I am losing track of what part of the three recent Scrutiny meetings have not
yet been covered on BiB. The Places meeting is probably not worth pursuing
further but People may not yet be completed. However the one that needs no checking
is Resources, it has not so far been covered at all.
The downside to Resources is that it is rarely the most interesting and when it is the last of the three, as it was this quarter, it is a little repetitive. The back end of Agendas are usually very similar to each other.
The first significant item on the Resources Agenda was analysis of a ‘How are we doing’ survey. There were more positives than negatives but the “small number of people who have taken part” was said to have made the results unreliable. One might argue that without greater participation it was a waste of time. Mr. Ferry the Communications Manager said it tended to be people with strong views who took part. The Council’s expert gave the impression that he took the results with a pinch of salt.
Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) noted the low take up by young people, only 4·1% out of the total of 412. As she did at the Communications meeting she offered advice on how the response figures might be improved.
Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said that despite the low response rate the findings were broadly in line with what he hears from residents in his ward.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was optimistic that the Communications Sub Group would make recommendations leading to improvements.
Councillor Seán Newman ( Labour, Belvedere) drew attention to the six subjects hidden away at the bottom of a long list which all got negative responses from residents. Youth Services, Street Cleaning, Town Planning, Parking, Footpath Repair and Roads Repair.
Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) took issue with Councillor Oppong-Osare for daring to comment on the low response rate as had the Communications Manager several times. Councillor Tandy said “that was fine but I wonder if she would share with us any views she has on how we might do that. Could she make some suggestions?”.
She drew on what appeared to be professional experience in marketing communications and occasional techno-talk may have taken some Councillors out of their comfort zones.
The Council proposes to change its Complaints Procedure. Instead of it being a three stage process, it will be only two which means it might be that less time elapses before it is necessary to go to the Information Commissioner or whatever.
Mr. Nick Hollier said that about 20 London Councils already use a two stage procedure. Under the new arrangement the Council will give themselves 15 days to answer the initial complaint instead of the current ten. How that speeds things up overall I am not sure but Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) said the time would come down from 46 days to 30.
Labour Leader Alan Deadman said there might be a correlation between the existing two stage complaint councils and those with high references to the Local Government Ombudsman, but Mr. Hollier thought not.
Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) didn’t think that references to the LGO was altogether sensible. “Looking at the number of references is not a reliable indicator of how well we are responding to complaints” but the new procedure was “a positive step”.
The new procedure will take effect next April.
Before moving on to the Cabinet Member’s report, the Chairman Councillor Steven Hall, apologised for the unavailability of the documentation. In plain English, the website had been down on and off for several days.
Except to say that the web problems were due to “settings”, Cabinet Member Don Massey did not have anything to say and the single question posed was of no interest other than to Councillors. (Making confidential documents available securely on the web.)
The meeting moved on to its staple diet of budget cuts which it repeats ad infinitum with minor revisions. It has however dreamed up a new name for a ‘Savage Cut’; it is now a ‘Deep Dive’. Presumably it is the Buffoon trying to justify her existence again.
After an hour and 15 minutes of a somewhat boring meeting I was persuaded by Messrs. Watson and Bryant that my time might be better spent in a pub, so knowing that I could revisit the meeting via the webcast I allowed my arm to be twisted.
The meeting went on for a further 50 minutes. I noted that Councillor Slaughter again asked Cabinet Member Massey what provision had been made for accommodation for Voluntary Services (as promised by Tesco) on the “much lamented Tesco site”. Councillor Massey repeated his previous answer, he had no idea. Councillor Slaughter made reference, accompanied by much laughter to Sports Direct’s public image.
I also noted that a few minutes after I left Cabinet Member Massey took a leaf out of his wife’s book by telling Councillor Newman that he could not speak - surely the Chairman’s job?
Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) was critical of the London Mayor’s transport decisions. Cabinet Member Massey said it was “disappointing that he doesn’t understand the need for a road link’ and Councillors, Labour I assume but the webcast doesn’t reveal such things, could be heard falling over themselves laughing. Now remind me, who was it that did not want a bridge anywhere near Bexley in the past?
Two addresses, two faces.