Teresa O’Neill’s report to each Full Council meeting is an opportunity for a bit of bragging and exaggeration but it’s generally kept within bounds and I quite look forward to it. It’s the only item outstanding from last Wednesday’s meeting that I shall bother to report.
The first announcement was a non-announcement, she is still unable to reveal the name of the company that will move into the store vacated by BHS.
An announcement that was imminent was OFSTED’s report into local schools following the riot centred on Northumberland Heath, It was going to pick out for special attention, St. Colombus, St. Catherine’s and Erith Schools.
Councillor O’Neill said that the police commander Jeff Boothe was “concerned about the factual inaccuracies in them”. His investigation into the cause of the disturbance is continuing.
On Crossrail she had presented her proposals to The Thames Estuary Commission and they were well received.
You can see what the Leader is up against with her plan to extend Crossrail to Slade Green and beyond in the associated picture of the track and station at Abbey Wood.
The curved track in the foreground is the Crossrail access to the North Kent line which runs half way to Belvedere, effectively a siding, and the deeply shadowed expanse is the back end of Abbey Wood’s new station. Solid concrete. I have my doubts that Network Rail will want to knock it down just because Teresa O’Neill has changed her mind on borough growth. The time for that was when Crossrail was planned.
The Leader also mentioned the Mayor’s recent “disappointing” announcement on river crossings. He hadn’t even bothered to tell her it was coming but he issued a “grovelling apology” when their paths crossed the following day. Labour Councils had been given notice by Mayor Khan.
The Gallions and Belvedere crossings “endorsed by the previous Mayor and in public consultations were ignored”.
She said the leaflet shown by Councillor Borella "was a different crossing". (If you tell a lie often enough someone might believe it.) “Two crossings would actually make a difference to our borough, much more so than a bicycle bridge costing £250 million”.
The Peabody plans were mentioned. She “had to say that the Labour group did not achieve the same when they were in control”. Well that would be because Peabody weren’t around at the time. Doesn’t the Leader ever think before opening her mouth?
Following the disagreement on Constitutional matters she reminded the Labour members that they were on the Review Committee too. Outnumbered but they were there it is true.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) was surprised that the Leader did not mention moving traffic violations, maybe she was "embarrassed" about what was going on in Welling and nothing about the ThamesLink proposals either. His main attack was on the subject of river crossings. "The Conservative Council has been against regeneration full stop. We have had leaflets and a variety of positions over many years.”
There was nothing in the report about the parking report either which showed an £88,000 profit, the recent survey showed residents to be very unhappy about the state of the borough’s roads but nothing was spent on repairs.
The Leader repeated the lie about the 2013 crossings brochure, claiming the bridge she was against then was a vey different one to that proposed by Boris Johnson. If she was against Mayor Livingstone’s bridge the facts are he was out of office by 2008, it would have been operational by 2014 but Boris cancelled it as one of his first acts. Why would Teresa O’Neill be campaigning against it in 2013? But don’t let the facts get in the way of a Tory lie.
She said that the Council was now putting a lot of effort into growth and “Labour when it was in control did absolutely nothing for Thamesmead”.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer took over. He said the £88,000 parking profit did not exist, “it had been misrepresented”. He apologised for the error, not that he used the word error.
Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) queried “the significant disparity between [11 plus] selection results across the borough”.
Cabinet Member and Deputy Leader Rob Leitch agreed that it did vary but the examination entrants and passes had both increased this year. Additionally parents and carers can register their children for the entrance exam independently from schools.
Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) contrasted the financial provisions being made for the Danson Youth Trust to allow it to continue independently when the grant is withdrawn but a similar bid by the Howbury Centre had been refused and derogatory comments had been made about the management. She said the Council should not only look after people in the better areas.
The Leader only made reference to the Howbury process that took place several years ago.
The Mayor said there were more questions than the time limit allowed but nevertheless permitted Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) to speak. She wanted to know how the Looked After Children Awards were funded. The Leader said that thanks to sponsorship and volunteers working free of charge the budget had fallen to £2,600. O’Neill and Camsey both represent Brampton ward and are best friends. She could have asked any time and probably knew the answer but not asking would have deprived the Leader of a bragging opportunity.