Norfolk councillors back war veterans’ pension rule change plan

Richard Howitt MEP meeting Veterans Royal British Legion King's Lynn. ANL-150626-124915009
Richard Howitt MEP meeting Veterans Royal British Legion King's Lynn. ANL-150626-124915009

Campaigners have welcomed a council vote to end the practice of charging for social care from military veterans’ war pensions.

The proposal was unanimously approved by Norfolk County Council members during their meeting in Norwich today.

And Royal British Legion officials, who are lobbying the government to change the rules to help all veterans, regardless of when they served, hope the vote will help to increase the pressure on ministers to act.

Major William Kerr, the Lynn-based chairman of Norfolk’s Legion branch, said: “That really is good news.

“I congratulate Norfolk County Council on a wise and compassionate decision.”

He added: “I think it must be a sign for national politicians to follow in that same vein.”

The vote means that, from now on, the council will not take a former serviceman’s war pension into account when calculating the amount they should pay towards the cost of social care.

Under current rules, local authorities can charge veterans’ war pensions for care if they were injured before April 2005, but not those injured after that date.

But councillors backed officers’ proposal to disregard the rule and offer the same protection to all former military personnel, regardless of when they were injured in service.

The move, which will be backdated to the start of the current financial year in April, is expected to cost around £400,000 per year to implement.

The authority has also estimated the move will help around 100 veterans across the county.

Ahead of the meeting, council leader George Nobbs urged members to back the proposals.

He said: “This has been an issue which we have been considering seriously for some weeks.

“I asked senior officers, including Harold Bodmer, our Executive Director of Adult Social Services, to give me an assessment of what a fair and just policy in this matter would be.

I am convinced that the right and proper thing to do would be to agree a disregard in relation to service personnel who have suffered injury.

“Even in these straitened financial circumstances, I think it is important that we act fairly and do the right thing for our service personnel.

“It is in the spirit of our county’s commitment to the Armed forces, as set down in the Norfolk Armed Forces Community Covenant.”

The Royal British Legion has been campaigning for the government to adopt a similar stance to that taken by the county council through its ongoing Insult to Injury campaign.

Last month, East of England MEP Richard Howitt gave his support to the campaign and urged other councils across the region and MPs to act on the issue.

And North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham also gave his support to the proposal.

Major Kerr said he would be making sure national officials were aware of the council’s decision.