Bexley Council has come a long way since its Deputy Leader sacked a whistleblower at the Thames Innovations Centre who complained that
it was employing a (later convicted) paedophile as manager and was shovelling in taxpayers’ cash to keep it afloat. Ten years later it is called
The Engine House and may at last be an asset to the borough. The annual £186,000 grant ceased in 2016.
Unfortunately the Council will have to loan it £235,000 to partially cover current refurbishment costs. It came up for discussion at the recent Resources and Growth Scrutiny meeting.
The Chairman started the discussion by thanking the management team for all the hard work that had gone into its transformation.
Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) admitted he had never visited it but was nevertheless impressed by the creativity on display there. He wanted to know how “such a great resource” was being advertised. He was told that the main thrust of advertising was via Social Media, its website and networking with similar facilities elsewhere.
Councillor Val Clark (Falconwood & Welling) asked to be permitted to make a statement and as she is a Conservative Councillor this was allowed. It transpired that her statement was a criticism of the previous management team who she said “fiddled and did nothing”. She said they were eventually asked to resign since when things have been much better. “Bad practices” were mentioned. Not paedophilia but the general thrust of Councillor Clarke’s comment was undoubtedly correct. A shame that a now gone Deputy Leader was happy to go along with it. Bexley Council is definitely not as Bonkers since certain people were shown the door.
Councillor Clark was not entirely happy that Bexley Council has not written off the debts from the early days and said that the Director of Finance had failed to respond to her request for a meeting made very nearly two months ago.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) asked where the comparable facilities were locally and was told there were “not many”.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) referred to how the failure to deliver Crossrail was adversely affecting nearby businesses and asked if The Engine House was being affected too.
Director Jane Richardson said that the current year was planned to be a quiet one during the refurbishment and some businesses had been lost but most replaced. It was difficult to say if the Crossrail delay has been a factor but with the refurbishment work in progress she would not have wanted the building to be full anyway. Crossrail will be an asset when it comes.
It was agreed that all Committee members should visit the facility early next year when refurbishment would be completed.
The Engine House.