STRAIGHT TALK: Home is at the heart of all this

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COUNCIL leader Gary Porter comes across as a capable, fair and pragmatic politician (the best kind in my view) who faces each new circumstance head-on, not allowing dogma or high-flown ideals to get in his way.

He has consistently championed the cause of local people stuck in overcrowded or unsuitable accommodation.

He’s put South Holland on the map as one of only a handful of local authorities nationwide still building its own council houses.

He’s supported the building of affordable homes in the district both by commercial builders and by housing associations and set up a number of other measures to address the housing shortage.

It must be a cause of frustration that in spite of its very best efforts (much more positive and certainly more innovative than most councils), South Holland’s housing waiting list at the last reckoning stubbornly stayed at 2,000-plus.

Of course the shortage is national and the size of its waiting list can in no way be laid at South Holland’s door. There’s obviously a limit to what it can do, particularly now, in straitened economic circumstances when housebuilding and the housing market are virtually at a standstill.

So I understand where Mr Porter was coming from when he responded in our sister paper the Lincolnshire Free Press this week to the suggestion that his authority might consider housing homeless alcoholics to keep them off the street.

He branded the idea unworkable given the numbers of people already waiting for a home. He went on to say it wouldn’t be fair to prioritise alcoholics above the others, just on the basis of their drink problem. Quite right too.

The report to Lincolnshire County Council on reducing problems caused by alcohol had focused on Lincoln and Spalding, and in Spalding looked specifically at homeless migrant workers.

It suggested that the local authority finding them somewhere to live would be the best solution.

Referring to the same small group of foreigners with alcohol problems, Coun Porter said: “It shouldn’t be about giving these people homes. It should be about sending them home.”

Send them home? Surely such a practical man knows this is just as unworkable as popping drunken foreigners at the top of the housing list.

He must know that in a democratic society you can’t simply load people on to planes and ship them out.

He did say that any of the homeless foreigners who showed they were willing to be helped were OK by him but talk of sending any of them away can’t really be acceptable.

It’s singling foreigners out from the other alcoholics dealt with in this report.

We have to face up to it. Just like the rest of us, they’re not all angels, but they’re here to stay.