Blog

Budget for Bexley’s future approved, millions of investment across the Borough over next four years

Councillors have approved the Conservative administration’s Budget For Bexley, a budget which delivers on the mandate given by Bexley’s residents last May for our positive vision and ambition for our Borough.

The budget was approved by Councillors on 6th March and sets out a clear strategy for the next four years.

The Conservative budget delivers millions of pounds of investment across the whole of Bexley including funding for the new Library for Thamesmead, an increase in funding to adult social care of £3.9m and more funding for children with special educational needs.

bank-business-cash-coin-41195

Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE, Leader of Bexley’s Conservative Council, said:

“Last May Bexley’s residents entrusted us for a fourth term with running our great Borough. Our Budget for Bexley delivers on that trust, setting a clear strategy for the next four years.

While other Councils, especially our neighbouring Labour Councils, continue to slash services and cut budgets, we’re just quietly getting on with delivering high quality services for our residents, exactly as they want us to do.”

Conservative Councillors highlighted many aspects of the Budget during the debate including the new funding for helping children with special needs, the millions of funding for the Borough’s “Outstanding” Children’s Services Department, work to tackle loneliness and help those with dementia, the additional funding for adult social care and the changes planned to increase recycling rates and address residents concerns about the outdated boxes which can not accommodate the much larger amount of materials that can be recycled in 2019.

After 113 days of silence, Labour Cllrs suddenly produced their own alternative budget, which filled just half a page of A4 paper and which called on the Council to spend £1.5m more on housing but without saying how the money should be spent.

 

Side by side, Bexley Conservatives Budget proposals, and the budget proposals from Labour Councillors

Cllr Louie French, Deputy Leader of London Borough of Bexley, said:

“Leadership requires taking tough decisions and using limited resources in the most effective way for the benefit of local people.
The pressures around housing are recognised by everyone. However, you cannot just throw money at problems. Investments must be made strategically and that is what we are doing in our budget to help deliver new homes for local people.
We want Bexley to remain a sustainable borough and a great place to call home. Our growth strategy sets out how we plan to do that over the next 30 years.”

But their own alternative proposals were overshadowed by an extraordinary attack on the many residents in Bexley who volunteer – with Belvedere Labour Councillor, David Putson, shocking the Council chamber by labelling them “cheapskates”!

Following the rejection of their proposal by Conservative and Independent Councillors, Labour Cllrs then voted against all the main budget proposals, including voting against £7MILLION of help for people with disabilities, £5MILLION to address homelessness and even voting against the new library for Thamesmead.

The Labour Councillors for Thamesmead actually voted against the funding for the community’s new library!

By law, the vote by Councillors on the Budget are stated publicly and recorded so residents can see how their own ward councillors voted on the most important decision of any year. Full details will be published soon.

The Budget For Bexley: Cllr David Leaf writes about our four year strategy

Cllr David Leaf, Cabinet Member for Resources writes about our Budget plans.

“On Wednesday evening our Budget for Bexley was approved by Councillors.

Our budget planning started immediately after our landslide election victory last May, and builds on our successful strategy of recent years by, once again, taking a four year approach to setting the budget and being completely open and transparent about it.

Read every single Budget item here

blendon - leaf, o'hare & wildman

In fact this has been the most open and transparent budget setting process we’ve ever had, including two lengthy budget scrutiny meetings where Councillors of all parties were able to question myself, the Leader of the Council and Cabinet colleagues on the plans in detail.

They worked well and overall it saw some six hours of detailed scrutiny of the budget. That can only be a good thing and lead to a better budget.

It was also an opportunity for Labour Councillors and their supporters to set out their own ideas so they could be considered in detail and possibly included in the final budget plans. But, once again, they failed to come up with a single idea, either at those two budget scrutiny meetings or by the final deadline for budget submissions which was 25th February.

And on the night of the Budget meeting they produced just a half page sheet of A4 with a single proposal on – to spend £1.5m on housing, but without saying how!

img_1569-1
Compare the budget proposals

Remember of course that when they ran Bexley, they increased Council Tax by 40% in just 4 years; in their first year it went up by 14.9% alone. Then in 2011, 12, 13 and 2014 they voted against no Council Tax rises. So we know what they think about increasing Council Tax – they love doing it and hate not doing it.

Our manifesto – which was backed by 55% of residents last year – was clear about Council Tax, that as Conservatives we will always be a low tax Council, but where we need to increase it to ensure we continue to provide high quality services for residents we will do what we need.

