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Bonkers Blog April 2011

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26 April (Part 2) - Tesco deal approved

Civic CentreThere have been two meetings this evening at the Civic Centre, the cabinet and the full council. Why two I am not quite sure as both had only a single topic, the site of the new council offices. Three proposals were on the table; rebuild on the present site, build new on a triangular plot immediately north of Erith’s fish roundabout, or refurbish the old Woolwich building. Under each scheme either part or all of the existing site would be sold and Tesco is the favoured buyer. The deal isn’t signed yet but Tesco is definitely front runner. There were others but the public is not allowed to know who nor how much was on offer. Bexley council is not renowned for transparency and tonight was no exception, when the subject of money cropped up the public was excluded. The council has its aura of secrecy to maintain encouraging thoughts of corruption. The presentation included the slightly worrying phrase “transparency must be traded for speed”. To prove transparency was the order of the day the public was excluded for ten minutes while financial questions were asked, no answers were forthcoming according to several councillors.

The Labour group clearly preferred the Erith option but it probably wasn’t the cheapest, in fact councillor Gareth Bacon may have strayed a little from the official script by confirming that Erith would cost more and in the present financial circumstances that is what counts.

A group of residents from near the Woolwich building were very concerned about the lack of parking spaces on that site; only 65 against a requirement the council estimated to be in the region of 300. It was suggested that public car parking space might be taken. e.g. the cinema multi-storey.

The council meeting was familiar in some respects, we got the usual diatribes which served no purpose other than to score points against the opposition party. Councillor Don Massey (Cray Meadows, £18,301) and Mike Slaughter (Longlands, £18,255) were the worst offenders and councillor Linda Bailey (Danson Park, £22,141) took a different tack by repeatedly describing Labour party opinion as “rubbish”. It wasn’t picked up by the chairman mayor but as she is happy for Labour councillors to be called tossers that comes as no great surprise.

Councillor Campbell said refurbishing the Woolwich building would cost nothing once the old buildings were sold and so the vote inevitably went totally along party lines. Probably the correct decision; money is in short supply but maintaining an old building not designed for modern technology and its high power requirement eventually becomes far too expensive if not impossible; and council staff are as entitled to enjoy modern facilities, such as air conditioning, just as much as any other office staff. If it wasn’t for the fact that it has been agreed that contract procedure rules and financial regulations can be waived and already every financial question is deemed to be secret I might be tempted to say I was persuaded the best compromise was achieved this evening, but the secrecy and stated intention of “trading transparency” contrives to makes things look underhand as things usually are in Bexley.


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