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General Purposes Committee meetings do not often justify attendance and it is
whole year since I last spent time at one. The positives for last night were
that the Chairman and Committee Officer are always welcoming and the
Agenda suggested that it might be all done and dusted in half an hour. Not
perhaps enough to tempt me but two Tree Preservation Orders were being
challenged and nostalgia drew me in.
In 1976, when I lived in Hampshire, I challenged a preservation order placed on five enormous beech trees growing close to a house I had just bought. The sneaky gits on Hart District Council had placed a TPO on them after my solicitor had done his searches but before I moved in. I beat them on a legal technicality which they were unable to get around. They still argued when I removed the trees but there was nothing they could do about it.
The first order discussed yesterday evening was on a gigantic oak which overhung a neighbour’s garden. With a TPO in place the neighbour was no longer able to trim the branches that overshadowed his garden without Council permission. One can normally trim a tree in an adjacent garden that is overhanging one’s property.
The only support for the challenger came from Councillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) who admitted to carefully watching an oak growing in his own garden. He was considering removing it before it became “a real pain”. Such trees caused damage to property when branches fell, he said.
No one else spoke in favour of the TPO challenge so it remains in place.
Another TPO challenge concerned a number of trees in and around Knoll Road. They did not appear to be especially attractive specimens but their removal would undoubtedly impact the visual environment.
Once again only Councillor Bacon had any doubts about the wisdom of a TPO. He said he knew the area well and he had more than once seen the trees drop large branches which would have resulted in deaths had anyone been underneath at the time.
He alone was concerned about public safety but the Council Officer said that would be the householder’s responsibility, implying that Bexley Council has limited interest in public safety.
Once again the tree huggers won the day.
" The General Purposes Committee at this time of the year has to approve a basic Council Tax calculation. How many Band D equivalent properties are there in Bexley? The answer is 81,287. Probably no one on the Committee is qualified to question the Financial Strategy Manager’s calculations so the figure was nodded through in 75 seconds.
The equivalent Business Rate debate took 15 seconds longer.
Director of Children’s Services Jacky Tiotto was present to explain and gain approval for reorganising her department following the retirement of a senior staff member.
Good schools attract people to the borough so it is an essential part of the Growth Strategy. Ms. Tiotto proposes a Deputy Director for Achievement and Inclusion which will cost £139,000 a year however all but £9,000 will be offset by not replacing staff in other posts.
Councillor McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) asked some educational questions which were eventually ruled to be beyond the Committee’s remit but before reaching that stage we learned from Ms. Tiotto that if a child was excluded from an academy the Council must take responsibility within six days and that can result in an expenditure in the region of £100,000 per child if it has to be educated outside the borough.
Remember that when your Council tax goes up by another 4% in two months time.