Councillors “Ignore” Homelessness

One of the key criticisms of Thurrock Council by the Audit Commission earlier this year was the poor level of communication between the officers (those who work for the council) and the members (the councillors).

On September 5th, 2008, as part of a major review of homelessness in the borough, the council asked all 49 councillors for their input on a major issue in the borough.

A spokesperson for Thurrock Council said:

“All 49 Thurrock councillors were sent an email including an explanatory letter and a questionnaire for the homelessness survey on 5 September 2008. Hard copies were also placed in councillors’ internal mail boxes in the members’ suite at the Civic Offices. Members were asked to respond to the questionnaire by 22 September last year.”

How many responded…………..three.

YourThurrock isn’t going to write this in a “Councillors slammed over..” “Contempt for Homeless..”
Come on, we all forget things. YourThurrock reporter Michael Casey was supposed to interview Cllr Barry Johnson last sunday at 1pm. He forgot. Not good enough. No excuses.

But perhaps, this poor level of response indicates one of the reasons why the Council is in the bottom six in the country. Some may say, that that was then and since the “wake up call” of the Audit report, things have changed.

Well, have things changed that much in relation to communication. YourThurrock e-mailed all 49 councillors in relation to this question.

There are “usual suspects” who always get back to you. The Portfolio Holder for Housing, Tunde Ojetola did and confirmed that he was one of the three who replied. Tunde spoke to YourThurrock in person, in the middle of a conference before speeding off to Chelmsford for another meeting and then back to Thurrock.

Labour Councillors Barrie Lawrence, John Kent, Cathy Kent, Val-Morris-Cook, Oliver Gerrish replied.

Chair of Labour, Cllr Carl Morris said:

“Thank you for your enquiry about the Homeless Survey, I have now had an opportunity to interrogate my email system. I can confirm the survey and the covering letter was emailed to me on 5 September 2008.

“I am usually very diligent when dealing with emails its clear that I have not been diligent enough as I missed it completely, I very much regret that I am not one of the three members who responded.

“However, if members views were really wanted and really valued, I would have hoped, given such a poor response from Councillors first time around, the Council might have thought about re-consulting Councillors. This does not excuse my not responding for which I accept full responsibility.

“I want to reassure that my not responding to one survey does not reflect in any way a lack of care for the plight of homeless people or those in housing need. II have spent all of my political life helping those in housing need with empathy,vigour and considerable success. I will continue to do so.”

Deputy Mayor, Cllr Eddie Hardiman got back.
He said: “I certainly do not have contempt for the homeless and have helped a homeless person with a drink problem, taking him to hospital myself at risk to my own person.
I also booked him in for therapy to help with his problem.
I also prevented two evictions here in my ward. Many of us do care about the homeless and find the situation that people have no home for what ever reasons concerning.”

Thanks Eddie but answer the question.

The rest did not respond which begs the question. If you are not responding to questions from the press, if you are not responding to a request from the council regarding one of the key social issues in the middle of a recession then what else are you ignoring?

Whatever they are ignoring or not, the vast majority are claiming their £20 Broadband expense, thank you very much.

YourThurrock will be recording an interview regarding the whole Homelessness review when a leading expert on Homelessness will be assessing the whole review. Be assured, they are less than impressed.

What is also worrying is that they may have the control of information, just where they want it. At last weeks Full Council meeting, YourThurrock was the only representative from the press in attendance. At Cabinet on wednesday (July 8th) again just us and Paul Petersen from the Yellow Advertiser.

By a matter of co-incidence, there were two people who back in September were only too happy to discuss the issue of homelessness. Maybe they should stand for council next year (now there’s a thought).

Warning: This video contains strong language

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