The debate over Eltham - in full!

 

There are few members of the public  who attend full Council unless there are specific issues which affect a particular group like provision of a third pool in the Eltham Centre or the conditions on the Ferrier Estate. Conservatives have requested the Council looks at webcasting the meetings, but Labour argue this is expensive and there simply isn’t the interest (which, if based on public attendance seems quite reasonable). 

 So as few people attend, I thought it might be interesting to publish the full transcript of a debate over Eltham. Elsewhere it has been suggested that this was a spat, but I leave readers to judge for themselves. The motion put forward by the Conservative Councillors read:  

Council is aware that £1 million has been allocated to the Eltham Regeneration Agency to help support development in and around Eltham High Street.  Council is also aware that two members of the Cabinet are members of the Board of the Eltham Regeneration Agency.

 

Council requests that the relevant Cabinet members direct the Eltham Regeneration Agency to investigate the creation of an internet shopping system to support small, independent retailers in the Eltham area.  The aim of an internet shopping system would be to provide a stable base for small businesses to promote themselves and sell their goods and services online, thereby helping to support and improve the viability of businesses in and around Eltham High Street. Council further requests that the result of such an investigation be reported back to Council or be sent directly to Councillors.

  

Mayor              Item 15 now. I would like to invite Councillor Drury to formally propose and speak on the motion and please note that a written amendment to the motion has been circulated around the Chamber.

  

Cllr Drury       I have noticed it Madam Mayor, thank you very much. 

  

A year ago, I think, the Council allocated £1 million to help support Eltham High Street particularly and local Conservatives welcomed that decision. Over the course of the last year we’ve seen less than the £250,000 available to spend, £70,000 on a report chasing a DLR station in Eltham which would be welcome but producing a report that was sent late to the Mayor of London and as far as I can make out not included in his Transport Strategy as a result. We feel that Eltham High Street needs support to recover from what’s been one of the most devastating recessions in recent times. We hope that the Eltham Regeneration Agency would be able to give a new direction and may be a clear image of what Eltham stands for and support some of the small shops and so what I was trying to do with this motion was give a suggestion to Council of how we could do that. The reason I thought it appropriate to bring it to Council is we have no representation on the Eltham Regeneration Agency. My understanding is Councillor Brooks and Councillor Roberts are still the only two representatives on that. Don’t shrug Councillors Brooks, you should surely know you’re still the only two representatives on the Eltham Regeneration Agency. The idea, and I did e-mail Councillor Roberts about this in advance, is to see if we could not just create a website but a delivery system for smaller shops around Eltham. We felt that this had the potential to give the smaller shops the ability to have goods ordered over the internet and delivered to people’s homes and in that way boost their business and potentially allow them to fight against the home delivery systems that may be Sainsbury’s and the larger shops have. Obviously what we are suggesting is on a wider radius than just Eltham High Street – New Eltham, may be the Tudor Parade – all of which, we thought, might help support smaller shops. There are blue prints similar to this but nothing quite like this. Now we weren’t, I don’t think, ???? allowed to say this definitely work, what we think is it’s an idea that’s worth pursuing. So what we were asking effectively, Councillor Roberts and Councillor Brooks, to do is to go to the Eltham Regeneration Agency and to discuss whether this is something worth looking into and to see whether we could support the small businesses in Eltham through the recession, using the money that been set aside by this Council and maybe push forward a different model and one which would allow small shops to develop and be supported. If it works after a year or two years obviously the plan would be the Council could hand that over to the smaller shops who have seen an increase in their business as the result of the system. So that was the idea, obviously I think I’m fairly clear what the result’s going to be but I hope out of this, there will be some move from the Eltham Regeneration Agency to try and do something to try to support the smaller shops in and around Eltham and maybe we can get some sort of positive outcome from this anyway.

  

Thank you Madam Mayor.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Drury. Is the motion seconded? Councillor Glover

  

Cllr Glover      Yes, Madam Mayor, I formally second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Glover. Do any other Members wish to speak on the motion? Councillor Poston.

  

Cllr Poston      Very briefly, Madam Mayor, I am very disturbed by this amendment to the motion that has been passed around. (Interuption)

  

Mayor              Councillor Poston the amendment has not yet been put.

