Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 23rd June 2021

This Saturday is Armed Forces Day, the annual day for recognising the contributions of those serving in the British Armed Forces. While the celebration is now in its fifteenth year, for the second year in a row the pandemic means the day will be marked in a more muted way than the usual annual fanfare.

Crawley has a strong association with the Armed Forces, with many of our young people choosing to spend time serving in one branch or another and the town enthusiastically showing its support in turn.

We were an early adopter of the Armed Forces Covenant, setting out how Crawley would work to support serving members of the forces, veterans and their families. We implemented the Veterans Interview Scheme to ensure those who had served would have the chance to show at an interview what they could bring to a council job, as it might not be apparent from their CV.

We also remember those we have lost, as proven by the large community participation at every Remembrance Day event, and in recent years a number of new roads and buildings have been named after the town’s sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet, while we are constantly seeking as a town for ways to show our support, as a country we must do much better. The House of Commons is currently debating the Armed Forces Bill, which not only fails to deliver on the Government’s past commitments made to Armed Forces personnel, but cuts existing support for veterans. Frankly, it’s a national disgrace.

We need to bring the Armed Forces Covenant fully into law and build a comprehensive national plan for improving support for veterans to stop former servicemen and women from falling through the gaps when it comes to areas like employment, affordable housing and healthcare.

This week the Labour Party have launched a survey for veterans to give them a say in how we redesign our systems to truly recognise the contributions of those who have served. I would encourage all Crawley veterans to make their voices heard by going to: labour.org.uk/veterans

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