THE UNDER-fire leader of Chester council has spoken out after furious city residents called on him to resign.
Cllr Mike Jones also dismissed suggestions that residents’ views are being ignored time after time.
Cllr Jones has hit back after members of the public reacted angrily following the controversial go-ahead for a homeless shelter in Boughton.
Angry scenes erupted when senior councillors approved the Richmond Court scheme in an executive meeting at the HQ building on Tuesday night.
Boos and jeers rang out when the decision was made and security officers were called when some campaigners refused to leave the room.
Cllr Jones told the Leader the executive had to decide what was best for the entire borough, not just people living close to Richmond Court.
“I carry a great deal of responsibility as the leader of the council and it is regrettable that some people, because the decision did not go their way, chose to attack and threaten me and my colleagues,” he said.
“This is not a personal issue. It is about doing what is best for our homeless community and the borough. I would hope some people would have been ashamed of their actions at the meeting.”
During the meeting, opposition Labour councillors accused the controlling Conservative group of failing to consider residents’ views in previous consultations too.
Labour leader Justin Madders said: “You are gaining a reputation as a council that doesn’t listen to its residents. You have learned nothing.
“Given the fact you had to be dragged into the consultation process in the first place, the whole thing has been an expensive and time-consuming sham.”
But Cllr Jones said after the meeting: “That is very unfair and Cllr Madders likes to come up with that on a regular basis. I am not going to be drawn into a party political battle. This is too serious an issue.”
He said the council had undertaken an extensive consultation on plans to move homeless facilities from the city centre to Richmond Court.
“Because of the concerns from residents, we as a council took over the consultation and invested a lot of time and money,” he said.
“We do listen and we have had numerous consultations. There are occasions where the final outcome may not be what people want but at the end of the day we have to make a responsible decision on what is best for the borough.
“We have 329,000 residents and are talking about a cohort of about 300 people and about 1,000 who live in the immediate vicinity. What we didn’t do is ask the other 328,000 who may have been in support of the new service.”
Campaigners fear the canalside shelter will result in an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour and see property prices fall.
But Cllr Jones said residents could be viewed as ‘architects of their own downfall’ and had previously ‘stereotyped’ the homeless as criminals and drug users.
“With the amount of noise they have made with regards to the campaign, then clearly there might be a short-term impact on house prices,” he said.
“There are all sorts of reasons why people find themselves without a home and by far the majority don’t have those sort of problems.
“Crime along the canal in the last three years has been increasing while it has decreased quite significantly in the city centre.
“Now we have identified that, Cllr Lynn Riley has visited the area and is working with the police and our partners to solve these problems.
“I would ask the campaigners, now the decision had been made, to engage with us and look forward so we can have a much better environment for all.”
Cllr Jones said since the new service started in November nobody had been refused a bed for the night. We are trying to put ourselves in the position of somebody who is losing their house.
“We have a moral as well as statutory obligation to get them stabilised, get a roof over their head and integrate them back into society with jobs and secure homes.”