After the chaotic scenes that accompanied UKIP’s million pound saving proposal Sidcup councillor Rob Leitch made an almost statesman like and well presented speech in support of the budget but I suppose it was inevitable that the fake pearl encrusted councillor Cheryl Bacon would lower the tone. Her only talent is an extraordinary ability to lie. I understand the criminal case against her will go to the Crown Prosecution Service at the end of the coming week.
Bacon began as too many Bexley Conservative councillors do, with an attack on the opposition party. “Labour failed miserably. Their sniping is disappointing. We should be used to it by now.” Followed by a personal attack on councillor Borella for not being “pleasant inside the chamber”. Surely Cheryl Bacon is the last councillor to be complaining of unpleasantness?
Councillor Bacon praised the council’s regeneration efforts with particular emphasis on Sidcup High Street.
Cabinet member Eileen Pallen said how good the local health services had become having quickly forgotten that the biggest and most comprehensive facility was immediately closed by the incoming Conservative government. Without a maternity unit, births in Bexley must be at an all time low.
Bexley’s housing services are excellent and the workers, voluntary and otherwise, in adult care services “work very hard” - as opposed to those in other departments who don’t presumably.
Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) wandered a little from the immediate topic by being critical of the government’s overseas aid budget and was immediately slapped down by the chairman for doing so. The chairman is acquiring a reputation for silencing UKIP voices on any pretence that comes to hand.
Brenda Langstead (Labour) was critical of the library services and rather cleverly contrasted Slade Green, where a tried and tested community group had very successfully run facilities for many years and pumped £100,000 a year into the community was deemed “not able to work with the council” but now the council is looking for any local group to step forward to run libraries. It is “a way of closing libraries by the back door.” Cutting services which have repercussions on police budgets was another of councillor Langstead’s concerns.
Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, East Wickham) used his speech to praise council officers, take a quick dig at Labour and anyone who might be thinking of defrauding Bexley council. Where that came from I have no idea. Why not point the finger at litter droppers, graffiti artists or those who don’t pay their taxes by direct debit? Thankfully councillor Munir ran out of things to say in just under 100 seconds.
Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) mounted her favoured hobby horse, children’s services, and was critical of the still too high proportion of agency workers. (It is reducing but currently around 40%.)
Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) who once told petitioner Elwyn Bryant that he was wasting his time because Bexley council doesn’t take any notice of petitions, praised the new Autistic School and claimed it was her idea. The “strategic savings” will result in “better care for the most vulnerable residents”. Maybe she should advocate cutting all expenditure and make care services perfect.
Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) was unhappy about the proposed bin tax which increases Bexley’s share of the council tax by 2·9%. Instead of “actively pursuing environmental crime this council is cutting back on street cleaning and cutting hours at refuse centres and encouraging fly tipping. Bexley residents are not getting value for money.”
Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) started as he meant to go on; with an attack on the Labour party and a defence of the bin tax which naturally singled out councillor Seán Newman for his alleged miscalculations surrounding that subject.
Labour locally was “shameful” and “Gordon Brown had embarked on a fiscal policy which to their shame even my grandchildren will be carrying that debt for the rest of their working lives”. Councillor Seymour speaks in the same English dialect as former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
The mayor failed to issue an instruction to councillor Seymour to get back on topic.
Councillors from both sides appear to have forgotten that the bin tax is in some senses a fraud on the people of Bexley. When it was first discussed it was revealed that separating food from garden waste would mean that both would cost less to process and the council would save £444,000 a year compared to the cost of processing mixed waste.
So the council will be spending less money but they are still going to impose charges. Perhaps councillor Munir should take an interest and indict cabinet member Don Massey first?
I am now one third of the way through my audio recording, and like Eliot Smith, Bexley Youth Councillor and Head Boy at Trinity School, I am not sure I can take much more of this. Back soon.