That is why we have agreed a 2.9% increase for this year – the alternative is to cut £3m from frontline services, putting for example vulnerable adults in need of care at risk.

But let’s be clear, over our time in office Council Tax has only risen by an average of 1.6% a year, and in fact it is £165 lower now in real terms than it was in 2006. Compare that to the average annual rise of 10% a year by Labour, and of course, as we know, if they had won again in 2006 they intended annual Council tax rises of 8% a year.

img_5479

Our budget sets out a clear, four year plan, delivering on the trust residents have in our commitment to Bexley.”

img_4090-2

Councillors agree changes to recycling collections

Bexley’s Conservative Councillors have agreed changes to take place later this year for recycling collections.

Already the number one Council in London for recycling – with over 50% of all waste sent to be recycled – the changes should see a further increase in recycling levels without dramatically changing a successful system.

pexels-photo-167538

Under the plans recycling will be collected on alternate weeks in new, larger wheelie bins, with permanently attached lids, replacing the old, outdated boxes that are now too small to deal with the huge amount of materials that can be recycled.

It will also solve the common complaint from residents that the lids often get blown away on windy days, with the emptied boxes following suit.

Under the changes, paper will be collected one week in a new, larger wheelie bin, with plastics, tins and glass being collected on the other week. It means all those materials can go into one large bin.

There are no other changes so food waste will continue to be collected every week and residual waste will be collected fortnightly, as has been the case for the last decade.

These are also the changes that residents overwhelmingly backed in the consultation exercise over the last three months.

It follows the publication of recommendations by a cross-party Council Committee, where Conservative and Labour Councillors all agreed what was the best option to take.

The changes will also save taxpayers £450,000 a year in the running costs of the service.

pexels-photo-802221

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting where the decision was announced, Cllr Peter Craske, Cabinet Member for Places, said;

“Bexley has been Number One in London for recycling for 14 years in a row. The system we introduced 11 years ago has led to recycling rates rocket to over 50% and stay there; instead of sending 42,898 tonnes of household waste to be buried in landfill sites, as we did before 2007 now we only send 108 tonnes.

This has meant taxpayers have avoided having to pay £11m in landfill charges.

Clearly we don’t want to make too many changes to what is a successful system but we are addressing concerns residents have had about the current recycling boxes being too small and often blowing away in the wind.  

Making this change to recycling collections with larger wheelie bins with lids attached will deal with that.”

The decision to amend the recycling collections was agreed by all Conservative Councillors but is also fully supported by Bexley’s Labour Councillors, through the cross-party Committee where recommendations were presented unanimously.

cropped-clean-green-logo.jpg

Your Conservative Council’s “Budget For Bexley” will see millions of pounds of investment across the Borough, delivering on our manifesto commitments.

Bexley’s Conservative Councillors have published their final budget proposals for 2019-2023, which will now be debated at the Budget Council where the final decision will be taken.

The budget includes £250,000,000 of capital investments to make Bexley better and provide help to those most in need.

cropped-cropped-cropped-image.jpeg

Over £7m will be invested in the Disabled Facilities Grant, £1.3m for the new library for Thamesmead and an increase in funding for adult social care of £3.9m.

After the Labour Mayor of London cut all funding for repairing the Borough’s main roads – which is his remit – we’re going to allocate £2m a year to highways maintenance projects while £28m will be invested in the Borough’s schools and education system.

img_4347

READ THE BUDGET PROPOSALS IN FULL HERE

Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE, Leader of Bexley’s Conservative Council, said:

“Last May Bexley gave us a clear mandate to continue running our brilliant Borough for another four years. We are honoured to be trusted by Bexley’s residents to look after their interests and as this Budget shows, we will not let them down.”

We have already delivered many of our manifesto commitments and this Budget for Bexley will really help our Borough take a major leap forward by investing in Bexley’s long term interests.”

20171005_155258_resized_1

Cllr David Leaf, Cabinet Member for Resources, added:

“Last year Bexley’s Labour Councillors cruelly voted against every item in our Budget, including major investment to tackle homelessness and help people with disabilities.

This heartless approach would have meant families in need of temporary accommodation being forced to sleep on the streets, no wonder they were so soundly rejected at the ballot box last year.

