For the last ten years, while I was Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, I represented the council on Remembrance Sunday at one of the county’s main towns and laid a wreath. This year, the eleventh day of November fell on a Sunday, enabling the Act of Remembrance to be made at the chronologically exact moment when the guns across Europe fell silent 94 years ago. This year, I observed the two minutes silence in my car in the BBC car park at Summertown in Oxford because I had just completed a radio broadcast with Bill Heine. We talked about the Armed Forces Covenant and the Community Covenant.
The concept of a military covenant as a sort of understanding between the nation and its armed forces has been spoken about for centuries but it was not until 2011 that the present government codified the covenant in legislation and re-named it as the Armed Forces Covenant to make it clear that it was applicable to soldiers, sailors and airmen. The Armed Forces Covenant has two fundamental principles:
- that members of the armed forces do not suffer disadvantages as a result of their service and
- that they receive special treatment where appropriate.
- encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces Community in their areas;
- nurture public understanding and awareness among the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces Community;
- recognise and remember the sacrifices faced by the Armed Forces Community;
- encourage activities which help to integrate the Armed Forces Community into local life;
- encourage the Armed Forces Community to help and support the wider community, whether through participation in events and joint projects or other forms of engagement.
Oxfordshire was the first council in the country to sign up to the Community Covenant, together with the five district councils and a number of other local organisations. At present, some 200 English council have signed.
There is a Community Covenant Grant Scheme in existence with £10 million funding. It is open for all councils that have signed the Community Covenant. Oxfordshire has secured £300k in successful bids to date.