Labour under pressure for misleading youth service claims

Pressure was mounting on the Labour Party in Bexley to apologise for making misleading claims about youth provision in Belvedere after figures released at Wednesday’s Full Council meeting [8 November 2007] showed a dramatic increase in the numbers of young people attending youth services as a result of the decision to provide an outreach youth service.

Labour’s only Belvedere Councillor, Daniel Francis had wrongly and repeatedly claimed in August and September that youth services were being taken away from Belvedere. However, month-by-month figures comparing the numbers attending the outreach services in Frank’s Park and the Upper Belvedere recreation ground on Monday nights showed that over 90 young people were using the youth service in Belvedere compared to as few as 6 under the previous arrangements at the Belvedere Community Centre.

There was further embarrassment for Cllr Francis when it was also revealed that the youth service had no record of him visiting the outreach service, despite him claiming to have been there and seen 15-20 young people. Chairman of the Youth Cabinet Advisory Group and Belvedere Conservative Councillor David Leaf, said:

“The Labour Party’s claims about youth provision are thoroughly discredited and they should apologise immediately for misleading local residents. After listening to young people, changes were made to youth services in the Belvedere area and attendance figures are now significantly higher. Although the youth service has no record of a visit to Belvedere during 2007 by Labour Councillors, their claims that 15-20 people were attending a week are still far more than the previous monthly attendance figures for the youth night at the Belvedere Community Centre. Cllr Francis and Labour should stop with their attempts to spin this issue and start to show support for the young people who helped make this decision and the youth service staff, who do a tremendous job.”

Cllr Leaf also slammed Labour’s Bexley Group Leader, Councillor Chris Ball, for criticising the changes without having seen the outreach work being carried out by the youth service workers. He said:

“During the Council meeting, Councillor Ball made a valid point about the importance of using the youth service to engage with young people. However, had he bothered to visit the outreach service in Belvedere before criticising the changes, he would know that the youth service staff are doing a fantastic job engaging with young people and helping them with their problems. The youth service staff have worked hard to earn the respect and trust of many young people in Belvedere and it is such a pity that the Labour Party is trying to undermine this.”

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Conservatives promise fight to save Queen Mary’s

In a motion put to Bexley Council by Cllr Sharon Massey cabinet member for Health & Adult Social care, Bexley Conservatives promised vigorous opposition to any proposals to cut vital A&E and Maternity services from Queen Mary’s hospital that emerged from the “picture of health” review of NHS services in outer South East London.

In a passionate speech Cllr Massey expressed her fears that if Queen Mary’s A&E department were to close and in the event of a medical emergency people would be faced with having to travel to Queen Elizabeth or Lewisham hospital to get the care they needed that extra travelling time might seriously affect their chances of survival in the most urgent cases.

During the debate Councillors praised Derek Conway MP for raising public awareness about the future of Queen Mary’s by holding a series of public meetings in his Old Bexley & Sidcup Constituency which were attended by hundreds of residents and for securing a debate on the hospital’s future in Parliament.

Though eventually voting in favour of the Conservative motion Labour Councillor Daniel Francis was somewhat less than robust in his support for Queen Mary’s when he commented that it was easier for his residents to get to Guys anyway.

Speaking at the conclusion of the debate Cllr Ian Clement the leader of Bexley Council warned the Labour Government to expect a fight if they tried to close or downgrade Queen Mary’s Hospital going on to pledge,

“The Conservative administration will do everything in its power to safeguard vital A&E and Maternity services at Queen Mary’s hospital”.

David Evennett meeting residents in Clifton Road and Westbrooke road Welling

On Saturday 17th November David Evennett MP will be joining Danson Park Ward Councillors for a walkabout in Welling.

At the next General Election this part of Welling will move for first time into the constituency of Bexleyheath and Crayford, which is represented by Conservative MP David Evennett.

David Evennett MP said ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to meet with residents in the Westbrooke Road area. I already represent the eastern end of Westbrooke Road, and now the remainder of the road has been added to the constituency. I look forward to joining the Ward Councillors for a walkabout to see the area first hand myself.’

Danson Park Ward Councillor Sharon Massey said ‘This walkabout in the ward will allow residents to meet David and to share any concerns they have, either nationally or locally.’

Councillor Linda Bailey added ‘We hope residents will join us as we walk the patch. We want to hear their concerns, if there is a broken pavement we want to know about it, if there is graffiti we want to know so that we can get it cleaned up.’

The Ward Chairman, Councillor John Waters, added ‘We are delighted to have this opportunity to introduce David to our local residents and we look forward to him being their representative in Parliament after the next General Election.’

Local Conservatives welcome government schools climbdown

A Government plan to raid the bank balances of local schools has been abandoned after fierce opposition from some MPs, local politicans, Teaching Unions and Headteachers. Cllr. Simon Windle, Bexley’s Cabinet Member for Schools, Adult Education and Youth Services welcomed the news by saying ‘I am glad the Government has seen sense to abandon their ludicrous proposal to raid school budgets and deduct 5% of any surplus every year for the next three years. Schools could have now spent a large part of their surplus and be facing financial difficulties as a result of Government tactics not known when they set their 07/08 budget.’

Such a ‘clawback’ would have meant that all but five of the schools across Bexley would have faced some of their own grant allocation redistributed according to an as yet undetermined formula. The total amount of money ‘clawed back’ would have been £367,128, with the worst hit primary school facing losing £7,874, the worst hit secondary school facing losing £32,341 and the worst hit special school facing losing £7,031. The Government has previously suggested that it is prudent for primary schools to retain up to 8% of their budgets and secondaries up to 5%. The average surplus of any Bexley school was 6.3% at 31st March, 2007.

David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford said “The Government should have scrapped this plan to penalise schools completely but their instinct for top-down direction is still as strong as ever. The Government thinks it knows how to spend schools’ money better than the headteachers”.

Bexley Conservatives back Boris

The selection of Boris Johnson as the Conservative Candidate for Mayor of London has received an enthusiastic welcome from Cllr Ian Clement the leader of Conservative run Bexley Council. Speaking after hearing the news that Boris had won overwhelming backing from Londoners to take on Ken Livingstone in next May’s Mayoral election Cllr Clement a supporter of Boris Johnson’s since the start of the campaign said,

“This is good news for Bexley and for the whole of London, Boris will stand up for all of London not just zone 1, we need a mayor who will listen to us on improving transport south of the river, on fighting crime and fear of crime in every borough and who will deliver value for money for all Londoners”.

Looking forward to a positive campaign on the issues that matter most to Londoners Cllr Clement added,

“ Next year London will face a real choice, more of the same from Ken Livingstone or in Boris Johnson someone who will work with the boroughs to improves the lives of every Londoner”