The report from the Finance Director covered the first quarter of 2021, that is
April May and June. He said nothing apart from describing the subjects reported
before handing over to Cabinet Member David Leaf who can usually be relied upon to say
something in every conceivable circumstance.
We learnt from him that there were more than 90 such headings and some were a bit negative while others were more positive. Response times for customer care and complaints is an area of concern and the Chief Executive is on the case which will reassure everyone that things can only get better. It was later confirmed that she had chaired one meeting so far.
Disappointingly, Councillor Leaf was not his usual voluble self and soon handed over to Cabinet Member Philip Read. He said he wished to concentrate on the good things and not “the more concerning”.
His own portfolio, Children’s Services, was a positive story but unfortunately domestic abuse, mental health issues, alcohol and drug use by parents had all worsened and most likely Covid related. Some care leavers had found themselves “in custody” but most are in suitable accommodation, more so than the national average. Residential care accommodation is in short supply and very expensive.
Councillor Perfect asked how much extra home care had cost because of the failures in reablement during the year 2020/21. The answer was said to be impossible to calculate precisely but an additional £500,000 had been extracted from the NHS in compensation. Discharge funding could rise as high as £3 million in the coming year. The NHS is recruiting more physiotherapists to support reablement services.
Labour Leader Stefano Borella referred back to the Council’s budget statement that it would not impact on services but the Status Reports, on customer care for example, suggested otherwise. If you remove 200 full time equivalent posts with more to come “there must be an impact on service delivery”. The Finance Director confirmed that there had been but blamed any perceived problem on there being more complaints and in his own area there were more about Council Tax levels.
Councillor Nicola Taylor while referring to the performance indicators report on housing standards, drew attention to a family in her ward, Erith, who lived in a Council owned property which had no roof. Delays on planning applications were said to have become a problem but two extra planning officers have been recruited this week. The rise in demand may be Covid related and perhaps temporary; home offices etc.
Once again, Conservative Councillors remained mute.