Essex's support for the Armed Forces has been confirmed in writing with the signing of one of the largest ever Armed Forces Community Covenant pledges made by the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The leaders of Essex County Council, Essex’s city, borough and district councils, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, representatives of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, Essex Police, Essex Fire Service, the NHS, the business community and Armed Forces charities welcomed Defence Minister Mark Francois MP to sign the Essex Armed Forces Community Covenant in a ceremony at County Hall, Chelmsford, yesterday, 6 November.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Mark Francois said:
Thanks to the support and hard work of local authorities across Essex, it is a tremendous achievement that they are signing the Essex Armed Forces Community Covenant partnership today, one of the largest community signings we have seen.
This partnership represents a commitment to tangibly improve the lives of Armed Forces personnel and their families. I want to encourage everyone across Essex to continue to support the Armed Forces Covenant in every way they can.
The Covenant will represent a voluntary statement of mutual support between the civilian community and the local Armed Forces Community and symbolise a formal promise taken by all signatories as part of the national Community Covenant Scheme, launched by the Ministry of Defence, to strengthen the bonds between both communities, raise awareness and provide practical support.
The occasion will mark the joint commitment to promote understanding and awareness amongst the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces Community and recognise how the Armed Forces Community can help and support the wider community.
Essex County Council Leader, Councillor Peter Martin, said:
We are extremely grateful and proud of the dedication from our Armed Forces and it is therefore our duty to ensure they receive the services and help they and their families need to integrate into civilian life.
I would encourage everyone in Essex to join us in showing their respect and supporting the Covenant.
Essex County Councillor Derrick Louis, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation and Lead Member for Armed Forces Liaison and Engagement, said:
We want to encourage the people of Essex to support the Armed Forces Community living and working in the county. It is our duty to recognise and remember the sacrifices made by members of our Armed Forces, including the dedicated service personnel, their families and veterans.
Essex has a significant Army presence at Colchester and Wimbish, and has built strong collaborative links with 49 (East) Brigade, the Army’s regional administrative brigade; the East Anglia Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, which represents all three Services; and veterans’ groups. Our aim is to continue to build on the long history of support and collaboration between the Armed Forces and the local authorities throughout Essex.
Speaking on behalf of the Armed Forces community in Essex, Colchester Garrison Commander, Colonel Mike Newman, said:
The military already enjoys strong support from the people and institutions of Essex, which we are immensely grateful for, and the signing of the Community Covenant only serves to strengthen and formalise these existing bonds.
But the Community Covenant represents far more than a symbolic statement of mutual support. It gives a framework for joint work to ensure that services such as housing, education and health reflect the needs of military personnel, veterans and their families.
I look forward to a productive relationship to improve understanding between the military and civilian communities in Essex and also to ensure that the Armed Forces play their part in the community in which they live and work.