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News and Comment May 2012

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5 May (Part 1) - Hidden in the Accounts

Yellow linesProviding a cycle track alongside yellow lines as if cyclists are not supposed to ride over them may seem stupid but it is the sort of thing which all road users in Bexley will have become used to; but what if the council’s control of the purse stings was every bit as bad? Maybe that is why Bexley has fallen from third lowest tax among London boroughs to 24th in the time I have lived in the borough - 25 years next Monday, I won’t be celebrating.

Unfortunately trawling through the accounts is intrinsically boring but occasionally a few simple facts will shine through. Sometimes it isn’t even necessary to go through the accounts, things can accidentally jump out during council meetings. Take the Finance Committee meeting last March for example. Maureen Holkham (Deputy Director, Corporate Policy & Communications) said it was costing Bexley council £53 an hour to answer Freedom of Information requests. At a time when the council is trying to save £35 million over three years that is surprising for in the equivalent meeting a year before a figure of £40 an hour was announced. Either way it was well above government guidelines for FOIs and a 33% cost increase in the past year won't help reach that £35 million target. So where is the money being saved?

The accounts show what is to be spent this year against last in each Directorate. Nothing much changes in the realms of Adult Services or Children’s Services. Environment is static too; so the money must be coming from somewhere else. Like from you and me perhaps. Education takes a 23·46% hit. Community Safety gets knocked back by 25·3% and Leisure by 6·6%. (3·9m., 0·7m. and 0·8m. pounds respectively). However there is one Directorate that gets a useful boost; expenditure on Corporate Services goes up by 9·5%. Yes that is right; they are going to spend another £1·2 million on themselves. Tuckley’s quarter million salary package is safe.


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