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Govt and GSD exchange blows on arrears


The GSD has urged the Gibraltar Government to accept some of the responsibility for the build up of housing arrears and to work with the Opposition to tackle the issue.

The party was responding to a statement previously issued by the Government as the row over rent arrears on Gibraltar Government properties continued yesterday.

“The GSLP administration is more interested in blaming the GSD Government and insulting Opposition Members of Parliament than accepting any measure of responsibility or working with the Opposition to deal with some of the issues affecting our community,” the GSD said in a statement.

But the Government later hit back sniping that the GSD’s offer of help “comes on the back of the embarrassing revelation that housing arrears increased by about 600% during their time in office.”

“This no doubt explains their newly found eagerness to depoliticise the issue after they were the ones who politicised it in the first place, only to end up with egg on their faces,” the Government said.

But in the four years that the GSLP Liberals have been in Government the level of outstanding rental arrears has almost doubled, the GSD said.

The GSD said it stands ready to share its ideas and policies which it believe will assist the Government in developing a progressive and depoliticised approach to housing for Gibraltar’s future generations.

“We, like many other members of our community, are tired of the Government’s blame game on the issue of housing arrears,” GSD spokesman for housing Elliott Phillips said.

“Both administrations must shoulder some responsibility for the build-up of arrears, but it is how we deal with the situation now that is important.”

Referring to comments made by Housing Minister Samantha Sacramento in a Government press release, Mr Phillips said: “Our community wants less bickering and more action and if that means putting aside party differences for the benefit of this community then Miss Sacramento is pushing on an open door.”

“Unlike Miss Sacramento, I am not in politics for sound-bytes or glory and I invite her to moderate her language both in and outside Parliament,” he added.

“The GSD and my parliamentary colleagues have developed sound policies on means testing and attachment of earnings for the recovery of arrears which we are happy to discuss with the Minister so that we can work together for the benefit of all in our community, after all that is why we are all here.”

Hitting back with a statement of its own yesterday evening the Government underscored that the GSD has “no credibility” on this issue and that the electorate will see through their “political opportunism”.

“Housing arrears is a problem that they failed to tackle in nearly 16 years and indeed a problem that they seriously compounded.”

“Given this situation, the offer to assist in rent collection will be seen by many as bordering on the absurd and certainly, rather presumptuous,” the Government said.

The Government has previously explained the action that it proposes to take to tackle arrears of housing rents. This includes the re-establishment of a Central Arrears Unit, legislating on the subject, and denying facilities like a berth at the new marina to persons who owe money to the Government.

“This is more than the GSD ever did,” the Government said adding “Mr Phillips should therefore stop sniping and start supporting”.

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