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News and Comment March 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

5 March (Part 2) - Budget. The final words

Wednesday’s Full Council meeting dragged on for two hours and forty minutes and reporting so far has taken us only to the one hour mark. The remainder of the time was taken up with too many Conservative Councillors (the Mayor said he had 15 on his list at the outset but finished up with 24) telling his/her Leader how wonderful she was for presiding over such an excellent balanced budget. You will be pleased to learn that I do not propose to give anything like a verbatim account, for that the original webcast is available.

However if any Councillor said anything remotely interesting beyond being a bid for reselection next year, it will be noted below…

• Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey). Bexley drives efficiency, immensely disadvantaged by funding formulas but punches well above its weight.
• Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup). We met our legal obligations. It is distressing that staff have been lost.
• Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath). Welcomed the increase in services the budget provides. Administration should be congratulated. A sensible and prudent budget. (Followed by sustained criticism of “hypocritical” Labour. Council Tax is lower now in real terms than in 2006 etc. Note: It is.)
• Councillor Sue Gower (Conservative, Bexleyheath). An emphasis on volunteer groups but nothing budget related.
• Councillor Ahmet Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands). A theme based on consultation, transparency and scrutiny. Labour provided “zero” ideas.
• Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath). Nothing budget related.
• Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup). Reference to poor funding and the need to spend wisely. Proud of investment in parks.
• Councillor Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill). The budget invests in key front line services and BexleyCo. Extended criticism of Labour, especially their housing policy.
• Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham). Focus on savings and efficiencies within the Education Team.
• Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford). Accepted but regretted that the libraries had suffered funding cuts but Bexley still has the third highest per capita library provision in London.
• Councillor Christine Catterall (Conservative, East Wickham). Nothing budget related.
• Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst). Investment in front line services praised along with highways, libraries, parks and BexleyCo. Brief criticism of Labour.
• Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham). Praised the amount of budget consultations and scrutiny etc. A budget success despite Covid.
• Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath). Economists worldwide recommend no tax increases but Bexley Council has taxed above inflation every year since she was elected. Covid is not the main cause of Bexley Council’s financial failings.
• Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End). Criticised massive fee increases and cuts to library funding. Thamesmead library was in Labour’s 2005 Capital budget and Conservatives voted against it. Sidcup is funded by the regeneration budget and is not coming from the revenue budget as the Conservatives make out. Pot hole budgets going up is a nonsense.
• Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere). The budget identifies £140,000 of cuts to staff dealing with road safety. A team of four road safety officers is reduced to one. Instead we get more CCTV enforcement as a means of generating income. RTAs are the main cause of premature death among children.
• Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East). She has warned before that budgets adversely affect housing and this one is no exception. A proposal to reduce housing staff by 17 posts while the need for them increases. The Communities Team is reduced to three. The Public Health Team has gone, ditto the last CCTV post. “It is no longer #doitforbexley but #doittobexley.”
• Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log). We replenished the reserves and had the Freedom Pass costs reduced. Occasional minor criticism of Labour Councillors. We will Build Back Better.
• Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James). A transparent budget that invests in front line services. The Capitalisation Order is “a wonderful arrangement that will not cost a penny”. The Mayor’s 9·5% increase is outrageous costing Band D residents £1,846.72 a year. (That is what he said but the total Bexley Council Tax take is only £1,744.64.)
• Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst). The budget is sound and prudent use of residents’ money. Bexley is a high performance borough. The usual criticism of Labour followed.
• Councillor Philip Read (Conservative, West Heath). The longest of the budget endorsements but little apart from criticism of Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect. Labour advocates “the economics of the mad house”. Labour are “superficial Johnnie come latelys”. A new Children’s Centre consultation is coming.
• Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere). Housing overspent by £6·5 million which is £1·5 million above the Capitalisation Order and the auditors said there were weaknesses in financial planning. There were no such warnings when Labour was in power. Band D Tax is to go up by £102.08 and £70.49 is due to Bexley. Within the GLA there are real investments, in Bexley there are cuts. The Conservatives have merged the Capital and Revenue budgets so that they can falsely claim that Labour opposes everything. The party opposite once opposed parking charge increases of 10 pence and now imposes a £2.30 increase.
• Councillor Alex Sawyer (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James.) Nothing but anti-Labour rhetoric. “Their hypocrisy beggars belief. You can fit the party opposite into a phone box and have room for a dining table. Labour is a party of placards and protest not trusted by Bexley residents.” We are not cutting 17 housing posts. “Socialism never ever works.”
• Councillor Teresa O’Neill (Conservative, Crook Log). “We will Build Back Better” (twice) and Conservative Councillors are “fantastic”.

Note: The above is a very much compressed summary and is only verbatim where indicated.


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