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These Splash Park people are pretty astute. “Teresa O’Neill is their queen
bee. She says jump and they all jump.”
Sally Arnold saw right through Bexley council on what was probably her first attendance at a council meeting. She got it in one. Bexley council is there to look after itself. They can do what they like because it is basically one big protection racket. One councillor breaks the law but he knows he is safe because he knows too much about the others. “If I go down, you’re coming with me.”
They have to pay their senior staff top whack to buy total loyalty. One whiff of disloyalty and Teresa & Co. will hold a Kangaroo Court to humiliate and eradicate any perceived streak of integrity.
Teresa O’Neill has to be protected, the council job is the only one she admits to having. If she should fail to maintain ‘Queen Bee’ status the personal impact might be considerable, so a degree of ruthlessness must be expected. In Bexley it is always the money that counts.
The Save Belvedere Splash Park deputation was sponsored by Labour councillor Daniel Francis (Belvedere) and delivered by Faye Ockleford. The lady had done her research well and claimed a professional involvement in the water industry.
She began by stating that there was no good reason for the park to be closed this year. The so called ‘nasties’ found in the water are no different to those found in all public water facilities. Bexley council has never shown otherwise, it merely speculates in the absence of any formal report.
No site survey was conducted when the initial closure decision was taken and even at this late stage no survey result is available. Instead, misleading and contradictory information has been circulated. The Belvedere Forum was told that the plumbing was damaged but it transpired that only some ancient Victorian park features were damaged and that was by tree roots.
The warranty information has been incorrect. First reports were that the previous (Labour) administration hadn’t bothered to get any sort of warranty but that has been shown not to be true. However the current administration authorised third party ‘improvement’ work on the Splash Park in 2010 and 2012 which in effect invalidated the warranty.
Faye reminded the councillors opposite who are so keen to blame the Labour administration for the current state of affairs that they had been in charge of the ten year old water park for all but a small handful of months. All the initial ‘snagging’ work was done after Labour left office. The Tories desire to blame Labour for every mishap was neither helpful nor justified. The Splash Park had not been built “on the cheap” as councillor Colin Tandy and others had claimed neither was it essential that “it has to go”.
“Where is the public consultation in [statements like] that?” Faye wanted to know. The survey was supposedly commissioned in November 2014. Where is it? The Splash Park is the only new public infrastructure created in the north of the borough in the past ten years, it must be kept going.
£160,000 has been identified that could be spent on the Splash Park but the council refuses to include a potential donation from Cory Environmental. Instead the Conservative members of the council have all agreed the park has to go.
When Faye’s allotted five minutes had elapsed the mayor asked if any council members had any questions.
Councillor Francis had two. He wanted to know the likely effect on local businesses if the Splash Park should permanently close and how would it affect children with disabilities.
The independent shops will suffer Faye said, it’s where the children go for ice creams and fathers go to the pubs.
The water facility is ideal for children in wheelchairs because they could be taken in and around the water features by their friends and siblings.
Councillor Seán Newman’s question (Labour, Belvedere) allowed Ms. Ockleford to confirm that the continued delay to the council’s technical report was making it more difficult to put forward the case for preservation. Residents had been kept in the dark about the supposed Splash Park problems since 2013 and the delay is just more of the same. Danson Park at Easter was no substitute, too small and too crowded and smaller children had to be withdrawn because they were being knocked down.
Cabinet member Alex Sawyer then launched his well rehearsed routine which hasn’t really changed in the last six months. He would prefer a mains based solution that will not cost any money. He also fell back on the old old story about ‘nasties’ found in the water.
Ms. Ockleford reiterated that they were mere traces as found in any water facility which children might enter with dirty underwear or wearing shoes that had trodden pathways and grass and “in fox poo”.
They are not a problem in a well run facility but Belvedere Splash Park was not such a well run facility following the Conservative’s decision to cut back on supervision staffing levels. Proper maintenance would result in no risk to public health. Bexley council appears to have made no provision for ongoing maintenance that every public water feature demands.
Councillor Sawyer didn’t know why the technical report was so long overdue and almost unbelievably made no reference to chasing it up, presumably because he had not bothered to do so.
Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) decided to throw his hat into the ring by asking if Faye Ockleford thought that the Labour members should be offering the council an apology for the present state of affairs. The prat has little interest in anything apart from passing the buck.
Faye told the prat that that question had already been answered but added that in 2010 three extra water features were installed contrary to the advice of the original installers and just as she was about to say that the same mistake had been made in 2012 the mayor told her that she had said enough and ended the debate.
In summary, the situation remains pretty much as it was before. No one really knows the truth because the technical report is still unavailable six months after it was commissioned. No one at the council seems to be much bothered by the delay. Alex Sawyer won’t spend any extra money on the project, no Conservative councillor is prepared to break ranks and speak up for a facility based outside their heartlands and there is no way Bexley council will do anything to stop Belvedere’s Splash Park rotting away for another twelve months.
After the meeting, Anna Firth the Conservative’s General Election candidate, let it be known via social media that she was more optimistic about the park’s future after the meeting than before it. Maybe Anna knows something that we don’t and she has found a well heeled sponsor. On the other hand we know something that I doubt Anna has yet fully appreciated. Bexley council is run by a ruthless bunch, of what may be debatable, but nothing pleasant, that’s for sure.
Note: The above is not a verbatim account of what Ms. Ockleford said but rather a brief summary of each of her main statements presented in the sequence as delivered. Her full address may be heard via the council’s webcast recording.
Although the mayor ended discussions as indicated above, several enterprising Labour councillors contrived to reintroduce the subject later in the meeting. These interjections will be reported in future reports.
Splash Park campaign on Facebook.