Portsmouth City Council’s leader Donna Jones has revealed that the authority will soon be giving veterans priority when it comes to council house allocation.
The Armed Forces Covenant, which has been signed by many councils, including Portsmouth, already binds the authorities to look after veterans.
However, in Cllr Jones’ words, despite signing in 2013, ‘nothing happened. So we have gone about changing that’.
In many ways, we have no argument with this. Portsmouth is and has always been a military city. It’s the home of the Royal Navy – of course we’d like to see veterans treated with more kindness and gratitude.
And in addition to this, it is well documented that many – although by no means all – veterans have difficulty adjusting to civvy street. This may be because of post-traumatic stress disorder, or it may be the difficulty of readjusting to a less institutionalised, regimented lifestyle. Either which way, the more that can be done to stop people from slipping through the net of a settled day-to-day life, the better.
However, we have a few reservations. Firstly, it’s the end of April, so it’s absolutely peak election season. And while we’re not saying that Cllr Jones is making an empty pledge, the fact remains that it will have to go through the council in one way or another to be ratified. The devil, as ever, will be in the detail.
Secondly, while we would repeat that we want only the best treatment for veterans, we also want only the best treatment for many people who are in need of social housing. Those working in care, nursing, and other low-paid but vital jobs, who perform socially-essential functions, also deserve priority.
And the logical conclusion to this is that in order to give all the deserving people priority, we need more council housing stock. Whether that’s from allowing fewer houses to be sold off, or building more, changes have to happen. The recent increase in house prices only throws this into sharper relief. We need homes.