Cornwall’s Website for The Armed Forces Community Covenant officially launched

cc-logo-2Earlier this year the Leader of Cornwall Council John Pollard asked me to become the Lead Member for Armed Forces in Cornwall Council.

Our first act was to formally re-affirmed the Council’s commitment along with representatives from Royal British Legion, RNAS Culdrose, HMS Raleigh, RAF St Mawgan and SSAFA to the Armed Forces Cornwall Community Covenant. Like with our partners, Cornwall Council is committed to the Armed Forces Community Covenant.

As an Armed Forces veteran myself, I wholeheartedly support the Council’s commitment in close partnership with the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force, RBL and SAAFA to the Covenant.

From the re-affirming of the Covenant, a special section on the Council’s website has been dedicated to provide information to members of the Armed Forces, Veterans and their families about the support and advice which is available to them. The link to the website is HERE. Please share this information far and wide.

The Covenant is a voluntary statement of mutual support between the civilian community and its local Armed Forces Community.  The Community Covenant is intended to complement the Armed Forces Covenant, which outlines the moral obligation between the Nation, the Government and the Armed Forces, at a local level.

The aim of the Cornwall Community Covenant is to encourage support for the Armed Forces Community stationed and residing in Cornwall and to recognise and remember the sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces Community which includes serving and former armed forces personnel, veterans, their families and widowers in Cornwall.

I very much welcome the development of this new section on Cornwall Council’s website dedicated to the Armed Forces community. The aim of this single point of information is to help ensure that Forces personnel, their families and veterans in Cornwall know about the support which is available to them.”

The website has gone live today the 7th November and contains information on the Covenant, as well as advice on where to go for advice on help on issues such as housing, education, funding and grants, training and jobs.  It also has information about events and activities targeted at members of the Armed Forces community and will continue to be developed and enhanced in our ongoing work with partners as part of our commitment to the covenant.

The is also a Community Covenant Board that I chair and is made up of senior representatives of the three Armed Forces, as well as RBL, SAAFA and representatives from Housing, Benefits, Education (Policy HERE) and the three Armed Forces Family Services.

The aim of the board is to discuss and action any issued that put serving personnel, Veterans and their families at a disadvantage. One of the areas of priority for the boards work is housing.

A lot has happened in the last few months, and more will happen. This is because there is key support from all the partners. It is a real team effort.

Cornwall Council supports The Royal British Legion’s campaign ‘Count them in’

At today’s full council, I submitted a motion that would lend Cornwall Council support to The Royal British Legion ‘Count them in’ campaign which calls the Government to include a new topic in the 2021 census. The motion is as:

This Council notes

  1. The obligations it owes to the Armed Forces community within Cornwall as enshrined in the Armed Forces Covenant; that the Armed Forces community should not face disadvantage in the provision of services and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most;
  2. The absence of the definitive and comprehensive statistics on the size or demographics of the Armed Forces community within Cornwall Council. This includes serving Regular and Reserve personnel, veterans and their families;
  3. That the availability of such data would greatly assist the Council, local partner agencies, the voluntary sector and national Government in the planning a provision of services to address the unique needs of the Armed Forces community within Cornwall Council.

In light of the above, this Council moves to support and promote The Royal British Legion’s call to include a new topic in the 2021 census that concerns military service and membership of the Armed Forces community. The motion further calls on the Government to approve the final census questionnaire through legislation in 2019.

Why is there need to have a question on the census? It is quite simple, the lack of clear data about the size and location of the Armed Forces community , including regular and reserve personnel, veterans and their families, makes it difficult for service providers to fully meet their needs.

The British Legion estimates that the Armed Forces community makes up around one in ten of the general population, with around 2.8m veterans living in the UK, along with 2.1m dependent adults, 1m dependent children and up to 290,000 “hidden” members of the ex serving community who are living in care homes etc.

Despite this large population however, the 2011 UK census only contained two questions related to the Armed Forces – one asking whether a member of the armed Forces usually lived at that address and the second whether the respondent usually lived at an Armed Forces base for over 30 days a year. This failed to collect detailed information on veterans or their dependents, and only provided limited information about reservists and dependents of those serving.

The Armed Forces Covenant, introduced by the Government, sets out how members of the Armed Forces and their families should be treated and yet we do not have the information to help achieve this. At Cornwall Council, we have updated our own version to reflect we need to do more.

I am pleased to say the vote was unanimous with no Councillor voting against this motion.

Cornwall Council re-affirms its commitment to the Armed Forces Cornwall Community Covenant

Yesterday, Cornwall Council held a special ceremony to re-affirm and improve the Council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Cornwall Community Covenant.

The Covenant is a voluntary statement of mutual support between the civilian community and its local Armed Forces Community, the Community Covenant is intended to complement the Armed Forces Covenant, which outlines the moral obligation between the Nation, the Government and the Armed Forces, at a local level.

The Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard asked me if I would become the Council’s Armed Forces Lead Member. Which I was honoured to take up. As an Armed Forces veteran myself, I wholeheartedly welcome Cornwall Council’s commitment to The Covenant with the re-pledging ceremony.

