John Denham and Alan Whitehead, MPs for Southampton Itchen and Southampton Test, have welcomed the decision by Labour Southampton City Councillors to formally sign up to the Ministry of Defence’s Community Covenant.
The scheme is designed to encourage local communities to support the Service community in their area and promote understanding and awareness amongst the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces Community. It is part of a wider attempt to give armed forces personnel, veterans and their families more support and recognition and help to deliver the Armed Forces Military Covenant at a local level.
While Hampshire and several other nearby local authorities have signed up to this Ministry of Defence scheme, Southampton City Council have not yet signed up to the Community Covenant.
Despite the scheme being in existence for nearly all of their final year in control of the City Council, the Conservatives did not take the steps necessary to sign up to the Community Covenant. Therefore, Council Leader Councillor Richard Williams ordered Southampton City Council officers to commit to the scheme in time for national Armed Forces Day on 30th June.
What the Community Covenant aims to achieve:
- encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces community in their areas
- nurture public understanding and awareness amongst the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces community
- recognise and remember the sacrifices faced by the Armed Forces Community
- encourage activities which help to integrate the Armed Forces Community into local life
- to encourage the Armed Forces Community to help and support the wider community, whether through participation in events and joint projects, or other forms of engagement
Activities that could be applied for under the Community Covenant include:
- local infrastructure, such as a children’s playground which might be used by children from both Service accommodation and the wider community
- projects that increase the integration of Service personnel, veterans and their families with the wider community
- projects that improve the health, welfare or financial literacy of Service personnel, veterans and their families
- one-off activities, such as an activity camp involving the Armed Forces and local young people, in which the Scheme would meet the travel and subsistence costs of the Service participants
- an exhibition at a local library/town hall etc, explaining what a local Armed Forces unit has recently been doing (eg inAfghanistan)
- an “oral history” project, where the local branch of a regimental association, locally based Armed Forces personnel or a specific group of Armed Forces personnel recorded their experiences or discussed them with local schoolchildren
- a community outreach project bringing veterans together with their non-Service equivalents to highlight what support is available for them in their local community or to increase the level of targeted support.
Mr Denham said:
“This is a wonderful way to celebrate Armed Forces Day here in Southampton. We owe all our Services an enormous debt of gratitude. Despite the scheme being in existence since August 2011, the previous Conservative administration unfortunately did not take the action necessary to sign up. I am delighted that Labour City Councillors have now agreed to make this happen. Our forces and their families deserve all the recognition and support we can give them.”
Dr Whitehead said:
“I’m delighted that Southampton will join the growing number of areas signing up to the Community Covenant. The Ministry of Defence has put aside £30 million to pay for projects under the Community Covenant Grant Scheme. I see this as a real opportunity for the city to bid for projects that will particularly benefit the services community, but also be valued and used by the area as a whole. The money is available and the Ministry of Defence is keen to get bids, so I hope the council will take full opportunity.”
Groups that are interested in making applications for support are encouraged to contact the City Council for further information and visit the Ministry of Defence website.