  

Cllr Poston      Let me address myself to this matter in a different way. I am very depressed by the fact that since all we’re asking for is an investigation of what on the surface of it seems like an excellent idea. I’m depressed by the fact that you know you’re not even prepared to investigate the possibility and later, of course, you’re going to hang all sorts of political things around our necks. Whereas this motion which is before us tonight, which stands in Councillor Drury’s name, is totally non-political. I mean I had the opinion that perhaps you’re suffering so badly from the fact that the Conservative Party got more seats in the general election than it’s had since the 1930’s that you’re suffering from some kind of inferiority complex and that you have to throw all this political stuff at us. All we want is you to look at a perfectly good idea and investigate it.  (Interuption)

  

Mayor              Councillor Poston, I’m going to stop you there for a moment because, at the moment, the notion of an amendment has not yet been put. We are asking you to speak on the substantive motion that there is at the moment, so could you make sure that you’re (Interuption)

  

Cllr Poston      Of course I could, I always obey what you tell me to do but I had thought that I had got off the subject of the amendment perhaps it’s so indelibably imprinted in my mind now that I’ve read it that I couldn’t escape from it (interruption)

  

Mayor              That is a possibility but could you please keep to the motion at hand. Thank you.

  

Does anybody else wish to speak on the motion as it is at the moment. Councillor Glover.

  

Cllr Glover      May I take my right to actually, as I said I reserve my right to speak.

  

Madam Mayor, a couple of years ago we did a time limited review about how we could help small businesses and the time limited review team did look at the shops in New Eltham and indeed some of the small parades round about, not only in Eltham but in other areas. It seems to me, Madam Mayor, that as we do have a Regeneration Agency in Eltham, that the motion we are proposing does actually recommend something that could be done or could be looked at to be done to actually take forward some of the recommendations and the time limited review for small businesses and that would be something that could be looked at. As Councillor Drury said unfortunately this was the only way, Madam Mayor, that we could do this because there aren’t any Eltham Councillors actually on the Regeneration Agency. We’re not invited to the meetings to actually observe. We have to actually invoke the Freedom of Information Act to get the minutes so I do think, Madam Mayor, that this was as I say the only way we could actually attach this or get it forward to the Regeneration Agency and I do recommend looking at this to the Regeneration Agency to actually look at this. It has been done in some other areas, not exactly in this form but it does work and it does help our small businesses.

  

Thank you Madam Mayor.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Glover. Does anybody else wish to (interruption)

  

Cllr Hyland    Madam Mayor, can I please put the amendment forward please.

 Labour then changed the motion to read as follows: 

Council is aware that £1 million has been allocated to the Eltham Regeneration Agency to help support development in and around Eltham High Street.  Council notes the support provided by the authority to the Association for Commerce in Eltham (ACE) to establish a web portal for local businesses and continues to pledge its support for the business communities both in Eltham and across the borough.

 

Council notes the economic viability of our High Streets is directly threatened by the budget delivered by the new Tory led government on 22 June which announced spending cuts of 25% across the public sector and by the subsequent statements of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that local councils should anticipate cuts of 40% in their revenue support grants.

 

Council appreciates that if confirmed in the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October, such cuts will equate to £70m in the authority’s budgets and lead to substantial job cuts which would be replicated across the public sector in the borough.

 

Council recognises that the loss of such jobs as a direct result of the 22 June budget has the potential to be highly damaging to local businesses and to the viability of our High Streets as spending power in the local economy collapses.

 

Council calls on the Government to avoid damaging the small businesses of Eltham and the rest of the borough with such savage and unnecessary public spending cuts which will directly create unemployment and reduce consumer spend.

  

Mayor              Councillor Hyland is proposing an amendment which is in front of you. Do you wish to speak on that? 

  

Cllr Hyland     I do Madam Mayor, thank you very much.

  

