Marco Cereste Conservative Leader of Peterborough City Council and Chairman of NHS Peterborough comments on efforts to dislodge homeless migrants from their makeshift camps, and on the use of consultants to achieve the £27 million NHS Peterborough spending cuts required to combat the ongoing deficit. Broadcast at 08:10 on Monday 19th April 2010 in the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Peterborough.
STAINTON: Now a group of migrants living in a makeshift camp in Peterborough will be forced off the site if they haven’t left by mid-day today. Six immigrants have been living rough near Potters Way for about six months. Two weeks ago they were told to leave by the UK Border Agency and the City Council. Peterborough City Council Leader Marco Cereste is with us. Good morning Marco.
CERESTE: Hello Paul. Good morning. How are you?
STAINTON: I’m very good, thank you. Very good indeed. Just explain to us why they have to be moved on.
CERESTE: Well first of all it’s an illegal encampment. And they are sitting on council land, on public land, and making a nuisance of themselves.
STAINTON: Where are they going to be moved on to? What are we going to do with them? Are we just moving them on somewhere else in the city, do you think?
CERESTE: Well no. What we are trying to do, as you probably very well have heard me say, is we’re trying to get what we call .. we’re working with the Borders Agency to get what’s called an Administrative Order on them. And that Administrative Order then allows us to send them back to where they came from. And firstly we’ve got to be mindful they’re human beings, and they may have problems and what have you. But if they don’t respond to help, and if they don’t want to be part of our society, then we have already served notice that we’re looking to take an Administrative Order on them, and that will send them back to whatever country they came from.
STAINTON: If they are forcibly removed, could they end up in police custody?
CERESTE: Oh, I suppose .. I don’t know what the exact process is, but I think it’s the Border Agency that takes them into custody isn’t it? And then they just ship them down to the nearest exit and away they go.
STAINTON: Have we tried to help them Marco? Have we tried to ..
CERESTE: We have, absolutely yes yes. We’ve put all the agencies in to them. They’re not responding at all you see, that’s the problem. And we’ve got to balance the welfare needs of the individuals against the impact of what they’re doing, really, quite honestly. And we did agree not to take any enforcement action until today. But I’m afraid they’ve not responded to any of our overtures, they’ve not responded to any of our helps. So there’s not really a lot much left for us to do really.
STAINTON: Yes. And this will be I suppose part of the trial that’s being done in the city with the UK Border Agency, sending people back. So this is all part of it, isn’t it?
CERESTE: Absolutely right. I understand that four people have already come forward and volunteered to go back without waiting for us to get an Administrative Order to send them back. And I suppose that’s fair enough. But it’s all part and parcel of what we .. what I promised to do, and we’re doing it. It just takes a bit of time. We have to be, as you can imagine, circumspect about making too much publicity about it, because obviously we .. if they disappear, if we serve first notice on them and they disappear, then we can’t find them to send them back. I suppose some people would say if they disappear it’s not a bad thing anyway (LAUGHS). But you know what I mean. So we’re trying to be humane about this. And we’ve got to balance their welfare against the needs of our city.
STAINTON: Do we know why they just want to live like that, and they don’t want to accept the help that you offer?
CERESTE: Well I can’t be specific, but the reports I’m getting back is that some of them have just got problems, without going into too much detail. They’ve just got problems, and which they either don’t want to have help with, or don’t understand that they’ve got a problem. Some people are just like that. i don’t know. It’s sad really. It’s very very sad. As much as I know we don’t want them in our city because we say they’re creating all sorts of problems, but it is sad to see that there are people who are in this sort of .. well you know .. live this way and are in this sort of .. I don’t know what you’d call it. You know they don’t live the way you and I and the rest of our community would want to live.
STAINTON: Well it’s a sort of half-life, isn’t it, that they’re living.
CERESTE: Yes. It’s very sad really, but we have to do what we have to do, and the interests of the city have to come first.
STAINTON: With your other hat on Marco, as Chair of The Primary Care Trust, big headlines in the newspaper this morning saying that councillors are in uproar at the PCT spending money on consultants to find this twenty seven million pound shortfall. What’s your view on that?
CERESTE: Well we’ve got a new Interim Chief Executive. we have to find twenty seven million pounds worth of savings. And we need to find the very best way of doing that, so that it doesn’t cause disruption in health care in the city. So our first priority is to make absolutely certain that what we do doesn’t affect the delivery of health care in the city. So that when people need health care they will get it. And that I can guarantee. We don’t have the capacity in the PCT to develop such a complicated, such a large plan in the space of about four to five weeks. So as you can imagine if we’re going to make the savings the longer it takes us to develop a plan to deliver that, the more difficult it is because the less time you have.
STAINTON: Is it good value for money though, to spend what around three hundred grand possibly on consultants?
CERESTE: Well if it saves us twenty seven million pounds and it does it in such a way that it doesn’t affect health care in the city, then I think it would be fantastic value for money. It’s not something that one does lightly. But we are where we are, and for all sorts of reasons, so we have to be able to develop a way to return to balance over whatever period of time that may be, and that is one of the things, one of the really big issues. Does one do it in twelve months, twenty four months, or whatever. because what we’ve absolutely got to do, absolutely got to do, is protect health services for the people of this city. And, you know, there just isn’t the capacity in the PCT, there wouldn’t be in any organisation, to develop a plan of such a scale, in such a limited space of time, using just the people that you’ve got. Because what happens, don’t forget, you know, if you’ve got the Finance Director, the Finance Director’s not sitting there twiddling their thumbs waiting for something to do to come along. That’s been one of the problems anyway. We’ve needed a really good Finance Director to which we now have. And his job is to make sure the PCT is financially sound, you get decent reporting, you can trust the numbers, and the reports that you’re given.
STAINTON: Would you need to spend it though if we’d got somebody working full-time in charge of the PCT, instead of part-time?
CERESTE: No. That’s irrelevant. To be honest the fact that we’ve got an Interim Chief Executive doesn’t affect what needs to be done. It’s like every single business. This is one of the classic cases where you absolutely use a consultant. Because you need specific skills, the special skills, what they call turnaround skills, you need a specific team, dedicated solely to that particular project. They’ll be here a month. There’s a huge number of people working. They’re working all hours of the day, and right late into the evening. And as soon as they’re finished, they’re gone.
STAINTON: And very quickly Marco, when do we know .. when will we see the results? When will they bear fruit?
CERESTE: We will have some options going to The Board on the 5th of May.
STAINTON: He’s Marco Cereste, Leader of Peterborough City Council and Chairman of the Primary Healthcare Trust in Peterborough. Your thoughts on that, or the migrant story this morning .. do you think we should be spending around three hundred thousand pounds on consultants?