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News and Comment March 2020

Index: 2020

21 March - Looking for the bright side. Not easy

I suppose it didn’t help when Bexley Council announced library closures, leisure centre closures and the halving of recycling services on the same day that the increased Council Tax bills hit doormats but I was nevertheless surprised at the total negativity displayed towards them in the Bonkers’ postbag.

The severity of the current situation didn’t really hit home for most people until two weeks ago at most and the Council Tax was fixed a week or so earlier so Capita would have swung into action immediately with the inevitable result. It is not an act of Council spite as has been suggested.

Reducing the recycling service to monthly was in my opinion a necessary precaution given that half the population may be off sick very soon.

The bin strike was called off when Serco agreed to be more conciliatory than hitherto but my bin is still out on the footpath two days after it should have been collected. It’s not unexpected in exceptional times. It’s not going to kill anyone.

One email asked if would be OK not to pay the Council Tax bill now that services are suspended. Silly question really; when have you ever known a Council give anything away? Bexley Council has however promised to delay sending in the bailiffs. Good of them eh?

To be honest I don’t think there is a lot of Corona related stuff on Bexley’s website that helps residents. Most of the information is available on the government website and the rest one might argue is more about protecting themselves and service withdrawals. But they would be criticised if it was not there at all as is still the case with the Newham Care Agency. I am still waiting for the promised Corona action plan. I have one from nearly every company I have ever dealt with but from Highland Care UK, absolutely nothing.

If you are looking for justified criticism of Bexley Council look at the Brown Bin Tax. (New charges letter issued this week.) The discounted price is up 50% (£27 to £40) since the charge was introduced four years ago. Despite it being a big money spinner and segregating food and garden waste saving the Council nearly half a million a year. It was so predictable; Cabinet Member Craske is in charge. Remember the tripling of Parking Permit fees? He did that too.

But let’s try to find the bright side if there is one. Three Councillors, one from each party, have asked if I am getting along OK given the responsibilities across the river and my allegedly advancing years. Offers to get my shopping and ideas on where to get it when my neighbours fall into only two categories; those as old as I am and those who don’t speak English. A couple of readers have made similar offers too. How anyone could buy for more than one household given the purchasing restrictions I have no idea.

Fortunately I can probably get by both home and away for about three weeks although discovering three sealed boxes of Man Size Kleenex ending up empty in Newham’s dust bin just four days later was an unexpected but maybe minor problem. Ditto the pharmacist who has for the fourth consecutive month forgotten to deliver medication and is not answering the phone. But at least the drive over there was easy; relaxed, almost a pleasure.

To realise just how much some people are suffering because of isolation or shop looting just browse around the local Facebook Groups. I wish I could help but thanks to the aforesaid barely competent pharmacist I do have more Paracetamol than I need.

It has been suggested that I missed photo opportunities by not going around the local supermarkets picturing queues, empty shelves and scuffles. True, but the answer to that is that all my friends and relations are in the vulnerable category and there can be no excuse for putting them at unnecessary risk.

Stay safe, stay at home if you can. The supermarkets will probably find a sensible mode of operation before you starve.


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