I was proud and honoured to lay a wreath at the Ipswich Cenotaph on Sunday as leader of Ipswich Borough Council (IBC). It did make me reflect, as it does every year, on the enormous sacrifice made by so many. The world wars seem a long time ago now, with few people alive who lived through them. My family was fortunate that my grandfathers were too young for WW1 and too old for WW2. Otherwise, I might not be here. My family lost two men in WW2: David McKandie, killed when HMS Pelican was bombed off Norway and George Turner, a dispatch rider killed in a road accident in England. My Dad has some memories of them but I think it is important their memory is not forgotten. It is important that we remember all the Davids and Georges who gave their lives so that we can be free.
On the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Armistice was signed, ending years of bloody fighting and bringing about the conclusion of the First World War. It is now a time to
remember the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces in all conflicts.
Together, we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe in conflicts through the years. Remembrance recognises the exemplary contribution of UK and Commonwealth service personnel.
This year, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Armistice, which brought an end to fighting in the Korean War.
This year is 60 years since the last service person was demobilised from National Service. My Dad did two years in the RAF and has few fond memories of his time there!
Last year, the council reviewed what we do for veterans, which resulted in a dedicated webpage being set up on the IBC website to provide information to veterans. The page includes a directory of voluntary and community sector support, advice on Benefits and Council Tax and information on housing. Veterans who are accepted onto the housing waiting list will be placed at the top of their housing band, so they will be housed quicker.
Ipswich Borough Council also has a guaranteed interview scheme for members of the armed forces and veterans. This means that if they meet all of the essential requirements of the person specification, they will be interviewed.
IBC also have a Military iCard, which allows free gym use Monday-Friday during all opening hours and free swimming at Crown Pools between 9am – 5pm.
The IBC Rough Sleeper Project Manager was previously in the Royal Anglian regiment, so we have someone who is a veteran at the centre of what we do for rough sleepers.
The Labour party that I represent is deeply proud of our Armed Forces personnel, veterans, and their families for the enormous contribution they make to our country. But ministers are repeatedly failing our service personnel, veterans and their families.
A Labour Government will fully incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law (currently an informal understanding, rather than a legally enforceable deal) to renew the moral contract our society makes with those who serve.
Labour will legislate to establish an Armed Forces Commissioner to act as a strong independent voice for our Armed Forces personnel and their families.
Labour will stand side-by-side with veterans and their families. We will strengthen mental health help with a boost to specialist support and a plan to bring down waiting times for veterans’ mental health services as part of a £1bn Labour commitment to ensure everyone receives treatment within a month.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.