Community Care Action Group ‘disappointed’ by CM’s motion
The Community Care Action Group has said it is “surprised and disappointed” by the Chief Minister’s “theatrical stance” in his Motion last week, adding that they could only put it down to the “Government wanting to turn public opinion” against them.
A general meeting was held after last week’s event in Parliament that saw all Opposition MPs walk out in solidarity with the Group after the Government passed a Parliament Motion by majority calling for a letter sent to the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, to be withdrawn.
In a statement the Group said it held a meeting with the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and the Community Care Charity Chairman, Jaime Levy, in July following a public demonstration.
A number of issues were discussed, including the letter delivered to the Governor.
“At no time during the meeting did Mr Picardo nor Mr Levy make the Group’s future meeting with the Chief Minister conditional upon the Group’s retraction of their letter or withdrawal of some aspects of the Letter to His Excellency, the Governor,” a statement from the Community Care Action Group read.
“The Group has been surprised and disappointed by the theatrical stance that the Chief Minister took in his Parliamentary Motion, two weeks after the meeting, and they can only put it down to the Government wanting to turn public opinion against the Group.”
“The Group are disgusted with the way that the Government and the GSLP’s party paper, The New People, have treated their Committee and the Group’s members, in their orchestrated smear campaign of disclosure of personal financial information, intimidation, bullying and a blatant anti-democratic restriction of free speech.”
“The Community Care Action Group are nonetheless prepared to evidence their claims, in their letter to the Governor.”
During the general meeting, the Community Care Action Group touched upon a series of events in the run up to last week’s Parliament Motion.
A public demonstration was held on July 1, and after that a meeting was held with Mr Picardo and Mr Levy on July 16.
The Group spokesman said that although there were fundamental differences, the tone of the meeting was cordial and the Chief Minister had proposed a further meeting in September.
But it said the Government had launched a “vilifying attack” against the group and Opposition MPs for its support during its budget speeches.
The Group said the Chief Minister’s tone was “condescending, patronising, and went on to ridicule the letter” sent to the Governor, adding that this was “very contrary” to the tone during their meeting held days earlier.
This followed by a letter that the Chief Minister sent to the Group’s Chairman, Joseph Capurro, and the following week the Motion was brought before Parliament calling on the group to retract its letter in a “forum which denied the Group the right to respond”.
In his Motion, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, called on Community Care campaigners to withdraw a letter handed to the Governor which the Government said contained “many inaccuracies”, including describing the Community Care payments as the equivalent of a state pension.
The Government said that this echoed the position argued by Spanish claimants in the past and was rejected by former administrations because this would risk crippling Gibraltar when handing out back-dated claims.
The Government added Community Care, while receiving funding from the Government, was an independent charity set up and run by private individuals to help elderly residents of Gibraltar who may face financial hardship.
The Group, however, wants the charity Community Care to reverse changes introduced last year to eligibility criteria for its “community officer scheme”.
Failing that, they want the pensionable age to be lowered to be in line with women to the age of 60.