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Bonkers Blog July 2015

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20 July (Part 1) - The axe is poised

I’ve been to Public Cabinet meetings where I have been the only person there apart from cabinet members and it has lasted less than half an hour. It won’t be like that tomorrow evening and to be fair it hasn’t usually been that way over the past year. Generally a few councillors will show up too and some might even ask a question. The public isn’t allowed to in case something too sensitive is asked and democracy is allowed a look in.

Two big issues are on the Agenda tomorrow, the fate of five public spaces (Old Manor Way Playground, Old Farm Avenue Park, West Street, Wilde Street East and Wilde Road West) and the Splash Park. It is already known that Old Manor Way is not to be sold because the subterranean ground conditions were found to be unsuitable for building and a comprehensive covenant was in place.

The Splash Park is in a far more difficult position. Councillor Peter Craske has effectively said he wants to see it closed. Under his predecessor the council spent months working with the consultant until the technical report said what was required and confined itself to a limited range of options one of which was always likely to be a non-starter. Mains water supply in the middle of a dense residential area at the top of a steep hill.

As usual Bexley council has been up to no good. Despite all the dire warnings about Cryptosporidium, Freedom of Information requests revealed no tests for it had been conducted.

The Agenda for tomorrow’s meeting is long but below is a tight edit of the most relevant passages. The numbered paragraphs refer to any commercial takeover because the council has turned its back on all other options. The money that had been found which could have saved the Splash Park is to be spent elsewhere.
Agenda
As may be seen, Craske is determined to make things as difficult as possible for any entrepreneur. No one apart from councillors can question him so the Splash Park campaigners have sent every one of them a list of questions that should be asked.

The questions are tabulated below and I shall be carefully recording the meeting to see if any councillors are tempted to do their civic duty. It will be an attractive option for Conservative councillors to simply not show up, they don’t have to.


· We have emailed Cllr Craske to clarify what he means regarding his stance but have had no reply. In the deputation we gave to Council we expressed an interest in working with the Council or private enterprise to look at potential solutions – we are at a loss to understand how meeting with us could cause such prejudice?
· Who instructed Watermans to only limit the report to three conclusions? And why was this restriction imposed – surely it would have been better to ask them to explore all possible avenues?
· Why are the stipulations in this report so rigid when Bexley Council have a history of being flexible when working with private enterprise and community groups to come to a solution all are happy with. E.g. Lesnes Abbey, Hall Place and Danson Park, the libraries, community centres etc.)
· What is the given response time from Thames Water regarding the mains fed solution? Has a projected daily consumption rate been included in the request? If so what technical model was used?
· With no official ‘date of submission’ for interested parties a full proposal addressing the reduction in size of the Splash Pad and a mains fed solution cannot be submitted until the response from Thames Water is received. Is there a ‘submission date’ and what is the possibility of reviewing that date if Thames Water are unable to respond in a time frame which allows for any serious proposal to be fully worked and submitted?
· How can anyone be expected to put together an informed comprehensive proposal when you haven’t given crucial information, such as the amount of the bond, the results from Thames Water, definitive submissions dates etc.. Nor detailed breakdowns of what elements of the park are to be included i.e. the public toilets, the kiosk, any public access rights etc.
· There seems to be several assumptions made in the report, the filters and equipment were not seen working or even looked at and the tank was not inspected and only a ‘guesstimate of its capacity is mentioned.
· The original designs for the park were modified to include the kiosk to help raise income to secure the provision of future works, upgrades and maintenance – was this the case?
· The kiosk has shown it can produce a profit of £9,000 to £13,000 during seasons with massive disruption and park closures. Why was the potential income that would arise from a well-run kiosk not included in the report to offset the annual running costs?
· Why did Alex Sawyer state in the meeting on November 1st that Cryptosporidium had been found 8 times in 2014 when FOI requests have shown that is wasn’t even tested for?
· Why, when the reported problems first started to arise in 2013 was a solution not looked into then, instead of doing nothing save increasing park closures, reducing staffing levels and dumping vast quantities of water nightly?
· Why is it being claimed that there has been only one piece of correspondence received when there have been numerous emails and letters sent to all members of the Council to which people have had replies, along with the petition that was handed in at the deputation?
· Why do our children’s voices not count in Council? Pupils from Lessness Heath Primary School wrote to Cllr Sawyer and he visited the school and was presented with hundreds of letters and pictures from the pupils who desperately wanted the park to remain open?
· Bexley’s own Public Consultation on the Budget Cuts showed an overwhelming response from Bexley residents to saving the park (nearly 1000 out of 1600). Why has this been ignored?
· Why did the current administration (in situ since 2006) not place the same caveats on running the park as they have now in the response to the report – as a responsible and financially astute organisation surely this should have been a requirement from the start, let alone during the last few years when knowledge of the impending central budget cuts were announced?


Expect to see the councillors who aren’t interested listed here sometime on Wednesday.

 

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