The ceremony was attended by the Leader of Cornwall Council; Rear Admiral Alastair Ross CB, CBE – Chairman of SSAFA Cornwall;  Steve Lewis – Chairman of the Royal British Legion Cornwall; Commander Ian Fitter – RNAS Culdrose; Commander Sean Brady- HMS Raleigh and Wing Commander Guy Bazalgette – RAF St Mawgan.

Military Declaration Signing 2016-8

Back row L-R Rear Admiral Alastair Ross CB, CBE Chairman of SSAFA Cornwall; Steve Lewis – Chairman of the Royal British Legion Cornwall ; Andrew Wallis – Cabinet Member for Young People and Armed Forces Lead Member and Commander Ian Fitter – RNAS Culdrose Front Row L-R -Commander Sean Brady – HMS Raleigh; John Pollard – Leader of Cornwall Council and Wing Commander Guy Bazalgette – RAF St Mawgan

The purpose of the Cornwall Community Covenant is to encourage support for the Armed Forces Community working and residing in Cornwall and to recognise and remember the sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces Community which includes serving and former armed forces personnel, veterans, their families, widows and widowers in Cornwall.

From this re-affirming ceremony, and working with the Armed Forces, RBL and SAAFA we will make sure no service person, their family, or those veterans will be put at a disadvantage. This is the least we can do to recognise contribution to our Nation.

Me signing the Military Declaration Signing 2016-7


Porthleven Celebrates Armed Forces Day

On Saturday, Porthleven held is first (that I know of) Armed Forces Day. This event was held at Porthleven School.

In short, it was a fantastic event with at least 600 – some say near 1000 –  people attending the day. It was good to see so many serving and ex members of the Armed Forces in attendance too. As I said in a previous post, Porthleven has a close connection with the Armed Forces, especially the Royal Navy and its Fleet Air Arm (RNAS Culdrose).

The poster for Porthleven’s Armed Forces Day

This event would not be the success it was without the help of all those who volunteered during the day. However, special thanks should go to the two people, Sue Davies and Leigh Yates for putting this event together.

For me, it was good to see so many old shipmates and enjoy the day. I was even press-ganged into joining the  Royal Naval Association (RNA)!

Supporting the education of children of Armed Forces personnel in Cornwall.

Cornwall Council via the Children’s Learning and Achievement department, has launched a new programme for improving outcomes for children from service families in the early years and schools within Cornwall. The programme will involve statutory, private, voluntary and independent providers of services for children and will ensure that it adheres to the Armed Forces Community Covenant.

It will support the following principles including recognising the unique nature of service in the Armed Forces; ensuring there is no disadvantage in accessing public services, including in this context education and early years provision; and to allow special treatment where justified (for example where there may be a bereavement etc.).

Looking at the national picture it is not known the total number of school age service children. However, in 2006 an estimate of numbers was given to the House of Commons Defence Committee of between 90,000 – 186,000 children*. In Cornwall we have a clearer picture on the number of service children with a total of 2,072 children for the academic year of 2013/14. This is between 2.4 -3% of the total school population. This can be further broken-down to Early Years (reception) 157, Primary 1177 and Secondary 738.

The programme will develop early childhood and education services that are of high quality, accessible to all children, including service children and effective in improving outcomes for children. It will also prioritise the training and development of teams and individuals. This is in order that they understand and know how to support children where there may be an impact on children’s well-being or achievement due to the issues of mobility and deployment that are experienced by service personnel and their families.

The impact of the programme will be to improve the outcomes for children and their families through high quality services which focus on ensuring that children of service personal are known, and are able to access educational provision, are ready for school and learning, achieve well and enjoy good health and well-being. Furthermore service families are supported in order to manage the effects of mobility and deployment.

This programme covers all children as defined by the eligibility criteria for pupil premium, but will also recognise the needs of children who have been affected by related matters, but who many not meeting the pupil premium criteria in full. These include, children of a parent who was killed in action within the previous six years, children of divorced service personnel where the service parents does not have custody and children who has been a veteran for no-more than six years.

Initially this programme will centre on provision in Helston, Newquay and Torpoint where the majority of service children live.

I am hugely supportive of this programme, both a the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, but who was also a child from a service family, and having served myself in the Senior Service. I know first-hand the difficulties of schooling as a child of an Armed Forces family who went to at least nine different schools due to my father being posted both around this country and abroad; also as a former member of the Senior Service who witnessed first-hand the difficulties families face when one, or in some cases, both parents are deployed and moving to and from different units.

*Unsung Heroes: developing a better understanding of the emotional support needs of Service Families.

