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News and Comment July 2021

Index: 20202021

26 July (Part 1) - The Leader’s Report

The Leader’s report to Council last week was a whopping 20 pages but it must be given and questioned within the space of 30 minutes. At its best it can be full of interesting stuff.

Councillor O’Neill began with the bin strike and she, like many of us, wanted to thank those who had carried on working. “Serco employ 235 people on our contract and only 14, that is 17% of the workforce, are on strike.” No wonder Bexley’s finances are in a mess with arithmetic like that.

For the doubters who cast aspersions on my hearing!

“The strike extension is frustrating for residents and I am sure they are going to be really annoyed when they hear that Labour Councillors actually approve of that frustration and think it should continue.”

The Covid response in Bexley had been “fantastic” and she saw it as “our way of getting things back to normal”. Clearly she no longer listens to what Bozo Johnson has to say who has a very peculiar idea of what normal means. Bexley staff have been “fantastic” throughout the Covid crisis too. The return to work will be staggered.

There is to be a new consultation on the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet rail extension.

Councillor Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) had actually read the report and referred to Page 62 but it was only to draw the Leader’s attention to and heap praise on her own Council for opening the Bike Park in Martens Grove. I suspect the Leader was already proud of it or it would not have appeared in the report. Some Councillors are incapable of asking incisive questions so they go for self-congratulation instead. It is apparently “an incredible facility attracting 375 visitors a day”. Sounds good but I think I will give it a miss.

Councillor Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) can usually be relied upon to be incisive. He asked if the Leader was happy with the performance of the Adoption Services now that they had been merged with Kent’s. Cabinet Member Read referred to a new measurement system and comparisons are not yet possible because of data collection timescales. There have however been improvements to procedures which show benefits. “Early indications suggest continued strong performance.”

Councillor Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) was anxious to ensure that the Leader knew about what the Sidcup Business Improvement District had been doing. Funding floral displays, managing the website and social media, Christmas lights, courses for business owners and organising various festivals.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella, in reference to the bin strike, said his party would always fight for better terms and conditions, the clue being in the Party’s name. “Serco’s race to the bottom was a disgrace as was Bexley Council which cut £2·9 million from the contract in 2009. I am proud to support the strikers” and he disputed the 14% figure.”

Stefano referred to the Budget Scrutiny meeting which suffered a webcast failure. It was “a bizarre meeting”. It claimed that cuts had resulted in “no impact on service outcomes or residents.” Cabinet Members had answered questions beyond their own portfolio and the “performance indicators were a joke”. Why did they sack the old Chairman? A decision both bizarre and a joke.

This sounds suspiciously like one of the finance officers who constantly express their fears for the future of the borough to me via anonymous messages.

Grass cutting had been craftily cut unannounced from ten to eight cuts a year. Councillor Borella asked for proof that any of the budget statements were true.

As was easy to predict the Leader saw Councillor Borella’s defence of the bin strikers as confirmation of what she had said earlier about Labour approving of frustration. “Labour stands for non-collection of rubbish. A clear message.” It was a rather spectacular own goal which is sure to be used by @bexleynews quite soon.

The ‘joke’ performance indicators were due to Covid and the grass being longer than usual was blamed on the summer rain.

As is to be expected there was no justification of the ‘bizarre’ budget statements.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Independent, Thamesmead) who is perhaps envious of Councillor Craske’s reputation for mischievous comment, asked if there was a link between the £23 million given by the Unite Union to Labour and “their stance tonight”. He also asked his ‘hero’ how digitally disadvantaged residents were being kept informed of the strike extension.

Councillor Craske said that Unite should ask for their money back after “Labour Councillors had walked through the picket line earlier” - which of course they hadn’t. A protest is not a picket line.

Please Danny, Craske is a truth twister proud to masquerade as an idiot; he is not a decent role model for anyone, least of all someone with a reputation for integrity.

The retirement of Monitoring Officer Alabi was announced and with that the meeting closed.

 

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