They have done quite a lot actually. Definitely some efficiency savings and equally definitely quite a lot of cuts to front line services. And then there are the across the board price increases. Some of them well above the level of inflation.
In case you have a short memory, below is a tiny selection of what was planned and an indication of the likely savings or costs.
Whether these were achieved in every case is unknown but as Bexley council constantly claims to have met its budgetary targets it must be safe to assume that their predictions were about right. In some cases it wasn’t very clear whether the savings were per year or over four years. All topics and figures are extracted from ‘Budget Strategy 2014’ and its annual updates.
• Doubling and some near tripling of various car parking charges.
• Extending car parking chargeable hours to Monday to Sunday, 24 hours.
• Introducing car park charges to Leisure Centres, Sidcup Place, Danson Park and Hall Place. (Hall Place remains free at the present time.)
• Switching parking penalty charges in Bexley, Sidcup and Welling to Band A so that they attract higher fines. (Additionally fines have gone up London-wide.)
• Removing coin operated parking meters, introducing Pay by Phone only.
• Change use of fixed CCTV installations from security operations to tracking moving traffic offences. (Plan not yet implemented.)
• Close the parking office in Broadway switching all operations to the web or post.
• Closed the public conveniences in Townley Road (Bexleyheath shopping centre) and Bexley Village. £40,000.
• Cut provision of school transport for pupils with Special Educational Needs by £750,000.
• Sacked the dog fouling warden saving £15,000.
• Removed facility for cash payments at council offices and stopped sending out receipts. £20,000 a year saved.
• Introduce charge for ‘A’ boards outside shops. £5,000 a year.
• Removed William Morris Fountain from Broadway. £20,000.
• Unprofitable sports facilities closed. £13,000 saved.
• Danson Festival permanently cancelled. (Strategy 2014 said only that it should become cost neutral.)
• Parks to be left unsecured at night from 2014/15. £200,000 a year saved.
• Land search fees increased. £20,000.
• Skip licence fees increased. £7,000.
• Pest control fees increased. £10,000.
• Street Trading licences increased. £50,000.
• Planning office opening hours reduced. £5,000 a year.
• Planning application fees increased. £86,000 a year.
• Planning office staff reductions. £94,000 a year.
• Close reception facilities at outlying offices. £22,000 a year.
• Outsourcing the Registrar Services. £40,000 a year.
• Outsourcing the BELL emergency service. £47,000 a year.
• Reduction in Library Services. Abolition of Mobile Service. £1,025,000.
• Reduced expenditure on Youth Services. £77,000 pounds.
• Spent £95,000 less on the Substance Misuse Service.
• Cut £1,342,000 from a variety of school budgets.
• Took £125,000 from parenting support and anti-social behaviour projects.
• Removed £130,000 from Young People’s Services and the council’s support for it.
• Took £125,000 from Adult Education.
• Removed waste collection services from schools, saving a theoretical £68,000. (Many placed private contracts.)
So what was the practical effect? Here are some sample changes to charges over the past four years.
• Private grave (30 years lease). £1,009 - £1,505.
• Events banners display. £7 a week - £26.50 a week.
• Rat infestations. £90 - £124 in 2013/14. (Not listed for 2014/2015, service understood to have been abandoned.)
• Bed bug infestations. £82 - £173 in 2013/14. (Not listed for 2014/2015, service understood to have been abandoned.)
• Squirrels in domestic premises. Free - £188 in 2103/14. (Not listed for 2014/2015, service understood to have been abandoned.)
• Residents’ Parking Permit. £35 - £100.
• Annual car park season ticket (e.g. Albion Road). £446 - £684.
• Waste collection from charity shops (240 litre bin) . £219 - £268.
• Day care (Learning disabilities). Free - £43.65 per day.
• Overdue library books. 26 pence - 72 pence (per day.)
• Food Safety Certificate. £280 - £329.
The local Labour party has calculated that the increased charges have taken £7 million from Bexley residents.