Councillors get 15 minutes - plus the remainder of the public’s time that they may not have taken up - for questions too. Conservative Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) asked Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer to give an update on the trial of part time street lighting in her ward.
The trial was concluded on time at the end of March, the yellow sodium lights have been replaced by LEDs and full time lighting has been restored. The police have reported favourably regarding crime rates.
Residents are being asked for feedback and the deadline for that was 24th April. A survey form was distributed to every house in the trial zone.
Formal proposals for the future will be put forward over the next few months. A changeover to LED and part time working will be expensive and community safety will be fully taken into account.
“It is another difficult decision that the Council must take.” It has become the norm for Councillor Sawyer to take a swipe at central government which “cuts Council Funding and expects Councils to take on more unfunded responsibilities, yet continues to waste money on pet schemes”. I think he meant the eight page taxpayer funded pro-EU propaganda.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) raised concerns, he claimed they were shared by the police, about turning off street lighting where traffic calming measures are in place. Councillor Sawyer didn’t think the police had been concerned but residents may have escalated their concerns to the police. Such conflicts had never been taken to a Court of Law so the legal situation was unclear but he thought there might be “certain roads that we have to exempt”.
Councillor John Waters wished to give his colleague Peter Craske an opportunity to crow over the borough’s comparatively good recycling rate of 54% but his question was interlaced with barbs. Bexley residents have to put up with seven waste receptacles whilst Greenwich imposes only three, “how much rubbish does that Council recycle?”
Greenwich “does what it wants and their recycling rate is 36%. It was", Peter Craske said, “quite simple to work out what goes in each of Bexley’s bins".
Councillor Waters in a variant of the ‘isn’t Bexley wonderful’ style of questioning asked Councillor Craske “if he would join me in applauding our borough’s residents for making us consistently the number one borough for recycling”. Councillor Craske was happy to oblige.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) reminded Council of the massive disparity between waste disposal charges in Bexley and Greenwich. His comments fell on deaf ears.
Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) asked the Council Leader what effect a Brexit would have on Bexley. “Some impact irrespective of the outcome” was the non-committal answer.
Councillor Oppong-Asare said that the London Enterprise Panel was allocated £530 million by the European Social Fund which helped create jobs and support businesses in the boroughs including Erith in particular.
The Council Leader agreed that some money did come from Europe but “it could be said that it was taxpayers’ money which had gone to Europe”. Alex Sawyer has made it amply clear which side of the European debate he sits on, Teresa O’Neill was a little more circumspect.
Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) is one of those creepy crawling Councillors who exist only to seek favours from his Leader. “Would the Leader remind Members of the level of investment secured by this Council which is being used for the benefit of our residents and does she agree with me that our residents are worse off because Gordon Brown and Tony Blair spent large chunks of [lost in the laughter].”
The Leader said she could “perhaps just say yes” but went on to agree with the investment comments without providing any figures.
Councillor David Leaf has well and truly taken over the mantle of Village Idiot from the former occupant of that position, John Davey.
Councillor John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked if the Council had made any bids for EU funding in the recent past. The Council Leader said that bids had been made for the “money going out to come back”. The Council received £3 million in 2009 which helped fund the £5·7 million Erith link road to the industrial estates which in turn persuaded Tesco and Ocado to the site. Another bid was made last February the outcome of which is unknown.
£33,000 was allocated by the EU to “good practice in managing open space”. There was a ripple of ironic laughter. The Leader said it was all taxpayers’ money coming back, thereby shedding a little more light on her views on the European Union.
Councillor Husband wished to know what plans there were for replacing the funds in the event of a Brexit. The Leader repeated “that is taxpayers’ money anyway, the reality is that it could still be available. There is no point in prejudging what the outcome will be”.
Councillor Leaf was back again like a cracked record. “Is the Leader aware that the last Labour Government refused to put forward Assisted Area Funding which would have meant more taxpayers’ money coming back to us and does she also welcome the fact that it is this Conservative government which is having a referendum on Europe and the last Labour government refused our residents and denied the country”.
The Council Leader welcomed the referendum and agreed that the Labour decision deprived Belvedere, Erith and North End wards of assistance.
Councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP, St Michael’s) pursued the referendum issues. “Did the Leader believe that Bexley would benefit from being outside the European Union?” Teresa O’Neill seemed to think most things would go on much as before after 23rd June and “did not think things would just be wiped away” but was keen to avoid directly answering the question.
The final question came once again from the Village Idiot. “Does the Leader agree with me that this borough will always be better off with a Conservative Council, a Conservative government and a Conservative Mayor of London?”
“I agree with Councillor Leaf” was all that the Leader was able to say before the Mayor called time.
Is David Leaf really the best filing clerk that Priti Patel MP can find to answer her office phone?