You know, I would like to accept that what you’re doing by this motion is in good faith Councillor Drury but I do think there’s a bit of naivety on the opposition benches about the fact that we are, in fact, politicians and that’s why politics comes into these things. The Council will do what it can to support businesses in the Borough, including the establishment of the web portal and for those people who are unaware of what that is, it is in fact a device that will provide Members with up to five pages of dedicated text and photographs all aimed at marketing and promoting their business, building on the relationships for the existing and potential customers and this portal compliments individual business websites and the popular community websites, a wider remit in promoting Eltham and the surrounding catchment areas. This web portal system has an ability to send out mail shots with special offers and that has actually been developed by this Council, organised by the Greenwich Business Development Centre, with funding from Gateway to London Inward Investment and a Business Retention Grant all applied for and supported by our Business Development Centre. Now, the first thing the opposition does is to ask us to commit to this investigation of spending money following the coalitions announcement of severe budgetary cuts, cuts that will in effect cut the public sector workers, impact on local services which I know are very dear the oppositions heart and I mean that genuinely. And it’s the Governments own think tank on the budget that has forecast 600,000 job losses over the next 5 years causing absolute misery for individuals, families and communities and then we will see what the economists call the innocent bystander effect, where there are resultant casualties, shops takings down as consumers reduce their spend. Shop assistants losing their jobs, and shop keepers going out of business and unfortunately that may well include Eltham and I really hope that colleagues in the opposition will join with me in supporting small businesses, starting by condemning these savage and quiet unnecessary scale of cuts which I fear is ideologically driven. I move the amendment Madam Mayor.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Hyland, is the amendment seconded.

  

Cllr Roberts     Formally Madam Mayor and I reserve the right to speak.

  

                        Thank you Councillor Roberts.

  

Mayor              Councillor Drury, do you accept the amendment?

  

Cllr Drury       No.  I believe, I speak more fully at the end, but can I say that my main reason is the factual inaccuracies. It is very unlike Councillor Roberts to get these things wrong, but if you turn to page 153 of our Agenda he would find the Revenue Support Grant increase I was talking about. The review support grant went from £19 million to £30 million, 40% cut in that does not equal £70 million of cuts as he suggests in this amendment, as Councillor Hyland suggests in this amendment, maybe it’s her figures. It seems to me that given that the figures don’t add up at all, a 40% cut might take us down to roughly where we were last year having had a 53% increase. That the figures don’t add up and frankly Labour would be voting for a factually inaccurate motion, amendment substantive motion, if they voted for this. There are other reasons as well which I will outline at the end.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Drury.

  

                        We are now speaking on the amendment, does any other member wish to speak on the amendment.

  

                        Councillor David Grant and then Councillor Nigel Fletcher ???

  

Cllr Grant       Thank you Madam Mayor. 

  

I rise to support the amendment, it seems to me that the first paragraph of the amendment does deal as Councillor Hyland has pointed out very much with the issues that the opposition motion raised, or the points which they made in their speeches certainly. Actually as somebody who does shop in Eltham quite often, it is not exactly my local shopping centre but it is where I go if I want to get more than is available in Greenwich Town Centre, which actually is not all that much, but that is another issue. What worries me more in the years I have been going to Eltham, 15 or 20 years or so, is not so much the plight of small shops which seem reasonably robust, but the plight of large chains and big stores and I regard the loss of Alders and the Co-Op store as significant problems for Eltham.   Fortunately you still got dear old M & S there and it is a very good M & S, it is much better, well M & S Woolwich perhaps has a more specific function but it is certainly better than the Lewisham one, which is actually closer to where I live, so that’s good, and there is a big Sainsbury supermarket, but the absence and the decline of large stores in Eltham I think is even more of a problem. However, the difficult issue which the bulk of the amendment seems to deal with I think, is that it does appear that the present Government hasn’t fully worked out the linkage between people in employment and particularly in public service employment and the prosperity of shops and retail areas and the fact is that if you do make these substantial reductions in employment you will find that the shops will suffer. Now eventually in an ideologically pure conservative world you may get to a point where all those people who were wickedly employed in public services are now eventually employed in the private sector and then they’ll bring prosperity back to the shops but the problem is that in the interim period there may be very few shops left for them to revive. So I think it is entirely appropriate that this amendment puts those two things together and I think it is a serious problem for the present Government that they don’t seem to have realised the linkage there and if our colleagues, and I use the word judiciously, if our colleagues in the opposition can bring that point home to the Government then I think they will do a very fine service both for the London Borough of Greenwich and many other communities up and down the country.

  

Thank you.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Grant. Councillor Nigel Fletcher.

