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Bonkers Blog March 2013

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10 March - The money goes around but the buses don’t

During the course of yesterday afternoon I received three reports that Bexleyheath was gridlocked. Once again the traffic problems were centred on the Shopping Centre car park. A bus passenger reported it took more than hour for a 96 to crawl from Welling Corner to Upton Road - so still not reached the Broadway. Running a shop in Bexleyheath cannot be a load of fun at the moment.

Bexley BIDOne organisation trying to improve the shop owners’ lot is the BID, or to give it its proper name, the Bexleyheath Business Improvement District. Exactly half of London’s 32 boroughs have BIDs and they appear to be sponsored by the Greater London Authority and supported by councils. Locally the BID manager is Ian Payne who is a Bexley council employee with an office at Marks & Spencer.

Last week councillor Margaret O’Neill cast doubt on the BID’s success in raising awareness of Bexleyheath as a shopping centre. I find BH to be an uninspiring shopping experience, there is little there of any interest, no unique selling point that I can discern, and I’d rather wander around Welling or Dartford if I had to; but I accept I’m not your typical shopper. I don’t go at all except when absolutely necessary. I wondered what the BID is doing that might draw me to Bexleyheath but have discovered very little.

Clock Tower. Click to enlargeQueen's bustIf web reports are anything to go by, most of their time is spent raising money for a bust of the Queen to be placed on one of the remaining empty spaces of the Clock Tower.

The plan was announced by mayor Alan Downing on 4th June last year and he said it was to be financed by public subscription - the poor old tax payer was to be let off the hook. I have nothing whatever against the Queen but I cannot see how having her smiling down on Broadway from 15 feet above our heads will bring people to the town. After the initial stares no one will notice her. If that sort of thing is good for the economy of the town, put the water back in the William Morris fountain. In these straitened times I’m more likely to stick my hand in my pocket to support the borough’s food banks than the Queen but the BID is the chief fund raiser.

One of their fund raising stunts was a quiz night in the Marriott Hotel. £10 a head including buffet. If the Marriott deducted its costs, £10 each would not go very far. Maybe that is why the BID aimed higher for their next event, an altogether more upmarket affair - held in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons no less.

The price went up to £25 but it included booze as well as grub and once again all profits went to the the Queen’s sculpture fund. I hope the losses weren’t too great because my enquiries revealed that hire of the Churchill Room for the afternoon will knock you back around £2,000. Bob Neil, MP for Bromley and Chislehurst was the headlined guest, maybe he pulled some strings and got the room at a knock down price but why him, aren’t our own MPs good enough? Maybe the Bexleyheath BID manager forgets which town he is working for, it would be an easy mistake to make for he’s the Deputy Mayor of Bromley. Whatever the event cost, all of it was paid by the BID, the whole £25 ticket price was donated to the sculpture fund.

Good of them to shell out like that but wait a minute. Our mayor said the Bexley council tax payer wasn’t going to foot the sculpture bill but they are making a major contribution towards the BID who spend the money on hospitality and give the admission fee away. It would be simpler if Bexley council had funded the sculpture directly. A one off 2% levy on councillors’ allowances would have done the trick. Don’t be silly; much better if you and I pay.


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