In Barking and Dagenham Council we are extremely proud of our local Armed Forces personnel and the amazing job they do on our behalf. It is deeply sad and thought-provoking that individuals with a strong connection to the area have lost their lives during service on behalf of the country. In order to show them and their families how much we respect and appreciate all they did for us, we offer their families the opportunity to name a street after their loved one.
As a council, we have a strong sense of pride that we are able to remember our fallen heroes through naming a street after them. These streets will be permanent reminders to future generations of the ultimate sacrifice which these brave men and women have made for the nation.
The first such instance occurred in February 2011 when Tony Rawson Way was named after Private Tony Rawson, who was killed in Helmand province in Afghanistan, after his patrol came under fire in August 2007. In March 2012 we commissioned Martin Kinggett Gardens in honour of Rifleman Martin Kinggett who was killed in action while on foot patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, on February 25 2010. Both families were consulted about the process throughout and it was the greatest honour of mine to be able to join these families by ensuring the people of Barking and Dagenham would never forget their names. These individuals are an absolute credit to Barking and Dagenham.
My proudest moment as Leader of the Council came when at the unveiling of Martin Kinggett Gardens, his mother Lisa said:
“I will always know he didn’t die for nothing.”
The decision to name these streets after fallen soldiers has been met with widespread support throughout Barking and Dagenham and to my knowledge not a single person has complained about the policy. Our borough will always stand fast on behalf of our armed forces and the role they play in our community.
While as an individual I did not support the war and was very vocal about my feelings at the time, I do support our armed forces and all they do for us. This is not about your feelings towards the war but is a way of acknowledging all that our armed forces do for us in present and future conflicts.
This Council will continue to support our armed forces and our veterans in any way we can – and we have done this in many ways. The council has also made a commitment to offer a guaranteed interview for available jobs in the Council for former service personnel and we are actively reviewing our housing allocations policy so that veterans and their families can be better served when homes are needed for them. Veterans are also able to access the Council’s leisure services at a discounted price.
I would echo Jim Murphy and Hilary Benn in calling on all councils to follow us in naming streets after soldiers killed in the line of duty and other measures we have implemented. If Barking and Dagenham can do it, so can others. Our Armed Forces deserve nothing less.
Liam Smith is the Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council