Iraq war hero homeless
Medically discharged soldier wants to come home to Exmouth BUT he is not a council housing priority case.
Medically discharged soldier wants to come home to Exmouth - BUT he is not a council housing priority case.AN Iraq War hero, who put his life on the line for his country, faces a new battle - for a council house in his home town after being medically discharged.Born and bred in Exmouth, Lance Cpl Paul Baker, 25, wants to return to the town where he went to school, married and even signed up for the Army. His wife, Michelle, 25, is also an Exmothian.Paul, his wife and their 14-month-old son Owen face homelessness next month when they are booted out of their Army barracks at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire.But East Devon District Council does not see them as a priority case - under recent Government legislation it is the responsibility of the council where his barracks are based.The family has been placed in EDDC's top 'gold band' register - alongside more than 700 other people wanting council homes.Said the former Army field medic, who witnessed horrendous war injuries: "You join up, serve your country and expect you will be allowed to come back to live where you grew up - then you find you're not allowed."Our family live in Exmouth and we were married at Littleham Church. We feel that we are not wanted."The couple have strong ties with Exmouth. Paul's mother, Tracy, lives in Nursery Close, while Michelle's mum, Marie Hensby, lives in Littleham Road. Michelle went to Littleham Primary School before going to the community college, which Paul also attended.Paul, who joined up after seeing an Army recruitment road show in the Magnolia Centre, served as a field medic and front-line soldier in the 4th Battalion of the Rifles in Northern Ireland and then Iraq, as well as at Buckingham Palace. He was medically discharged earlier this year.Paul, who went to Marpool School, said: "I lost a lot of really good friends in Iraq - I was with one of them when he died."All my family wants is to come home."He said he had been negotiating for a council home with EDDC for several months. "The council is pushing us into the letting market, but I feel EDDC has a duty of care," he said."We are being evicted from the barracks at the start of May and the EDDC housing officer said I probably wouldn't get anything until a week before."I need to keep working to support my family - to do that and move and find another job in a few days is a lot to ask."An EDDC spokesman said: "We can confirm we have received a request for housing from Mr Baker and that he has now been placed on our Gold Band register. "He has had two meetings with council officers, who have made it clear to him that, as he is relatively new to the register, it will be some time before accommodation may be found for him and his family. "We have advised Mr Baker to approach the local authority responsible for the Army base where he is stationed. Under recent Government legislation, that local authority has a responsibility for helping him to find a home. "Unfortunately, his desire to return to his roots in Exmouth does not mean that we are obliged to put him to the top of our waiting list. "We have over 700 people in our Gold Band, who are in desperate housing need. Our priority must be with them."Mark Rickman, the client support officer of The Royal British Legion in Devon, said: "We frequently have former service personnel who are seeking local authority accommodation who have been discharged for a variety of reasons."This issue is about resources and a lack of social housing - and some who have been in the forces are particularly vulnerable and should have a higher priority. EDDC has not been the most helpful authority we have dealt with."East Devon MP Hugo Swire said the case highlighted the shortage of social housing in East Devon and called on the Government to stop taking �5.8 million in housing subsidy from the district council so it could be to be ploughed back into housing.He added: "In the modern age, service personnel should be properly cared for. I would urge EDDC to redouble their efforts to find his family somewhere to live in the community. I would gladly take up his case if Mr Baker contacts me at my commons office.