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Bonkers Blog July 2014

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22 July (Part 1) - What next to tax?

With 40 million pounds to be cut from the budget more service cuts in Bexley are inevitable. Four years ago Bexley council singled out the disabled for special treatment, chopping the provision of transport to SEN schools ‘saved’ the best part of a million and they severely cut the time parents were given for respite care too. Most people will not have noticed which is of course the name of the game when councils make cuts. A list of such cuts was provided just before the recent election; it’ll be a more difficult trick to pull off second time around, you can only vandalise the William Morris fountain and sell off the public toilets once.

Little of the detail has yet to be announced but the big one so far is the loss of the equivalent of 360 full time jobs which will probably translate into something like 400 people. Losing nearly a quarter of the staff is bound to have some effect if only on morale but it will perhaps allow everyone to sit down at the same time in the new Civic Offices.

Lesser announcements so far have included…

No more park gate shutting and no more park patrols by Ward Security.
Opt out from the London wide Open Weekend scheme.
Abandoning the Bexley in Bloom competition.
Curtailment of History and Archive services.

But things like that are mere fiddling around the edges, just about enough to pay for Will Tuckley’s salary, car and pension. 360 people on the dole will of course go a long way towards making up the shortfall but contrary to popular myth most of them do have a job to do.

I couldn’t help but wonder how long it took to collate the information for the Public Cabinet Agenda last week, let alone type it out and check its 358 A4 pages. The staff time must be enormous and the job cannot be cut, it’s a statutory requirement to publish agendas and tomorrow’s council meeting will be the seventh public meeting in under two weeks.

There can be little doubt that with the election safely out of the way and in many respects the electorate successfully deceived, some severe cuts and price hikes cannot be far away.

It’s pretty safe to say that car parking charges will be increased with some concessions possible for Bexley residents and Teresa O’Neill would not have mentioned a council tax increase in the Bexley Magazine if it wasn’t on her mind, but the pain must go further than that. There will be another round of price increases for everything that moves and probably even more for things that don’t. Bexley has gone out of its way to increase funeral costs.

Clutching my crystal ball tightly I would say that Nicholas Dowling’s long held conviction that the savings associated with the recycling services were in considerable part a fraud and Bexley’s place near the top of the recycling tree was maintained by the free compost removal service will prove itself justified. It costs a fortune to run but as the stuff is heavy it distorts the recycling figures upwards. Glory for Bexley and perhaps more importantly, for Gareth Bacon.

Most weeks my bin is half filled with compost from Bromley because Bromley council charges residents for compost removal. With the two councils increasingly sharing services, how long can it be before Bexley adopts the same charging regime? Give councillor Gareth Bacon his due, he masterminded a very good refuse and recycling scheme in Bexley, no fines for minor misdemeanours, not at first anyway, we’ve recently seen the imposition of the ‘lids must be fully closed’ rule, but my suspicion is that things will get much less friendly before too long. £40 million is a lot of money when you have already creamed off the easy targets. There will be a charge before long.

Then there is Bury council’s bright idea. Three weekly bin collections but I had better not give Bexley any ideas.

For the record, the compost removal service in Bromley costs £1.60 per sack or £60 a year (normally 26 collections). Soon it may be gardeners who resort to slash and burn, not just Bexley Tories.

Note: Can anyone explain how it is that Bexley council’s Strategy 2014 document from four years ago set out to save £35 million and the council leader is now constantly bragging that she has saved £61·5 million? Probably it’s because I am no accountant but on the surface it just looks like she is a big fibber again.


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