With all the Agendas intended for public consumption taken by Councillors I was left to guess whether
the Places Scrutiny Committee meeting would include a report from Mrs. Jane
Richardson on Public Realm improvements, Regeneration and Growth but sticking around until the bitter end fortunately paid just a few dividends.
Before getting there Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) wished to comment on refuse collection. She has been getting far too many complaints about bins lids which are not properly replaced by Serco operatives and eventually go missing.
Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith said that the wind was very often the culprit which prompted Councillor Gareth Bacon to say “the age old blaming of the wind is cobblers”.
Gareth Bacon ought to know what he is talking about as he was the Cabinet Member who introduced the present refuse collection regime. “I have personally witnessed more times than I care to mention bins being strewn around and the lids habitually chucked inside the bin. They are then invariably left on the pavement not even back on the drive.”
Mr. Bryce-Smith agreed that most complaints are due to “a lack of attention” but there are more complaints during windy weather.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) said that the newer bins have better “catches on them so wind shouldn’t be a problem”.
He asked about the statistics which were showing reduced levels of fly tipping and defy what can be seen on the streets. He asked if there was a definition of fly tipping.
David Bryce-Smith confirmed that statistics are showing a reduction in fly tipping year on year but “it remains a serious issue”. Statistics are prepared in accordance with Department of Environment rules.
70 £400 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) have been issued for fly tipping since last October and he promised to provide Councillor Newman with a precise definition of fly tipping. One might have hoped that wardens out looking for offenders would have been given precise instructions on what constitutes a £400 fly tip and what is classed as littering (£80) but apparently not.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) said there had been “big increases [in fly tipping] in my ward especially around the Thamesmead estate” and sometimes it is Peabody that cleans it up. Mr. Bryce-Smith said that if they did, it would not go into the statistics.
Councillor Val Clark said that she rarely sees the litter wardens and never in the evening.
“Outside the night economies [in the Broadway] the number of dog ends and detritus is absolutely appalling and these establishments put ashtrays there [on or adjacent to the footpath] which they take away in the morning but leave all the dog ends [on the ground].”
“Why should our ratepayers pay to clean up for those who are making money? Can we send people out at night?”
Mr. Bryce-Smith said that “there are five officers which is clearly an issue when you have the whole borough to cover. They have been out with the police for evening work. There is a proposal out to increase the fine to £150 which will mean there will be more resources to deploy in targeting people.”
Councillor Newman thought that licensing conditions could be usefully imposed on the night time economy. He went on to comment on the fact that 94% of FPNs had been issued for dropped cigarette ends. He had anticipated a wider spread of offences.
He looked forward to the time, “with the coming of Crossrail etc. to more than 0·13% of enforcement being done in Abbey Wood”. (That figure includes Thamesmead.)
Mr. Bryce-Smith had himself queried such low figures - it was similar in Belvedere and Erith - and it was all down to “footfall“.
“For the time spent to catch someone can be quite hard when you have a low footfall”.
For similar reasons, “dog fouling is also difficult, we have only caught seven or eight people”. Councillor Newman remained unhappy about 94% of offences being cigarette butts and expected more crisp packets and chewing gum etc. “94% is not proportionate and I would not want this scheme to be only going for the easy hits.”
Mr. Bryce-Smith said wardens looked for other forms of littering and have even issued FPNs for spitting and the scheme might be extended to minors who are not currently fined.
Councillor Borella said some residents are shocked by the level of the fine and asked why there was no early payment discount or independent adjudication system. Mr. Bryce-Smith said the law did not allow for a discount or an appeal except through the Courts. Unlike parking offences (civil) littering is a criminal offence. “There are about 20 prosecutions [for non-payment] in play at the moment and the number will be rising significantly.” The payment rate has been 71%. (†)
At last the Chairman moved on to Jane Richardson’s report on Regeneration and Growth.
Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) wanted to talk about the Lower Thames Crossing which had been announced for east of Gravesend only a few hours earlier, why, no one was sure.
On behalf of Danny Hackett who had been called away, Seán Newman referred to the new paving in Wilton Road, the levels of which are undulating, cause problems with the newly installed shop shutters and in places dug up only a few days after being laid. “The traders down there are worried about the damage being done.”
Ms. Richardson said she “would get the details to understand what was going on”.
Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) who is the only Conservative in Bexley who understands railways indicated his disappointment that no one appears to be pushing for an Overground extension from Barking.
The electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking line is well advanced as is its extension to Barking Riverside. It should be further extended under the river to “sit under Abbey Wood station which would become a hub to the north as well and it is something this Council should be putting its weight behind. It will be great for job opportunities and once it gets to Abbey Wood, in the fullness of time, it can be extended to under here [Bexleyheath] which would solve our north south connectivity problems. It would take about two minutes [to get across the borough] and maybe an interim station way in the future. It is disappointing that it is not mentioned. It would be a fantastic asset to our regeneration opportunities”.
Ms. Richardson said the Council was lobbying on the scheme and there would be an update in her next report.
Councillor June Slaughter asked for news on the future of Sidcup Manor House. She had heard it might become a hotel. Ms. Richardson said there had been interest “from developers of varying quality but also from hotel providers and something that is 100% residential isn’t really something what we would want”.
“We are now undertaking a technical study to look at the works that would actually be required to enable the building to operate as a hotel. We have commissioned a specialist consultancy.”
Councillor Borella (Labour, North End) said he agreed with Councillor Tandy on his “very sensible” Overground ambitions and he had seen “a TfL map with a little line on it suggesting it could be extended to Abbey Wood and Belvedere”.
Future generations are not going to recognise the old place and look back on the flat earthers incredulously.
† This would appear to be another of Bexley Council’s lies. Discounts are permitted by the legislation. With thanks to lbbspending.blogspot for the information