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Increase in the number of beggars in Luxembourg City

QUESTION POSED BY PAUL GALLES

Over the past few weeks, there seems to have been an increasing number of beggars in the city. When drafting this question, I found it difficult to find the right words, because the general term 'beggar' does not reflect the specific circumstances of the people in question. I have no desire to stigmatise these people, as it would be simplistic to reduce a person to the activity they are engaged in at a given moment in time. The situation needs to be examined from the standpoint of human suffering. I note that Councillor Brömmel has already raised this issue with the Social Committee.

Does the College of Aldermen share the view that there has been an increase in the number of beggars? Are any precise figures available? What is the College of Aldermen's assessment of this trend? Where are these beggars coming from? Why has there been an increase in their numbers? Does the College of Aldermen have any information about these people's circumstances? Could it be that some of them belong to organised gangs? How does the City intend to respond to this turn of events, particularly in terms of its social policy?

RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN MAURICE BAUER

It is indeed true that we have seen an increase in the number of beggars. The number increases every year in November/December, because a number of people from other countries come to Luxembourg at that time of year in the hope of getting accommodation under the "Wanteraktioun" scheme run by the Ministry for Family Affairs.

The City's street workers are on the ground every day and do their best to reach out to beggars, steer them towards the right structures (e.g. night shelters or the "bistrot social" day centre), and monitor the situation.

The beggars' personal circumstances vary widely. Some of them are people who come to Luxembourg at the end of the year, or just for the duration of the end-of-year festivities. Others are people who live in Luxembourg all year round, and who may or may not be Luxembourg nationals.

The street workers' role is not to police the beggars or encourage them to move on, but to try and establish a trusting relationship with them, and to offer them help and support.

According to the City's streetwork teams's annual report, begging occurs the following areas: in Bonnevoie, near the Spuerkeess (1 to 2 people) and on the pedestrian overpass leading to Luxembourg Central Station (1 to 2 people); in Ville-Haute in the pedestrian zone (2 to 20 people, depending on the weather and the time of year) and at the edges of the Glacis (7 to 10 people); in Limpertsberg, near the Cactus supermarket (2 to 5 people); in Kirchberg, near the Auchan shopping centre and the park (1 to 20 people), and around the cinema (2 to 23 people); in the Gare district, around the Delhaize supermarket (2 to 25 people), around the Spuerkeess branch on Avenue de la Gare (4 to 15 personnes), and on Avenue de la Liberté and around the Rousegäertchen (1 to 10 people).

According to information from the streetwork team, some of this begging does appear to be organised. This is particularly the true for the beggars from eastern Europe, who tend to know each another, never sleep in the the "Wanteraktioun" emergency shelters, and never seek contact with our streetworkers, except to accept coffee when offered. These people have a mattress, a bag and a cup with them. The City has no verifiable information proving that these people are the victims of a criminal operation, but there are a number of indicators which suggest that there is a structure behind these activities: the same type of cup is often used, the cardboard signs often bear messages in the same handwriting, and there are bodyguards nearby ensuring that they do not run into problems – for example, arguments over the best spots.

It is advisable not to give too much support to these beggars, so as not to encourage them to ramp up their activities. The people in question have no need to beg, since there are a sufficient number of facilities in Luxembourg City where they can find support, be it to find a place to sleep or receive some form of financial or material assistance.

MAYOR LYDIE POLFER

The figures and observations that have been mentioned are certainly compelling. As such, we will pass them on to the competent State authorities so that they can take action, bearing in mind that organised begging, which is often linked to human trafficking, is forbidden. On the same topic, I would also like to add that I myself have seen a person cycling around the city at night, going from one place to another where the beggars were sleeping, to organise them.

Traffic on Rue de la Semois

QUESTION POSED BY GUY FOETZ

The section of Rue de la Semois which runs along the Pétrusse Valley presents obvious risks to traffic, given that it is a narrow street, in most parts without a pavement and, in places, with no visibility. Although it is a 30 km/h zone, some drivers still speed down this section, which is used by many pedestrians, many of whom are children as well as elderly residents of the two retirement homes nearby. Last summer, a number of lorries involved in the Pétrusse nature restoration project travelled down this very narrow road, increasing the danger even further. Why is it that the second speed bump, which was promised in writing on 1 April 2021, still has not been installed? Why has the City not installed a pavement where it is possible to do so? Apparently, the City has been in touch with those running the Pétrusse nature restoration project, as far fewer lorries now use that road than last summer. The City needs to produce a coherent plan for traffic on Rue de la Semois, either by maintaining the current one-way arrangement and building a continuous pavement along the side of the valley, along the whole length of the road (which would mean reducing the width of the carriageway), or by closing the road to traffic, except for local residents (who must abide by the 30 km/h speed limit), or by turning it into a pedestrian priority zone, with special areas for parking. Better safe than sorry, as they say. Measures are needed to prevent accidents on Rue de la Semois, especially since the LUGA is to be extended to include the Pétrusse Gardens, which means that the number of pedestrians is only likely to increase.

RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN PATRICK GOLDSCHMIDT

The large number of lorries travelling down Rue de la Semois last summer was due to the major floods on 14 and 15 July, which temporarily made access via the Pétrusse Valley road impossible. The companies in question were sent a letter reminding them that their lorries were not allowed to use Rue de la Semois. The situation appears to have resolved itself.

The road is classed as a 30 km/h zone. It is not possible to build a pavement on the section in question, for topographical reasons, in particular because of the gradient of the road and the presence of supporting walls on both sides of the carriageway.

A second speed bump will shortly be installed, and a third will follow in early 2022.

