Ahead of election, parties put focus on community engagement
The Gibraltar Government and the GSD have ramped out their outreach programmes in the run-up to a general election that has yet to be called, with both the GSLP/Liberals and the opposition party putting community engagement at the heart of their pre-election strategies.
Early on Tuesday, the GSD announced the launch of its “District Wednesdays” programme which will cover all parts of Gibraltar over the next weeks and months, starting in Varyl Begg Estate on Wednesday April 12.
In a statement, the party said GSD Leader, Keith Azopardi, had been conducting outreach visits to estates, districts and associations since he was elected as GSD leader in 2017.
“Visits have also been undertaken by Elliott Phillips and Edwin Reyes when they have held the shadow housing portfolio and by Damon Bossino since 2021,” the GSD said.
“The GSD will now be continuing with its outreach programme in a more structured way as from this week.”
The GSD will be in Varyl Begg Estate on Wednesday April 12 as from 6pm to meet with those who may have concerns or issues.
The following Wednesday the GSD will be in the Moorish Castle Estate and the Upper Town.
Mr Azopardi, said: “This programme will build on the outreach work we have been doing for some years now.”
“It provides a direct opportunity for people to show us first hand if there are specific issues that affect them in their residential districts.”
“We very much look forward to continuing this work.”
For his part, Mr Bossino said: “Reaching out and making yourself available to citizens is fundamental to being a politician as it provides people the opportunity to raise issues of concern in their areas and beyond and informs us better so we can understand issues.”
“While we are generally available as MPs to meet with anyone who has concerns, we think it is important also to be out there at residents' homes.”
“At the end of the day, we are all in this together.”
But a few hours later the Gibraltar Government accused the GSD of using these visits as an “election gimmick” in a statement from No.6 Convent Place.
The Gibraltar Government said the Minister for Housing, Steven Linares, had visited Varyl Begg Estate yesterday “but without any prior announcement”.
“Mr Linares and his team have been working tirelessly with the tenants at Varyl Begg, as well as other Government estates across Gibraltar, to ensure tenant’s concerns are adequately addressed,” the spokesman for No.6 said.
“To this end, following representations from tenants raised directly with the Chief Minister and Minister for Housing during their visits to Varyl Begg estate, the Government ensured that security guards were in place at the estate during the school lunchtime break in order to deal with anti-social behaviour that was developing.”
“Additionally, the Government is now in the process of adding CCTV to these estates to assist further in dealing with anti-social behaviour.”
A full refurbishment of Varyl Begg to the standard of the refurbishments carried out in other estates is about to commence, in keeping with the commitment to deliver refurbishments of the standards that will add to the useful life of the flats, the Government spokesman said.
“Unfortunately, the refurbishment of Varyl Begg carried out by the GSD was not to the required standard and will now have to be redone,” the spokesman added.
“The Government is currently at a very advanced stage in the planning of its next major refurbishment programme to bring other estates such as Varyl Begg Estate, Knights Court, St John’s Court, Coelho House, Willis’ House, Edinburgh Estate and Chilton Court in line with the refurbishments undertaken by this GSLP/Liberal Government to the GSD’s ‘forgotten estates’ at Moorish Castle, Laguna and Glacis.”
“The Government expects to make such an announcement in coming weeks.”
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: “It is not surprising the GSD are announcing the launch of their estate outreach programme now, an election year.”
“I have been visiting these estates, alongside my cabinet colleagues and senior officials every single year since I was elected and not just on an election year.”
“I also carry out my clinics in the estates.”
“I am therefore happy to see my parliamentary colleagues follow our lead on this and I commend this policy to them.”
“I also hope they will now better value the investment we are making in the refurbishments of the estates, spending which they have criticised in the past.”