At the Budget Council meeting on 6th March every single Councillor will have to stand up and declare whether whether they are FOR the budget plans or not. I urge all Labour Councillors to join us in voting FOR our Budget for all in Bexley.”

This year’s Budget setting process has been the most open ever in Bexley. As well as draft proposals being published last October for everyone to see in full and comment on, there were also two special Budget Scrutiny Committees where Councillors could debate all the proposals in depth and put forward alternative ideas.

Labour Councillors have failed to put forward even a single idea over the last five months.

Cllr Leaf added: “As usual Labour Councillors are happy making up scare stories about the budget – including a claim that £2million would be cut from adult social care when in fact the budget is increasing by £3.9m – but as always they suddenly run and hide when asked to set out their own ideas. This cowardly approach shows why Bexley voters keep rejecting them at the ballot box.”

cropped-sun1.gif

The Budget Council meeting on 6th March will take place at the Civic Offices from 7.30pm and is webcast so everyone can see how their own Councillors vote.

img_4090-2

Brilliant Bexley is THE place to come and live!

A new report confirms what we’ve always known – that Bexley really is a brilliant place to live.

The report by My London News shows that, with low crime, great parks and below average house prices, Bexley is fast becoming an increasingly popular place to live.

Among the 11 reasons given for why Bexley is a brilliant place to live is the fact the Borough has over 100 parks, including Danson Park with the 200 year old Charter Oak and historic venues like Hall Place and the Red House.

img_6126

The report also cites leisure centres, a thriving arts and crafts scene and the fact Bexley is London’s top Borough for renewable energy consumption for why the Borough is THE place to live.

Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE, welcomed the report:

“As a residents of Bexley, my fellow Councillors and I have always known what a great place we live in which we also have the honour of representing and leading.

We have always had a positive and ambitious vision for our Borough, focusing on what matters to residents and it is great that this is recognised by independent reports.

This latest testament to the unrivalled opportunities that are on offer in Bexley follows a recent report concluding the Borough has a strong, well led Council, which has a clear vision for the future. It just underlines why we all want to #DoItForBexley.”

Bexley is also London’s number one Borough for recycling, with an “Outstanding” Children’s services team, a high employment rate and one of London’s lowest rates of child poverty.

Group photo 2

 

2018 – record breaking end to the year

October

At this month’s Cabinet meeting, the Conservative administration took the decision to exempt young adults leaving care from Council Tax. Cllr Philip Read, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said the decision “will make an enormous difference to young adults leaving our care.”

An independent report into the way the London Borough of Bexley works was published. It concluded Bexley has strong political leadership, a Leader respected across London, a growing influence, solid financial management and great ambition. The report praised the commitment of Council staff to the Borough, and said that the Borough was respected across Government and the wider community.

IMG_0506

The Borough’s second Ageing Well event was a huge success, with over 40 organisations attending, showcasing all the different things they could offer to residents who were growing older. The accompanying Ageing Well magazine launched at the event as well.

November

The draft budget proposals covering 2019-2023 were published, with people invited to comment on all the proposals being presented, with each proposal being considered published in full. A formal consultation then opened which would run until January.

cropped-cropped-cropped-image.jpeg

The first Council funded “Changing Places” bathroom for people with disabilities in London was opened in Bexleyheath. Based in the refurbished Central Library, this project was funded because of the political decision we took in our 17/18 budget to deliver this vital facility.

300 new street trees started to be planted across Bexley. This follows on from the 300 street trees planted last winter and is part of our manifesto commitment to plant 1,000 new street trees by the end of 2020. Astonishingly every Labour Councillor voted against creating the new street tree planting budget!

It was agreed to create a new Children’s University, and business plan for BexleyCo was approved by a Cabinet Committee.

December

Official statistics published by the Government show Bexley has been the number one Borough in London for recycling for a record 14th year in a row, and are one of the best councils for recycling in the country.

img_4090-2

Over 1,000 people sign the pledge to #doitforBexley and pick up at least one piece of plastic litter a week – meaning over 50,000 pieces of plastic litter will be removed from the Borough.

For the first time ever, we introduced a new element to the budget setting process, with a joint meeting of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees held to examine the budget in detail. Councillors from all four of the committees studied the draft budget proposals for over three hours before the final decisions are made in the New Year. No budget proposals were tabled by Labour Councillors for consideration.

cropped-sun1.gif

2018 in review – a clear mandate after a positive campaign

April

At the final Council meeting of the 2014-18 term, tributes were paid to Councillors who were not seeking re-election. Whether they had served four years or forty, the commitment they had to public service was praised by other members of the Council.

cropped-image32.jpeg

The formal campaigning got underway for the 3rd May local election. These would be the first ones taking place under new ward boundaries to elect 30% fewer Councillors – in line with our 2014 election manifesto.

