Councillor Hunt’s People Overview and Scrutiny meeting can sometimes be quite interesting
and at other times not. Yesterday it was a case of quite definitely not,
and worse still, it managed to drag on for three hours and 15 minutes.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault in particular, it was just that very little likely to be of general interest cropped up. Scores of questions but not a single one stood out above any other.
I might have left before the end but Councillor Craske had said he was looking forward to repeating his Saviour of Bexley speech but no one provided him with an opportunity. He spoke twice for twenty or thirty seconds on different subjects but nothing about his big and likely short lived U-turn on cleaning the streets.
So that was two of us disappointed.
I hope you will understand if I don’t trawl through a 195 minute recording in the vain hope I missed something interesting but I do remember a few things.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) was probably the most prolific question poser but was too often thwarted by the Chairman who more than once objected to her directing questions to Cabinet Members when he preferred it to be answered by a Council officer. When Council Ogundayo protested the Chairman was not his normal genial self. Maybe he has aspirations to be Mayor where unreasonable slap downs are considered to be the norm.
When she at least twice asked for a yes or no answer to a question and was rewarded with a long speech from the Cabinet Member she asked again for a yes/no answer. Councillor Philip Rude volunteered to repeat his long answer - but slower.
Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) queried a £1·8 million underspend for 2016/17 on Adult Social Care yet the Council planned to increase Council Tax by 2% to cover it. Why the underspend if the need justifies a tax increase? I have listened again to her question and I do not detect an obvious answer.
At very different stages of the meeting Deputy Director for Communities, Toni Ainge, made two very different statements. Not 25 minutes from the start she confirmed that the Council had achieved all its projected savings from ceasing to monitor the CCTV. Towards the end of the meeting she gave some details of the inquest into the school children’s summer riot.
An enormous and no doubt costly effort had been invested in attempting to prevent a repetition. Maybe if the CCTV had picked up the first rumblings of discontent in the Broadway before it spread across the borough the problem could have been nipped in the bud, but somehow the Deputy Director failed to make the obvious link.
There appeared to be a developing problem with recently trained social workers. apparently they are inclined to prefer workimg for any outfit that pays more.
By far the most interesting part of the evening was provided by Doctor Nikita Kanani, the new Chairman of the Clinical Commissioning Group whose offices are about to be moved into the Council building.
Bexley is to get a ‘top up’ out of hours GP service, not at your local surgery but at two ‘central’ sites. They will offer service near to Erith and Sidcup hospitals between 6:30 and 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All bookable including by phone app. It is anticipated that an additional 34,000 appointments will be provided each year in a borough which is close to being the worst off for GP provision anywhere in the country.
Electronic consultations will also be encouraged as they have been shown to dramatically reduce - by about 75% - the need for face to face consultations.
27 Bexley surgeries are already able to share data and send automated appointment reminders. There will be a complication where practices with surgeries in Bexley have their main office in another borough and therefore subject to the conditions of that borough. Patients registered with out of borough surgeries will not be able to use the new facility in Bexley. The equivalent facility is already available in Greenwich.
It was confirmed that the ten minutes allowed for appointments was for one ailment and if a patient was suffering more they might be told to book another for which the average delay was two weeks.
Councillor Alan Downing thought that all these new fangled booking arrangements were missing a vital point. He wanted to see a single access hub where those who choose to do so - such as the elderly in which group he counted himself - could go to one place and be directed by experts. His suggestion was sympathetically received by both the CCG and Bexley’s Deputy Director of Adult Care, Tom Brown.
A minor dispute arose over the subject of breast screening services with several Councillors reporting that they - or their wives - were given no choice and had to go to the Memorial Hospital at Shooters Hill (Greenwich) or even Kidbrooke. The Chairman was clearly exasperated with the situation on behalf of the ladies of Bexley while the CCG people appeared not to believe him.
The mobile breast screening unit for Thamesmead was no longer in use because it had been subjected to a noise abatement order and no other site could provide the necessary power supplies.
Note: The medical report went on for an hour and the summary above is based on the recording.