No members of the armed forces in urgent need of housing were let a council property in Stroud last year, figures reveal – despite at least one being identified as at risk of homelessness.

The chief executive of the UK's largest military housing charity has called on councils to honour a commitment to look after homeless veterans, with fewer than 1,000 receiving preference last year.

Housing laws state that local authorities must give preference to homeless applicants, with extra weight added to an application if they have served their country.

In 2018-19, there were no households in Stroud where current or former military personnel received this extra priority, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data reveals.

But different statistics from the department show the council made a record of one veteran who was homeless or at risk of becoming so in the area between January and March 2019.

It is not possible to calculate an annual total, as some veterans could appear in the figures in more than one period throughout the year.

A spokeswoman for Stroud District Council said: "We take our duty to veterans very seriously. In June 2019 we pledged to raise awareness of our military covenant and as a result, appointed two military champions.

"They are actively engaged in advising veterans with issues such as housing advice and debt management, and are supporting the Last Rendezvous Veterans (LRV) group to repair and clean the cenotaph in Stroud.

"An advice and information officer from the Royal British Legion has started to hold a monthly veterans’ drop in clinic at Ebley Mill which has been advertised widely and our website has links to a number of organisations that help veterans, including our own benefits team which provides specialist advice to veterans about benefits they could be entitled to." 

The figures for this period show 450 people who have served in the armed forces were identified as statutorily homeless by local authority housing services across England – though charities warn thousands may be slipping through the net nationally each year.

Those identified by councils were all assessed as needing a "prevention or relief duty", meaning they are owed legal duties by councils because they are already homeless or could be within 56 days.

The No Homeless Veterans campaign says the number should be even higher and that 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, there were just 921 armed forces personnel let a council property by receiving preferential treatment last year.

Under the Housing Act 1996, "reasonable preference" should be given to housing applicants who are homeless or in dire need of housing, and further help should be offered to armed forces personnel.

In the first year of collecting data on lettings to members of the armed forces, Stroud was revealed to be one of 178 councils which did not provide any.

Councils' commitment to veterans was stated in the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC), to which "virtually all" local authorities in England have signed up, says the Co-Chair of Cobseo (Confederation of Service Charities) Housing Cluster.

Brigadier James Richardson said the "nuts and bolts" of the agreement had not filtered down to how councils apply it.

He added: "We want local authorities to have a better understanding of the AFC so that all staff know what it is and what their responsibilities are. We think that's missing in some areas.

"A lot of local authorities don't even ask if someone is a veteran. Therefore it's very hard to deliver the AFC requirements when they don't even ask the basic questions."

He said the AFC aims to provide "fairness not favourability" to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those who have served, but they are unable to make fair these disadvantages if councils are not fully informed.

A Government spokesman said a significant number of councils do not own Housing Revenue Account (HRA) stock, meaning they are not required to report it, or related figures such as lettings.

They said: "No-one should be homeless, least of all someone who has served their country.

"This is why we've put in place an additional £1 million fund to boost support for vulnerable veterans who are, or at risk of becoming, homeless."

The £1m funding, announced in March last year, can be used to develop new services, or support them in engaging with existing services including access to supported housing and mental health provision.