  

Cllr Fletcher   Thank you Madam Mayor. It’s a cliché to say you weren’t intending to speak on a motion. I really wasn’t until I heard and read the amendment that is being proposed. I have to take issue with this reference to job losses in the public sector. When the figures that Councillor Hyland referred to were looked at in their entirety, they actually recorded a projection of a net increase in jobs across the economy, including in the private sector and in retail such as in Eltham which is the subject of the original motion but I must congratulate Councillor Hyland on at least mentioning the measures the Council is taking to help shop keepers in Eltham because of course the amendment doesn’t refer to that at all, apart from the few words in the first sentence. The rest of this amendment is entirely devoted to attack on the Government. I would have thought that the administration, having held on to power in this Borough and to have done as successfully as I’m sure they will keep reminding us for the next four years as they have, that they’re not feeling slightly more confident to be able to accept this in the spirit in which it was intended rather than at the first opportunity indulging in the type of petty politicking that we saw as soon as Boris Johnson was elected as Mayor in their approach to London issues. Of course we could have put a motion forward which took the tone that this amendment has taken and the subject matter this amendment has used. We could have put the blame firmly where it belongs with the former Labour Government but in fact the cuts are necessary in the economy. We could have put forward a whole range of motions on Labour’s failure over its 13 years in office but we chose not to. We chose to put forward as an act perhaps to an extent contrition given the result of the recent Borough elections something positive for the residents of the Borough and it saddens me that although we are in politics, as Councillor Hyland said, that the type of politics that is reflected in this amendment was chosen by the majority group and not the type of politics that perhaps the residents and traders of the Borough would have expected from us.

  

Mayor              Councillor Glover

  

Thank you Madam Mayor. Madam Mayor, I have a great respect for Councillor Hyland,  however I find this amendment really curious, because it’s not so much an amendment as another motion and that really surprises me. I don’t know why you just didn’t put a motion in as well because I think, as has been said when we were talking about the main motion, Madam Mayor, this was a request to have something investigated. Now, Madam Mayor, we’re talking about cuts in the amendment however the budget for the Eltham Regeneration Agency is already in our budget. It’s something that is there. Are you laying the ground for having this cut, is that the reason that this amendment has been made because what we were doing was actually saying the money’s there, you don’t let us actually come to the meetings so there’s no other way we can propose it. We’re proposing something and yet you are taking an amendment which actually doesn’t talk about the Eltham Regeneration Agency at all, it is a completely different motion, Madam Mayor, so I have to say I will be voting against this because I think there is an underlying reason sadly Councillor Hyland for you doing this and it’s one which I would have thought I would much rather seen you actually bring and propose a motion to this Council. However regrettably saying what this is saying because we wouldn’t have agreed with it but I think it would have been more honest Madam Mayor.

  

Thank you.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Glover. Councillor Fahy.

  

Cllr Fahy         Thank you Madam Mayor. I’ll be as brief as possible because I’m under pressure from my back bench colleagues not to speak for too long. 

  

I was amazed by the comment of Councillor Drury and I suppose it’s a continuation really of the economics of the Conservative Party. He said, I think, just because we had a 53% increase last year or in previous years, the fact that we’re now having a 40% reduction is ‘a-ok’. Well it is £70 million, in effect, and you might invite Eric Pickles to provide a copy of the letter that he sent to the Council (might be extremely helpful) but the reality is, I think it’s an amazing abuse of the opposition to come here and argue the case for the Eltham High Street when in actual fact they’re sitting on their hands and not doing a thing about the percentage increase in VAT because the consequential effect of that will be that you get fewer people into the high street in order to support the businesses that exist and I just want to finish by saying that, in reality, Eltham High Street isn’t a basket case. There are some very good shops, there are some very strong shops (as an Eltham resident I should declare an interest and I shop regularly in Eltham High Street) but over recent years we’ve had an increase in the space of Marks and Spencer who opened an additional floor. We’ve had Lidl’s come into the High Street, so let’s not knock it. Obviously it’s let us all work to improve the businesses but let’s be quite clear about it, you’ve come in from the point of view of trying to sit on your hands, sit in a kind of bubble believing that everything that’s happening nationally is going over your head and you’re immune from it. Well frankly we’re going to continue to tell the people of Eltham and the Borough as a whole that you are part of the Conservative Party who are trying to bring this country to its knees by the economic steps that they’re taking.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Fahy. Councillor Smith

  

