I thought Thursday’s Resources and Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee
meeting was one I should attend but a flooded cellar in East Ham thought
otherwise so this report, and those that follow, is a summary of what may be seen
and heard on the webcast if you have two and a quarter hours to spare.
The meeting was ably Chaired by Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) in the absence of Cabinet Member Louie French (Falconwood & Welling) who had been called to an urgent meeting in Eltham. Congratulations are now due to him after his selection as the Conservative’s Parliamentary Candidate for the Eltham constituency.
The first Agenda item was emergency planning for - sorry about this - Brexit.
Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) referred to “minor concerns” on waste services because some recyclables were currently exported to Holland. It is about 4% and suitable plans have been made and it not seen as a big problem.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked if Government had issued sufficient guidance on Brexit. He also thought that Brexit might have “a really significant impact” on Adults Social Services.
A Council Officer (Mr. O’Brien) reported that Government “has given us everything they can give us” and he expected an update on “Operation Yellowhammer” soon.
Plans have been made should there be any local shortage of food or fuel. Conway, Serco, Thames Water and the School Meals Services are all prepared and plans are updated almost daily. Parking areas for lorries at Manston Airport and on the M26 and “a hundred” places elsewhere will be able to cope if there is a delay at the ports.
Local road works will be reduced to a minimum to ensure as far as possible that traffic flows freely.
Councillor Daniel Francis said the Food Banks are “on their knees” and Councillor Linda Bailey chose to engage in a barely audible argument about his statement. The Chairman asked Councillor Francis to stick to the Agenda and both to show respect to each other. His question was about school transport, in particular for teachers who commute into Bexley from Kent. He was also concerned about the availability of medicine and said the epilepsy treatments imported from France had been difficult to obtain earlier this year and believed it was still the case in some areas.
The Council Officer said that the schools were supposed to have made their own plans but if they had not as Councillor Francis suggested he would have to offer them some guidance. More medicine guidance was due from Government the next day (midnight 26th September) but already various plan improvements were in place and there would be no delays at British ports. European ports remained a bit of unknown because they were subject to European politics. There is already a large “buffer stock”.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) confirmed Councillor Francis’ report on medicine shortages “and other things too” and believed “some of it was the result of panic buying, in fact it was all panic buying. We need to avoid panic buying. Is there any evidence of panic buying?” he asked.
None had been seen locally and fuel in particular should not be a problem as it does not come in via ports that might be affected by Brexit. Nationally “we have enough stock” the Council’s expert replied.
Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) asked if Council employees who are EU citizens had been identified and offered assistance and are they leaving in greater numbers than usual.
The HR Manager (Mr. Hollier) said there had not been a big response to his enquiries and all the indications were that staff were not very concerned but he will continue to offer every support. The turnover figures have not noticeably changed.
Cabinet Member David Leaf provided a list of reassurances about the borough’s and indeed national Brexit Planning in his usual long winded way. Everything is in hand; David says so.