Our positive campaign that focused on Bexley’s future was underlined by our candidates signing a clean campaign pledge – however, despite many requests, no other candidates seeking election would sign such a pledge; hardly surprising giving the relentless negative campaigning of other candidates.

DXcADw7WkAA7l7f

While the negative attacks from other parties and candidates – who seemed to spend the entire election attacking us – continued we were out and about every day talking to real people about real issues in all parts of the Borough. We were pleased to welcome so many supporters from other parts of London and the South East throughout the campaign.

img_1445

May

The voters of Bexley responded to our solely positive campaign and gave us a fourth landslide election victory in a row in what was in fact our most successful ever election campaign. We saw our share of the vote go up 12%, winning 55% of all votes cast, and a 7% increase in the number of seats we hold.

img_5480

Having boasted how they were going to win at least 22 seats and probably take control of the Council, Labour’s negative campaign based on running down Bexley was humiliatingly rejected by voters for a fourth time, with a dramatic reduction in the number of seats they held.

The new administration took office formally at the end of the month, but rather than waiting until then we all started back to work on 4th May, planning what needed to be done to begin the implementation of our manifesto commitments.

May also marked four years since the Council had moved into a single office in Watling Street, with new figures showing the decision to move sites was delivering annual savings of over £2m a year – our 2014 manifesto pledged to deliver savings of £1.5m so once again we delivered more than we promised.

20171005_155258_resized_1

Labour Councillors had voted against this entire project, opposing the saving of £2m a year and opposing the new homes for local families that were built on the sites of the former civic office sites.

June

Our manifesto commitment to make the litter enforcement pilot scheme permanent was delivered. At the same time fly-tippers received a crushing blow after illegally dumping waste in Slade Green. The perpetrators were identified and their vans were crushed to little pieces.

clean-green-logo

A fantastic Borough celebration to mark the anniversary of the Windrush generation was staged in Bexleyheath, the event included the annual Civic Parade.

cropped-campaign-logo-bw.jpg

2018 – a year of record achievements

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.

Cllr-Teresa-O'Neill_Cut_Out-EDIT_0

January

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.

February

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.

img_2130

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.

March

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.

img_4343

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.

Basic CMYK

2018 review – a summer of major successes

July

The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission – appointed by Government to direct transformative investment in the Thames Estuary – recommended extending Crossrail to Ebbsfleet in Kent. It called for £20m to be made available so the project could be delivered over the next decade. This was a central commitment in our election manifesto, to campaign hard for this project and the support of the Growth Commission was a vital step in that journey. In fact, we started campaigning for the Ebbsfleet extension in 2008.

The results of the £4million investment at Lesnes Abbey continued to pay off, as the site won the London Borough Tree and Woodland Award, following a year in which the number of visitors had increased by 15%. This was followed by Lesnes and Hall Place being named as among the best parks in the entire world, by winning the international Green Flag awards.

img_2205

Work began to improve the approach to Erith Station got underway with new seating, trees and shrubbery plus more bicycle racks which will be more secure. The existing heritage lights which are a key feature on the station building, which is locally listed, will be restored and brought back into full use.

Following the major investment made in keeping Bexley’s streets clean and tidy (investment opposed by Labour), new figures shows the number of residents complaining about street cleanliness had dropped a further 24%, following the 38% drop earlier in the year.

IMG_2861

August

The results of the Ofsted inspection were published – and it revealed Bexley’s Children’s Services were rated as “Outstanding.” In fact, it showed the service was among the top five in the country, an incredible achievement.

In its report, Ofsted gave the following assessment of Bexley’s Children’s Services:

  • The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families – outstanding
  • The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection – outstanding
  • The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers – good
  • Overall effectiveness – Outstanding

img_2440

The 200 year old Charter Oak in Danson Park was featured on BBC Breakfast for showing signs of strong recovery after receiving a new innovative treatment in November last year. For several years the tree had shown decreasing leaf cover over its huge canopy and signs that a potentially destructive fungus had taken hold. But after a specialist contractor de-compacted the soil around the tree’s root system and inject an enriched soil improver, the tree started to burst back into life as crown became denser after only nine months.

img_6126

Our manifesto commitment to improve internet connectivity was delivered as, after working with BT Open Reach, superfast broadband was made available to over 10,000 homes.