Cllr Smith        Thank you Madam Mayor. I too would use the cliché I didn’t intend to speak but my colour blood’s rising. I just think this is going to be meeting after meeting of the opposition telling us we should be doing more with less. Not completely understanding what we’re being asked to do. As my colleagues, I didn’t interrupt you please don’t interrupt me, as my colleague quite mentioned 20% VAT rise, it’s going to do nothing but harm local businesses, particularly when lots of local people will lose their jobs through the public spending cuts. There was mention of Boris and how sad and sour grapes were used and of course he came in a made all sorts of promises like he would reduce consultancy fees. Well, lo and behold, his consultancy fees have been published and they’re already double those of Ken Livingstone in one administration in the first two years, so you can make whatever promises you make but it doesn’t mean to say that you deliver them. You know I have been depressingly watching as the last few weeks have unfolded with daily announcements of what’s going to go and who’s going to pay for it and you would think that women, children, disabled people, pensioners, anybody that dares to have a local government pension are the people responsible for the absolute state that we’re in and would it be the Labour Government, would it be the hedge fund managers, the greedy bankers, all of those people that actually led us into world wide economic problems that actually our Government managed to save us from an absolutely catastrophic world wide recession that we would never have recovered from and that was absolutely acknowledged by all of the world leaders. So, before we listen to the platitudes of how all of this prolific spending of our government’s got us where we are, Dickeynesian principles of actually spending on infrastructure and what have we wasted our money on, God forbid, hospitals, schools, children’s centres, infrastructure, things that actually were in such a bad state when we inherited them in, kids were going to school with leaking roofs, outside toilets, but the absolute problems that were caused when your government were let loose last time. Thank God we are assured that the British public won’t let us do this for another 19 years, they truly are ‘Thatcher’s children’. The public will spot you for what you are and you won’t last long.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Smith. Councillor Thorpe.

  

Cllr Thorpe     Thank you Madam Mayor. Let me just start by addressing something that Councillor Poston said about hanging things around his neck. The only person who seems to be hanging anything around anyone’s neck as far as your lot go is your Chancellor and I think the decisions that he’s taken is a tightening noose which is only going to get tighter and one which the resident’s will not be forgetting at all.  If we’re on the subject of what the Eltham Regeneration Agency might spend its time investigating, here’s a few for starters. How about, how many of the police officers currently patrolling Eltham High Street, keeping shoppers safe and reducing crime, are now going to lose their jobs as a result of the Home Secretary’s announcement yesterday and what will the impact of that be on Eltham High Street? What will the impact be of the planned PCT developments that the PCT are way ahead with, which would ultimately have brought more people into the High Street, not just for a medical purpose but into the area now not happening because, let’s be honest, when David says the NHS is safe with us what he doesn’t tell you is that the PCT are facing 50% cuts all across the place and that’s just the start of it, and how many Eltham residents who are employed as a result of the future jobs fund which has now been cut are about to lose their jobs almost certainly, who won’t have any money to come and spend in the High Street, so actually, you know, they’re just a few things about the impact of the coalition’s plans on Eltham High Street that do need to be considered and when Councillor Fletcher talks about the type of politics he has come to expect, well we’ve already seen what type of politics we can come and expect from your friends in Westminster which is ideologically ill thought out driven cuts just on the basis of cuts and cuts only and we can assure you, Councillor Fletcher and all of your colleagues in Westminster, that the type of politics you’re going to expect from us here in Greenwich and from the Labour Party nationally is a type of politics that holds you to account at every single step and exposes the true impact of your decisions and the impact of the Liberal Democrat decisions who are idly sat there, not waving their papers as the budget is passed but thinking ‘oh my god, what have we got into’ and we can assure you that we will be exposing those at every single opportunity.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Thorpe. Councillor Mills

  

Cllr Mills         Yes, very briefly and again like everybody else I didn’t really mean to speak on this, but I am a bit bemused by all of this. Why in, what we understand is Tory Party theory, that private sector needs to go out and do things, that you’re coming here and running to the Council asking for money to be spent on doing something which in another place would normally be a private sector function and what you’re doing, as Councillors, to see that that is done. Not just coming here and sitting around and asking for money but actually going out in communities and getting the private sector to do what you’re asking. 

  

Mayor              Councillor Brighty

  

Cllr Brighty     Yes, thank you Madam Mayor. To use that well worn phrase ‘I wasn’t intending to speak tonight’ and also I do sometimes shop in Eltham High Street, all of which is largely irrelevant to this. I mean I’ve sat here and listened to a lot of speeches which are utterly predictable from the Members opposite and it’s going to be a very long four years or how ever long it is going to last if we have to listen to this at every Council meeting because it’s absolute rubbish what you’re saying, it’s absolute rubbish. It’s hypocritical ‘hogwash’ and the cuts that are taking place are simply there because your Government made the most almighty mess of this economy, the people of this country know that and that is why you lost the general election. Simple as that, accept it and move on. These are Labour cuts that are going to happen. They are Labour cuts and that is all there is to it. Get used to it and change your tune because you will get absolutely nowhere with the people in this country. You think you’re being very clever but in fact the people of this country know what you’re up to and you will not get away with it. They’re not that stupid.

