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Councillor James Hunt’s People Overview and Scrutiny meeting can be interesting
because one often hears reports from the police about the soaring rates of crime
and the medics telling their sometimes dismal stories. Last time it was
failures by the Stroke Services and in the past we have heard how some of
Bexley’s health statistics are among the worst in the country;
HIV rates have been particularly bad.
The Clinical Commissioning Group’s report for 2016/17 conveniently omits mentioning HIV rates. Every statistic chosen for inclusion in that report shows Bexley to be better than the London or UK averages.
Unfortunately neither the police nor CCG staff were invited to last week’s meeting and as a result there was no particular highlight. With luck this report will be brief.
Unlike at Resources two days later where it was said that the Agenda must include Cabinet papers, Councillor Hunt made sure right from the start that “everybody has brought their Cabinet papers with them”.
The Finance man reported that this year the budget was running pretty much on track and “there are positive things for next year but the medium term remains challenging”.
Councillor Borella’s (Labour, North End) interest was Social Care which has a total budget of £50 million this year with no significant increase over the next three years.
Cabinet Member for Adult Services, Brad Smith, said “you don’t just get a better service by spending more money, you make a better service that costs less”.
Deputy Director of Housing etc. David Bryce-Smith said that “homelessness was a challenge for the borough but he was also doing a lot of work on those who are at risk of becoming homeless. Identifying people in private accommodation whose housing benefit does not cover the cost. Seeing what we can do to assist those people proactively. There is a lot more work to do.”
Mr. Bryce-Smith has increased his house purchase spree to 200 properties. He was considering leasing them to “another organisation”.
Mr. Rowbottom, Deputy Director of Adult Social Care, had been speaking to Peabody “and they are very keen to talk to us about how they can help [with care services] not just for older people but for supported housing for working age people with disabilities. Hundreds of units over some years”.
Councillor Langstead (Labour, North End) queried the £225,000 expenditure on CCTV which is no longer monitored. She was told it was the maintenance cost.
Vice-Chairman Councillor Alan Downing said he was very impressed by the Financial Plans and any Council in London that can present a budget like this year on year like Bexley should be very very proud. To come up with a budget [correct] almost to the penny and at the same time the services have been running hard and even improved in lots of circumstances and has even put money into reserve really should step back and pat themselves on the back”.
“The two big points are housing and homelessness, it is a serious serious business and I am just hoping that all the work we have done so far ” and then he wandered off on a tangent about the academy for social work but when he came back said “in all honesty this is a marvellous budget and I am very pleased with it.”
I can hear the various park saving groups asking why if things are that good were four parks sold off?
Twelve years on from the 2006’s Labour administration Tories still bring up their 40% tax increase - which was never handed back so presumably it was justified - and in twelve years time you will still hear the cry of Save Old Farm Park etc. It will be the Tories’ epitaph with only an octogenarian Councillor Slaughter being able to hold her head high.
On the subject of the Social Care Academy for children introduced by his colleague Philip Read, Brad Smith said he was planning the equivalent for Adults’ Services.
The discussion on finance was concluded and so is this report before my eyes totally close up.