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Council committee will debate Nepalese issue
December 14, 2011
A DEDICATED committee is being set up to deal with the "long-term problem" of Nepalese integration in Farnborough and Aldershot. The new group, due to be in place by January, will give councillors the chance to debate the issue which, they say, will affect Rushmoor for years to come. But an appeal by one member for the borough council to lobby the government for increased Gurkha pensions has been rejected.
The councillors said it was not their responsibility to appeal for such high-level decisions, despite the large number of Nepalese veterans in the area. The issues were discussed at Rushmoor Borough Council’s latest council meeting.
Cllr Keith Dibble, who put forward the motion for the new committee, said members felt frustrated at the lack of debate surrounding the growth of the Nepalese community in the borough. He said: “It is a clear a number of members want the chance to engage in that debate. “We could all debate on how we got to this problem, but where we are is where we are. “There is no quick fix but we need to look at it carefully, because it will impact the towns for many years to come.” Cllr Dibble said the issue would only be overcome by strategic planning and the chance for elected members to lobby different funding sources. The majority of councillors agreed with his proposal.
Cllr Frank Rust suggested the group, which will report to cabinet, needed a broader remit than council representatives, particularly in relation to the "time bomb" of inadequate NHS funding for the Gurkha community.
But Cllr Steve Smith said the committee was too little, too late. He said: “Anything available to our residents is already available to the Nepalese. “I do not believe for one moment that we need to further any discussions.
“It is time to draw a line under the issue, get back to focusing on the welfare and well-being of all residents in the borough, and send a polite but blunt message that now is the time for them to stand on their own two feet.”
A heated debate then followed the suggestion, put forward by Cllr Crispin Allard, that the authority should support increased pensions for Gurkha veterans.
Cllr Allard told his colleagues it would be "fair and just" to increase Gurkha pensions, as many were living in poverty.
But Cllr David Clifford said it was not the council’s place to deal with pensions.
Council leader Peter Moyle also agreed with the sentiments of the motion, but said he did not want to raise the hope of Gurkhas in Rushmoor.
And Cllr George Paparesti declared Gurkhas should learn to "speak our language" before asking for any more, especially when they already get free education, healthcare and housing, he said.
But Cllr Charlie Fraser-Fleming slammed the members who were not supporting the pensions motion.
He asked for a recorded vote, so he could see who "truly supported the Gurkha community in Rushmoor".
Cllr Dibble, who leads the Labour contingent on the council, encouraged his colleagues to abstain from the vote.
He said the party did not want to be taken to the ballot box on an "emotional plea" about whether they cared for the Nepalese community.
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