Today, Monday 15 July, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council welcomed the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment to Royal Tunbridge Wells and, together with representatives from a number of other organisations, pledged the council’s commitment to the Armed Forces by signing a Community Covenant.
The council hopes that the Covenant will encourage local support for the Armed Forces and that it will raise awareness of the issues they face.
Council Leader David Jukes signed the Covenant on behalf of the council and Major Simon Elson RE Officer Commanding 221 Field Squadron, 101 Engineer Regiment signed for the Armed Forces. The other organisations that signed the Covenant represent the business, charitable and voluntary sectors locally: AXA PPP healthcare; K College; Royal British Legion Industries; SSAFA; Town & Country Housing Group Voluntary Action Within Kent; Royal British Legion, Veterans Awareness UK and Challenger Troop CIC.
At the signing ceremony Councillor Jukes told the invited guests: ‘I am immensely proud to be able to deliver Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s signing of the Community Covenant between the Armed Forces and the Borough of Tunbridge Wells. The first duty of Government is defence of the realm. Our armed forces fulfil that responsibility on behalf of the Government, sacrificing some civilian freedoms, facing danger and sometimes suffering serious injury or paying the ultimate sacrifice. In return the community has a moral obligation to the Army, Naval Service and Royal Air Force personnel together with their families. To cement this obligation we are establishing an enduring Community Covenant with the Armed Forces which is a way of ensuring that, whatever happens in our borough, the covenants can be maintained with the local authority and other organisations.’
Major Simon Elson said: ‘The support of the community is crucial to us wherever we serve and this covenant will provide our officers, soldiers and their families’ additional peace of mind. As a Regiment we are extremely grateful for the support provided by Tunbridge Wells to those in 579 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and the wider Regiment, and are keen to maintain and strengthen our relationship in the future wherever possible.’
AXA PPP healthcare Membership & People director Sonia Wolsey-Cooper said: ‘We are very pleased to become a signatory in the Borough Council’s Community Covenant, which provides a unique partnership that benefits the Armed Forces community and their families – and us at AXA PPP healthcare.
‘We have a continuing commitment to ensure that our workforce is a fair representation of the talents and skills available to us throughout the society we live in and our signing of this covenant reinforces our desire to achieve this. It also means that, as a leading healthcare organisation, we can actively embrace the skills and qualities gained by ex-service personnel.
‘We are extremely proud to have an active part to play in this initiative.’
Sonia Wolsey-Cooper was also signatory to a second covenant, between the company and the Armed Forces, reaching out to the service community across AXA PPP’s national operations.
Now the Covenant has been signed a local steering group will be established. This group will develop an action plan to identify the specific issues affecting the Armed Forces community locally and deliver ways to address these issues.