Posted: Wed 28th Jun 2023

‘Really poor’ attendance at armed forces ceremony ‘harms’ council’s image /
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jun 28th, 2023

A “really poor” attendance at a ceremony to honour Britain’s military has harmed the image of a Gwent council among the forces, it has been claimed. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Attendance at the ceremony where the Armed Forces Flag was raised at Monmouthshire County Hall in Usk was criticised by senior councillor Alistair Neill. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Conservative, who chairs the council’s Performance and Overview Scrutiny Committee, claimed the ceremony held on Monday, June 19 – in the run-up to this Saturday’s Armed Forces Day – had left the military with a poor view of Monmouthshire County Council. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The comments were made as the committee discussed the council’s equality plan and it was questioned why figures related to the military, their families and veterans weren’t included. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Gobion Fawr councillor said at the Wednesday, June 21 meeting: “It was only earlier this week there was a really poor attendance at the armed forces flag raising ceremony – that doesn’t, I think, put the council in a good view, or line of sight, of colleagues in the armed services.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Following the ceremony Monmouthshire County Council said the flag would fly for a week “to honour the contribution, commitment and sacrifice of our military personnel, past and present”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

It said Monday’s ceremony was led by the council’s armed forces champion, Labour councillor for Rogiet, Peter Strong who is responsible for raising the profile of issues impacting members of the services, their familes and veterans across the council. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Chairman Meirion Howells also attended while those from outside the council included deputy lord lieutenant, Peter Selby, high sheriff Simon Gibson, representatives of the Royal British Legion, the RAF, South Wales Fire Service, Royal Naval Association, Monmouth Branch and the mayors of Monmouth, Usk and Abergavenny. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

An unspecified number of councillors from the Conservative and Labour groups on the county council also attended as did council chaplain, Rev Sally Ingle-Gillis. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At the scrutiny committee meeting cabinet member for equalities, Labour councillor for Magor with Undy Angela Sandles, said the report being considered related to the council’s duties under the 2010 equalities act and the defined “protected characteristics” within it. Those include race, sex and sexuality. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

She said the Armed Forces Convent, which the council signed up to in January 2022, covers its duties and commitments to serving military personnel, their families and veterans and said the issues raised “are really well covered there”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Labour member John Crook, who also represents Magor with Undy, said he had asked on behalf of Cllr Strong why there wasn’t information on forces families and veterans in the equalities report impact assessment, but was keen it was considered somewhere within the council. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The council’s head of policy, Matthew Gatehouse, said discussions have been taking place between the council and military, but the authority had to mindful of how much information the report contained so its usefulness and tracking equalities information isn’t “diluted”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Person-centred support to veterans from the military and ex-military community is delivered at the Monmouthshire Veterans’ Support Hub, in Abergavenny, that aims to help veterans, and those in transition, from military to civilian life, integrate into local communities. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Veterans in Monmouthshire also meet every Monday at the St John’s Ambulance hut at Bailey Park, Abergavenny, to discuss any issues relevant to them. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The council also has information on support it provides for armed forces personnel on a dedicated section of its website at ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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