Leeds City Council has reaffirmed its dedication to supporting armed forces personnel, reservists, veterans, and cadets, having received the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) 2023 Gold Award earlier this year.

In a modest ceremony held in the Ark Royal Room at Leeds Civic Hall on Friday, 24 November, the Lord Mayor restated the council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant, originally signed in 2012.

The Armed Forces Covenant aims to:

Encourage local communities to back the Armed Forces community in their vicinity.

Foster understanding and awareness among the public regarding the challenges faced by the Armed Forces community.

Acknowledge and remember the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces community.

Promote activities that facilitate the integration of the Armed Forces Community into local life.

Urge the Armed Forces community to contribute to and support the wider community through event participation, joint projects, or other forms of engagement.

Over the past four years, Leeds City Council has continued to uphold the Covenant’s objectives amid various challenges faced by the armed forces, including the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, response to international tensions, and involvement in humanitarian relief efforts following natural disasters.

The council’s steadfast commitment culminated in the prestigious Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award from the Ministry of Defence. The Covenant enjoys ongoing support from public, private, and third-sector organizations across the city.

Commenting, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, said: “As someone who grew up in a military family, I recognise many of the issues members of the armed forces, reservists, and veterans face while serving and in civilian life.

“Therefore, it gives me great pleasure and pride to help renew Leeds City Council’s commitment to the armed forces covenant. We must recognise the sacrifices of service personnel and their families in defending and protecting the country’s interests and make it as easy as possible for them to transition back to civilian life once their service has been completed.”

The Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor James Lewis, said: “We in Leeds are very proud of our strong and historic links with our armed forces.

As with everything, we take a Team Leeds approach to fulfilling our commitments to the Armed Forces Covenant, working across the council, businesses, and the third sector to provide the best possible services and resources.

“These efforts have been recognised with the ERS Gold Award, of which we are very proud. The award reflects the incredible work being done to make Leeds as armed forces-friendly as possible. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved.

Leeds City Council’s Armed Forces Champions, Councillor Jane Dowson, Councillor Caroline Gruen, and Councillor Gohar Almass, said:

“As we mark the honour of being awarded the ERS Gold Award and embark on the next phase of the Covenant’s work, it is important to re-commit and re-emphasise the city’s continuing support for the Armed Forces Covenant.

“As a council, we want to ensure there is a package of meaningful support and help to members of the Armed Forces who may be thinking of returning to civilian life. Veterans also remain a priority and were instrumental in helping Leeds City Council introduce the Armed Forces Covenant in 2012.

“While the Armed Forces Community Covenant has been in place for over 11 years, we continue to work closely across the city with organisations and businesses to ensure our community of veterans, cadets, reservists, and serving forces personnel have the support they and their families need.

“As an organisation, we continue to review and develop our support package to ensure we offer the best possible service. The re-signing of the Covenant reflects the updates we have made over the past four years.”

The ceremony, attended by dignitaries such as the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Stan Hardy, The High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, Zulfi Karim DL, and representatives from the Ministry of Defence and Royal British Legion, marked the re-signing of the Covenant, reflecting updates made over the past four years.