Reporting Back on June’s Full Council Meeting

It has been a busy week at the Council, with £8m of cuts decided on Monday and a full Council meeting on Wednesday. I was at the Full Council meeting and have written a couple of articles about that already so thought I would just report back on the less interesting parts of that meeting in this article. If you make it to the end I suspect you should be contacting me to stand for Council as you really are interested in local politics!

The structure was as normal, but we opposed the minutes of the previous meeting (which is exceptional) as Labour appeared to have rewritten them. The main area of disagreement was over the nomination of Coldharbour & New Eltham Councillor John Hills to be vice chair of one of the Avery Hill and Coldharbour Housing Panel in Eltham. John has held this post for 8 years and we nominated him at the AGM and this was the only nomination to a housing panel at that point as Labour had not got round to sorting out their Councillors at that point. Labour did not oppose him at that point, so we thought this had been agreed (as clearly did officers who held a meeting of the panel with John named as the Vice Chair). However, Labour have clearly decided that a Councillor for Abbey Wood would be a better Vice Chair in New Eltham and are now pretending that John’s nomination was never accepted and they agreed to keep it vacant. Aside from the undemocratic nature of changing the decisions after they have been made, the idea that a Councillor elected for Abbey Wood should help run an Avery Hill and Coldharbour Housing Panel is simply wrong. Needless to say, Labour ignored our protests and voted through their version of the minutes which I think takes rewriting history to a whole new level.

This was followed by a range of questions which were answered in a way which blamed the coalition government for almost everything. In answer to questions from Blackheath Councillor Alex Wilson, the problems of the non-existent Greenwich Centre and the John Roan School rebuild were both blamed on coalition cuts, although both projects have been so badly managed by the Council that they could be cut simply because they have taken so long to reach the starting point. Similarly the response to Eltham South Councillor Adam Thomas’ concerning academies suggested that the Council would make it hard for Greenwich Schools to get out of Labour’s clutches. Blackheath Councillor Geoff Brighty also asked about getting rid of Greenwich Time and its ilk (which is a Coalition policy) and was informed that Greenwich Council definitely disagrees with.

Moving on to the statement of accounts, there has been a lot of discussion about these in different committees, so there was little debate. However, I did point out that the £11m (53%) increase in the Revenue Support Grant for Greenwich and a 32% increase in General Government Grants at the same time meant Greenwich was well placed to avoid making any difficult cuts prior to the election.

There were some changes to the Constitution to focus yet more power in the hands of the Leader/Cabinet and remove the Cabinet Committee so that the public know even less about what is going on within the Council.

There were also two petitions. Once again Labour’s intention to blame the government for whatever goes wrong was quite clear. In this case a close in Thamesmead had an unadopted road (which means that the Council had not taken it over from the developer) and it had not been built or maintained properly. Now it has been like this for a while and the Council could have stepped in, but chose not to. However, now the elections are over, they claimed they would do it, but the Conservatives were stopping them through lack of funding. As there are many other unadopted roads, particularly in Thamesmead, I imagine this will be a line they use regularly. The other petition was presented by Conservative Councillors for Kidbrooke with Hornfair before the election, but none of the Labour Councillors who replaced them felt that traffic calming on Broad Walk & Rochester Way was important enough to speak on.

Author: Cllr Spencer Drury, Leader of the Conservative Council Group, Eltham North Ward