As already noted, Tuesday’s Public Cabinet was very much business as usual,
just the same old financial gloom adorned with updated figures. As usual,
Finance Director Alison Griffin was called upon to give us her latest proposals and warnings.
Ms. Griffin said she was “really pleased to report that the current forecast is an underspend of £1·6 million in 2016/17. This is excellent progress”. A major contribution was the success of the garden waste scheme “beyond all expectations”. Maybe it is time for a reminder that this was a double-edged fraud upon residents. Getting them to separate garden and food waste saved the Council £444,000 a year in processing costs and then they were made to pay for their own efforts.
The ‘success’ of her achievements meant that the Council might not need to eat into its reserves however a severe Winter could have a significant impact on environmental and adult social care services and costs. Money would also have to be found to “advance cohesion in the borough following the disturbances in Northumberland Heath”.
For 2017/18 and beyond an “Efficiency Plan had been produced” which includes a two year pay award to staff of 1% (2% total). As a result “the budget gap has been revised to £15 million rising to £32 million for 2021/22”.
“The annual value for money review has identified over £5 million of savings however there will remain a £2·7 million budget gap for 2017/18 rising to £12 million in 2021/22.”
“Property taxes and fees and charges are funding universal services and the cash inflows are unlikely to match the spend in the future so it is important that we use reserves to help smooth fluctuations.”
Exactly ten minutes after Ms. Griffin began the presentation of her strategy for the next five years, failed businessman Don Massey made his attempt to claim some of the credit for the Cabinet. He waffled for 30 seconds longer than Ms. Griffin but apart from a warning to benefit fraudsters, we learned nothing that Ms. Griffin had not espoused in far greater detail. His ten minutes could be summed up by just one of his sentences. The future represented “a long hard road”.
Cabinet Member Linda Bailey’s sole contribution to the meeting was to ask for news of an introduction date for the New Homes Bonus, but there was none.
Jacky Tiotto, Director of Children’s Services, set out her ideas for adoption services. She “recommends an arrangement with Kent and Medway”. This will create a much bigger pool of adopters and help reduce the delay in allocating children which can be up to 18 months from a court hearing. The alternative was to partner with London’s 32 boroughs but Ms. Tiotto thought that Bexley would have “a stronger voice in a group of three”.
Another failed businessman, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Philip Read welcomed the plan to “work together”. The adoption proposals were also welcomed by the Labour ‘shadow’ Councillor Mable Ogundayo.
Mr. Tom Brown who heads up the Adults’ Services department spoke of the progress made to allow disadvantaged people to lead independent lives. It is not good enough that “the pinnacle of their lives is to go to a day centre”. He wanted to “listen to the voice that uses the services”.
Cabinet Member Brad Smith agreed with Mr. Brown. He wanted to “improve the lives of those with learning disabilities despite the financial challenges”.
Tom Smith outlined his proposals to form an alliance with the Oxleas Health Trust to further improve the outcomes for elderly people in need of care. Councillor Smith said the “closer working” with Oxleas would commence on 1st April 2017.
The Bexley Buffoon, the pinnacle of whose life so far is the installation of the Berlin Wall and a map to tell the public where the chairs are, was on the top table alongside Teresa O’Neill but said nothing and did nothing apart from gaze thankfully into the eyes of the Council Leader who fell for the claimed achievements in her CV.