and sleep well at night without the possibility of the threat of some nasty person coming along and giving them a hard time.That is what it is all about, security for the nation state, and the Armed Forces Covenant is one way we can acknowledge that and say thank you, we are here for you now.”