The first proper
Full Council meeting of Bexley’s municipal year was held yesterday evening; ‘proper’ in the sense that there were
questions and motions and a Leader’s report instead of the back slapping and boozing that characterises
the Mayor selection ceremony held in May. But there was quite a
lot of backslapping nevertheless, verging on the cringeworthy at times.
A crystal ball was not needed to forecast that Leader O’Neill would go into full-on boasting mode following her electoral success in May and claim it to be a mandate to do whatever she pleases. She would have us believe that people voted Conservative because of the improvements the Conservatives have inflicted on the borough while it is just as likely that her electoral lies about the hard left taking over the local Labour Party coupled with the Corbyn factor nationally took its toll on doorsteps across the borough.
Given the difficult economic circumstances and ignoring the lies, deceptions and financial trickery of the past couple of years Bexley Council could be said to have done a passable sort of job and if the answers to last night’s questions are to be believed every problem is either the fault of the Labour Party in government or things were far worse between 2002 and 2006 when the Labour Party was last in power in Bexley.
Whilst acknowledging that Bexley Conservatives have in various ways made a better job of running Bexley than some other Councils in London last night’s meeting convinced me that the top brass in Bexley are simply very nasty people indeed.
After Cabinet Member Peter Craske coined the phrase ‘The Doom and Gloomy Party’ to try to rile the Labour Group, Leader Teresa O’Neill in her summary of the evening’s events said that Craske’s jibe was the highlight of her evening.
Making a joke that went right over my head, the Leader produced two rubber ducks with which to taunt the opposition. It’s the politics of the kindergarten.
The Motion from Councillors Adam Wildman (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) and Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) which we were forced to endure was arse licking of the highest order. This pair of twerps proved their worth back in April and are obviously determined to continue in the same vein.
That should become clearer in following reports but meanwhile, what of the questions?
The first was from Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere). What is Councillor Craske doing to solve the waste collection problems?
He said that Serco has had action taken against them on four occasions and been ‘fined’ £7,000.
Councillor Hinkley asked Councillor Craske to inform residents via the Bexley Magazine the reasons for the service disruption and what he was doing about it. Councillor Craske said the number of missed bins was declining but made no effort to respond to the suggestion. He later said that there were only 3,000 missed bins in June and 2,000,000 collected.
Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) asked the Cabinet Member for Growth how many affordable and social homes had been built in Bexley over the past twelve months.
Councillor Louie French said that according to the GLA counting regime the number was 136 affordables and 51% were for rent and the remainder to buy.
Councillor Putson said that 2,000 displaced Bexley people were being housed in 1,261 emergency homes. “How many decades will it take to meet their housing needs?” Councillor French said that the question did not fall within his portfolio but the Growth Strategy would deliver 31,500 new homes over a 30 year period. Having realised the inadequacy of his answer he reminded Councillors that the worst house building figures came “under Labour in 2003 to 2006” and he was “disappointed” that the Labour Group voted against “investment in affordable homes, regeneration, highways, school places, all in support of the Growth Strategy”. Do you believe that? Labour voted against affordable homes? Me neither.
Councillor French said that Bexley is in 15th place out of the 32 London boroughs in affordable home construction. Additionally London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s claim to be building 12,500 affordable homes (against his election pledge of 80,000 a year) was only achieved by double counting those started under Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson.
The first question of the creepy variety came from new Member Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst). He wanted to hear Deputy Leader Louie French congratulate the winners of the Bexley Business Awards. Councillor French duly obliged. Councillor Jackson also wanted to hear the Deputy Leader confirm that the awards cost next to nothing because of sponsorship. Councillor French responded and Councillor Jackson sat down a happy man.
The fourth of the new Conservatives and the only one yet to blot her BiB copybook is Councillor Sue Gower MBE and long may it continue. She represents Bexleyheath and asked for a progress report on the Growth Strategy as it affects her ward.
Deputy Leader Louie French was having a busy night, he said there was a Master Plan bringing together town centre partners, land owners and developers and there will be a draft document early in the 2019. “It is a challenging time for retailers and we are working hard to support them.”
Councillor Gower was also concerned about the London Mayor’s draft plan; what did the Deputy Leader think about it? “His one size fits all model does not work for Outer London and certainly not here in Bexley with its challenges of poor transport infrastructure and high car ownership”.
Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) wanted to know how many Bexley residents would be caught up with Universal Credit. Cabinet Member for Resources David Leaf said it was complicated because Bexley residents are served by DWP offices in Greenwich and Dartford as well as Bexley and the introductory dates vary. On top of that the government has “introduced a package of new measures” which Councillor Leaf said were not supported by Labour nationally. He did not quote the required figure.
When asked how Bexley Council might address the problem of food banks he said “the last Labour government did nothing to help food banks but I think everyone should work together to alleviate the causes of poverty.”
“Under Labour it was a choice between heating and eating.”
Councillor Leaf continued with his account of Labour Party failures for a total of six minutes thereby neatly kicking 20 more questions into the long grass. The allowed 30 minutes had expired.
Chief Executive Gill Steward supposedly working out her notice was missing from the top table - but not missed. The only useful thing she ever did there was decide the microphones needed to be replaced. The audio quality is now hugely improved.