The City already has a traffic plan for this road.

Under the guidelines issued by the State Traffic Commission (Commission de circulation de l’État), it is not possible to transform the street into a pedestrian priority zone. Such a measure can only be taken on sections of road through multi-use zones (residences, administrative buildings, shops, schools, churches, etc.).

However, the College of Aldermen will suggest that the municipal council approve its classification as a residential street, on the section between the dwelling at no. 19 Rue de la Semois and the end of the one-way zone (in the direction of Rue des Jardiniers). This measure, which could be introduced in 2022, will make movements safer for pedestrians and cyclists on the stretch in question, bearing in mind that there is likely to be an increase in the number of these types of road users with the new recreation area created as part of the nature restoration project in the Pétrusse Valley. This regulation would require no redevelopment of the existing roadway.

Creation of a creative economy cluster in Luxembourg City

QUESTION POSED BY FRANÇOIS BENOY

The creative economy is booming in Luxembourg, and the potential for growth in this sector is enormous. The country’s largest creative cluster was set up by the City of Differdange in 2011. Today, over 70 businesses are operating from the site in Differdange. There is also a creative cluster in Luxembourg City – the "Bamhaus", in Dommeldange – but it is smaller in scale and is a private initiative.

On 16 March 2021, in his response to a question on the creative economy, the Minister for the Middle Classes (Ministre des Classes moyennes) told the Chamber of Deputies that municipal authorities were strongly encouraged to set up other creative clusters.

What is the College of Aldermen’s position on setting up a creative cluster in Luxembourg City? What steps have already been taken in this regard? Is the College of Aldermen liaising with State institutions with a view to developing a project such as this in the nation's capital? Does the College of Aldermen believe that the Old Slaughterhouse or the zone in Porte de Hollerich are suitable sites? If so, is the College of Aldermen considering a temporary solution until the redevelopment of the former abattoir is completed?

RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN SERGE WILMES

The College of Aldermen still intends to develop a creative cluster on the grounds of part of the Old Slaughterhouse, to support creative professions. Other parts of the former abattoir will be used for other purposes.

We are well aware that other municipal authorities are also launching innovative projects, and it is not always up to the City of Luxembourg to take the lead in such matters. Pending the redevelopment of the Old Slaughterhouse, the City has already provided 2 creatives with business premises on Rue des Capucins for 9 months, thereby setting up what is, for all intents and purposes, a "creative lab".

Creating a creative cluster is also one of the options for the future use of the old fire station on Route d’Arlon. Priority will be given to the site of the Old Slaughterhouse, but the College of Aldermen will also explore other options for alternative, smaller projects.

Grants to support the use of cargo bikes

QUESTION POSED BY ELISABETH MARGUE

We are seeing increasing numbers of so-called "cargo bikes" on the city’s streets. These bikes are often used to transport goods or children. They offer genuine added value as an alternative to cars and delivery vans.

For many years, the State has been encouraging the purchase of bikes in general, by offering subsidies. Certain municipal authorities, too, are offering grants for bike purchase. No distinction is made as to the income of those applying for such subsidies.

Does the City of Luxembourg plan to implement a system to subsidise the purchase of bikes in general, and cargo bikes in particular? If so, does it intend to draw a distinction in terms of applicants' income levels? Might private enterprises also be eligible to benefit from the grants on offer through such a scheme?

RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN PATRICK GOLDSCHMIDT

Indeed, cargo bikes are important to many users as a means of transport in the city. For example, many people use a cargo bike instead of their car to do their shopping. The College of Aldermen is currently putting together a package of support measures that includes subsidies in a range of areas. The budget line for subsidies has been greatly increased. The measures in question will be presented to the relevant advisory committee and the municipal council in 2022.

Old Slaughterhouse in Hollerich

QUESTION POSED BY CLAUDIE REYLAND

At a joint meeting of the commissions for culture and for urban and economic development on 28 April 2021, it was reported that the group Jim Clemes Associates/ARP Astrance had been entrusted with assisting the relevant VdL working group in drawing up the specifications that will serve as the basis for an architects’ competition in connection with the future development of the site of the Old Slaughterhouse.

In September 2019, during the public consultation held on the occasion of the two open days at the Old Slaughterhouse, it was decided that equal treatment should be given to 4 main areas of focus, i.e., culture, leisure, intergenerational dialogue, and trade. It was announced that the specifications for the project would be published in autumn 2021.

What is the status of this project? When will the specifications be presented to the municipal council? What are the next stages in the project, and what conclusions have been reached from the studies and analyses carried out by the architect firms involved?

RESPONSE PROVIDED BY MAYOR LYDIE POLFER

The municipal authorities are currently working with the architect firm, Jim Clemes Associates, to take into account both the proposals that emerged from the public consultation process and other platforms, and the architects' analyses. It is important that the specifications be drawn up based on clearly defined inputs. Due to the pandemic, this procedure has fallen behind schedule, notably because it has not been possible to organise certain meetings – e.g. with experts to discuss the quality of the buildings.

It is my hope that the specifications will be ready to be presented to the College of Aldermen and the relevant advisory committees in January 2022. After that, a design competitio nwill be launched. The 4 main foci that Councillor Reyland mentioned will, of course, be part of the programme. There will be catering facilities, shops and various other activities (such as cultural activities). The vehicles used by the City's Sports Department (Service Sports) are currently still parked on the site of the Old Slaughterhouse, as the new building in Cloche d'Or will not be available until 2022. But this will not prevent us from completing the specifications as soon as possible, so that work can begin as soon as it is feasible.


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