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Bonkers Blog January 2013

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29 January (Part 1) - Course waterlogged

FloodFor the second time in as many days I got a drenching. This time it was the fault of Bexley council and their contractor F.M. Conway. Abbey Road (B213) is now so narrow that unless there is nothing coming in the opposite direction drivers must put one wheel in the gutter and the present day gutter is where the wheel rut used to be before councillor Craske in his Public Realm role authorised its unnecessary and expensive narrowing. Now it is impassable on foot in wet weather without risking a good splashing. The bus stop where I was waiting for a 229 to last night’s Cabinet meeting was, as always, flooded too.

The meeting was the usual well rehearsed waste of time - but not a lot. It was taken at a canter, an 18 millimetre thick Agenda and reports pack all waved through in a racing 24 minutes, which is fitting, given that leader Teresa O’Neill turned up in her jogging suit and councillor Peter Craske (†) was disguised as a spiv escaped from Lingfield Park - which of course he is. Have you ever Googled ‘Peter Craske bookmaker’? He takes up the whole of the first two pages, probably more. That’s almost as much as ‘Peter Craske obscene blog’.

Apart from those two reprobates and the full complement of Cabinet members there were thirteen more councillors looking on. Normally the only councillors interested enough to turn up and ogle the Cabinet are Alex Sawyer and June Slaughter and at best one or two more. This time we additionally had Chris Ball and Sandra Bauer lurking side by side in a dark corner and John Davey, Philip Read, Peter Reader, John Wilkinson, Ray Sams, Howard Marriner, Sybil Camsey, James Hunt and John Waters. Almost needless to say, four members of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group were there to observe the spectacle.

Director of Finance Mike Ellsmore was first away from the starting gate by announcing the remarkable photo finish that he had overspent the budget in the past year by £150k., exactly the amount of his basic salary package - and promptly shut up.

Funding gapColin Campbell went through the ritual re-announcement of how Bexley’s arrangements for phasing out Council Tax Relief are the best in London, or the country, or the universe or something. Surely even the thickest of Cabinet members knows that by now? He drew attention to a rather scary Funding Gap graph in the Agenda. However he said he “was not frightened” by it as the council was “hugely successful” and had “saved £35 million” already and presumably is still living off that 40% tax increase introduced by Labour which the Conservatives greedily hung on to and hypocritically increased following their 2006 election wipe out of the opposition.

Nearly all the charges levied by the council apart from parking are to go up from April by around 3% except some room hire fees which will double after refurbishment. Getting rid of rats and old sofas will remain the most expensive you will find among any nearby borough. I’ve not looked further afield, perhaps I should.

Councillor officer Jane Richardson spoke loudly and clearly into her megaphone about some rearrangements at a Slade Green school which is going to spread happiness and delight among the area’s children and very possibly the head teachers who will be able to set their own salaries. Cabinet member for Education John Fuller said he “echoed what Jane said” after which councillor ‘Biffa’ Bailey justified her generous allowances by adding that she “echoed what John said”. Very profound Linda. Are you going soft or is it hard going keeping up?

Pavement parkingPeter Ellershaw Director of (his own?) Wellbeing made an announcement that will be welcomed in eleven of the borough’s streets and in the parking office.

16 roads had taken part in a consultation to allow, or not, pavement parking. Those residents who voted more than 50% in favour are to have their wish granted and woe betide any resident who should leave a wheel on a white line. And that was it. Allowances pocketed. Job done.

Apart from Mrs. Richardson (£81,783 p.a.) the other sub-Director level council officers present were Sheila Murphy (£104, 253) who looks after children’s services, subject of much OFSTED criticism, and John Peters (£86,088) both jockeying for position as least value for money, neither having contributed anything to the meeting.

Click either graphic to enlarge it.

Note: (†) The Purple Pygmy was present in an observer role only having resigned his Cabinet post for “personal reasons”. I wonder what they could be.

 

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