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Bonkers Blog February 2019

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13 February (Part 2) - Houses in Bexley. Too expensive and too small

FerreiraThere was a couple of unusual items on last night’s Resources Scrutiny meeting Agenda, both there at the request of Labour Councillors. Joe Ferreira’s (Erith) was about housing, or “housing delivery” as the Agenda called it. It’s a subject that practically all politicians have failed to successfully tackle.

He opened with his trump card; not a single affordable home was built in Bexley in the last financial year. Not one.

His question was simple. “Why?”

Mrs. Richardson (Assistant Chief Executive - Growth) began with a statement of the obvious. “They are annual figures” but went on to say they should be looked at over a period of time. The target was exceeded in the previous year and “the planning approvals [for last year] would probably have been given two or three years ago”. She asked Members to look at the trend. “The houses under construction paints a much healthier picture”

Cabinet Member Louie French said that in the current financial year Bexley had seen “197 affordable starts and 140 affordable completions” which compares well with other London boroughs.

Councillor Howard Jackson decided to hit back at Councillor Ferreira by asking if Mayor Sadiq Khan had hit his targets. Councillor Daniel Francis rightly pointed out that this was a Bexley Scrutiny Committee looking at Bexley’s policies and achievements if any and not a GLA Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Jackson defended his question saying it was reasonable to contrast Bexley’s achievements with those elsewhere. The Conservative Chairman backed the Conservative Councillor.

Cabinet Member French said that Sadiq Khan had only built half the affordable homes he had promised despite being given £5 million by government to help him hit his target. To meet the target would require “more creative accounting by the Labour party supported by Dianne Abbott’s calculator”.

Then without a hint of irony he said that “housing should not be used as a political football”. Twice!

Councillor Francis took full advantage of the Chairman’s ruling that Scrutinising other London was a legitimate activity, asked how many other London boroughs had scored zero for affordable homes. Councillor French got away with that one fairly easily. He said other boroughs had not published their figures.

Allegedly embarrassing correspondence from Housing Associations revealing what the Council had told them to do was in Councillor Francis’s possession but could not be discussed because the Assistant Chief Executive had not seen it. Convenient.

Councillor Francis was concerned about the steeply rising number of people on the housing waiting list. 5,548 to 7,760 in just two years. He was told that renewing very poor quality housing resulted in a reduction in the housing stock. Larner Road, Arthur Street etc.

Whilst it was not specifically discussed at the meeting the Agenda gave some clues of the consequences of building homes as cheaply as possible.

Of the 679 homes built in the financial year 2017/18, 40% of them had only one bedroom, another 40% had only two. 18% three bedrooms and just 13 dwellings had four.


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