Lowest Council Tax Rise for 13yrs

Bexley Council’s Cabinet has recommended the borough’s lowest Council Tax increase for 13 years.

This evening’s Cabinet meeting approved a budget for 2007/08 that will see a Council Tax increase of 3%. The increase, which runs below the current inflation rate of 4.2%, is expected to be endorsed by the full Council meeting on Wednesday 7 March.

“This is a value for money budget that will deliver the lowest possible Council Tax rise for Bexley residents,” said Cllr Ian Clement, the Leader of the Council. “Getting the Council’s spending back to a level we are happy with has not been easy, especially because we inherited spending plans that would have led to a 10% Council Tax increase.”

“Since last May we have listened to the residents of Bexley and delivered by setting the lowest possible Council Tax. But it is still important to us to maintain the quality of our local services,” he added.

“We were determined to get the budget under control and now have a firm foundation on which we can plan for the future.”

The budget approved by the Cabinet includes improvements to the way in which services are delivered, as well as some £6 million of savings, which are linked to changes in the way the Council works.

“Our plans are all about listening to residents and taking effective action to improve the things they care about most,” explains Cllr Clement. “Key to this will be a new emphasis on local neighbourhoods, which will see Ward councillors, the Council and our partners working to improve the quality of life of local communities right across the borough.”

The bills the Council sends to local taxpayers will also include the Council Tax Bexley is required to collect on behalf of the Greater London Authority. The GLA has approved a Council Tax increase of 5.3%, which will result in an overall increase for Bexley households of 3.5%.

Incinerator Decision Goes Against Campaigners

Bexley Council and the Mayor of London’s request for an opportunity to bring a judicial review against the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the Belvedere incinerator was today rejected by the High Court.

The Leader of Bexley Council, Cllr Ian Clement, expressed his bitter disappointment at the decision: “It was important and in the interests of the borough that we did all we could to try to stop this development, which I am still convinced will be bad for Bexley and for London.

“While our arguments received a proper airing, something which I felt they deserved at the very least, I am naturally extremely unhappy at the decision.”

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: “I am disappointed that we have not been granted leave to judicially review the Government’s decision to allow an incinerator to be built at Belvedere. This is a bad day for London’s environment, it means that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of London’s rubbish which could have been recycled or used to produce biofuels and hydrogen will simply be burnt. These kinds of incinerators will release as much carbon per unit of energy as a coal fired power station. Given the scale of the challenge facing us on climate change this incinerator is an obscenity.”

Highest Rating for Council

The Audit Commission has announced this week that Bexley Council has been awarded top marks under the Government’s “harder test” Comprehensive Performance Assessment.

This assessment focussed on the performance and delivery of a wider range of services than ever before, with greater importance attached to securing value for money for local taxpayers. Councils are awarded ratings on five levels, ranging from zero to four stars. Bexley secured the top ‘four-star’ rating.

CPA ratings combine a number of elements, including scores against seven service areas, a Corporate Assessment and a Direction of Travel Statement. Bexley scored top marks in two of the seven service areas assessed (Adults’ Social Care and Housing) and was judged as ‘very good’ (three out of four) for Children and Young People’s Services, Environment, Benefits and Use of Resources. While the Council’s Culture service block scored a two out of four overall, a MORI survey conducted in the Autumn shows that residents are very satisfied with sports, leisure and libraries in the borough, and that Bexley is in the top 25% of councils in the country for these indicators.

The Comprehensive Performance Assessment also includes a statement on the Council’s ‘direction of travel’. The Audit Commission has judged the Council as ‘improving well’ (a score of three out of four). The 180-word summary that accompanies this score recognises the Council’s capacity to improve further and highlights improvements in two-thirds of the Council’s performance indicators, along with good performance in priority areas like GCSE performance, elderly care, housing, road safety and recycling. The report also notes Bexley’s good partnership working – commenting specifically on work carried out with community groups and the police.

Mural To Beat Graffiti

To beat graffiti and tag vandals who repeatedly daub the walls of the subway under the A2, between Hook Lane, Falconwood and Leechcroft Road, Blackfen, local residents tasked local youngsters and members of Welling Youth Centre with painting proper murals along the tunnel walls.

Cllr Simon Windle, the Bexley Cabinet Member responsible for Youth Services, says: “This is a perfect example of the way the borough’s young people can use their skills to serve their community and improve the environment while, at the same time, having fun. I have been to view the murals and, in trying to solve a problem of acts of anti-social behaviour, what these youngsters have done is to create a fantastic work of art.”

Each wall is 33 metres long and three metres high, giving the youthful artists a ‘canvas’ 66 metres in length, needing more than £2,000-worth of spray paint.

Ward Cllr Val Clark says: “The trigger for this project came from the Falconwood and Welling Resident’s Panel which had £5,000 from Bexley Community Safety Partnership to spend on various local initiatives to improve their area. Residents were asked for ideas. I suggested a mural under the A2 because I had seen a cheery mural elsewhere that brightened the area and stopped graffiti. Residents went to Welling Youth Centre and saw what kind of work could be done.”

Cllr Clark and local Police Community Support Officer, Richard Shurmer, approached Bexley Youth Service to see if they could help improve the appearance of the footpath under East Rochester Way. The youth centre was additionally given money from an Awards for All grant by the Gibsons Residents’ Association with another £700 from Groundworks.

The artists, six youngsters from the area and six from the youth centre, led by artistic advisers from the Get the Message company, worked during the school half term holidays.

They produced, on one side, a mural depicting forms of transport, with the direction sign ‘Blackfen’ at one end and ‘Falconwood’ at the other, and on the other wall, illustrations of all the sports available in the borough each side of the word ‘Extreme’.

People using the subway during the work were delighted at the transformation. “It cheers me up,” one pedestrian said.

Tories Continue To Fight For Health Service

Next week Patricia Hewitt MP, Labour Health Minister will be taking part in an online web chat question time on the Number 10 Downing Street Website live on Thursday 8th February, from 10.45 am.

Councillor Sharon Massey Cabinet Member Health and Adult Social Care said ‘This is a great opportunity for all Bexley residents to ask her direct what she intends to do to sort out the crisis in the NHS in Bexley and across the country. We have seen cuts in NHS services locally, for example in podiatry, Speech and Language Therapy and contraception services. But all the pain has been worthless as any saving that has been made has been wiped out by an £8 million bill for the Choose and Book service, due to the Government getting the tariffs wrong!’

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Tarnished Tony Should Go Now

Speaking at the Lesnes Abbey Conservative Branch AGM held on Thursday evening (1/2/07) at the Priory Conservative Club in Belvedere ,David Evennett MP called on the Prime Minister to quit now in the national interest.

“Tarnished Tony is doing great damage to the interests of our country, and our international reputation and is leading a government that is racked by paralysis. He is damaging also our political system and public trust in politicians. We are in the dying days of the Blair government with a Prime Minister whose authority is ebbing away by the day and who is leading a rudderless ship. He should quit now in the national interest,” said Mr. Evennett.

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