Mayor Sybil Camsey
began the Full Council meeting by expressing the hope that everyone would enjoy the
meeting and I am pleased to say I did, for it has been quite a long time since I
have been treated to quite such an inept display of partisanship.
Not in the the same league as Councillor Val Clark when she was Mayor. We are unlikely to see that degree of injustice to the opposition members and the public again, webcasts have put paid to that. Nothing is likely to beat Councillor Clark’s letter complaining of Nicholas Dowling’s failure to applaud loudly enough but Mayor Camsey commandeering Councillor Ezenwata’s microphone must run it close.
It was the budget setting meeting where Conservatives are supposed to crow about their dubious achievements and the opposition is supposed to meekly accept it and put forward no new ideas. It didn’t quite work out like that.
Council Leader Teresa O’Neill commenced proceedings by asking for her Capital Programme to be approved. She said that the growth in the North of the borough was “pivotal” and she is right. She is “aware of the need to grow our borough.” Shame it took her ten years to realise it. The regeneration work in Bexleyheath and Bexley Village was “innovative” and it was done with TfL’s money.
Deputy Leader Alex Sawyer said that “every pound taken from TfL was a pound not taken from our taxpayers”. The GLA is some sort of money tree that every other borough nurtures and only Bexley picks the fruit. Well he can dream.
Councillor Daniel Francis put forward an alternative idea for spending a tiny fraction of the available money and Mayor Camsey’s attempt to derail it before it could be submitted was both weak and ineffective.
It said in essence the money provided by the developers of Norman Park (close to Belvedere railway station) which had to be spent within two kilometres of the new housing should be spent where the Splash Park used to be to ensure a decent new playground there. The money allocated so far is barely more than the cost of the replacement Lesnes Abbey slide. (£104,000.) Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said he wished to “maximise” expenditure on the replacement facility.
Labour’s Amendment had one major and fundament flaw. It was a Labour Amendment.
Councillor O’Neill dodged the opportunity to comment on the Amendment preferring to pass the buck to Councillor Peter Craske (Conservative, a long way to the south).
He said he thought everyone had already agreed the new plans for the Belvedere play facility though he accepted he didn’t know what the budget would be. (He’d said between £150k. and £250k. at the last Cabinet meeting.)
Councillor Craske said that Labour wasn’t serious about their proposal and had “cobbled it together” two days earlier. He didn’t accept the Amendment.
As noted before, Councillor Craske is not the attack dog he once was and in that role he now has a serious rival. Cabinet Member Don Massey.
Councillor Massey said the opposition must “hold council professionals in contempt” if they thought they could make a last ditch budget Amendment and “it beggared belief”. He then led off on the dangers of Cryptosporidium apparently oblivious to the fact that the Amendment made no reference to what the money might be spent on, only where.
He barged on regardless, raking up the mistakes allegedly made by Labour back in 2005/06 when the Splash Park was installed. Mayor Camsey, who later proved to be unusually keen on members speaking to the subject failed to notice. “it [the Labour Amendment] was quite contemptible. They have lost the plot.”
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked for the vote to be taken by roll call. It was and the Amendment was rejected; divided in the inevitably unanimous way with UKIP again voting Tory.
Councillor Maxine Fothergill was absent from the meeting although I am sure I saw her in the building immediately before it began.
To be continued