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CM’s estate clinics draw GSD flak over ‘photo op’ street cleaning

The Chief Minister during his visit to Varyl Begg. Photo via Gibraltar Government.

The Chief Minister’s visits to Government estates drew flak from the GSD on Tuesday, who accused the Government of cleaning the estates for a photo opportunity.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo attended Varyl Begg Estate on Tuesday for clinics with residents.

He spoke to residents on issues regarding the estate’s maintenance and cleanliness, as well as the problems caused by anti-social behaviour.

“It's clear there are issues we have to address. As we have done before, we will do so. Our people deserve no less,” Mr Picardo said.

But the GSD took issue with visits to Government estates – Varyl Begg is just the latest - stating each visit is being preceded by a clean-up campaign.

The GSD said they too have been holding clinics with tenants’ associations around housing districts for some time, with the common theme being complaints of lack of cleanliness, lack of maintenance, noise and anti-social behaviour.

The party noted how Mr Picardo’s visits were accompanied by the Government press team which has filmed and photographed his visits.

They said they have received reports that Varyl Begg was cleaned prior to Mr Picardo’s visit, as was Mid Harbours Estate.

“These are not coincidences and residents of those areas are clear they are not programmed regular cleaning either,” the GSD said.

The party added residents have told them, that when the cleaning was questioned, workers responded it was due to Mr Picardo’s imminent visit.

“While unprogrammed cleaning will be welcome news for the residents of the estates it should not be happening just in readiness for the Chief Minister’s visit and so it improves the subsequent media footage,” Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said.

“These are not royal visits and nor will people be so easily fooled. The engagement of the public should be real and not subjected to a clean-up beforehand to massage public opinion or subsequent footage.”

“People are getting tired of the media spin of the GSLP/Liberals and this is just another example of their way of operating. What the Government should do is concentrate on tackling the long-standing complaints housing tenants have about cleaning and maintenance in a comprehensive and consistent way and not just on the day before an official visit.”

“The good news for people in the South District and Moorish Castle is that Mr Picardo is scheduled to visit there in a couple of weeks so their areas will be cleaned specially soon.”

Shadow Housing Minister Damon Bossino said that elected politicians should engage and interact regularly with the public and this should be encouraged.

But, he said, these visits need to “reflect the reality” and his visits have not been preceded by a “white-washing exercise”.

“As a result, we have been able to witness the reality of peoples’ lives – the glamour and media entourage can be left to others – others whose responsibility it has been to maintain the living conditions of these individuals for the past 11 years and have failed in doing so,” Mr Bossino said.

“One positive effects of our recent visits is that at least some of the estates are getting a much needed spring-clean and that can only be to the benefit of residents and is welcome.”

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