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Bromley Council Budget 2016-17 Public Meeting Report

Andy Richardson reports on the only Public meeting held by Bromley Council for the Public to voice it’s views on what services they should be spending our Council Tax on in 2016-17

Well the public meeting …. held in working hours and only in Bromley – happened on Thursday at 11:00am.

For a council that has cut services and will be cutting further – relying on Bromley residents to volunteer to keep libraries open, pick up litter and leaves, remove graffiti, clean our parks, look after our trees, clear snow off our streets AND a council that closed Lubbock House, closed the Orpington Priory site, reduced Adult Education Centres, is palming off council staff to private companies who work to maximise their contracts for profit rather than service… They got off pretty lightly….

They felt that the one public meeting – based during the working day, an online questionnaire that anyone can fill in (the online Biggin Hill questionnaire had a lot of suspicious input apparently…) and meetings with residents associations in the coming weeks (and how many Bromley residents are in one – even if there is one for their area?) will be enough to make major budget decisions in the new year. Come on Stephen, come down to Orpington again….. you might get a little more challenging a session like you did last time….

There was a call for the Council to come clean and give us a clue to what they are thinking of doing with our council services next year, but they were rather coy about giving us that information….

People were continually asking about how much Bromley Council has got in reserves and why are they continuing to underspend – last year by £11.5m. The councillors said things weren’t as simple as them having £131m in reserves and £60m invested in property and they weren’t about to convert them into any as mundane as providing residents with services they wanted. We just didn’t understand….

Even Mr Osborne’s comment the day before in his budget announcement that councils had got too much cash in reserves and should be using it cuts no sway with Bromley Council… No Siree – Bromley are not going to be told how to spend their savings by government….

We think you might have to Bromley….. it’ll be interesting if Mr Osborne limits councils how much they can have in reserve… a space to keep watching…..

It was good see disability groups well represented at the meeting – perhaps because a lot of services previously provided to them by the council have now vanished… There was a brilliant question and comment by a young man with learning disabilities concerning the closure of Bromley’s Shaw Trust centre People don’t understand contract endings and are genuinely confused and upset by services supplied by council funding suddenly disappearing – it must be a priority for this council to keep these services free from disruption to the most vulnerable of our community.

Listening to a young homeless guy with disability describing the Housing department losing his paperwork 7 times means that everything in the Bromley Rose Tinted Tory Administration isn’t working…. “speak to me after the meeting” was the response….. perhaps regular face to face with young homeless people and councillors to see the evidence of their lack of support may be something councillors take away with them from this meeting…

Bromley Council were also warned about the ageing population and closing or not developing centres that keep them fit and healthy and where they can keep themselves engaged to be both mentally and physically healthy are a necessity. We were told by Councillor Graham Arthur what an asset the elderly were to Bromley and not be seen as a burden…. Well, who else are going to volunteer to run council services like libraries for you in the near future Councillor Arthur?

There was an interesting interchange between a questioner on the state of adult education and Councillor Peter Fortune around the depletion of Bromley Adult Education courses and possible closure of sites. He admitted that the focus had to be changed due to the poor Ofsted report earlier this year. He didn’t say it was down to poor resourcing and management by Bromley Council but the council’s focus was being forced to change to offer basic English and Adult Maths due to the fact that Bromley performed badly in those areas. Nothing to do with Bromley Council’s lack of council investment over the years then….

All in all, the Councillors were robust in the defence of their service provision – extremely proud to be the lowest council tax charging council in London and they will not but spending all that hard earned cash they’ve squirrelled away for a rainy day (isn’t it raining cats and dogs on the citizens of Bromley enough for them at the moment???) – and the public don’t understand council finance – and if we explained it to you – you still wouldn’t understand…..

Try us…..

How basic do you want it Bromley Council? How about £20m in reserve just in case you need to pay an emergency staff  payroll or something (mind you – there are no council staff these days) and then spend the money allocated on the resources you’ve been commissioned to provide by government and residents. We were told, rather patronisingly, enough times that is like a simple household budget…. a bit in reserve and pay the bills within your “family household” budget Councillor Carr… Provide a properly staffed library service, house our residents, look after our elderly and disabled, empty our bins, keep the place tidy, provide a safe environment for your residents to work rest and play – Oh and let us be able to wee in High Street and Shopping Centre toilets………Stop property speculating – that isn’t your job.

If you belong to a Bromley residents association – feed you views on what Bromley should be spending their money on – Bromley Council will be talking to them in the next week or two – so if your residents association hasn’t been asking you to participate, ask why?

Fill in the online questionnaire up until 6 December 2015 – you never know – they might use it…..???!!!

 

 

 

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