The Councillor who suggested I might be mad to go to a boring meeting like the
Resources Scrutiny Committee’s was talking good sense and I don’t intend to
inflict too much of the meeting on you.
The theme was, as always, how to screw as much money as possible out of residents. Councillor John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) followed in Councillor Langstead’s footsteps and asked about the 2016/17 £1·8 million underspend. I am still none the wiser.
Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) asked about the reserves and Finance Director Alison Griffin said she “was confident in the level for 2017/18 but they need to be built up further”. The council is very much “reliant on property taxes and charges”. Additional income is being generated by “car parking and planning growth”.
Ms. Griffin said that there would be “significant business rate increases” and £1 million has been set aside for successful appeals.
Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) wanted to congratulate everyone responsible for the £1·8 million underspend and Alison Griffin said “the finance team has done a brilliant job” and she is going to set up a limited company so that Bexley Council can raise money in ways that it cannot do as a Council.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said what he has said before. The interval between Cabinet meetings where plans are announced and Council meetings where they are almost certainly approved does not include a meeting of the Scrutiny Committee. So no scrutiny. Not for the first time members of the minority party were wasting their breath.
Councillor Dourmoush asked what effect Brexit might have on procurement policy. Not a lot, but advertisements won’t have to be placed across Europe so potentially more opportunity for local businesses. At present around 26% of money is spent locally.
There is to be a new Council website in April which is supposed to be focused on residents’ needs and not those of Councillors. Cabinet Member Don Massey said that “we don’t force the public to do things in certain ways, so I’d guess he has not been keeping up with Council Press Releases.
The Council has been going after residents who claim the Single Person Discount on their Council Tax. The number claiming has been falling very slightly over the past five years and is now just under 30,000 out of 97,000 bills sent out.
Capita was asked to check with Equifax the credit reference agency and 7,837 residents were sent a letter of which 2,935 didn’t bother to reply. 1,354 lost their 25% discount and £426,000 was added to the collectible sum. There will be another review next year.
I think they should also review the discount given to households including disabled people. Does everyone own up when the situation changes?