Last night’s council meeting in Bexleyheath laid out the stark problems facing Bexley Council which will lead to drastic job cuts this year – though they are so strapped for cash they cannot afford to pay redundancy without selling land.
Yesterday I covered how the library service is to be decimated in the borough with many libraries likely to close and those that remain cut back. Staffing will be almost halved. More widely the authority is proposing the loss of 230 full time jobs at the authority this year alone. That’s 20 per cent of the workforce. The only way they can afford proposed redundancy is through the emergency sale of land last month. Without that they would need a bailout from Government.
Cuts coming back to haunt
Behind a lot of this is Central Government cuts pushed upon local authorities for years which is now exacerbated by the pandemic. In return councils have been expected to make up some of the shortfall through new development and growth – yet Bexley often turned their back on new homes which bring in millions from various funds.
One example is the New Homes Bonus. Neighbouring Greenwich Council is receiving £11.9 million this year alone. Bexley’s total? Just £744,000. Over in Dartford they are seeing £5.2 million. That income is not ringfenced and supplements Section 106 and CIL income from new shops, housing and other developments.
Even when Bexley did permit development they’ve allowed very little to no affordable housing. Yesterday’s meeting reveals how this comes back to bite. They are having to house people in expensive private emergency accommodation with a new £5 million cost attached.
Where development is proposed by the authority it seems designed to antagonise. See Bexley building on a park in Erith while down the road brownfield retail park sites are not encouraged to become mixed use shops and housing. It’s been baffling decision after decision for years.
Council tax is due to rise another four per cent next year to compensate for loss of central Government funding and a failure to raise additional income locally from development. Ever increasing service charges have not plugged the gap but will continue.
Despite this the council’s ruling Conservative councillors continue to push out things like this in an attempt to deflect attention away from their control:
— Bexley News – Bexley Conservatives (@bexleynews) November 17, 2020
As stated, the council in Bexley are proposing another four per cent increase in council tax themselves, and the GLA tax rise was a requirement from Conservative Transport Minister Grant Shapps in negotiations. Much like the Congestion Charge increase. Never let facts get in the way of propaganda.
The party quotes Shaun Bailey here who again doesn’t appear to understand basic maths. He claims £500m advertising and sponsorship (in a downturn?) can make up for fare reductions totalling five times as much.
The strategy appears to be blame others and hope the electorate don’t bother to look at the numbers.
You can view last night’s meeting and look at financial reports here.
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