The Government is appalled at the degree of distortion and misinformation about Glacis Estate put about by the Leader of the Opposition in his latest statement. It is very sad to see that Mr Azopardi has no compunction in saying whatever he likes without any regard for accuracy or for the truth in his desperate attempt to scrape a few votes here and there.
The irony will not be lost on residents of Glacis Estate that Mr Azopardi and his party were once critical of the refurbishment programme and accused the Government of spending too much money even though this was designed to improve the living environment of its tenants. Indeed, this Government has invested more in the refurbishment and maintenance of Glacis and other Estates than any previous administration since the Estates were constructed. This is something that the Government is proud of.
The main refurbishment, which included the cladding works, led to an investment of £ 13.4 million into Glacis Estate. This included new mono-pitched roofs in all ten blocks, new specialist external wall insulated render systems, a new lift at George Jeger House, a new lift at Archbishop Amigo House (in progress) and many other associated works. In the double financial year 2019-2021, which was impacted heavily by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, an additional £ 650,000 was invested in the buildings, including on emergency works, water leaks, occupational therapy works, internal flat refurbishment, drain maintenance, lift maintenance, general plumbing works, electrical works and carpentry works. Therefore the programme of maintenance, repair and refurbishment has been on-going even in difficult times.
It is important to recall that Mr Azopardi himself was a member of the GSD Government that allowed Glacis Estate and other parts of Gibraltar to deteriorate during their time in office to such a degree that the refurbishment programme became all the more necessary when this Government was first elected. In other words, it was precisely the lack of maintenance that led directly to the degree of refurbishment that was later required. The GSD, who were the responsible for this neglect, then had the audacity to complain when this Government sought to put it right.
The Government has been informed that at a recent meeting between Britannia Premium Cleaning and the Tenants Committee of the Estate, the staff of the company were actually praised for their work and for the state of cleanliness. Moreover, a witness who attended the meeting with Mr Azopardi on 12 May 2021 at 6.30pm heard Mr Azopardi mention that the Estate was very clean, a view which some of the Committee members there present agreed with.
Having said that, the Government accepts that there may be isolated cases of concern, but such individual cases do not tally with the exaggerated picture that Mr Azopardi has painted. There is an established mechanism through which tenants can report faults and other issues to the landlord for action. Many of the issues raised by the Opposition relate to old and dated matters which have already been tackled on a daily basis as they come up. Accumulations of rubbish, for example, are never left for more than 24 hours after they are spotted or reported through the proper channels. Construction has already started of a second lift in one of the larger buildings at Glacis. This new lift, unlike the existing one, will provide direct access to the ground floor and will improve the lives of those who are elderly or who have mobility issues.
In addition to this, the Chief Minister is himself conducting a series of surgeries with members of the public “in location” around different parts of Gibraltar. He was in Glacis Estate only last week where he was able to meet a large number of tenants and directly address the concerns that were raised. This morning the Chief Minister was meeting residents in Varyl Begg Estate.
It is shameful that Mr Azopardi should continue to exploit ordinary people in this way in order to advance his own political agenda. It might be worth asking whether this is the first time that he has visited Glacis Estate since the general election!