Edinburgh council to be sued by Lothian Veterans Centre over 'failure' to support veterans
A veterans’ charity boss is taking the City of Edinburgh Council to court over what he calls their “failure” to support military veterans.
Ian Stewart, chief executive of Lothians Veterans Centre, says it will be a national test case to determine what exactly the legal obligations of local authorities are under new Armed Forces Covenant laws which came in last November. He has instructed law firm Bannatyne Kirkwood France to begin proceedings for a judicial review, and is seeking crowdfunding to pursue this case against the council, with the appeal for funds set to be launched in the coming weeks.
He said: “Everyone made a big song and dance about new legal obligations coming in for councils and other bodies last year for how they treat military veterans, but no-one seems to know what they actually mean, and we don’t see any changes. I am sure lots of people will have a vested interest in what this much-trumpeted new law means in practice. Edinburgh city council said in a public statement ‘as signatories to the Armed Forces Covenant we are committed to showing our support for service personnel, veterans and their families’. What support?
“They would not tell me what financial support they gave to charities helping veterans and their families. I had to make a Freedom of Information request and that revealed that out of their over £1 billion budget they only give to one charity that supports veterans - £109,000 to help with housing. That is 0.01 per cent of their budget. Is that proper support? Will the law regard what they provide as proper support?”
The Armed Forces Covenant Duty became law in November 2022. The changes mean a specified person or body exercising a relevant housing, education or healthcare function has a legal obligation to have “due regard” to the principles laid out in the Armed Forces Covenant.
Mr Stewart said: “That means all local authorities must legally have due regard to the unique obligations of, and sacrifices made by, the armed forces. They must have due regard that no one is being disadvantaged by their service, and they must have due regard that special provision, ie extra services, may be justified for some veterans. But what does ‘due regard’ mean in actual real terms? There are loads of charities up and down the UK perplexed and frustrated by this. It needs to be tested in court. Funding is very difficult for small charities and there needs to be clarity on what the law actually means. We will have lots of support for this action we are taking against Edinburgh council.”
Lothians Veterans Centre is a drop-in centre in Dalkeith that supports veterans and their families with help on health and wellbeing, social inclusion and provides comradeship and peer support. It also provides advice on pensions, benefits, employability and housing among other subjects. Although based in Midlothian, Mr Stewart explained that a significant number of the centre’s service users come from Edinburgh, which is why he has previously called on the Capital’s council to provide support to the charity.
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “Whilst we remain supportive of veterans, we do not comment on potential or current legal actions.”