I was surprised when Councillor Brad Smith (Conservative, Christchurch) was made Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services to replace Councillor Eileen Pallen when it became her turn to play at being Mayor. Councillor Smith had never come to notice before except for his period as the nominated Jack in the Box whose job it is to second every damned thing that Tory Councillors dream up at Council meetings. Now he has to do a proper job. It’s too early to know whether he will be any good at it.
The first publicly visible sign of Councillor Smith having landed a big job is his letter in today’s News Shopper and it followed Bexley Council’s well trodden path when a Cabinet Member feels the need to ‘correct’ a News Shopper report. If it doesn’t actually lie it will seek to deceive.
This time it places the blame for the cuts to the number of wardens in Sheltered Housing squarely on the providers. “The warden service was originally provided by the housing associations and stopped by them around four years ago.” (Click image to see the whole of Councillor Smith’s letter.)
Well yes, but who cut the funding that forced the housing providers to take action? It was Bexley Council following their first round of cuts in 2011.
The story appeared on BiB as it unfolded.
The first reference to it was in January 2011 when a warden leaked that the Council cuts were in practice translating into a 33% reduction in wardens’ pay. Bexley Council wrote to the residents in somewhat vague terms to assure them they would not be affected. They did not account for the fact that the best wardens might walk away from their jobs.
The following month it became clear that Bexley Council was planning a voluntary extra fee for residents requiring warden services thereby ensuring a lesser demand for them and the beginning of the slippery slope towards their demise. In their usual way, Bexley Council set up another sham consultation which may be read here.
In March the Sheltered Housing providers were in consultation with Bexley Council and the issue reached the local press. BiB reported how Bexley Council was insisting on warden pay being reduced just as foretold two month earlier.
There was another BiB reference to Bexley Council downgrading warden services in August 2011 after their cuts caused the failure of their Emergency Link Line service which was a contributory factor in the death of a resident.
Cabinet Member Brad Smith has launched his public profile in the News Shopper - by carefully chosen words aimed at passing the blame for failure to someone else. It is pretty damned close to an outright lie. As a Bexley Cabinet Member he should do well.