This evening’s dilemma. The Transport Users’ Sub-Committee
and put BiB another day behind or catch up just a little by writing the Hall Place
report? The Transport Committee may have won but one can never be sure whether
the rail and bus delegates will turn up and without them there is little said
that cannot be gleaned from the Agenda.
Messing around with refuse collections was not the only thing of interest at the Places Scrutiny Committee, Bexley is looking to get hold of more of your money and one of their ideas is to charge an entrance fee to get into Hall Place gardens. Not a lot but every little helps and once the idea is established the price can be raised occasionally or maybe introduced elsewhere, the Belvedere Beach is the obvious candidate and it was actually likened to the plans for Hall Place during the presentation.
The presentation was by Deputy Director Toni Ainge who set out the proposals and had a few slides to illustrate some of her points. The aim is to get the whole of Hall Place self financing by 2021 and one idea is to spend £620,000 on a new playground to attract more visitors to the site. No shiny plastic so as to be in keeping with its surroundings.
An entry charge of £1 to £2 is proposed with Bexley residents getting a 50% discount. Are we supposed to carry our passports with us at all times?
The good news is that the car park will become free. Just a few years ago Cabinet Member Craske was hell bent on making it chargeable. The bad news is that children over 18 months old must pay too, take their birth certificates. The Chairman, Melvin Seymour, thought that was simply “wrong”.
Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis (Conservative, Crayford) said she “objected to borough people paying. I don’t object to out of borough people paying, that might be a good idea”. She welcomed the proposals to rearrange the house so that it remains accessible while hosting weddings and similar events.
She made a plea to keep the rockery garden which appears to be under threat. It was reported that different playground contractors had different ideas for working around the rockery or not.
Throughout the meeting it was Councillor Gareth Bacon who asked the most incisive questions.
He thought the £620,000 cost would be “manageable” but he was “interested to know how you make Hall Place self-sustaining going off into the future. The Trust lost too much money. How much money do you need to generate to break even and how confident are you that these proposals are going to do that?”.
Ms. Ainge said that when the Council took Hall Place back in-house it was running about £360,000 per annum of deficit but expenditure has since been reduced by £120,000. Under the new plans income should rise by between £120,000 and £240,000 per annum. At the highest level the deficit would be covered. With what degree of confidence her prediction was made went unstated.
Councillor Bacon wished Ms. Ainge “Good luck with that”.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) was not “enthused” by charging either and wondered why Bexley residents would not get in free and out of borough visitors charged a bit more.
Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) said the charges might have a negative effect on the shop income but was told that had been factored in.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) said she had “mixed feelings about charging for the gardens, it might put off the casual visitor just looking for a wander around the grounds”.
The Chairman said that whatever decision Cabinet Member Craske took it should come back to the Committee for review after twelve months.