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Cabinet meeting began in the time honoured way, Taryn Eves,
substituting for Alison Griffin who now heads Southend Council gave the low down
on Bexley’s parlous financial position, details of which will appear here when
time permits. Meanwhile, suffice to say that next year’s planned savings are still
£5,100,000 short of what is needed and successive years get progressively worse.
2021’s black hole is £12,400,000 deep.
Better news, from an accountant’s point of view anyway, is that there was a £2,800,000 underspend last year. Not all straight forward cuts of course, efficiency improvements would have helped and a more aggressive attack on motorists most certainly did.
With £2·8 million sloshing around unexpectedly - or at least unbudgeted - and a £5·1 million black hole looming you may already be guessing where the prudent Tories would be placing the surplus, but your sensible thinking is probably not coloured by the forthcoming elections. The money is going to go on populist measures, a lot of it simply restoring earlier cuts but some of it on serious capital expenditure. like sacks of tree bark for mulch in parks.
£2·8 million won’t go far and how will the extra grass cutting be maintained in future years? Aah, I am beginning to forget that with the election safely in the bag, there will be scope for more cuts and the cycle can be repeated.
Like Ms. Eves’ report, Cabinet Member Peter Craske pulling yet another populist rabbit from his hat is also going to have to wait, There is a solid line of commitments lined up before me with no break before next Monday afternoon! Blogs will be short if not sweet!
However Councillor Craske’s rabbits were not the only interesting revelations last night; some flesh was put on the plans for site redevelopment across the borough and they are far easier to report.
West Street in Erith, Wilde Road East and West in Northumberland Heath and Old Farm Park are well known victims of Bexley’s austerity policy but they are no longer alone.
The Nag’s Head car park in Welling is for the chop and an asset of Community Value, the former Slade Green Community Centre and its car park are to be given over to more new homes. A site in Walnut Tree Road in Erith is to suffer the same fate.
As has been long suspected, Abbey Wood’s Felixstowe Road car park (currently commandeered by Network Rail) will not see the light of day again. Part of it is earmarked for a cycle hub and Peabody Housing Association has plans for the remainder.
Bexley Council will “start to explore the possible use of Compulsory Purchase powers” in relation to Erith’s Pier Road West because it believes that site “remains of strategic importance to the Council’s ambitions for Erith’s regeneration”.
Overall the Council is looking at a profit of £37 million on this tranche of family silver. What will they do for income when everything is sold off? Presumably they will live off the hugely increased Council tax base while residents wait two months for a doctor’s appointment.