reprieve given to the Old Manor Way playground may have been by far the most
startling thing to come out of
Tuesday’s Places Scrutiny meeting but it
was not the only revelation.
Peabody Housing Association provided an update on developments in Thamesmead and how their plans had been based on questionnaires sent to 16,000 homes with about 10% being interviewed at their doors - an exercise putting Bexley council’s feeble consultations to shame.
Unsurprisingly transport was high on the list of residents’ concerns and an extension of the DLR from Barking Riverside being especially popular.
At question time councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked why Peabody had apparently become a buy to let landlord, buying up what homes it could and letting them at market rates rather than at social rent levels.
The answer was that Peabody aimed to transfer 60 properties a year from social to market rent, it was policy and it would continue as it provided an income stream.
Councillor Borella (Labour, North End), always interested in transport matters, asked if Peabody favoured a Thames bridge or a tunnel. The answer was a tunnel which would take up far less valuable land space.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon (currently under investigation by the police for Misconduct in Public Office) said she was keen for Peabody to “design crime out” of Thamesmead. She doesn’t live there any more so that’s a decent start.
Councillor John Davey who was so dedicated to the wellbeing of South Thamesmead that he buzzed off to Crayford after achieving nothing in Lesnes Abbey ward, is also dedicated to the art of hogging a microphone while having nothing worthwhile to say. This time his contribution was to put on the record that Peabody’s approach is “absolutely brilliant”.
A recurring feature of Scrutiny Committees is that a Status Report summarises Bexley council’s progress towards various goals and traditionally it is a separate booklet printed in colour. It has become a victim of the cuts and is now part of the main Agenda and printed grey on grey. It is close to illegible, a point soon picked up by councillors June Slaughter and Aileen Beckwith. Councillor Beckwith said her eyesight wasn’t good enough to read it and she could not effectively scrutinise. It is “appalling” and she is right.
Councillor Slaughter was also interested in waste disposal; performance is slipping for much the same reasons that are affecting Bromley. There is less paper and more cardboard which is bulkier but weighs less and plastic pots are constantly getting thinner. “More has to be collected just to stay the same.”
Councillor Joe Ferreira remarked on the number of shop vacancies in Erith and council officer Jane Richardson said there were developments to be announced soon. This is likely to include children’s play areas. It has been reported elsewhere that the old Blockbuster store is being kitted out as a soft play centre.
Parking was the next major item on the Agenda and CCTV enforcement in particular. The restrictions placed by Eric Pickles in the dying days of the coalition government has pushed the number of unfair fines via mobile CCTV down from 1,002 to 365 comparing the April to June quarters of 2014 and 2015. The annual revenue loss is estimated to be £230,000. Some of this may be made up by foot patrols.
However a lot more will be recouped by spying on moving traffic, about which council leader Teresa O’Neill deceived the gullible as recently as last April. There are about 200 sites around the borough that could be enforced but at many it will not be worthwhile (from a revenue generation viewpoint) because the road layout makes an offence near impossible.
Fortunately for Bexley council there are a lot of sites which meet their criteria of being both busy and confusing where CCTV surveillance may prove to be profitable. Bexley will attempt to fill its coffers via CCTV surveillance from next August and Teresa O’Neill’s truth phobia is proved once again.
Councillor Val Clark confirmed her anti-democratic status by pronouncing Eric Pickles’ ten minute parking grace times to be “a detrimental step”.
Councillor Davey (Conservative, Crayford) didn’t seem to know what was meant by moving traffic offences and Deputy Director Bryce-Smith was forced into reeling off a list. Box junctions, no right turns etc. etc.
Moving on to rubbish, Cabinet member Peter Craske said in response to councillor Borella’s question that sign ups for the garden waste bin tax have now reached 5,500 and confirmed the target was 31,000. He claimed to be “on course” and “sure we would get there”.
Stephen Didsbury, the council’s Head of Waste, said that people generally are pretty good at recycling downstairs stuff but upstairs is frequently forgotten. Toilet roll centres and shampoo bottles too often end up in general waste and as for what people do with left over food still in its packaging. Ugh!
We were asked to “go the extra step further” but I fear that things will go backwards once water meters become universal. I always soak the labels from tins and jars but if that is going to cost money it will be done less often. The failure to separate the paper may not be much of an issue but the containers contaminated by food may be.
Cabinet member Linda Bailey said she had a meeting (†) planned for next Thursday (today) with the MP, ward councillors and traders to progress the Wilton Road development scheme. The expectation is that it will blend “seamlessly” with the Crossrail funded improvements and many of the design staff will be the same as an aid to ensuring that happens.
† Yesterday afternoon the leader of the Wilton Road traders’ association called me over while I was en-route to the station to ask what was going on because he had heard absolutely nothing over several weeks.