  

Mayor              Thank you. Councillor Roberts

  

Cllr Roberts     Thank you Madam Mayor. I think what’s astonishing really is that the very first resolution from the Conservative Group is about spending money in a point of time when we are about to head for even grimmer times in this borough. A borough where approximately 36% of people work in the public sector and approximately 31% of people work in retail, so when public sector workers stop going into shops, two thirds of the people of this borough face potentially some significant affect to their livelihoods and that’s what’s particularly challenging for Greenwich as opposed to perhaps other boroughs. We didn’t suffer perhaps as badly as others because we didn’t have as many people working in finance when the recession hit a couple of years ago but as the country moves out of that recession and as we see an improvement in the economic indicators announced just today Greenwich is a borough that faces particularly the prospect of going backwards because a public sector cut damages the greatest single area of our economic base followed then by retail. So of course we will do everything we can to support businesses. We’ve supported the Association for Commerce in Eltham with their web portal. We will do whatever we can to assist but some of the assistance we have been providing through our future jobs fund has been ripped away from us and therefore it has been ripped away from the Chamber of Commerce for the support that was being provided to them just in the course of the last few weeks. What is, you know, words like hypocritical being bounded around from the opposition. Not just on this thing but on the statement of accounts. This is about prudent financial management. You can’t, any longer, just come to the Council and say let’s spend more money and let’s save up all our attacks on the Labour Group about profligacy. Not that they stand up terribly well but let’s save them again for budget day in February but let’s spend the previous nine months putting forward resolutions calling on us to spend more money, whether it’s traffic calming in Blanmere Road or anywhere else. We are in a different environment, a significantly different environment because it is potentially if Eric Pickles’s statement to come true. It is £70 million we are facing and I think this confusion about business rates and area based grants, some of which have been cut in year in the pages that have been referred to previously but we have, as other colleagues have said, supported our town centres. We have particularly supported Eltham. We particularly had to fight every step of the way because every time we proposed to build the Eltham Centre in Eltham High Street, the opposition tried to stop it. They used every delaying tactic they could, saying it should go on the Lido side, saying put it down by Sutcliffe Park because it’s a leisure centre. We are the ones that insisted on it going in Eltham High Street so hundreds of thousands of people will go to that centre right in the heart of the shopping district of Eltham and the leading person about it was the Tory Chief Whip, who would come to planning meetings saying “my CERA Group is against this”. My CERA Group has about as many members as there are in the Greenwich Environment Forum and we know all about that. So the reality is, Madam Mayor, the real anger on this side is because we can see what’s coming. We’ve seen it coming before. We have spent 10 to 15 years trying to diversify our economy, regenerate our borough so that we do not have to rely to the same degree on public sector employment. It isn’t a healthy position to be in and we have been doing particularly well at that. We need the ability to do more to diversify our economy, which is what our regeneration agenda is about but to be hit with this when it is unnecessary, it is simply going to cause untold grief and pain in our borough and we will see over the course of the next few years serious levels of poverty and unemployment rising but people can rest assured we will do whatever we can to continue stimulating the regeneration agenda of our borough, to continue to support our businesses wherever we can but we have to say we can’t come to the Council Chamber and be writing blank cheques.

  

Cllr Glover      Madam Mayor, I reserve Standing Orders 68b, Point of Personal Information.

  

It isn’t my CERA Group. I do chair it, Madam Mayor, but I am a non-voting member. To put the record straight, we did not and the association did not suggest that the centre be built on Sutcliffe Park. The Association, backed up by a questionnaire of 700 questionnaires, asked the population of central Eltham where they would like it to be developed. The response that came back was on the original site of the Eltham Baths. They wanted the site where the centre was built to be used for sheltered housing but they said if it was to be built there, that it shouldn’t be such a large centre because it dominates Blunts Road and, as you know from the number of issues that have been raised Madam Mayor over noise from the centre which has now been largely solved, of the implications of building such a large centre in such proximity to small terraced housing.

  

Thank you Madam Mayor.

