'Just look after them': Ex soldier gives emotional public address to Wakefield Council during jobs debate

Councillor Simon Fishwick, who represents Horbury and South Ossett
Councillor Simon Fishwick, who represents Horbury and South Ossett

A former serviceman has made an emotional public address during a debate about job opportunities for ex-soldiers.

Simon Fishwick, who became a Conservative councillor earlier this year, was applauded after recounting his own experiences of army life at a meeting of elected members in Wakefield.

The issue was debated in the council chamber on Wednesday.

The issue was debated in the council chamber on Wednesday.

It came as the council discussed a motion calling for job interviews to automatically be given to any veteran who applies for a role.

The idea has been backed by the Royal British Legion this week.

Coun Fishwick spoke earlier this year about his time in the Forces, which saw him serve in the jungles of Brunei and Arctic Norway. He also spent time in war-torn Iraq.

Speaking during the debate in the council chamber on Wednesday, he said: "We're not all very successful when we leave the military.

"A lot of us have been good fathers, good husbands and good soldiers. They've been good comrades on the battlefield. I've been on that battlefield.

"I urge that we as a council, and as a country, bring them back home, embrace them, and look after them, for what they've done on that battlefield.

"Just give them that start they need. That's all I'm saying, but it's very close to my chest is this."

Figures revealed in the Military Times earlier this year show that unemployment among veterans is much higher than the rest of the population as a whole.

And in a statement on Wednesday, the Royal British Legion said: "We welcome any steps that support the Armed Forces Covenant, which says that no members of the Armed Forces should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens because of their time in Service.

"Special consideration is appropriate, especially for those who have given most, such as the injured and the bereaved."

The council's ruling Labour group pledged to continue working with other organisations which support ex forces personnel back into civilian life and work.

But they changed the wording of the Conservatives' motion, over concerns adopting automatic interviews as a policy may lead to a breach of the Equalities Act.

Instead, they promised interviews to veterans "where they meet the essential criteria" and highlighted the work the council had done since signing the Armed Forces Covenant in 2011.

Labour councillor Les Shaw said: "Everyone in this room will want to support the Armed Forces.

"But there is such a thing as giving false hope. It's no good giving somebody an interview for a job that they're not skilled at and they're not going to get.

"Then there's the frustration of going to a series of interviews like that."

Local Democracy Reporting Service