the Parking Report
the Places Scrutiny Committee moved on to Finance and how
the 9% reduction in government funding in each of the next four years will
affect services in Bexley. The council is still searching for around £4 million
of savings before next April if it is to balance its 2016/17 budget.
The exchanges lacked focus and flitted from one subject to another with few succinct answers that can be easily summarised here.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) said his party was broadly in favour of what the council was doing but felt it could be improved upon.
He launched a succession of questions, eight or more depending on how one might divide them. Council officer Jane Richardson said she ran out of fingers and if there was a common theme lying just below the surface of Seán’s questions it may have been that some things could have been implemented earlier.
Cabinet member Linda Bailey explained that she and her officers had been working hard on regeneration projects but sometimes she despaired. The lack of language skills was a particular problem likely to rule Bexley‘s workforce out of contention at the Paramount Leisure Centre being built just over the borough border in Swanscombe. Recruits would come from France.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) said that the bulk of his casework involved street cleaning and recycling and cabinet member Peter Craske managed to walk the tightrope of not really taking responsibility. It’s the cuts stupid! but even Craske wasn’t rude enough to put it quite like that.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) picked up the earlier theme that the Conservatives had failed to see the iceberg on the horizon and did little to change course until the current year. A case of great minds obviously as that very point had been made here the day before. (Final paragraph.)
Council Officer Richardson had earlier mentioned a total of 22,000 homes in the pipeline for Bexley which would bring in the New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy, not to mention the council tax.
Other councils, Greenwich, Camden, Stefano said, had gone for housing growth much earlier and were reaping the financial rewards. Why did Bexley council not wake up to the opportunities in 2010 instead of leaving it until 2014?
Cabinet member Linda Bailey went on the defensive saying these things “do not happen overnight” and she had been planning a change of direction before 2014. At least 18 months before. Probably she has forgotten that the Conservatives have been in power since 2006.
Councillor Borella described the new refuse arrangements as “shambolic” and there would likely be an impact on the recycling rate. Cabinet member Craske however had a master plan, he was encouraging the recycling of toilet rolls. I think he meant the centre cardboard tube. His point was that people who recycled in the kitchen tend not to do so in the bathroom. So don’t forget your soap dispensers, Peter wants to clean up his act and roll out the Andrex.
Deputy Director Bryce-Smith said the new garden waste service was a success - and so sure of it he said it again - but there had been logistical challenges. He expects overall savings to be at least £330,000 this year and £700,000 next year. Bins “are a good news story”. And with that, the chairman moved on to the next Agenda item.