Councillor O’Neill֦’s report to Full Council is is usually interesting while remaining
commendably brief. This week’s was merely short but for the icing on the
cake we learned that Councillors Pallen and Hall shared a birthday with the Queen.
Covid got a mention but nothing we have not heard before but the Cabinet Office gang which visited this week were given an ear bashing over Bexley’s poor public health grant.
The police had informed the Leader that the lockdown reduced the number of burglaries and an invitation from Peabody to tour their new skyscraper city in Thamesmead was “fantastic”.
And that was it. Just over three minutes, short and sweet.
Councillor Munur (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) wanted someone to tell him how wonderful the mental health services in the borough are, in particular that of children in care.
Cabinet Member Philip Read said the emphasis was on early intervention and there was a Project Group developing future procurement of services which should be active by April next year.
Councillor Taylor (Labour, Erith) was invited to ask a question and drew attention to the Agenda which continued to imply that the Council’s financial woes were due to Covid and said “it is not a point of pride” that it went to Government for “a bail out”. She asked the Leader to confirm that there would be no further job cuts and to residents that services would not be adversely affected further.
The Leader responded with a political jibe at Councillor Hinkley (she was repeating Labour H.Q. spin) and without the benefit of video I think Councillor O’Neill was confused. Councillor Leaf thought so too.
His answer to Councillor Taylor was that Labour had not been paying attention during the budget setting process and she “did very little or nothing”. He complained that staffing levels and cuts were being made into “a political football”.
She had ample opportunity to suggest how things could have been done differently but chose not to do so, he said, and “I refute the claims she has made.”
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) referred to a decision taken some years ago to get TfL to fund school crossing patrols, the only borough to do so, and now the funding has gone. Patrols that are lost for any reason are not now replaced causing widespread anxiety among parents.
Cabinet Member Craske said he was angry with the Mayor too for the axing of various road safety schemes but the Government’s bail out of TfL had enabled patrols to continue for another six weeks. He thought it would be helpful if Councillor Francis rang his friends in City Hall.
Councillor Craske was perhaps more interested in how Councillor Francis got hold of his information (an FOI to every London Council apart from Bexley) than saving the crossing patrols. One has to ask if he is as concerned as makes out he is.
Ten years ago it was his proposal that they all be abandoned as a waste of money. (Early in 2010 when such things were not always reported in detail here but the subsequent reversal was.)
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour) had the last word bringing attention to the Council’s dubious claim that they have increased the pot hole budget when the truth (masked by a current versus capital budget arrangement) is that it reduced by more than a million pounds over two years. In a further twist of the truth knife he suggested that the bragging over having two Green Flag parks in the borough was no great shakes as 15 years ago under Labour five parks gained the award.
Councillor Craske complained about Labour’s FOI request about crossing patrols saying it was a waste of taxpayers’ money despite Councillor Francis assuring him that none was made to Bexley.
He also denied the road maintenance budget cut but accepted there were five Green Flags until 2007, twelve months after the Tories took control of the borough.
I suspect I am alone in enjoying Stefano’s brief reference to Craske’s “little break from Cabinet in 2013”. That was when the police traced obscene on-line references to myself and other residents to Craske’s IP address. The Police, CPS and Council had to come together to find a way to “resolve the situation”.
All part of a day’s work in 2013 Bexley.