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Bonkers Blog November 2017

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9 November - Cunning pre-election stunts

I think I feel like an athlete who has just seen his long held record broken and I will be trying to move future Traders’ meeting dates so that I don’t miss important Council meetings again. On the other hand I am really pleased I was able to hear what Greenwich Council was planning for Abbey Wood. That was unmissable whereas the Council meeting is available as a webcast.

Webcasts are a pale imitation of the real thing losing all the atmosphere and sometimes who voted for what is not always as clear as it could be, but it’s better than nothing.

The first significant item on last night’s Agenda was questions and if you were around on the 4th November you will know that the first was a put up job by Tory activist Richard Diment who was keen to get Councillor Craske to reel off some facts and figures about the street cleaning schedule. Not too many facts mind because no ones is supposed to know that the budget has been shrinking but presented by a skilled ex-Downing Street spin doctor things can be made to sound quite good.

“We spend three million pounds a year on keeping this borough clean”, Councillor Craske said. “Daily cleans in town centres and a three week cycle in residential roads.”

Thirty roads which have been difficult to clean due to parked cars are currently being given special attention. Craske joked that one of the affected roads was Councillor Alex Sawyer’s which would be looking good on TV following the current media attention at his address.

He has bought some new litter bins and his priority is to deploy the first of them in that filthy centre of deprivation known as Bexley Village.

Bigger bins will be going into parks and the grass will be cut more often.

The litter enforcement scheme has been a money spinner with over 4,000 penalty notices issued so it is to become a permanent feature in the major town centres - but probably not elsewhere because there is no money to be made in other places.

The new street cleaning machine will arrive within the next week or two.

Another member of the public asked Cabinet Member Linda Bailey what she thought of the Mayor of London’s Housing Strategy. Unfortunately she had not yet formulated her response to the Mayor but we learned she “was gravely concerned” about some aspects of it.

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) asked Cabinet Member Bailey if she was surprised to see how poorly the borough had been rated by the Mayor for the provision of affordable housing.
Affordable Housing
She was but without explaining anything, said “the document explained it all”. No one was any the wiser until some time later when she suggested that single year figures were unreliable and should only be “considered over time”.

Seán went on to say that of the 1,361 housing units approved for Belvedere Park, Erith Quarry and Maxim Road, precisely “zero were affordable”.

Councillor Bailey said the number should be 35% but passed responsibility to the Planning Committee while reminding Councillor Newman that at Erith Quarry the Council accepted the offer of a free school instead of houses for less well off people.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked man of the moment Alex Sawyer to explain his much vaunted increased expenditure on road and footway repairs and compare it with the four previous years.

“2013/14 £2·29 million. 14/15 £1·69 million. 15/16 1·85 million. 16/17 £1·65 million. 17/18 £3·49”.

Presumably it was Councillor Hackett’s intention to show that in road repairs as with everything else, Bexley Conservatives have held back expenditure in order to put on a good show in an election year.

Cabinet Member Sawyer’s further retort did indeed confirm that the extra expenditure was a pre-election stunt, “do you support the extra?“ he bellowed at Danny, “if you don’t, have the guts to put it in your own manifesto.”

In further confirmation that he has been manipulating the budget for party political gain, Councillor Sawyer was unable to confirm that the pre-election rise would be maintained in the following year.

Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked Cabinet Member Brad Smith how the Ageing Well event held on 14th October went. “Very well” we were told. 200 residents showed up.

Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) earned the rare distinction of asking a question of immediate interest to a very large number of Bexley residents.

He wanted to know what Cabinet Member Sawyer was doing to prevent “the dreaded SouthEastern” from implementing their “ridiculous” skip stop Autumn timetable. Falconwood and Welling stations had suffered significantly reduced services.

Alex said that six trains an hour had been reduced to three or four. He should perhaps venture further north where he would find six trains an hour have been reduced to only two stopping at the minor stations.

He said that unfortunately the failure to provide a decent service was approved by the Department of Transport in conjunction with the Meteorological Office and he “would jump up and down and scream but there is very little we can do”.

When asked if Bexley commuters were getting value for money from SouthEastern Councillor Sawyer simply answered “No, their services are bizarre” and went on to list a whole host of examples. Impressive for someone who admitted not using trains.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) reminded Councillor Sawyer of the Transport Minister’s well known failings when extending SouthEastern’s franchise and advocated TfL control of their suburban services. Councillor Sawyer said he disagreed with Councillor Borella on every point he made.

Councillor Colin McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) asked when the Council intends to move forward with the next stage of consultation on their regeneration plans for Slade Green, Erith and Belvedere. “By the end of the year” according to Cabinet Member Bailey. She said it was still a consultation not a planning application and “the myths out there need to be sorted out”.

No tunnelCouncillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) had a simple question. “How many street trees did Councillor Craske intend to plant?” 300 including those which are part of highway improvement schemes.

Such a simple question was bound to have a sting in its tail. Is it true that only 15 of those are to be planted in Labour wards and is this another pre-election stunt? was the gist of Joe’s supplementary question.

Councillor Craske said that the Labour Councillors voted against spending money on trees [while the poor and the homeless are suffering} so they were getting more than they asked for. He said “the allocation is fair”. Not quite sure how, but that is what the purple pygmy said.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Councillor, St. Michael’s) said she was pleased with the tree planting programme.

And with that the Mayor wrapped up Agenda Item 6.


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