22 October (Part 3) - “Have to wonder if people can count”
Where does one start with a report on the Audit Committee meeting? Two and a
half hours and then they decided to talk about the really bad things, so they
closed down the webcast so that residents are left in ignorance.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) was worried about the way the reserves were “moving significantly in the wrong direction” and the external auditor answered by referring to “unplanned changes to service provision” being required and there being “a material uncertainty over the Council’s ability to close the financial gap in 2021/22”.
The risk is that you will have to make unplanned changes to your service provision.
Additionally the auditor said…
So that’s Bexley Council’s self-styled reputation for Value for Money blown away.
Labour Leader Daniel Francis said the auditor’s report implied that Bexley might be in breach
of The Local Government Accounts and Audit Registrations Act. The auditor said
there was a technical breach but there are no associated penalties.
In February this year the Committee was informed that the housing budget was balanced. By the end of the financial year there was an overspend of £1·6 million. “There were significant control failings” was the offered excuse.
Councillor Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) thought accounting questions were now “pointless” and Councillor Bacon said the housing report was “very damning”. Questions asked by Scrutiny Committees at the end of the 2018/19 financial year were not answered and “we find ourselves in the same position”.
Councillor Francis when told that it was “an isolated incident” said It was reminiscent of the SEN Transport fiasco when the responsible Cabinet Member for Education was deliberately shielded from the truth. “Or doesn’t the Cabinet Member ask questions?” He went on to say that the evidence pointed to the Cabinet Member for Communities knowing but didn’t come clean at any meeting and thought it possible that Bexley had set an illegal budget as a result of the misinformation.
The Finance Director, no less, admitted he did not know about “the scale of the overspend”.
The blog title is an exact quote from a Councillor’s comment on the people in charge.
22 October (Part 2) - Bexley scores higher than all neighbouring boroughs
are renowned for lying and alongside is what they were saying in 2012, a time when
their lying had been ramped up to Level 11.
Councillor Peter Craske had put up the parking charges and was telling all and sundry that Bexley was still cheapest for miles around, it wasn’t true of course but the Press Releases were dutifully published in the local newspapers and the gullible fell for it.
The truth was rather different. Apart from the Bowling Centre car park (90 pence for each hour) Bexleyheath’s car parks were £1 an hour and I produced a table of local charges to prove that Bexley was lying.
So how has Bexley done over the past eight years? Not easy to say because some Councils no longer have the charges listed in their websites, unhelpfully referring enquiries to the street notices, they are necessarily omitted from the list below.
The remainder can be relatively easily compared with Bexley’s eight year old two hour tariff claim.
• Gravesham, £2. Up 33% in eight years.
• Sevenoaks, £2. Up 25% in eight years.
• Maidstone, There is no 2 hour tariff but twice one hour is £2. Up 11% in eight years.
• Dartford, £1 and several free.
• Bromley, £2·60. Up 30% in eight years.
• Croydon, £1·40 and many free.
• Lewisham, £4. Up 42% in eight years.
• Newham, £4·60. Up 15% in eight years.
• Greenwich, £2·40. Up 50% in eight years.
These are borough centre car parks, e.g. Stratford and not East Ham, except for Greenwich where the price is for Eltham, the centre of Greenwich being a tourist centre with very few shops. Bromley has free car parks and some flat rate (£1·30). Greenwich is free on Sundays but Bexley is unique with its excessive 24/7 charges.
And what is its percentage price increase in eight years according to its own leaflet? A record breaking 100%.
Not only liars but bad financial management too. Bexley is gearing up to another 30% increase.
22 October (Part 1) - Bexley in trouble. Big trouble
Bexley Council’s Audit Committee meeting last night was neatly summed up by Deputy Council Leader Louie French
who said to the newly appointed Barnet reject, “the best of luck, I think we are
going to need it”. Much the same comment as the anonymous message senders were
saying earlier in the year. (Read some of their forecasts.)
The meeting was one of unremitting gloom which several Councillors being only too aware of it., I particularly noticed Cheryl Bacon’s concerns about Bexley finding itself in a hole she partly forecast. Never an enthusiast for joining oneSource fiasco she now fears the enormous contract breaking penalty which is due.
So before a more formal report something to laugh at - or cry as the mood takes you.
Click image for the source document from 2016.