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News and Comment November 2019

Index: 2020

19 November (Part 2) - Unfinished business

MayorQuestion time at the last Council meeting has not been reported yet, how did that happen?

Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) was first to her feet. “Are we on track to make the £400k. SEN transport efficiency savings?”

Cabinet Member John Fuller said that since that prediction was made 70 more pupils have been added to the list which puts the budget under pressure. The £400k. is “at significant risk”. (It’s fortunate that the efficiency savings were implemented or the situation would be even worse.)

SEN transport is costing a little over £5,000 per pupil per year which was said to compare well with most boroughs.

Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) asked if there were any details available on plans to merge six South East London Clinical Commissioning Groups into one. Leader Teresa O’Neill turned the question back on Councillor Putson. “Had he asked them?”

Councillor Putson said the CCG was going to become “one huge Quango representing 1·9 million people and local scrutiny will disappear”.

Councillor O’Neill said “we don’t know the detail and I cannot answer your questions definitively at all”.

It is probably fair to say that it is rare to hear a good word said about the existing CCG at Bexley Council Scrutiny meetings and one can begin to see the reason why. Huge changes planned but not a word of consultation. At least we have Councillor Putson to keep his eye on things.

Conservative Councillor Adam Wildman (Blendon & Penhill) referred to Bexley no longer being the safest borough following the police Borough Command Unit amalgamation and asked the Cabinet Member for Communities to explain why it was important for residents to complete the Crime Survey. It doesn’t read like a question to me except that it asked if Cabinet Member Sawyer was capable of making the explanation.

Councillor Alex Sawyer is of course perfectly capable of the encouragement. “It is vitally important that residents partake in the survey”. Job done!

Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Longlands) asked a mischievous question. “How many times have opposition Members contacted the Cabinet Member for Resources to engage with budget planning?” Councillor Leaf took delight in answering the question. “None.”

Labour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) said that his Group met regularly with Council Finance Officers and last year identified £355,000 of savings agreed in public by the Cabinet which didn’t in fact exist. Presumably with his tongue firmly in his cheek Councillor Francis asked if the Cabinet Member would thank him for it. In his 146 seconds of response Cabinet Member Leaf delivered his opinion of Labour politics in no uncertain terms but it was devoid of any suggestion of thanks.

Councillor Perfect had a second question. Will the government fully fund the cost of educating Bexley’s SEN children next year? Cabinet Member Fuller said there would be a deficit of around £7 million next year but there would be a £3 million (9%) increase to funding in 2021. The deficit will be “eased but not eliminated”.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if The Cabinet Member for Communities would join London Mayor Sadiq Khan in asking the government to reverse its police cuts. This drew a very predictable response from from Mr. Priti Patel. The Mayor wastes money on things like TfL Golden Goodbyes (£51·4 million), ten million handed to TfL union officials, £700,000 on a beach party, £300,000 to his PR company and £9·4 million extra on the PR budget, £11 million on Fashion Week, £3·5 million on taxis by TfL alone; enough in total to pay for 12,000 police officers.

Councillor Howard Jackson asked if the Cabinet Member agreed that Bexley was safer under a Conservative Government. Oh dear, is that the best he can come up with? Fortunately Mayor Lucia-Hennis called time.


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