There was a Cabinet meeting yesterday. I arranged my day to give a free
evening; I charged my recorder batteries, I packed the camera and then I looked at the Agenda.
Obesity and Preparing SEN Pupils for Adulthood.
Ten years experience of reporting Council meetings told me that neither subject, laudable though they might be, were going to attract many readers. The rain and the usual difficulties finding a place to park near the Civic Offices all pointed to a webcast viewing being good enough.
Up to a point I was right, a necessary discussion no doubt, but somewhat tedious stuff and then it all went wrong. 55 minutes after it began the webcast failed and soon afterwards a message popped up to say it would resume shortly. It never did. Eventually I turned off my desktop PC but ten minutes later my laptop reported that the meeting had ended.
It is very obvious to anyone walking the streets of Bexley that the borough has an obesity problem and the Council’s resident doctor has developed a plan to deal with it. His report included the names of 100 people who had assisted him. This is one very big and expensive plan.
It includes improving diets with fruit and vegetables and reducing the number of takeaways. Hiding high fat, sugar and salt products. Increasing breastfeeding and giving parents of children under four vouchers for healthy foods. Providing more free drinking water, encouraging physical activity including walking and cycling. Maximising the use of parks and outdoor play.
Doctor Ghosh described the Obesity Strategy as “ambitious and far reaching” and if successful “will have a massive transformational impact”. He hoped it would equalise health between the wealthy and poorer parts of the borough and add five years to life.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said that the Strategy was the culmination of a great deal of work by Dr. Ghosh and his team. He said it “was the most detailed Strategy he had seen in many years and required to tackle one of Bexley’s health related time bombs”.
Cabinet Member John Fuller told how he had given encouragement to school heads and pushed for more Physical Education.
Cabinet Member Brad Smith trod his usual path of “you cannot judge a service by the amount of money you pour into it, its the outcomes that are important.”
Councillor David Leaf concluded for the Cabinet with a story about the relatively low price of apples in supermarkets and said that the Strategy “was all gain” and Bexley was leading the way for other boroughs to catch up.
Labour Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End) has a professional interest in healthy food but said that often the amount is just as important. Some GPs do not understand diet and whilst that may be outside the Council’s remit, it was important. He did however think that Environmental Health Officers could offer advice especially to takeaways on how minor menu changes could have big benefits. He was given assurance that Environment Health Officers are involved with exactly.
He welcomed the Obesity Strategy but regretted that it contained no reference to food banks where people may have little interest in healthy eating, only satisfying hunger. He was told that although food banks are not mentioned in the Strategy they are included in the Action Plan
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if available budgets were sufficient to ensure the Strategy’s success. Dr. Ghosh was “confident”.
After just 20 minutes the Strategy was adopted and the discussion moved on to helping SEN children into adulthood. OFSTED had reported that Bexley Council had not been discharging its responsibilities well; hence the plan.
Cabinet Member Read who should perhaps be helped into Adulthood himself, welcomed the plan.
He confirmed that “the results of the 2016 inspection was disappointing but we learnt from that” and “Adults’ Services are [now] involved in the processes at a much earlier date meaning closer working between the two services. It is one of the key strands of this Strategy”.
The improvements have seen complaints fall from 25 two years ago to zero in 2019.
Cabinet Member Brad Smith reported in very similar vein. Things are “hugely” improved.
Cabinet Member John Fuller provided various examples of how vulnerable young people are being helped into the adult world. Everything from changing a light bulb to cooking.
Cabinet Member Peter Craske was left with little to say apart from the Strategy being “very good and “really excellent”.
Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect also thought the Strategy was “an excellent piece of work”.
A succession of Councillors continued to heap praise on the new Strategy which was adopted without a word of criticism.
Bexley Council has issued a Press Release about health issues.
The image above may require a page refresh to reduce it to the intended size.