A petition bearing 1554 names has been received.
The prayer reads as follows:
We have been inspired by the DIY SOS TV programme that saw the renovation of homes to be used to house ex-servicemen and women. We, the undersigned would like to see a similar project in our area (London Borough of Sutton) to provide homes and a community for the ex-servicemen and women who have served our country selflessly and of whom we are so proud. We call on Sutton Council to look at sites and help us make this happen.
The Committee considered the report regarding the petition submitted, the prayer of which reads as follows:
“We have been inspired by the DIY SOS TV programme that saw the renovation of homes to be used to house ex-servicemen and women. We, the undersigned would like to see a similar project in our area (London Borough of Sutton) to provide homes and a community for the ex-servicemen and women who have served our country selflessly and of whom we are so proud. We call on Sutton Council to look at sites and help us make this happen”.
The Chair invited the three lead petitioners, Jackie Beer, Chris Curtis and Terry Woolford along with the Surrey Poppy Appeal Co-ordinator Mandy Jenkins, to address the Committee.
Jackie Beer described the inspiration for the petition and the associated Facebook page and advised that offers have already been made for the supply of materials, manpower and services. She noted the preference for the project to be a refurbishment rather than a new build, as this would maximise community involvement. Mandy Jenkins supported this view, and stated that the DIY SOS project had been successful because of the community’s involvement which led to the ex-servicemen becoming integrated into the community.
Committee Members commended the project and asked a range of questions. In response, Jackie Beer described the aim to include a community hub, where therapy, support and training could be delivered. Mandy Jenkins added that residents will have a range of physical and mental needs and will get support from each other as well as from outside agencies and charities such as the British Legion.
Mandy Jenkins was unable to detail the charities that contributed funding towards the DIY SOS project, but could confirm that there was a range of charities that could be approached to support this project.
The Committee noted the need to find a suitable site, and Richmond Green was discussed as it had been initially suggested as a possibility. Terry Woolford explained that although Richmond Green has been suggested, all involved were happy to consider all options.
The Chair asked officers for their input. The Executive Head of Housing and Regeneration, Simon Latham, highlighted the importance of the drop-in/advice day in order to establish the level of demand for housing and other services. He noted the need to plan the day properly to ensure ex-service personnel are aware of it, and the appropriate people attended to give advice and support.
The Chair noted that the current housing allocations policy gives priority to ex-service personnel and suggested that awareness of that may be an issue to be addressed. Terry Woolford noted that although social media can be very useful, many people won’t have access to it, so Mandy Jenkins had agreed to assist in publicising the drop-in day.
Councillor Jean Crossby suggested that homeless shelters and similar organisations could supply information about ex-service personnel, and Simon Latham explained that the rough sleeping network already recognises the need to establish links between homeless people and their home borough. He confirmed that LB Sutton are part of a network of agencies working with the homeless.
The Chair asked that the Committee be kept up to date with this project, with a formal report on progress to be brought to the June meeting.
RESOLVED: That the Housing,
Economy and Business Committee
1. Agrees that the Council should facilitate a drop-in/housing advice day early in 2016, as detailed in paragraph 5.1
2. Agrees that officers continue to explore options to develop a deliverable scheme that meets the aims of the petitioners as far as possible and within Council priorities.
3. Agrees that officers should continue to keep petitioners involved in the project.