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Reyes wants more investment on local music

If the Government can afford £3.6 million to subsidise a mega concert, then surely Gibraltar’s local performers and entertainers are entitled to ask for a theatre which is fit for purpose, GSD MP Edwin Reyes has told Parliament.

In his ninth consecutive budget address, Mr Reyes reflected on the importance of social events and how participating Gibraltarians contribute towards reinforcing our identity, culture and history as a people and a community.

During their last term in Office the Government purchased both the Queen’s Cinema and Queen’s Hotel sites for the development of a theatre and related activities.

However, there are somewhat mixed feelings among the local community as to how these sites will be developed and at what cost, he said.

“Given that Government has pledged to make the old Queen’s Cinema a venue for touring productions I sincerely hope that the development of these sites will be real value for money and that our local culture, in the widest sense of the words, is enhanced.”

“If Government can afford to set aside in the Estimates £1,500,000, which actually last year turned out to be £3,600,000 to subsidise a mega concert, then surely our local performers and entertainers are entitled to ask for a theatre which is fit for purpose so that they too may offer live entertainment and in turn develop their skills.”

SPORT

Mr Reyes highlighted the fact that the Gibraltar Cricket Association still has no proper home of its own and has to make do by playing its competitions in the limited and far from adequate facilities available at Europa Point.

“I urge Government to be ever mindful that a level playing field must be provided for all sporting associations, more so as it is a commitment of theirs ‘to monitor the demand for additional facilities for all sports to ensure that existing facilities are developed further in line with our community’s needs’.”

The Government is committed through its election promises to provide renewed facilities for the playing, teaching and development of both cricket and rugby at the Europa Point area.

Unfortunately, Mr Reyes said, these have still not materialised despite having been first promised through their 2011 elections list of commitments.

Elsewhere, Gibraltar is set to host the Small Island Games once again in 2019. Mr Reyes said he looks forward to the announcements of refurbishments and/or construction of new facilities which will serve the local community beyond the 2019 games.

He called on the Minister for Sports, Steven Linares, in his capacity as Chairman of the Sports and Leisure Authority, to take a particular interest to ensure that publicly owned facilities are used in a fair manner for the benefit of all sports lovers.

As for football, Mr Reyes said the GSD wishes the Gibraltar Football Association all the very best in building its own stadium at an alternative site to Europa Point.

“I am particularly pleased to hear of the latest developments which indicate that the GFA will receive substantial funding which covers almost the entirety of the costs of building a new UEFA Cat 3 stadium.”

“However, irrespective of what the GFA does or does not build, the GSD believes there is a need for more and better football facilities to be provided for the benefit of our community at large and across all age groups.”

HOUSING

Mr Reyes reflected on a number of housing issues including: repairs and refurbishments of Government rental homes, rental arrears and the manner in which housing allocations are currently being made.

Of the later he said that the Government failed to meet its 2011 manifesto commitment of eliminating the then existing waiting list and pre-list.

Based on the Housing Department’s January 2016 figures there were 1,566 applicants on the waiting list with an additional 520 on the pre-list, with a grand total of 2,086 applicants.

Furthermore, it is expected that 21 rental homes to be returned to the Housing Authority upon completion of all co-ownership homes.

Given the extremely small number of rental homes which will become available for applicants who cannot afford to purchase co-ownership homes, Mr Reyes recommend that the Government takes a serious look at constructing new rental homes, not just for senior citizens, in order to address the housing needs of all current applicants.

Not everyone is able to obtain a mortgage and therefore purchase their own home through the co-ownership scheme, Mr Reyes stated.

“However, there are many who do and yet they opt out of doing so knowing that their monthly rents are a pittance when compared to the level of their personal wages.”

He said that many new home owners have expressed to the GSD their sense of unfairness as the only way in which they could obtain a home in keeping with their family requirements was through co-ownership and which brings with it new financial burdens.

“Their claim of unfairness is that not only do they now have a mortgage to pay of around £200 a month for a two bedroom home, they additionally have to pay Community Fees or Service Charges which at current rates is even greater than what a Government rental tenant pays in rent per month.”

“There are more and more people asking why should the tax payer have to subsidise rental homes given that the annual cost of expenditure for upkeep of rental homes is greater than the sum received from rents due,” he said.

Mr Reyes also called on the Government to explain why despite the recently announced increases in House Rents the estimated revenue under this heading for 2016/2017 is now estimated to be around one million pounds less than the forecast outturn for last year.

“Likewise, given that six rental housing estates have been recently mortgaged by Government can these tenants be enlightened as to whether they remain Government tenants or is their new Landlord now a company or some other entity.”