VIDEO: Residents losing their homes at St Michael's Gate grill leading Peterborough councillor at MP's public meeting
Residents who are being evicted from their homes so homeless families can move in have grilled the deputy leader of Peterborough City Council at a public meeting hosted by the city's MP.
Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald had to face the music from angry tenants at St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell who are searching for new homes after being served a notice to leave by a private firm.
The firm decided to evict 74 tenants from the estate then agreed a deal with the council for it to use the empty properties as temporary accommodation.
The meeting last night (Friday, October 14) at the Parnwell Community Centre in Saltersagate was hosted by MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson, one of many critics of the council for doing the deal.
The event gave the evicted tenants, many of whom who need to move home just before Christmas, the chance to vent their feelings.
The council has always insisted that the families will be evicted regardless of it doing this deal, and that if it did not rent the properties as temporary accommodation then another authority would step in to use them, exacerbating the city’s homelessness crisis.
That point was disputed by the audience, which numbered around 80, who demanded to know what help was available to them and why the council had only now sent out letters offering assistance.
Mr Jackson said he would lobby on the residents’ behalf in parliament, including pushing for a special debate.
The meeting was for the most part conducted in a good spirit, with tensions only occasionally rising.
There was also room for some humour - one audience member asked Mr Jackson to open a window, only for another to tell the MP to “jump through it.”
Speaking after the meeting, Jelana Stevic, a resident at St Michael’s Gate, said: “I think the law needs to be changed so these private owners of properties like this can’t be allowed to make money from a social situation.
“They are moving figures on paper and not seeing the lives and the community they are ripping apart.
“I’m disappointed the council is not looking after everybody. They are just looking after their figures.”
Mr Jackson said it was a “very productive meeting” and that he would push to get all residents facing eviction free legal advice.
Cllr Fitzgerald admitted it was a “difficult meeting,” adding: “I feel a great deal for the residents who made some really good points, and I will take those points back to the council.”
The firm carrying out the evictions is Paul Simon Magic Homes, with the properties managed by Stef and Philips which has signed the deal with the council.
The deal, first revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph, is an attempt by the council to solve its homelessness crisis.
The PT has previously reported that the council is expecting an overspend of at least £1.2 million this financial year after being forced to put up homeless families in Travelodges due to a shortage of available hostels and B&B accommodation.
The council can claim a lot more money back from the Government to accommodate homeless families if they are in a home rather than a Travelodge, thus the desire to have use of the properties on St Michael’s Gate.
For a full report on last night’s meeting, check out the Peterborough Telegraph website on Monday.