leader’s Report to Council could be one big bore with its 17 page (this
time) description of developments within the borough since last she stood in the
same spot, however the lady mercifully says little about it, preferring to take
questions almost immediately.
At last week’s meeting Teresa O’Neill OBE (Omitting Bloated Ego) began with the ominous statement (repeated below) that Old Farm Avenue Park would have to go whatever the protesters might say. Where else would the money come from?
As she was last time, the council leader was concerned about the large number of questions coming from councillors at full council meetings. She alleged that there were more duplicate questions than ever and that the Labour group must have set a target for questions. According to councillor O’Neill, Labour members were saving up case work for the quarterly council meetings rather than dealing with it at once.
I could see no evidence of it in the questions asked and for the record the number of questions has fallen from 69 to 55 to 47 over successive meetings and councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) later criticised the attempt to stifle interrogation. The leader said she wanted to see only less duplication.
The leader dragged up the subject of the temporary lifts at Abbey Wood station as an example of delayed case work. There was a lack of shelter for those waiting for them in the open, a subject which should not have been left until a council meeting. Councillor O’Neill said she had met with Network Rail to request a simple Perspex roof but as of yesterday (my observations) there was none. However there has always been a wooden porch style shelter which appears to be big enough for one wheel chair.
During this exchange the leader got in a dig about no Labour councillor attending the Crossrail Liaison Panel meetings which is true only of the first one, but then neither did any cabinet member or scrutiny chairman. (†)
Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) asked why Bexley council was housing people in “privately rented properties which are not fit to live in. Damp and mouldy. No one inspects the property.” This, she said, is allowed to occur because Bexley council “trusts the housing associations, They cannot be trusted, they are there to make money”.
Her concern was rewarded with a telling off by the council leader. One, that it was a good example of something that should not await a council meeting and secondly it was unfair to criticise housing associations and you have to “trust them and work with them”.
Councillor Langstead said she had raised the matter before but the mayor would not let her continue.
Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling), chairman of the Transport Users’ Committee, sang the praises of her road safety team which allowed the leader to steer the debate around to the problem of parents parking on school zig-zags.
Councillor Edward Boateng (Labour, Erith) was worried about the welfare of staff displaced by the decision to contract Amey Community Services for facilities management. The leader said the contract would save money due to economies of scale and the staff transferred would be fully protected.
Councillor Borella had been surprised by the leader’s earlier attack on his party’s “behaviour” and reminded her that there were six absentees from the Conservative benches including their chief whip (£4,250 allowance), but his principal concerns were the increasing size of Bexley’s financial black hole and the state of the newly regenerated Broadway.
The black hole question merely prompted a reference to the previous Labour government and the Broadway question was answered by deputy leader Alex Sawyer. No question dodging or blame game from Alex.
“It is simply unacceptable” he said. He is seeking to recover all the costs and all the losses from contractors.
At the expiry of the allotted 30 minutes, the mayor invited Teresa O’Neill to sum up. It wasn’t really a summing up at all. She merely said that unemployment levels in Bexley had fallen again.
Leader’s comment about the sale of Old Farm Avenue Park.
† All concerned had good reasons but the Conservatives could have fielded one of their two £3,000 a year scrutiny committee vice-chairmen.