VOMITING students, shared houses and council tax benefits were on the agenda as pensioners in Southampton quizzed the city’s top politicians.
The leaders of all four parties on Southampton City Council were grilled at a special meeting of the city pensioners’ forum yesterday.
Labour city council leader Simon Letts, Conservative leader Royston Smith, Liberal Democrat boss Adrian Vinson and Putting People First’s Keith Morrell, who are all up for re-election in the local elections in May, lined up alongside each other in the Civic Centre council chamber.
Each put forward their case for their achievements and vision to the assembled pensioners.
Cllr Letts said: “In very difficult circumstances we have done our level best to keep people employed and protect the services that the people of the city need.”
His opposite number in the council chamber, Cllr Smith, argued that the country’s ageing population was “fortunate and good”, but also that the issue was leading to a fundamental change in the way councils work, leading to new financial pressures.
Cllr Vinson outlined his party’s counter-proposals to Labour’s recent budget which saw £14m of services and almost 100 jobs axed, saying his party would prioritise care for the city’s most vulnerable people and aim to improve the quality of life for residents.
Cllr Morrell, leader of the rebel Putting People First party, argued that much of the country’s wealth was “in the wrong hands” and that a redistribution was needed to retain services across the city and the UK.
The leaders were all questioned by members of the audience, with Cllr Letts asked why his party had cut a ten per cent council tax discount for pensioners.
He replied that it had been a “difficult decision” that had to be made with the council receiving less money from central Government.
Cllr Smith said his party would reintroduce the discount if his party won power again.
One audience member asked what they would to do to lessen the impact of the city’s night-time economy, pointing to antisocial behaviour and “vomiting students”.
Cllr Letts and Cllr Vinson both said a new late-night levy on bars and clubs, which may be implemented next year, could help to fund tidying up the city’s streets.
Several audience members also complained that some areas of the city had become “ghettos” of shared housing, with Cllr Letts replying that his party’s new licensing policy cracking down on rogue landlords and requiring every landlord in some areas of the city to pay for a £500 licence would pay for some support and wardens to look after some areas.
They were also quizzed about large numbers of wheelie bins on pavements, with Cllr Vinson agreeing that they were “a hazard and unsightly” and urging the council to make more examples of people continually littering the streets with their bins.