Movement for Change

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Meet some of the new faces joining our campaign to get Gibraltar back on track. Together, we can #MakeTheChange!


All Criminal Allegations in the McGrail Saga Should Be Investigated Independently

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All Criminal Allegations in the McGrail Saga Should Be Investigated Independently



On Thursday, former Commissioner McGrail was arrested among other reasons for a suspicion of misconduct in office. Clearly it is right for those issues to be investigated in an independent fashion. To the extent that any other related allegations of misconduct in office or about other criminal wrongdoing are being made by any person in this saga it would make sense for all of these to also be independently investigated in the same manner. If the remit of former Chief Superintendent McVea needs to be extended to allow for that then the Governor should do so because otherwise only some of the evidence of potential criminality will be investigated independently. That would ensure that the independent criminal investigation is comprehensive and there is conclusive finality to any criminal dimensions relevant to this overall case. If that is not done it may leave unsatisfactory gaps in this affair.

Additionally and despite the Chief Minister’s protestations it remains strange that he should say that he is aware of evidence of “potential criminality” but that the current Commissioner of Police, Mr Ullger, when asked about this specifically said he had not seen that evidence. Indeed, the Commissioner of Police made it a point to say on the GBC Gibraltar Today programme that the proper port of call for anyone who does have evidence of criminal wrongdoing is to report this to the Police. Has Mr Picardo passed on all the evidence of potential criminality that he says he has seen to the Police? It is doubly strange that Mr Picardo who is a core figure in the events of May and June 2020 should be the recipient of that information and not the Commissioner of Police.

What Mr Picardo’s press release on the whistleblowers law conveniently leaves out is that in the case of police officers a qualifying disclosure should primarily be made to the Commissioner of Police. In any event Mr Picardo’s focus on the whistleblowing legislation rather misses the obvious overarching point that in the case of criminal wrongdoing the appropriate investigative authority is the Police so that any information should also be delivered to them.

It is unclear when this evidence was provided and whether it came before or after other jobs in the public service were given to some of these individuals. This is something that has already been described by the current Commissioner of Police as affecting capability or morale. Legitimate questions arise in relation to that specific chronology, as to what the motivations or inducements were for the making of these statements and how these allegations are being collated and surfacing now. If these are historic allegations it is equally legitimate to ask who is benefitting from these allegations being thrown about now.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “The constant question that remains is how allegations of unrelated issues that are not about what happened in May and June 2020 between Mr Picardo and Mr McGrail are actually relevant to the Public Inquiry or whether they are being deployed as diversionary tactics. Those questions are matters for the Inquiry Chairman. Clearly all allegations relevant to the McGrail Inquiry should be fully assessed by the Chairman of the Inquiry.

Beyond that if there is any evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing or misconduct in office this should also be investigated by the police in the normal way and as necessary the remit of the current independent investigation should be extended by the Governor to cover those issues.”

Government needs to accept responsibility for affordable housing delays

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Government needs to accept responsibility for affordable housing delays
The record with regard to the delays in the delivery of the affordable housing projects needs to be set straight. The Government cannot be allowed to rely on Brexit and Covid in order to absolve itself from responsibility in this area.
The effects of Brexit and Covid hit us in 2016 and 2020 respectively and the GSD acknowledges the very serious challenges that these events represented. The suggestion by the Government that the GSD seeks to belittle their very significant impact is nothing but a crude attempt at turning the tables away from their own failings.
The facts and chronology tell a different story, however and this is why we continue to hold the Government responsible. The facts are that at the 2015 election, that is, 8 years ago, the GSLP/Liberals had already announced the launch of Hassan Centenary Terraces and Bob Peliza Mews, promising to deliver within that term of office. They then repeated the promise in September 2017, this being 15 months after Brexit, and citing completion dates for the first phase of Hassan Centenary Terraces for February 2020 which was of course, a month before the advent of the Covid pandemic. The whole development was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020 with the first phase of Bob Peliza Mews expected to be completed in June 2021.
In the run up to the October 2019 election, the Government continued to give the impression that everything was on track and that there were no delays to the completion of these developments by making self-congratulatory announcements (i) about the number of applications received for Hassans Centenary in February 2019; (ii) about the sale of flats at Bob Peliza Mews in June 2019; and (iii) then again in July of that year about the sale of flats at Chatham Views,stating,in relation to this development that it would commence in the last quarter of 2019. All of these dates were after Brexit, before Covid and clearly used for electoral gain.
It beggars belief that in January 2020 the Government was still announcing that construction of Hassans Centenary would begin ‘shortly’ when they had previously promised completion of the first phase by February 2020. This last date was, once again, months before Covid hit. With Chatham Views, construction was expected to have started in the last quarter of 2019, again months before Covid.
All the developments are now the subject of substantial delays to the tune of between 3 to 5 years at least, with phase 2 of Hassan Centenary requiring a reclamation to be done and clearing issues still to be sorted out in respect of the second phase of Bob Peliza.
Damon Bossino, the Shadow Minister for Housing said: “The shifting sands regarding completion dates have a huge impact on peoples’ lives, many of whom have had to put them on hold at personal financial and in some cases emotional cost and strain. The plight of these individuals has to be attended to with compassion and flexibility adopted in response to their circumstances. They should not be subjected to a harsh application of the rules such as with regard to the return of deposits if they want to move on with other plans as a result of the delays. That is certainly the approach that the GSD would adopt in Government.”
The tax payer will also suffer given that, despite original denials by the Chief Minister, the construction cost of Hassan Centenary has for now already exceeded £30M and the costs for Bob Peliza and Chatham are on their own admission expected to come in at significantly higher amounts. This in itself is a further reflection of the incompetent handling of this matter.
If all of this were not enough, Phase 1 Hassan Centenary purchasers will also now have to await news as to where the missing 144 spaces will be located given that these will not be available until completion of phase 2 in – it is currently expected – May 2025.
The whole episode is a dog’s dinner of incompetence and mismanagement and the Government has to take political responsibility, stop fooling people and deal compassionately with those who are finding themselves in dire circumstances as a result of these significant delays, not of their making.

