Councillor Teresa O’Neill’s report was rather longer than it usually is but
there is an election coming up and she was keen to reel off a list of
achievements and maybe create a few sound bites for the Council’s publicity machine to pump out.
She began by referring to “lots of ribbons cut and lots of exciting things over the summer”. Belvedere Beach, Lesnes Abbey woods was “absolutely fantastic”, Erith Lighthouse, the “enhancement” of Hall Place, street cleaning and tree planting and “all possible because of the sound financial management of this borough”.
“Bexley will be better off over the next two years by £5·6 million because of Business Rate Retention” which the Leader was claiming as a personal achievement that gave her grey hair. (Sooner or later money out of your pocket that Bexley Council will decide how to spend for you.)
The Council’s Corporate Plan shows its “aspiration for the borough taking it forward as does the Growth Agenda”.
“Everything is coming together nicely with BexleyCo and I know it will achieve something going forward.”
Bexley Council and all three MPs persuaded the Mayor to keep Bexleyheath police station open. “We fight for residents, we deliver for them and we have aspirations for them”.
Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked the Council to join her in congratulating those involved in gaining a Looked After Children award for Bexley.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) had a list of questions.
• About the overspending on children with high needs.
• The claimed increase in grass cutting and weed spraying merely restores the situation that prevailed before the 2014 election which was promptly slashed afterwards. Was the latest increase yet another example of Bexley Conservatives spending taxpayers’ money on their election campaign?
• Shelter’s report shows that Bexley has 2,929 homeless residents, what is the Council doing about it?
• While welcoming the retention of the police station for which he campaigned he had been advised by the Deputy Mayor of London that MOPAC will have to find a further £400 million. The Home Office had advised him that the additional 1% pay rise for the police is affordable and they can go “substantially further in making efficiencies” Does the Leader support that view?
On high needs children the Leader said “because we are in a good position financially we can afford it”.
On “the street scene” the Leader said Councillor Francis’s question “showed a lack of understanding of the Council budget really. If we had not taken the action we did we would not be in a position to put these things back into the budget. They are now in the baseline and will be repeated”.
Councillor Francis interjected that neither are in the baseline and provided the necessary evidence that the Leader was mistaken.
The Leader continued to claim that she was correct and said that next year the electorate would have the choice of “no street cleaning, no trees etc. or they can vote Conservative”.
On the homeless figures she believed Bexley was “24th out 32 boroughs which was pretty well up”. Just like Bexley is 24th in the Council tax league and has low Council tax.
Saving Bexleyheath police station was “fantastic but a Labour member at a People Scrutiny meeting said he had no problem with it being closed”. News to me. She refused to comment on the letter from the Home Office.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked which Labour Member was in favour of police station closures. The Mayor attempted to come to the Leader’s rescue by asking Councillor Val Clark to put her question.
Councillor Francis objected. “Who was it?” The Leader still refused to say. (Is there time to check the webcast? No.)
It transpired that Councillor Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) wanted to praise school crossing patrols.
Councillor Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) made a similar comment about social care services which have improved since Cabinet Member Read took on the responsibility. The way that Councillor Read read a prepared speech suggests that the comment and question must have been staged for the webcast.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) was disappointed that the Council did nothing to support Black History Month “apart from a tiny little advert placed in some libraries”. She asked the Leader what she might have missed.
Cabinet Member Peter Craske said the event was marked in schools and there are plans for next year. “There are loads of things going on.”
Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) made another of those isn’t Bexley wonderful comments, his was to say how well Hall Place was doing now that it is back under Council control. The Leader resorted to her favourite F word, “fantastic”. Councillor Craske said that Hall Place was due to host a Lego exhibition next year; Bexley, borough of high culture.
The Mayor then called time on the less than enlightening proceedings.