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Bonkers Blog March 2011

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6 March (Part 4) - Go compare

I came to Bexley almost a quarter of a century ago to escape the clutches of a loony left council intent on jacking up the rates as fast as they could and handing out the money to one-legged immigrant lesbian societies and the like. You remember the sort of thing; madness. I decided that I’d move to where the councils appeared to be the least spendthrift and at the bottom of the rates tables at the time were Bexley, Bromley and Wandsworth. I couldn’t afford to buy a house in Wandsworth even if I had wanted to so it became a toss-up between a semi-detached house in Bromley or a detached one in Bexley. At the time I tended to play music too loud so it is obvious which was more appealing - I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it were otherwise. What has gone wrong since? Bexley has climbed from close to bottom of the rates table to almost top of the council tax table.

The rot seems to have set in about the time councillors decided they needed to take money, loadsa money, for what used to be a labour of love. It attracted a different sort of councillor and it has gradually degenerated to the point where we now have a council of professional trough snufflers. Councillor Ball (Erith, £22,750, Labour) didn’t do us any favours when he was in charge and running amok with his avowed intention of whacking up council tax as fast as he could and be proud of it - he told me so personally - but the Tories are complacent and not really any better. After they got in they bragged about the lower tax increases but they were still the highest in London; even this year when there will be a freeze Bexley is the last council to announce it. It doesn’t formally happen until next Wednesday when the full council meets to rubber-stamp the cabinet decision of last Monday night. So I have begun to wonder what has happened to all the extra money they have been collecting for so long. It can’t all get lost via personal credit card fiddles surely?

Band D council tax in Bexley is £1,427. In Bromley it is £1,289 and in Newham, which I know quite well, it is £1,255. In Wandsworth it is £681. (Source : UpMyStreet.com). So presumably Bexley has far better services or it has accumulated a heap of money in the bank. Err… no. Bromley has £50 million in the bank and thinks its getting dangerously low and Bexley is down to its last £10m. Can’t be that then.

Cheap services maybe? Err… no again. Bexley has just announced the cost of removing a large item of junk is to rise to £28. Across the river it is to remain free.

Parking charges then? ‘fraid not. In Bexley a residents’ permit is soon to hit £100, more in some places. Bromley charges variable rates between £35 and £75. Across the river they have just announced it will stay free because it is self-financing. When the Fat Controller (FC) goes flouncing into Sir Robin Wales’ office (Mayor of Newham) to tell him how to organise his affairs perhaps he will do us a favour and tell her where she is going wrong. Then if she deigns to do something for the people who pay her she can pass on the news to TLC (The Liar Craske) who is so damned efficient that he claims our Controlled Parking Zones run at a thundering great loss. Just for the record a visitor’s permit in Newham costs 30 pence - I know I use one every week - and here in super efficient, honest as the day is long Bexley it is £1.50.

Newham has sufficient spare cash to distribute its magazine to every household every two weeks. It’s practically identical to the Bexley magazine, same size, same style, same glossy paper and it never carries more than three quarters of a page of paid private advertising. I doubt anyone here would advocate that but it is another illustration of how Bexley does so much less for so much more than other boroughs.

So where is all the money going? It can’t be down to inefficiency and poor management because the FC says her chief executive is “good value for money”. Not as good value as in Bromley evidently because there the impoverished CE struggles along with a mere £188k. Some of Bexley’s directors of departments get almost that much; within £10k. of it. And why does our CE, a civil servant by any other name, need private health insurance, an allowance for a ‘company’ car and 32 days paid leave a year on top of a pay cheque in excess of £200k? Even top civil servants with half a life time of service under their belt only get 30 days. Tuckley has only been here a couple of years. (Source : News Shopper).

I’d love to know what it is that Bexley does better than Newham, Bromley and Wandsworth; maybe one of our councillor readers will give me something for publication. Laughing at residents who make representations at public meetings and attempting to ridicule them with letters to newspapers doesn’t count.

 

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