Exit of Persons Under Investigation Raises Serious Questions

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Exit of Persons Under Investigation Raises Serious Questions

The exit of former Police Officers while they were under investigation by the Police and the fact that “almost immediate alternative employment” was found for them in Government departments raises serious questions.

In a statement to the RGP the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ullger, has stated that this was having an effect on morale. He stated that he shared the concerns of officers that “some of the individuals who have resigned whilst they have been subjected to a discipline/criminal process…have been provided this alternative employment with what appears to be keeping their salaries.”

The Commissioner has been moved to raise his concerns with the Governor and refers to “persons who breach our Code or even the Crimes Act and are subsequently investigated for those offences but yet exit our organisation to evade our process…”

These are extremely serious statements. The bland statement by Government in answer to GBC questions pointing to the Employment (Public Interest Information) Act 2012 can only be a partial answer to what is happening behind the scenes. That Act protects so-called “qualifying disclosures” being made by public servants – in other words evidence as to potential wrongdoing.

The timing of all this is strange. It’s been an open secret that there was a growing group of former officers that have been shifted to other jobs within Government. It would be stranger still if some of these officers were to subsequently surface in the McGrail inquiry to give evidence in respect of matters that were not central to the original issues that led to the former Commissioner spectacularly falling out with the Chief Minister and being asked to retire in June 2020. Additionally, is this evidence being directly or indirectly encouraged in an attempt to hurl diversionary counter allegations at former Commissioner McGrail in an Inquiry that is politically damaging to the Chief Minister?

If evidence of this type emerges in the Inquiry then the entire circumstances and facts need to be shared with the Inquiry Chairman so that the motivations and enticements as well as the evidence are put before the Inquiry.



IWD 2023 – Creating Opportunities in Digital Spaces

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IWD 2023 – Creating Opportunities in Digital Spaces

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘DigiTalk: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality’ with the United Nations recognising and celebrating women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education, whilst also exploring the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities. International Women’s Day 2023 will also highlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online forms of gender-based violence.

Atrish Sanchez of the GSD Executive said: “Despite their many achievements, women and girls remain largely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas. Globally, they represent a minority of students in STEM education, at only 35 percent in the European Union, with just 3 per cent studying information and technology. The under-representation of women in these careers is an issue to tackle with the goal of bridging that gender gap and to break down biases and stereotypes. It is as basic as creating opportunities for our young women.

Additionally the need to protect the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online forms of gender-based violence is important. According to the UN, 7 March 2023 had been harassed online and 85 per cent had witnessed some form of online violence. Abusive behaviours take different forms, ranging from identity-based insults to targeted harassment or attacks on privacy. The common theme in all of these is to create a hostile environment for women online aimed at shaming, belittling them, oracross 51 countries, almost 40 per cent of women insinuating that they do not belong there.

As a society we must not only take a firm stance against all types of gender-based violence, but also understand the importance of the inclusion of women within STEM sectors.” all the sectors that both create these technologies and digital spaces to reduce these biases inherent to institutional cultures and work to create effective, safer, and inclusive spaces. It is imperative that scientific progress is also gender neutral, serving all equally and drawing equally on the talents of all. “


Absence of up to date Development Plan is unacceptable

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There is no master plan or design code when it comes to construction at Devil’s Tower Road and Gibraltar more widely. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

The absence of an up to date Development plan from a Government that used in opposition to complain about a concrete jungle means that we are now, precisely, being subjected to a massive concrete jungle. This is unacceptable. The Government should have done their homework in advance, in order to have had the new plan in place by 2019.

The position is particularly challenging when it comes to Devil’s Tower Road where the Planning Commission have complained about having to consider applications for increasingly tall buildings with no overarching guidance.

The pace of construction over the last few years in Devil’s Tower Road has brought into sharp focus the fact that the 2009 plan is totally outdated and therefore of little use as a guidance on development matters.

The ESG is right when they describe what is happening as “opportunistic building”. The Heritage Trust are also right to question what is driving this surge of development saying that the pendulum has swung in the direction of no restriction on height.

In many respects the opportunity to have a holistic plan for Devil’s Tower Road has been lost given the pace at which development has proceeded very recently, with a focus, it seems, on maximisation of profits for developers. The social costs of this over-development are born solely by the public.

Mass construction is blighting the view of our iconic Rock and exacerbates the wind tunnel effect along Devil’s Tower Road. Moreover, architecture that does not respect our local character and heritage ultimately dilutes Gibraltar’s unique urban fabric. The architecture of ‘anywhere’ is the architecture of ‘nowhere.’ The Government is turning Gibraltar into a facsimile of Benidorm.

The Government should have, as a matter of priority, commissioned a bespoke master plan and design code for Devil’s Tower Road, before the wild west speculative building frenzy commenced. The horse has already bolted, but a plan which takes account of issues such as the social costs of such massive development, transport services, traffic management, the need for new schools, etc., which have clearly not been taken into consideration to date should now be commissioned without further delay. This is the least they can do.

Damon Bossino, the shadow Minister for Planning said: “If the East side development and Devil’s Tower Road had been planned as a new town, all the amenities a new town would require could have been factored in at the beginning, not as an after-thought, in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion. Consequently, we are fast being lumbered with a characterless suburban sprawl, with all the attendant urban planning problems this will bring in the future. A dreadful legacy.”