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Count them in

Councillors Cooney, F Travis and I signing the letter of support.

Last week at the meeting of Full Council I had the pleasure of lending Tameside’s support to the important ‘Count Them In’ campaign being run by the Royal British Legion. The campaign calls for additional questions to be incorporated in the 2021 census that would help to identify members of the Armed Forces Community. The reasoning for this is simple. The more we know about the composition of our communities the better organisations like the Council can plan how best to use their resources.

Despite the next census being more 4 years away the Office for National Statistics and their devolved equivalents are already planning the questions that will be asked when it lands on residents’ doormats. We now have a once in a generation opportunity to influence what those are and it is important that we seize it.

Tameside has a track record of supporting armed forces veterans. We have the armed forces and veteran’s breakfast club every second Saturday at Portland Basin. We launched the veteran’s jobs pledge in 2015 which has so far assisted 9 ex-service personnel back to work. We have recognised the service of local fallen heroes Tony Downes and Andrew Breeze by naming the new Pension Fund building and Denton Link Road respectively in their honour. And finally we provide ongoing support and networking opportunities for veterans through the Tameside Armed Services Community group, TASC.

However, whilst this is a huge range of support services and arguably far more than neighbouring authorities do for their veterans, it still only reaches relatively few of the people that could find their support valuable. It is estimated that, within Tameside, there are more than 4000 members of the armed forces community, though TASC’s membership is just 300. There are therefore more than 3500 more armed forces veterans in the borough that the Council and other organisations who could offer help do not know about. Absurdly, following the 2011 census, we actually know more about the Borough’s Jedi population than we do about our armed forces population!

Under my leadership the Council will continue to support our armed forces community wherever possible, regardless of whether we have the census’ help in doing so. Though, should this campaign be successful, our job will be made much easier.

If you or an organisation you know could lend support to this campaign the details are here http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/count-them-in/.

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