A decade-long commitment between Woking Borough Council and the Armed Forces was strengthened at last night’s meeting of Full Council with the re-signing of the Armed Forces Covenant.
First signed by the Council in 2012, a community covenant is a voluntary statement of mutual support between a civilian community and its local Armed Forces, which aims to:
- Encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces community in their areas.
- Nurture 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.
- 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.
In the presence of Council Members, the updated covenant was signed by Major Thomas Wallis RLC, Regimental Second in Command, Headquarter Regiment of Alexander Barracks in Pirbright and Cllr Saj Hussain, The Mayor of Woking.
In addition to upholding the covenant’s existing key principles, the revised pledge outlines the Council’s enhanced approach to further recognise and support the Armed Forces community, including building upon its work to:
- Promote the covenant to its staff and external stakeholders.
- Provide employment support to member of the Armed Forces Community.
- Engage and work with the established Military Covenant Advisory Panel and the Army Training Centre at Pirbright.
- Provide ex-service personnel with fair access to the Council’s services.
- Promote veteran-friendly accreditation for GP practices and the Veterans’ Covenant Healthcare Alliance.
- Raise awareness of and waive the social housing requirement for ex-service personnel to have a local connection with the borough.
- Promote the monthly Veterans’ Hub at Woking Fire Station and the weekly meeting for the Gurkha community.
- Promote and support local Armed Forces events and military heritage sites, including the Peace Garden and Brookwood Cemetery.
Cllr Saj Hussain, The Major of Woking, said: “I’m pleased to re-sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the Council and Woking borough residents. This covenant is a binding promise which reaffirms our support members of the Armed Forces community who live and work in the borough.”
Signing the covenant on behalf of the Armed Forces, Major Thomas Wallis RLC, Regimental Second in Command, Headquarter Regiment of Alexander Barracks in Pirbright, said: “It is an honour for me to be representing my Commanding Officer to formally re-sign Woking’s Armed Forces Covenant. This document, and more importantly the actions that take place that uphold it, represents an honourable commitment by the leadership and the people of Woking Borough Council.
“What has been done by Woking Borough Council in their advocacy of the Armed Force Covenant has translated, and continues to translate, into tangible support. So, on behalf of all the local service personnel, service families and veterans, I would like to wholeheartedly thank the Council for formalising this voluntary covenant, once more.”
The Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Will Forster, Woking Borough Council’s Deputy Leader, added: “Our Armed Forces sacrifice some of their civilian freedoms, face danger and, sometimes suffer serious injury or death as a result of their duty. Military families also play a vital role in supporting the operation effectiveness of our service men and women. It is our moral duty to ensure Armed Forces personnel are treated with the respect they deserve and recognise the immense sacrifices they make.
“The Council’s priority of creating Healthier Communities seeks to provide a safe, thriving and sustainable community and Health and Wellbeing for all. The covenant is an important commitment to supporting the Armed Forces community in Woking to ensure that military and ex-military personnel face no disadvantage. This is further emphasised by the Council’s Health and Wellbeing Priorities which include mental health, independent living, supporting carers and tackling isolation and loneliness.”
Woking Borough Council has made significant progress in supporting the Armed Forces community since 2012. In 2016, the Council received the Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award, a pre-requisite for achieving the Gold Standard.
Subsequently in 2020, Woking became the first Council in Surrey to achieve the Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award from the Ministry of Defence, particularly acknowledging its ‘forces-friendly’ organisational policies.
To support the local Armed Forces Covenant, the Council runs a Military Advisory Panel (MAP), comprising of elected Woking Borough Council members, to advise and steer the implementation of activities.