The angry residents of Parnwell said Peterborough City Council should be “embarrassed” as they got the chance to air their views to the local authority’s chief executive.
Gillian Beasley attended last night’s meeting at the Parnwell Community Centre in Saltersgate where residents compared the council’s actions to a third world country for agreeing to move homeless people into St Michael’s Gate where tenants at 74 properties are being evicted.
The arrangement with housing firm Stef & Philips, which the council is paying nearly £3 million over three years to lease the homes, has been widely criticised.
The council said it was forced into doing the deal because otherwise Stef & Philips would agree a similar arrangement with London boroughs for them to move their homeless people onto the estate.
One attendee to the public meeting said: “Peterborough City Council should be totally embarrassed. This is the sort of thing that would happen in a third world country. It’s the sort of thing that would happen in the eastern bloc of Europe.”
Another asked who first agreed that Stef & Philips should receive taxpayers’ money, while another said the council had divided the community.
Comments were also aimed at Parnwell city councillor Marcus Sims with one person saying: “Personally I do not think you’ve done enough.”
Another said: “As far as I’m aware you’ve done nothing.”
Cllr Sims, Conservative member for East Ward, defended his actions, replying: “I’m not joking when I say it’s beyond the council’s powers.”
He added: “I’ve been to see residents, unfortunately I got a rude welcome. I can’t change the law myself.”
He also asked residents to contact him with any further issues.
Vocal St Michael’s Gate campaigner Jelana Stevic said: “There’s no community. You’ve ripped the heart out of it.
“I would like to see more support from the council because some of the people have ended up in hostels and bed and breakfasts. Two young families spent Christmas in a hostel.
“I’m seeing the stress - people are going to the doctors, they are not sleeping. It just breaks my heart.”
Also present at the meeting was Adrian Chapman, council service director for adult services and communities. He said: “It’s heartbreaking to hear the sentiment that the community is feeling fractured and I completely understand why.”
Mr Chapman said the council’s contract with Stef & Philips required the firm to have a warden on site which was currently being discussed.
Mrs Beasley, who was invited to the meeting by the Parnwell Residents Association, told the audience that the council had committed the helping them and will introduce a walkabout in the ward.
Speaking after the meeting she said: “It was excellent, I really enjoyed it. They are a great group of residents who are really passionate about the area.
“They are concerned and they expressed their views forcefully but respectfully.”