Banner-waving protesters incensed with the council’s policy on homeless people disrupted a council meeting with loud protests last night.
Councillors arrived at the St George’s Centre to chants demanding housing boss Cllr Howard Doe to quit. And after two men died sleeping rough in freezing conditions in Chatham in December they accused him of “having blood on his hands”.
At one point as tensions reached boiling point, the mayor Cllr Stuart Tranter halted proceedings for five minutes. And as protests continued for four hours, it looked like the full council meeting at Chatham Maritime could be abandoned.
Campaigners from Medway Justice for the Homeless,which was set up after the death of Samson Paine in the town in June, called for “ Doe to go”..
Chas Berry, from the organisation, said : “Not enough is being done. We were galvanised by Samson’s death. after reading about it in the Medway Messenger. The public response has been fantastic. But it should not be down to charities and volunteers to be going out there handing out blankets and food. The council has a duty of care.”
He added that the council’s failure to secure funding from the government’s Homelessness Prevention Programme, unlike neighbouring authorities , was “incompetent”.
Meanwhile ,council leader Alan Jarrett has stood by his colleague saying his Conservatiove party had every confidence in him.
Cllr Doe, said: “The draft strategy, which sets out how Medway Council, in partnership with stakeholders, will prevent and tackle homelessness, will be available for consultation in early February.
“It is shaped by current and anticipated national policy and will be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains relevant. The strategy recognises that homelessness is a complex problem with multiple causes and has an emphasis on prevention and early intervention through multi-agency working.
"The strategy includes a section on the help available through rough sleepers, including the supported accommodation that is commissioned by Medway Council.”
But the opposition Labour Group, led by Cllr Vince Maple demanded action now before another tragedy occurred.