A newly-elected councillor and former Army tank commander has called for Armed Forces personnel to be given priority when affordable homes are allocated.
Ben Stokes was elected in May onto South Gloucestershire Council as Conservative councillor for Boyd Valley. He previously served in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards of the British Army, who are currently on tour in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Ben reached the rank of Captain and his Regiment’s tours of duty included Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
Few local authorities prioritise Armed Forces personnel when allocating affordable housing, but South Gloucestershire Council is planning a consultation on changes to its policy and Cllr Stokes wants it made easier for Armed Forces personnel to access housing by being given greater priority.
Cllr Stokes said:
“Having served alongside many of the courageous service men and women in the British Armed Forces, it’s a scandal that so many of them return home and struggle to access basic public services, like housing.”
“They shouldn’t have to fight our enemies abroad and put their lives on the line in the process only to return home and have to fight to get a roof over their heads.”
“Whether we consider these conflicts as justified is not the point. These men and women are sent out to possibly make the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.”
“When they return injured or permanently traumatised, I can’t tell them to get to the back of the queue on the housing register. This would deny them the very basic level of appreciation they deserve.”
“This is why I want to see it made easier in the council’s future housing allocation policy for members of the Armed Forces to access housing when they are in need.”
Cllr Matthew Riddle (Con, Severn), the Council’s housing chief, added:
“We will be consulting shortly on potential changes to the way we allocate affordable housing and the issue raised by Cllr Stokes is something we will look at very sympathetically.”
Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council