Plucked out the air

PUBLISHED: 12:36 17 August 2006 | UPDATED: 09:42 24 May 2010

IT SEEMS to me such an injustice that local councillors, Peter Bryant in this instance, are allowed to make public statements that have no factual basis whatsoever, touting as fact 'statistics' that he has plucked out of the air to serve his own political

IT SEEMS to me such an injustice that local councillors, Peter Bryant in this instance, are allowed to make public statements that have no factual basis whatsoever, touting as fact 'statistics' that he has plucked out of the air to serve his own political purpose.I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, but I also believe that when complete fabrications are placed on the record in such a way as to distort the public's view of an issue, the person responsible should be made to apologise when their statements are exposed to be factual inaccuracies being used for political gain and to scaremonger.On the front page of last week's Mercury, Cllr Bryant states that 44 per cent of social housing allocations in North Somerset are made to homeless people from out of the area. If a concerned reader felt compelled to look into the facts he or she would find out that of all allocations made to homeless applicants over the last quarter (approximately 45 per cent of the total, in line with the council's agreed policy) only one allocation was made to a household from out of the area. This equates to about 0.45 per cent. However, once the figure bandied about by Cllr Bryant is in the public domain, a seed is sown in the mind of the public, and an opinion is formed based on misinformation.The decision not to give additional preference on the housing waiting list to people who have lived in North Somerset all their lives was made at committee by local councillors. Some other local authorities successfully operate a preferential points system in this way. Perhaps if he received enough letters or phone calls from his constituents asking for a revision of this policy he may wish to raise it for discussion in the council chamber.The regulations dictating who and who does not have a local connection with the area under homelessness legislation are set by Central Government, and are not open to interpretation. If a homeless person to whom a full duty would be owed can prove that he or she has lived in the area for six out of the last 12 months (time in rehab does not count towards this, before Cllr Bryant jumps on another ill-informed bandwagon) they are considered in law to have a local connection with the area. If Cllr Bryant would like to lobby the Government for a change to the Housing Act then he should use his position to do so. I would be interested to see what efforts he has made in this respect.The housing register works on a priority basis, so that households in the most need are placed highest on the list. Additional priority is also given for each year spent on the list. In some cases a percentage of allocations are indeed made to people with a parish connection. If a household is adequately housed then an eight year wait is quite possible, but isn't it better to ensure that those in the most desperate circumstances are considered first for properties that become available. This is after all the very ethos of the social housing system.It is because of politicians like Cllr Bryant and the flippant, misleading comments that are made in the public arena that people who actually care about their community and issues that affect them do not enter into local politics more often.NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

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