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There have been two reports on last Wednesday’s Council meeting so far but the end is now in sight. The invariably interesting Leader’s report was rather longer than usual and not just because she was keen to tell everyone that it had been her birthday the day before.
She also took up more time to thank the election team “for the right result in two constituencies”.
There had been “a lot of good stuff said [about the Growth Strategy] on both sides of the Chamber this evening and I went to one of the first Road Shows with Councillor Bailey and while we were standing there we had some really good conversations with residents who were really well informed. It was refreshing. I know there have been some issues in Slade Green, Erith and parts of Crayford caused by scaremongering and I would like to say to the Members for Slade Green, well done on your letter. I understand you got some hostile reception last night”.
The Leader referred to the cross party support against the proposal that trains no longer use the full range of London terminals and achieving an extension of the consultation period. “Councillor Sawyer has asked the four contenders for the franchise to come down and have a conversation with Bexley of what Bexley residents need from that service going forward.” (Why do people use that silly expression?)
“You will know the Elizabeth Line, really you can feel it in Abbey Wood now, it is going to happen and it is really exciting but, as we have said, the job has got to be continued. It needs to join up with Ebbsfleet. There was a letter only last month from the North Kent MPs supporting our bid. Chris Grayling [Transport Secretary] will be coming down in August to see for himself what the plans are.”
If the plan is to run a second Crossrail track through Abbey Wood station maybe Mr. Grayling will have some idea on how the massive concrete wall shown here can be removed without the new station falling down.
“The other key thing is jobs and to grab hold of the opportunities our residents need the right skills. We have been creative in some of the things we have done and I am delighted that our children’s social workers are now 85% permanent staff.”
“The ‘Making Institute’ in Thamesmead is a good idea, people are saying, where do I sign?’
“Lesnes Abbey, I have not been there yet, but I understand it is fantastic. The boys went to the beach at Belvedere with their sun hats on and the Lighthouse Project is coming to Erith. We have a fantastic borough with great people. The only way is up.”
Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) raised SEN (Special Educational Needs) again and said “in her day children were shut away or institutionalised so she was delighted to see the pleasure when they were given awards at the Supported Students’ award ceremony”.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) referred to the Grenfell Tower but could not be heard because of the echo (delay from distant loudspeaker conflicts with nearby voices) mentioned a day or two ago but the reply from Council Leader O’Neill assured him that fire inspections will extend from housing associations etc. to private developments.
Councillor Cafer Munur’s (Conservative, East Wickham) contribution to the meeting was “to congratulate Oxleas on their recent re-inspection and commend all the Oxleas staff for their hard work and commitment that has made this improvement possible”. Councillor Munur is a governor of the NHS Trust.
Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) asked for more details on railway terminal developments. Councillor Sawyer repeated for those with short attention spans that he had invited the four potential franchisees to Bexley to discuss the issue and in a letter the Secretary of State had said he was not proposing to reduce or change specific services” but TfL was sitting on the fence over the terminal issue.
Councillor Leaf also asked the Cabinet Member for his opinion on Labour members allegedly referring to the freshly painted Belvedere Beach as “tacky” but even Cabinet Member Craske could not be bothered with such trivialities. There was no comment whatsoever.
Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) asked why Slade Green had been omitted from the schedule of Regeneration Roadshows. The biggest redevelopment area and the only one missing from the list. Areas with very little planned regeneration had two each.
She was rewarded with the silliest answer of the evening. Cabinet Member Linda Bailey said that Councillor Langstead was talking “nonsense” and there was no Road Show in Slade Green because Labour hadn’t asked for one. “You should have picked that up.” No, surely that is the Cabinet Member’s reposnsibility? Hers.
For the record, Thamesmead’s only Road Show was scheduled three days before the consultation was due to close, not much time to get the comments in.
Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) spoke about the LED lighting “which has improved the safety of our residents while walking and driving and would the Leader agree that this is an excellent example of how this Conservative Council improves services for residents and yet at the same time produce savings for our rate payers, in this instance of just about £330,000 a year which will rise to £680,000 in years to come.”
You will not be surprised to learn that the Leader “totally agreed” with him “and it is one of the very few changes where residents have told me, this is fantastic, I really like the new lights”.
My Inbox suggests that that is not a universally held view and the Leader failed to mention that the scheme was £200,000 over budget, a deficit that Bexley proposes to cut by more aggressive moving traffic enforcement penalties.
And with that final piece of back-slapping, the Mayor drew the session to an end though not yet the meeting. There were a few votes on procedural matters of no special interest. It was the usual rigmarole of Labour members saying there was something misreported at a Scrutiny meeting, the Chairman denying it and the Conservative majority voting for the disputed minutes.