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News and Comment July 2021

Index: 20202021

28 July - Outlook bleak, continued

TrioI don’t know much about Councillor Cafer Munur. There has never been any significant conversation between us but he did once acknowledge my presence while in the company of Councillors Clark, Craske and Pallen who dished out the customary cold shoulder treatment. From that I concluded he couldn’t be all bad but maybe he had yet to be indoctrinated in the ways of Bexley Council.

Certainly he has been in the ascendancy since then and been an OK Chairman of several meetings. Favoured by the Leader perhaps which may be why he is now a Cabinet Member and thereby called upon to speak in favour of the finances last Monday.

Councillor Munur “wanted to bring colleagues’ attention to Page 26 of the Agenda” and the £60 million Business grants and £33 million of other grants which were “a lifeline to Bexley residents. The Council did an amazing job. People are most happy and grateful for that and there has been nothing but positivity.”

Cabinet Member Craske went on in similar vein. “We can be very proud of what we have done over the last year or so.” He mentioned the parking relaxations for carers (put to shame by Newham Council) and the 3,000 hot meals delivered each day to the vulnerable. Covid has had “a massive impact on our finances but we have still been able to do some solid work for residents. In Croydon they went bankrupt as has Slough”. The mandatory attack on the Labour opposition was based on their pessimism over Library services which proved to be only partially correct.

The Labour Leader Stefano Borella remarked on the “rosy picture painted of the last year. It wasn’t. There was the Capitalisation Directive and the reserve position has declined over each of the last four years. It is not a rosy picture at all.”

Councillor Borella’s experience in the hospitality industry caused him to suggest that the recovery of Council Tax and Business Rates income might be slower than the Council is forecasting. He reminded Councillors that the Council’s precarious financial position was due to the housing overspend and not Covid. There were Capital sell offs “to satisfy the auditor” who warned of the impending problems before Covid struck.

The Finance Director, referring to the Capital programme, accepted that “most of the movement at the end of the year wasn’t Covid related”.

Among Councillor Daniel Francis’s several questions was that the ‘Workary’ in Welling Library has not been paying rent and has that changed (not yet) and was there a rebate from the contractor who had fallen short on grass cutting. There was.

Note: Published late due indisposition!

 

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