A new page appeared on the Bexley Conservatives’ website this morning. It puts a political slant on
the council’s move to their new Watling Street headquarters which
begins on 12th May. Not all of what they say is wrong.
As noted on 26th April 2011 I think the decision to move to Watling Street was probably the right decision but it wasn’t the cheapest option. That would have been to redevelop the existing Broadway site but that might have led to Tesco supermarket on the Woolwich site which is not an ideal spot for it.
The third alternative was to build in Erith but that would have put another £6 million on the bill for which the Conservatives criticise Labour who favoured it. If the Tories were worried about six million why did they turn their backs on the cheaper option which would have saved nearer £8 million? Council officers said a new building would last 60 years compared to only 40 for the refurbished Woolwich. Which was best value?
Cabinet member Colin Campbell criticises Labour for voting for a new build Civic Centre in Erith and claims that would have caused the loss of 700 new houses. That is a typical Tory lie - unless you think Tesco was planning a store that would fill the entire Woolwich site. In practice there would be little or no difference to the scope for new houses.
When the plan was approved Colin Campbell said that a single site would save a million pounds a year and it would be funded by selling all the old council sites. That didn’t actually happen, one site didn’t sell and has been leased, so his figures no longer add up, especially with refurbishment costs going above budget. To make the equation balance Campbell now claims that the move will save £1·5 million a year. It’s a figure that is plucked from the air which no one can check; all very convenient.
The Tory’s new web page goes on to compare itself with Labour Newham and an unverified story that Newham spent £111 million on a new Town Hall. They should be careful about comparing themselves with Newham. Bexley’s council tax is 15% above Newham’s, parking permits are free there and £100 a year in Bexley and rubbish like beds and sofas are collected free of charge - £30 an item in Bexley.
On the other hand I could lose my car in some of Newham’s potholes. Councils have to prioritise their spending and in many ways Newham does a better job than Bexley. Not that I would want to live there! My weekly visit is quite enough.