The main feature of Monday’s cabinet meeting was undoubtedly the recommendation of a 1·9% council tax increase but the meeting also revealed a little of what Bexley council is doing with your money…
• The council keeps its deposits with Lloyds Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland, both partially state owned.
• An advance payment was made to the senior staff pension fund securing an effective interest rate of 4·5%.
• A further advance will be made into the employee’s pension fund accruing savings estimated at £74,000 for the coming year.
• Councillor Gareth Bacon authorised the investment of £15 million in diversified growth funds.
• Procurement strategies would include contract efficiency clauses “to drive year on year contract price reductions of 3%”.
There was also further discussion of the decision to charge for 25 collections of garden waste per year.
The plan assumes that 40% of Bexley residents will agree to pay the bin tax and after cabinet member councillor Don Massey repeated the speech made at Scrutiny the discussion degenerated into an argument over what constitutes a tax and what doesn’t.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) said that the £33 charge is the equivalent of a 2·9% increase in Band D council tax, and before you immediately scream out, “that must be wrong”, he was referring to the portion that Bexley spends, not all the hangers on like the GLA.
Councillor Massey, however, was not deterred from stating Seán must be wrong. “Lies, damn lies and statistics” he said, insisting that councillor Newman was guilty of double counting.
People without gardens should not subsidise those who have, Massey said, which seems reasonable enough but why, as a single person who generates almost no waste, should I subsidise those who spew copious amounts all over the path every single week? Bring back the poll tax I say.
Technically the bin tax is not a tax. Garden waste collection has been paid out of taxation and in future it won’t be. Good analogies are hard to come by but when Bexley council closes the libraries which were funded by taxation and you have to buy books from Smiths or Amazon instead, the extra costs won’t be a book tax, but you will feel cheated just the same.
Leader Teresa O’Neill asked councillor Newman not to present his argument at the full council meeting next week as that would be “a really poor show”. So not only does she dictate to her own sheep, she is now attempting to gag the opposition. To make sure her message had got through, she said it twice.
When councillor Newman attempted a response O’Neill immediately shut him up and called on the next councillor to speak. That was councillor June Slaughter who said that because of the difficult financial circumstances she was in favour of making the savings and losing the “for free” service and remarked on how “modest” the charges would be.
Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour leader) said the existing service was not free, it was paid for through the council tax and now it would have to be paid for a second time. The ‘when is a tax not a tax’ argument was about to begin all over again.
Leader Teresa O’Neill then decided to remind the opposition yet again that dissent at full council would be a “poor show” and after allowing councillor Colin Tandy to tell us for the umpteenth time that he shopped in Waitrose, Teresa closed the meeting.