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News and Comment July 2014

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27 July (Part 3) - The leader’s report. More whimper than bang!

LeaderA fixture at full council meetings is Teresa O’Neill’s leader’s report which on paper is generally ten or a dozen pages which she fortunately chooses not to read out in full. However last Wednesday she said she would be a little more expansive because she felt the need to brag a little about winning the recent election and how popular she discovered she was when knocking on doors.

Ominously she immediately referred to “statutory minimum services” which is probably all there is to look forward to apart perhaps from the council tax rise hinted at in the Bexley Magazine. The leader then returned to her old theme of reducing the call for those statutory services referring to the need for growth and the provision of infrastructure which is code for Belvedere, its bridge and her belated realisation it could be a nice little earner through the Community Infrastructure Levy.

The leader said there were scare stories in the press about council job losses as though it was the press that made up the numbers and not her. She seemed to think that if those 300 odd people went through natural wastage the council would continue unaffected. If close to 100% natural wastage can be achieved, then good for the staff involved, but it may not be good for those reliant on council services.

It was confirmed that proposals had gone to City Hall and government for a bridge at Belvedere and for Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfleet, As the northern branch becomes an all stations stopper out to Shenfield it does not seem too far fetched to expect that any extension of the more important line to Abbey Wood would stop at least once before it gets to Dartford. (Note: This is my comment not madam O’Neill’s.)

After about seven minutes, questions were invited. Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) remarked on the relative lack of traffic chaos during the rebuilding of Manor Road, Erith and suggested it might be a good idea if the temporary parking restrictions were made permanent. This bright idea will be referred to the usual place for consideration.

LeaderCouncillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) complained about Labour councillors suggesting that the council had sucked money out of the Howbury (Slade Green) redevelopment. She thought they were scurrilous. “Does the leader agree with me?“ “I certainly do councillor Clark” came the inevitable reply.

Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) said she was disappointed that the leader didn’t mention Bexley’s housing crisis and asked what she was doing to eliminate it. Councillor O’Neill said that she had achieved her housing targets although the loss of sites like Larner Road while it is rebuilt had obvious negative effects. To a second bridge related question the leader trotted out the newly agreed mantra of always being in favour of more crossings so long as they weren’t in Bexley were in the right place. TfL will be speaking to councillors on 2nd September. (There is no public meeting scheduled for that day.)

The supercilious ass, councillor Rob Leitch (Conservative, Sidcup) decided to continue his pathetic vendetta against councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) and his opinion, shared by many, that the Sidcup regeneration should have been handled rather better. Teresa O’Neill took the opportunity to say that the Conservatives had spent more money on Sidcup than Labour did. Boris’s money of course.

Another young Conservative, David Leaf (Longlands) was also keen to make his mark in the way long favoured by those with no original ideas of their own when seeking to become teacher’s pet. “Would the leader join with me in…” blah, blah, something to do with unemployment figures. Teresa O’Neill was “happy to”.

Councillor Colin Tandy (St. Mary's) adopted a similar crawling technique asking why the leader thought the electorate were so keen on having a Conservative council. She said it was because they thought the council tax was low (24th worst out of 32) and because Conservatives are trusted with the finances.

Councillor Borella was unhappy that the People Scrutiny Committee filled the chamber to bursting point and was supposed to monitor the very important subjects of Health, Education, Children’s Social Care, Adults’ Social Care and Housing all in one quarterly meeting. He knows of course that that is the whole idea and put that forward as a possibility.

Without pausing for breath Stefano moved on to Thames Crossings and said he had seen Boris Johnson on the Parliament channel earlier in the day making it very clear he wants to build bridges at both Gallions Reach and Belvedere and possibly a tunnel under Woolwich too.

The leader said she had watched the People meeting and “thought it was a very good thing … because it takes away duplication”. On bridges she said, you guessed it; “we have always been in favour of more crossings but not to the detriment of Bexley.”

The mayor then said that time was up which on balance was probably a good thing. The webcast has to be paid for by the hour!


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