The Naval Prayer

For those who have served, are serving and for those who never came home

“O eternal Lord God, Who alone spreadest out the heavens and rulest the raging of the seas; who hast compassed the waters with bounds until day and night come to an end: be pleased to receive  into thy almighty and most gracious protection the persons of us thy servants and the fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea and of the air and from the violence of the enemy: that we may be safeguard unto our most sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, and her dominions, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our island and commonwealth may in peace and quietness serve thee our God; and that we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land, with fruits of our labours and with a thankful remembrance of thy mercies to praise and glorify thy holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

Battle of Britain Ceremony

I was asked by the Chairman of Cornwall Council to stand in for her for the ceremony for the71st Anniversary of the Battle of Britain; which took place in Portreath’s St Marys’ Parish Church; near the current and Second World War Air Station. I was only too happy to stand in because even though I did my time in the Senior Service my Father (1968-93) and Grandfather (1941-70) both served in the RAF. So, I have a soft spot for the junior service.

As the years go by, there are less and less veterans from the war period. So, it was nice to see so many veterans wearing their campaign medals for this ceremony. As with all remembrance ceremonies it is a moving experience; more so when the names of those who paid the ultimate price are read out.

It was especially poignant because out of the many names read out many were not British servicemen, but from the Commonwealth including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Churchill, perfectly sums up the debt owed by us with his immortal words:

“The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, turned the tide of the world war, by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. 

The Last Post

For Helston’s Royal Air Force Association this was indeed the Last Post. After 63 years of helping ex-RAF service personal and their families they have called it a day. Formed in 1947 it has helped many people during those years.  I myself have a soft spot for the RAF since both my father and my grandfather clocked up over 67 years of service between them. I felt honoured to be invited in my role of a Cornwall Councillor.
Today’s service was held at St Michaels Church, Helston. I would say over 100 people attended this service. For those who have never attended a service like this, the Standard is marched in, laid on the Alter where there is a handing over ceremony to the church. This Standard will now rest in this church until it fades away to nothing. It is like the graveyard outside, a final resting place.  Have you ever wondered when you see lots of Regimental Colours in a church? Well, this is what happens to them once the unit is disbanded. 

After a few readings, hymns and a robust rendition of the National Anthem we all left the church and headed to the Royal British Legion for tea, sandwiches and cake. I think a rather fitting end to this whole event.  Also present were 3 of the founding members of this Association. They were there at the beginning and witnessed the end. 

Honouring the Boys (and girls)

Today I attended the reception held by Cornwall Council to honour the Jack Tars of 854 Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose. They along with 1000’s of other of our Forces have served in Afgan. It’s no easy task to be in the face of constant peril, but its also hard for those families left behind to having to deal with getting on with the day to day things and hoping those ‘over there’ are ok.

It was good to chat to many of those there. Many in fact I had served with, so it was good to catch up with them and have a chat (in Naval terms that means having a good mank & moan) about life, the old days and how people are keeping.  Later this year this unit is deploying again. They do a 3 month rotation with their sister unit.

It was good to see Cornwall Council honouring not just those on 854, but in essence all those who are currently serving.

Reception with Jack and Jenny

Last night I attended the Chairman’s reception for the Ships Company of HMS Cornwall. Two Bus loads of the Senior Service were shipped over to County Hall for a few drinks and nibbles. (Jack and Jenny is the nickname of male and female sailors)

What struck me when looking at the Ships Company all dressed in Square Rig was the amount of Campaign Medals that they were wearing. It was not just the old sea dog that had a chest full, but those in their late teens early 20’s that were wearing them. Here they were dressed in their No1’s wearing Campaign Medals standing in a building that they were in simplistic terms out there in the world defending our right to debate, make new rules and laws.

Sadly, and I know there is a General Election on, but I am sorry to say there were not many Cornwall Councillors present. No more than 15 Cornwall Councillors attended out of 123. Sad really, as these people could make the ultimate sacrifice. It would have been nice if more Councillors could have turned up. An Interesting fact that a few years ago 54% of all personal in Afghanistan were from the Royal Navy (Royal Marines are part of the RN).

Chatting to the Officers, Senior Ratings and Ratings it was the lower ranks that were generally interested in how Politics works. I was humbled because they generally wanted to know how it all worked. It was a little easy for me as I was able to speak the same language as them as I wore the same uniform many years ago. I took a few of them into the Chambers to show them. They were again generally interested and impressed not with the building, but the concept and that each seat in there represented a part of the community.

Looking around the Long Galley you could see the young sailors chatting to the various Mayors with them and pointing at the gold they were wearing and asking lots of questions. It seemed the Sailors were interested in what gold each was wearing, whilst some of these Mayors were more interesting in their medals.

Special mention should go to Mo and the Chief Stoker, they were great company! Sadly both of these will be leaving the service soon. Mo (and he will hate me for this) Won the MBE in Sierra Leone 12 years ago. He was the youngest ever rating in the RN to be awarded the MBE. Ask him how he got it; he will say “wrong place right time”.

Another Rating I met was caught up in that debacle a few years ago with the Iranian Gunboats. He was one of those who were captured. What impressed me most was that he was offered over £30k to tell his story, guess what he said. Not interested. You have to ask yourself how many of us would turn down £30k when that’s equivalent to 2 years wages tax free.

Why have I mentioned these two, well these are just two of the people in that room that had a story to tell or had seen something. Ask them about it and they will just say “life in a blue Suit”. This Ships Company are a credit to themselves and the Royal Navy.

In true Naval fashion the bar was left empty at the end of the day

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