Placeholder Image

September

The Medway and Kent NHS announced that Darent Valley Hospital was the preferred option for new urgent stroke services. This was something your Bexley Conservative Councillors had been campaigning for, although the final decision won’t be taken until 2019.

img_2191

The campaign to extend Crossrail to Ebbsfleet gathered even more support, with the announcement that London City Airport was now backing the idea.

Bexley’s Conservative Council joined forces with Labour Greenwich to undertake a deep clean of Wilton Road in Abbey Wood. Staff from both Councils worked together to undertake the project and it followed a previous Wilton Road Improvement Programme which involved both councils joining forces to support 13 independent businesses to make shop front improvements and modernise their marketing methods.

New figures were released showing under the Conservatives Bexley has one of the lowest rates of child poverty in London.

Exactly as we predicted would happen following the Labour Mayor of London’s decision to axe Bexley’s Borough police force and merge it with Lewisham and Greenwich, it was announced the Bexley burglary unit was to be disbanded.

img_4342

4,000 people attended the Erith Pier Festival, as part of the Greater Erith Regeneration Programme, which is partly funded by the London Borough of Bexley.

img_5479

Elected on 3rd May, back to work on the 4th.

Elected on 3rd May, back to work on the 4th.

Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE, Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, explains what has been happening across the Council and the Borough since this year’s election.

“Thank you for your support. We were all honoured to have been given such a decisive mandate from residents in May’s election.

While many Councils have just cut services year after year, our strategy has always been to take a long term approach to transform services, invest in prevention work which helps avoid future costs and anticipate future need. It has been a strategy that has delivered tangible results and success.

The fact we have the best recycling rates in London shows that in action. A major investment a decade ago has increased recycling to record rates and saved millions of pounds too by avoiding the need to pay huge land fill charges.

We’ve all been working flat out since May’s election to implement our manifesto and set out priorities.

Our positive campaign and strong record of delivery year after year received a huge endorsement – we were re-elected with 55% of the vote, increased our vote share by 12% and we were elected to represent over 75% of the seats.

We also now have 30% fewer Councillors, having delivered our 2014 pledge to reduce our numbers – in fact we are the only group of Councillors in the country to voluntarily propose to cut our numbers and we have delivered that exactly as promised.

We have welcomed newly elected Councillors and I am proud to have been re-elected to serve as Leader of the Council.

And we haven’t stopped working since the election.

We are already delivering on our election manifesto and we have seen some stunning achievements.

Firstly, in July Ofsted suddenly announced they were coming to inspect our Children’s Services Department. With little notice our staff went above and beyond to prepare for and then undergo this rigorous and independent inspection.

Cllr Philip Read, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services was interviewed by the inspectors and was able to talk through all the improvements and investment that had been made over the previous four years.

And at the end of it, Ofsted declared that the Bexley Children’s Services were “outstanding” – the highest rating possible!

Everyone of us is so proud of this achievement and the hard work and commitment that went into this rating.

While the Mayor of London has announced a delay in the opening of the new Crossrail our manifesto pledge to push for Crossrail to be extending to Ebbsfleet remains on track.

This follows the announcement by the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission that they fully recommended the Government implement this proposed extension.

This news was followed with the announcement that London City Airport we’re behind the scheme too.

And we have secured an agreement with BT Openreach to roll out super fast broadband to over 10,000 homes in Bexley with more to come.

Alongside this, Lesnes Abbey and Hall Place have won international awards, which means they are two of the best parks on the entire planet. Lesnes Abbey has also won the Forestry Commission London Borough Tree and Woodland Award. We’ve also been able to secure a new cinema for Sidcup and embarked on major improvements at Erith station.

Our manifesto commitment to make the trial litter enforcement service a permanent fixture was delivered in June.

Our zero tolerance policy for those who mess up Bexley by dropping litter or flytipping has led to over 7,000 fines being issued and the seizure and crushing of vehicles involved in illegal dumping of waste. And we have purchased more street trees ready to plant this winter, which means our commitment for 1,000 new street trees by 2020 is on course for delivery.

So we haven’t wasted a moment and we will continue repaying your trust in us to make the right decisions in the long term interests of the Borough for the next four years.”