last Places Overview and Scrutiny meeting before the election was chaired yesterday in his
usual efficient manner by Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) supported by
several Councillors who won’t be seen there again. The reduction in the number
of Councillors from 63 to 45 and in some cases Anno Domini will send Councillors Brian
and Aileen Beckwith, Howard Marriner, Colin Tandy and Seán Newman into retirement, from
Councillor duties at least. At the end of the meeting the Chairman thanked them
for their service which BiB is pleased to endorse. All very pleasant people a
world apart from the minority of Bexley Councillors who specialise in lying on Twitter.
Well chaired the meeting may have been but that doesn’t make it interesting and nothing earth shattering came to light.
The subject of refuse collection and fly tipping had been placed high on the Agenda and the Chinese ban on importing waste is taking its toll.
The price paid for recycled paper has fallen from a peak of £90 a tonne to around £10 in little more than a year and glass by about 50%, from £40 a tonne to between £10 and £20 dependent on colour.
It’s a problem obviously but even £10 is better than more than £100 for landfill. “There could be a six figure impact next year.”
Compounding the problem is that less recyclable material is being collected. 4,732 tonnes of glass in 2011, 2,455 tonnes last year. Paper is down from around 14,000 tonnes a year to 10,000 which was blamed on fewer newspapers being bought.
Councillor Aileen Beckwith (Conservative, Sidcup) asked if Cory’s Belvedere incinerator was making the promised contribution to borough finances and was assured that it was. It processes about 700,000 tonnes of material a year, 60,000 from Bexley at an advantageous price and a £2 million payment. Cory Environmental also sponsors projects in the borough; Belvedere Beach being one of them. Cory is “an overall asset to the borough with nothing negative to be said”.
The statistics for Missed Bins were trending gradually upwards although below the short term peaks in 2015 and mid 2017 and fly tipping incidents were also on the up, nearly 50% higher than in 2013, the north of the borough being the most affected.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour complained that the commentary in the Agenda said that fly tipping was down by 10·3% when the accompanying graph showed a very obvious increase. The answer may be summed up as very careful selection of suitable quarterly statistics.
Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) said “it makes me very cross” that refuse collectors continue to tip carefully separated waste into the same bin and said “it defeats the object”. It’s been going on for years and the excuse is always the same. The wrong sort of vehicle.
Street cleaning complaints vary widely month by month (recently between 100 and 160 approximately) which is unchanged from 2013 but there have been occasional peaks to around 300 in the intervening years.
One of Bexley Council’s grand schemes is the weirdly named Place and Making Institute. (Click for its website.)
Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) suggested it was a “silly name” but Assistant Chief Executive Jane Richardson said it was only a working title, it could perhaps be named after a major sponsor if one is found. Why the always well prepared Mrs. Richardson is subordinate to the useless desk stealing Gill Steward is one of life’s mysteries.
The Institute north of Yarnton Way in Thamesmead is not currently the most accessible of sites and Councillor Danny Hackett asked how that would be addressed, the walking route being less than salubrious at present.
A new quiet walkway via Southmere Lake and a DLR extension were all under discussion, it gave Councillor Tandy an opportunity to pursue his transport ideas.
He spoke of the Rainham to Luton Thameslink via Abbey Wood service due next Month - already running regularly on test - and of his dream of extending the Gospel Oak to Barking line to Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and even Bexleyheath.
Later he queried the suggestion in the Agenda (page 105) that the new railway franchise would result in the loss of the loop line services, he didn’t think that could possibly happen but failed to address the issue of the Sidcup line no longer running to Cannon Street. Without that link a Cannon Street to Cannon Street service via Crayford would appear to be impossible. It is a question that should be answered in a definitive manner without delay, but probably won’t be.
The next Agenda item of note was the Learning and Enterprise College which has scored an OFSTED result of ‘Requires Improvement” in five out of seven departments continuously since 2016.
The result is “a disappointment” and “improved management” is seen as the solution. Cabinet Member Linda Bailey said the situation is “challenging”. The college Principal retired in December 2017.
One must hope that Bexley’s Making Institute is better managed than its Enterprise College.