The Leader didn’t really need to
parade three sham members of the public in
front of the Cabinet to ask silly questions, they had 45 Councillors who could
have done the same thing. Actually 44 as Maxine Fothergill has not shown up at
any Council meeting in the past six months and maybe a more limited choice if some
Councillors retain any integrity after four years of toeing Teresa’s line.
Fortunately for her Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) another Councillor, like Fothergill and the Masseys,
who does not live in the borough has mislaid his scruples. I am a little surprised, he has always seemed to be a decent enough chap.
His question worthy of the worst classroom creep was aimed at Cabinet Member for Finance Don Massey.
Councillor Dourmoush didn’t really need to ask Don Massey that question because all the figures are available on Bonkers. The Labour administration hit Bexley’s pockets really hard and the Tories since then have managed to hit us just a little bit harder.
Complaining that Labour dumped us near the top of the high Council Tax League - only eight Councils charged more - while making that bad situation worse is not a legacy that Councillor Massey should be crowing about.
Cabinet Member Massey appeared at first to struggle to conceal the raw facts so he immediately digressed and compared London Labour Councils with Conservative run ones more generally. Ignoring the fact that Labour run Newham has the lowest Council Tax in Outer London he said there was an amazing correlation between high tax and Labour Councils.
He had to go back to 1994 to find Bexley figures that might suit his agenda and told us that in the four years of a Lib/Lab coalition the Council Tax rates went up by “a stunning 67%”. For the following Conservative period he could only say they were “substantially lower”. Let me help him, the increase was just over 25%.
Councillor Massey can perhaps rightly claim that the Conservative Council has tried to keep tax rates low but what he doesn’t want to tell you is that Bexley has done less well than other high taxing Councils. It used to be lower than Labour run Haringey for example and now it isn’t.
Councillor Dourmoush then felt obliged to indulge in a spot of muck raking by mentioning the name Munir Malik a former Bexley Labour Councillor who said four years ago that the borough was on a path heading towards municipal bankruptcy. “Could the Cabinet Member explain how he avoided that scenario and does he agree that Mr. Malik’s return to the Labour fold tells us all we need to know about what Labour’s plans for Bexley would be?”
Councillor Massey said it was down to “basic financial sense and hard work. The problem with the opposition is that they like spending money. They left reserves far too low”.
Councillor Alan Deadman put in a plea for the lowest paid Council workers to be paid more but Councillor Massey (£27,000 Council allowances, a well paid job in Financial Services and a Register of Interests which is two years out of date) said “we can only spend the money we have got and I do not agree with Councillor Deadman”.
Mr. Munir Malik did not stand for election in 2014 but is a Labour candidate in Crayford in 2018.
Councillor Melvyn Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) kindly provided Cabinet Member Peter Craske with an opportunity to spin the library story. Would it be fiction or non-fiction?
Councillor Craske said that attendance at libraries across the country had been declining for the past 20 years “but here in Bexley, as ever, we buck the trend. Unlike other boroughs which have closed them or sold them off we have invested in our libraries”.
“We have the workary in Welling library and 3,000 people attended our book festival. I am very proud of what we achieved.”
Councillor Seymour¹s supplementary ‘question’ to Councillor Craske was to ask if he would “thank all the staff involved for their work in making Crayford Library the home of the new Post Office”. If that was a public question it would not be allowed on the grounds that it is not a question. On the other hand the rules tend to fly out of the window when nothing critical is said.
“Yes I would” came the reply and people queuing for a stamp had caused “footfall to go up 87% and items borrowed by 21%. Three libraries have been refurbished in three months” leading up to the election.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked what progress had been made towards allowing libraries to accept payment for “the full portfolio of Council services”.
Cabinet Member’s answer is best summarised as none. He chose instead to waffle about a cinema in Sidcup and accused Labour of wanting to close libraries.
As mayhem began to break out the Mayor’s egg-timer once again dropped its last grain of sand thus rescuing Cabinet Member Craske from further embarrassment.