VETERANS are set to be given priority over other families looking for a place to live in Portsmouth, The News can reveal.
Tory council leader Donna Jones says she will change the authority’s policy so people who have served in the armed forces go top of the pile on the social housing waiting list.
These people have fought for their country, they have placed their lives on the line to protect Britain’s future and our sovereignty.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
The move has been made possible under the Armed Forces Act, which allows public bodies to give veterans special privileges.
And the city’s plan – which other councils around the country have adopted – has been welcomed by the minister for Portsmouth, Mark Francois, who was the armed forces minister before Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt.
Cllr Jones said: ‘These people have fought for their country, they have placed their lives on the line to protect Britain’s future and our sovereignty.
‘Therefore, the least we can do as a military city is to make sure they are getting all of the help and support they need – not just from charities but also from the city council.
‘We signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2013, but nothing happened after that. So we have gone about changing that.’
It comes after the council received a bronze award for its contribution towards supporting service families and veterans in the city, from the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme.
Speaking on a visit to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, on Whale Island, Mr Francois said: ‘A number of councils have signed the covenant and are giving veterans priority. I’m delighted Portsmouth is doing the same.
‘After they serve their country, some veterans face a number of challenges, and giving them priority it should help their situations and I am sure most members of the public support that.’
But Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, believes there are more vulnerable people in society who should be made a priority for housing first.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The people who should be top of the pile are people who are fleeing for their lives and fleeing from domestic violence and danger. But I know the council has cut £130,000 out of the domestic violence budget, so I know the council views domestic violence as not an important issue.’