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Bonkers Blog July 2017

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1 July - Hunt the hamster

HuntIf it wasn’t for Doctor Nikita Kanani’s hamster I wouldn’t have been at James Hunt’s People Scrutiny meeting last Wednesday because I had forgotten all about it. However Councillor Hunt sent the doctor a Tweet about her furry friend with a fleeting reference to seeing her at his meeting later. I briefly considered the webcast but grabbed a tie and ran instead. Maybe a mistake, there must be more interesting ways of passing three hours.

I like meetings with at least one controversial highlight and ‘People’ had none apart perhaps for the two or three hamster jokes which probably only James and I and the good doctor understood. The choice now is between reviewing the whole recording and cataloguing every snippet of information line by boring line or simply picking out the handful which struck me as being interesting at the time.

It’s Saturday, I feel lazy and there are far too many other things to do, so the short version is the winner.

Doctor Kanani MBE (Chief Clinical Officer, NHS Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group) mentioned that only 17% of Bexley’s population is “fit and well” due to an excess of smoking, drinking and eating. There is a wide discrepancy in life expectancy between the North and South of the borough.

The recently introduced out of hours GP services in both Erith and Sidcup were well attended in the evenings and on Saturdays but on Sunday there would typically be only two patients.

Councillor Alan Downing said he was seen almost three hours late in Sidcup’s eye clinic and he wasn’t alone in that. Dr. Kanani was obviously very concerned at his news and promised to look into the situation.

The Council’s senior staff pay bill will continue to be increased in September with the appointment of Dr. Anjan Ghosh as Director of Public Health.

Councillor Hunt is always keen to promote the arts in Bexley and usually manages to work in a reference to the Rose Bruford and Bird Colleges. This time among other things he said the arts in Bexley were “thriving”. The Youth Council members present were not so sure. They did not know about the activities which Councillor Hunt had been promoting and arts in their schools had been cut. “In the specialist arts academy we no longer have dance, and art and drama is seriously underfunded. All the music teachers have left. It’s a bit of a disaster.”

Whilst no one could seriously quibble with James Hunt’s good natured chairmanship I find the applause that follows reports by Youth Council members to be extremely condescending. It’s as though every Councillor cannot believe that a 16 year old can string two words together and deserves encouragement for doing so. Congratulate and thank them by all means but the prolonged clapping seems to be way over the top to me.

Councillor Philip Read was very anxious to dispel a rumour that the Welling Youth Centre was to close. “No truth in it whatsoever.”

In a reference to the fire tragedy in Kensington it was reported that there are 36 towers of six or more storeys in Bexley none of which have been cladded.

Bexley Council has so far purchased 74 properties for use as temporary accommodation with another 190 in the pipeline. Councillor Stefano Borella remarked that the Council appears to be buying back the houses it had previously sold off cheaply.

HMO licensing “is currently being developed“ with an ambition of “implementation of the scheme in the autumn”.

Councillor Read gave the usual update on the number of Social Workers in Bexley who are now permanent staff. It’s up to 86% which is about double what it was under his predecessor three years ago. So it sounds like good news, unless of course he is exaggerating. (Actually he is, the true figure is 85·58%.)

£884,000 was trimmed from the Adults’ Services budget last year but there was an overspend of £200,000 on housing and homelessness. This was more than compensated by a £1.3 million reduction in Children’s Social Care costs said to be the result of efficiency measures.

The ‘success’ of the garden waste service has caused employment costs to rise by £250,000 and the LED lighting programme has gone £200,000 over budget.

Fortunately for Bexley’s penny pinchers a more aggressive attack on motorists at the Yellow Money Boxes has pushed income another £200,000 over expectations. Stop doing it, be late for work. Starve the buggers out!

The inmates are kept safely behind Gill Steward’s barrier.

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