  

Mayor              You’re comments have been noted. Councillor Drury, do you wish to close the debate on the amendment?

  

Cllr Drury       I suppose I better had Madam Mayor.

  

Can I start yet again Councillor Fahy. There’s a bit of maths here that you need to do. Revenue support grant £30 million. If you take 40% off of that you cannot make £70 million, it doesn’t work that way and your motion clearly says 40% cuts in revenue support grants, £70 million (interruption) …in the accounts Please look, I gave you the page number you can’t make it add up the way you’re trying. So please try, it’s the way you’ve written the motion. You’re motion is factually inaccurate and you need to come to terms with that.

  

No, I’m talking to you because you put the amendment down to the motion Councillor Fahy, and gave a speech which implied that. The facts are all wrong and I know you don’t like being wrong but the fact you’re wrong is something you’re going to have to live with on this occasion. 

  

If I could move on, there seems to be a level of purposeful misunderstanding, shall we say, of the original motion. It does not commit any spending. What it does is it asks for an investigation of whether this would be worthwhile. It is possibly the gentlest of motions we could have brought to Council. In fact it was simply an attempt to ask our two representatives on the Eltham Regeneration Agency to do something we could agree on as a Council and particularly as Councillors for Eltham, which obviously most of us are over here, was something that we could stand up and look at. The idea of the Labour Party have tried to paint this as some outrageous spending commitment and here we are spending millions of pounds by asking the Eltham Regeneration Agency just to do an investigation is laughable and I think it’s tremendously sad that you can’t see that what you should have done was bothered about Eltham because the impression you have given this evening is you don’t care about Eltham. That, as far as you’re concerned, the million pounds the Eltham Regeneration Agency very nice bribe just before the election, ooh quick now we can take it back. They’ve voted for us, we’re all ok now. Now I think really, that’s a real shame. This was not an enormous spending commitment, it was a reasonable motion and to answer Councillor Hyland’s point, I did offer Labour Councillors the chance to second it ok. I offered that so it’s not some political thing and frankly just because we’re politicians doesn’t mean we can’t do the right thing. Now doing the right thing obviously brings us on to the hilarious way this debate developed. Someone would have thought the Labour Party didn’t commit itself to 20% cuts before the General Election. They said there would have to be cuts but in fact the economy is so (tape unclear) the balance we’re going to have to cut for the country’s sake but this evening what we had was a range of fantastic speeches with people waving bits of paper. I think Councillor Grant talked about how we felt they were wickedly employed in the public sector. What a disgraceful comment to make. None of us have said that. I’ve worked in the public sector in a number of different jobs. It’s clearly inaccurate and the idea that we think that is almost as fanciable as the idea that Councillor Grant occasionally shops in Eltham. It is I’m afraid not accurate to talk about these just being Conservative cuts. They are cuts that were necessitated by the Labour Party. The Labour Party knew that before the elections and I’m afraid simply tried to pretend it’s all down to us. It’s not feasible and I think Councillor Grant is absolutely right that people with see through it. Obviously Councillor Thorpe is going to enjoy being in opposition nationally. He gets to say whatever he wants without responsibility but I must caution, I think with that level of irresponsibility and frankly as an opposition councillor we’ve all felt it, ok, comes at a price and I can imagine Councillor Roberts among his group understand this price. Which is, if you constantly oppose the Government it becomes hard to negotiate with them and if it’s hard to negotiate with them you can’t do the best for the people of this borough and so I’m afraid some level of responsibility would have been appropriate within this debate. An amendment that focused on Eltham would have been appropriate within this debate and I oppose this amendment because it does neither of those things.

  

Mayor              Thank you Councillor Drury. 

  

Can I ask Council now to vote on the amendment. All those in favour? All those against? Any abstentions? The amendment is carried. Does any member now wish to make any additional amendments or to speak on the motion as amended.

  

There are no further speakers. Can I invite Councillor Hyland in to close the debate.

  

Cllr Hyland     Thank you Madam Mayor. Just to reiterate that this Council will do all it can to support businesses in Eltham and across the borough but the opposition do need to bear in mind that we are in for a very difficult period ahead and you talk about 20% cuts. Your government have made it 40% on this Council, see Eric Pickles letter. Madam Mayor, I commend the amendment to you and therefore the motion. Thank you.

  

Mayor              We have the amended motion before us. I would like the Council to vote on it. All those in favour? All those against? Any abstentions? The motion as amended is carried.