MORE than 20 armed forces personnel in urgent need of housing were let properties by Colchester Council last year, figures have revealed.

Charities warn thousands of homeless veterans may be slipping through the net nationally.

Colchester Council’s housing allocations policy mirrors national legislation which waives the local connection criteria for ex-service personnel.

The authority also prioritises veterans in the list.

John McCarthy, area manager at Colchester’s Royal British Legion’s pop in centre, in High Street, said when veterans visit to access help, housing issues are “at the top of the list”.

“The council will put them into the very top of the band,” he said.

“It is a problem for armed forces personnel in Colchester and everywhere around East Anglia.

"If they are struggling with a separation or divorce they might be living in a service family accommodation which could fall apart.

“Veterans might be struggling with other issues and there is a housing crisis which affects everyone.

“Colchester Council do work actively with us but it is a huge problem and one of the biggest things we have to help with.

“It is across the board, everybody is struggling with housing, it can be an additional challenge for veterans and everyone finds it difficult.

“Private rent is so expensive and councils don’t have a deep stock of housing.”

Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveals from 2018 and through 2019, Colchester Council let 21 houses to prioritised armed forces personnel.

The authority identified four veterans at risk of homelessness during the first three months of last year.

The No Homeless Veterans campaign says more than 3,000 homeless veterans could be going unreported each year.

Campaign co-ordinator Ed Tytherleigh said “many end up sleeping in their car or on someone’s floor” after finding themselves with nowhere to go.

Nationwide, 921 armed forces personnel were let a council property through receiving preferential treatment last year.

A Colchester Council spokesman said: “As of April 2019, there were 64 households on the council’s housing register with an armed forces priority.

“In that same period, households with an armed forces priority were, on average, housed faster than households on our housing register who did not have this priority.

“Households with the Armed Forces priority were housed on average within 11.4 months, while those without were housed within 13.8 months."