After the talk on what Mr. Payne repeatedly called ‘The Jewel in the Crown’, as if the other shopping centres were all second rate, chairman Cheryl moved on to the routine items, the first of which was the review of local employment. As usual, everything is rather marvellous and much better than other parts of the country.
“There has been a significant drop in unemployment exceeding the drop within London. A 34% drop.”
The council had “placed 917 individuals into work” with 672 different employers.
Crossrail had advised 112 vacancies but most are highly skilled tunnelling jobs.
The Tesco distribution centre in Erith continues to provide jobs.
There are 22 providers of apprenticeships in Bexley. Again the statistics are claimed to be better than those found elsewhere “in London or nationally”.
Employment opportunities for those with learning disabilities are also among the very best. 18·1% of those entitled to support get it compared to 6·27 nationally.
That is a brief and hopefully accurate summary of what was said in a rather self-congratulatory report but the combination of voice, microphone technique and room acoustics meant that intelligibility was not to the standard achieved by Mr. Payne.
Councillor June Slaughter asked about apprenticeships and in particular the numbers involved and the sort of firms offering them. She also spotted in the written report - but not the spoken one - that young people in Bexley made up 25·2% of those claiming Job Seeker Allowance compared to an average of 19·5% across London. The latter observation was answered with the comment that Bexley’s figure has been coming down faster than elsewhere in London. I don’t think the first question was answered at all, at least not publicly.
Council officer Mrs. Jane Richardson did her usual resumé of things happening across the borough in her usual clear voice and mentioned…
Sidcup is “progressing at some pace and most of the shop fronts are now in”. The work outside the gym started on 22nd May and will take two weeks. Hadlow Road will reopen on 16th May. The regeneration had brought nearly 100 new jobs to Sidcup but I would guess that for that to be anywhere near true you’d have to include the Waitrose and Travelodge jobs which were created before Bexley council inflicted its particular brand of chaos on the town.
The new bridge across Eastern Way in Thamesmead is now formally called Cory Bridge after its sponsor. Due for completion at the end of this year.
In Howbury the two new schools will be finished by the end of June.
Crayford shopping centre has seen an increase in the vacancy rate.
Crossrail is progressing well. Greenwich and Bexley will put in a joint bid to TfL to secure public realm improvements around Abbey Wood station.
Bexley failed with its mini-Holland bid but the mayor’s cycling commissioner will visit Bexley next week to see what else might be done.
During question time councillor John Waters said that TfL had “made a right mess” of Welling and the council got the blame. In particular TfL had placed the traffic signal control box right next to the historic cannon and “made a mockery of it”.
Cabinet member Gareth Bacon responded to his chairman wife’s request for comment by agreeing that the control boxes were “a complete eyesore and completely unacceptable”. He hoped to meet TfL about it but nothing was yet confirmed.
Councillor June Slaughter wanted to talk about Sidcup saying the time it had taken so far was “unconscionable” which is a word genteel solicitors like her use when other people might say bloody ridiculous. She was however complimentary about the new shop fronts.
Councillor Stefano Borella who lives in Sidcup was similarly “concerned about the time it takes” and “in Welling it has been a disaster zone”. “New pavements [in Sidcup] do not mean people will come into your shops, they do that because of good transport links and parking”. He referred to a meeting at which councillor Linda Bailey said she had saved Sidcup. This would be the infamous presentation of the Sidcup scheme from which the hapless Cheryl Bacon illegally excluded the public.
Councillor Borella asked councillor Bailey if she still believed she had saved Sidcup. The chairman then stooped to sarcasm while rebuking councillor Borella for making the same point as he had at a previous meeting. She also said that the regeneration was about a lot more than new pavements but omitted to say what they might be apart from the fact we should be proud of them.
The microphoneless councillor Colin Tandy said “Sidcup was splendid and I buy my groceries there”. He said the same thing at the previous meeting but was not rebuked by the chairman for the repetition.
Counclllor Linda Bailey had obviously been brooding over Stefano Borella’s comment about saving Sidcup and decided it was best that she denied it. No one has saved Sidcup which is probably what most visitors to the town currently think.
The eighth Agenda item raised not a flicker of interest from anyone and item nine met the same fate, so the meeting was wrapped up just before a quarter past nine. Thank goodness for Mr. Payne or it would have been an evening totally wasted.