On Tuesday 8th November we had the pleasure of interviewing cllr Donna Jones leader of Portsmouth Council about what was going on in Portsmouth.
My first question to her was when is the new bus terminal going to be finished as it has been going on for ages, it was revealed it will be open in the spring of next year probably April it was originally due to be completed at the end of September last year but it came across some delays with the contractors but all is on target now.
Cllr Jones was asked about rehab in Portsmouth for the visually impaired as the RNIB had done a report on REHAB called SEE, PLAN AND PROVIDE, it should have newly diagnosed people with sight loss to be seen within twenty eight days for a one on one assessment and service provisions to begin in 3 months, although most authorities meet these standards unfortunately Portsmouth falls below of the standard level.
Cllr Jones is aware of Adult services and care but was not aware of the SEE, PLAN AND PROVIDE as she rightfully says she has departments within Adult Care Services that will deal with this, however it was stated that Portsmouth are working hard to achieve a twenty eight day turn around and there is a back log and this is very typical for a city that has a big demand on the resources that has deep pockets deprivations in the city such as Charles Dickens Ward and some parts of Bucklands which holds a real strong demand on the public services for the Elderly and Disabled, Cities like us get extra funding from the Government know as Top Up and Tariff Payment.
At the moment the council are reviewing how all care package are given out so that the service can be provided in the twenty eight day time scale, since February this year the council have been working on all care services to see how and where the service can be improved, the are over 800 staff in the care service and it has a big budget for it’s demands and they are all working very hard to improve things especially the four to six weeks backlog.
There are many people in Portsmouth who are homeless i put this to Cllr Jones to gauge her response, Cllr Jones said she is very worried and concerned about the population of homelessness in the UK however there is now reason why anyone in this country should be homeless or sleeping rough in the street as all councils are given a budget from the the Government under the homeless prevention to provide emergency housing for someone who presents themselves as homeless, so if anyone goes into the council and say they are homeless and have no where to sleep and asks for help and as long as they are connected with the city if they are from another council then Portsmouth will tell them to go back to there own council who will be able to help them.
Portsmouth have the budget to put them up in a bed and breakfast or a hostel and then will work with the individual to assist them with unemployment benefit application forms and other benefits to get them back on their feet and back to employment and eventually into secured accommodation such as a council property.
So with all this information and help out there why are there people still out there in the city sleeping rough, the simple reason is when people go into a hostel or other emergency hosing there are rules such as No Alcohol or Drugs to be taken onto the site and they have to be in by 10 or 11pm each night and to keep there room clean and tidy, unfortunately it is not down to funding it is down to people not wanting to abide by the rules and some people may not want to be helped due to there mental health conditions where they can not just cope with such rules and this is why there are a growing number of homeless people on the street.
To combat this problem Cllr Jones has set up a homeless working group in the city as the council are paying them so she wants these groups to go out to them and help them where possible, and over time get them to trust the organisation to help them into a secure home.
Regards to the immigration issues in Portsmouth back in 2000 Portsmouth was designated a cluster area to take in illegal immigrants as well as Southampton and Worthing for the whole of the south east.
Cllr Jones wrote to the government saying that thing have to be looked at realistically because Portsmouth can not sustain the responsibility of housing illegal immigrants as well as placing the children in schools with a population of around 230.000 living in a 25 mile radius and there is not just enough room to cope, so the request was to reallocate Portsmouth’s cluster status this was rejected but would create more cluster areas in the south east.
Cllr Jones has brought investment into the city with a 5 year endorsement from Emirates Airline which is advertised on the Spinnaker Tower which brings in a £3 million purse to the city over 5 years all this extra funding will help with funding for the elderly and disabled so cut backs are very little or not at all.
Portsmouth Council have set up a commercial portfolio where the council can legally borrow money at a better rate than from the hight street and they borrowed £60 million of commercial property and the investment done so well they increased the pot to £110 million and the yield they get back is around 6.5 to 7% then taking off the 2.8% borrowing costs which leaves a nice profit to reinvest into the council budget of £3.68 million therefore provides better service for the people of Portsmouth.
By : Dave Taylor