Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE looks back on 2018 in our review of the year.“2018 was a very busy year, with a lot of achievements and successes to celebrate. In May Bexley residents gave us a huge mandate to carry on running our Council – in fact it was our most successful election result, securing 55% of all votes cast in what was our fourth landslide victory in a row.
While others spent the election and indeed the year running down our Borough, we‘ve just been getting on with the job of making Bexley even better than it is now.
Bexley is one of the most successful and respected Councils in the country, one that is either rated as the best or one of the very best at what it does, across all types of services. That’s because we have always taken decisions for the long term benefit of our Borough, invested in the future now and ensured we don’t stand still and slip behind, as some would prefer. Sadly, many of the successful projects that have benefited the Borough were all opposed by Labour Councillors.
From the Ofsted report on Children’s Services to record breaking visitor numbers for Hall Place, great exam results and new facilities for people with disabilities, we just keep the focus on the real issues that matter to real people.
Having taken over the management of Hall Place in 2017, we staged the “Dino Live” Exhibition which so successful it saw a record breaking 12,500 people visit, compared to only 300 in the previous January.
The final batch of the Borough’s 19,000 street lights saw their old light bulbs replaced with longer lasting, energy efficient LED bulbs, substantially reducing maintenance and energy costs, creating an annual saving to taxpayers of over £600,000.
Central Library in Bexleyheath closed for five weeks in order for major refurbishment works to be carried out, including much needed repairs to the roof and a new exhibition space. As part of this, work began on installing a new “Changing Places” facility for people with disabilities which was formally opened in November.
The Labour Mayor of London announced he was scrapping Bexley’s Borough Police force and merging it with Lewisham and Greenwich, places with much higher crime rates. Having already cut the number of police officers in Bexley by over 50 since he took office, the Labour Mayor had been forced to back down on his original proposal to close Bexley’s police station completely after Conservative Councillors and residents stood together in opposition.
Our new Ageing Well strategy was launched, creating prevention programmes that support people to live and age well.
The first ever Borough Literary Festival, the Bexley Book Buzz took place – and was supported by over 3,000 residents who attended over 100 events in two weeks.
Councillors approved the Council Budget for 2018/19 which meant there was £32million of investment in education, a 15% increase in funding for adult social care over three years, a new library for Thamesmead, £1m for playgrounds, £9m for highways maintenance and £5m for more affordable homes.
Key services such as street cleaning, parks and open spaces, libraries and playgrounds all saw increases in budgets and a record £45milion was invested to tackle homelessness and provide more homes.
In the Budget Council meeting every single Labour Councillor voted against every single proposal – so while Conservatives voted for increased investment and delivered new funding to help disabled children, adults with learning disabilities and the elderly, Labour Councillors chose to have their voted recorded as opposing all these things.
At the budget meeting an emergency motion was tabled by Conservative Cllrs calling on the Labour Mayor of London to scrap his plan to axe Bexley’s Borough police force. Disappointingly every Labour Councillor also voted against this motion and went into the election campaign fully backing the scrapping Bexley’s police force.
The Minister for Libraries opened the newly revamped library in Crayford, which is now also home to the town’s Post Office, while over 800 young people attended the Council’s apprenticeship event.