Four years ago the London Borough of Bexley was under Labour control – with a majority of just one – and had experienced four years of an administration for whom one of their first tasks was to increase Special Responsibility Allowances (only one Member of their Group didn’t receive an SRA) and then continued by raising Council Tax by over 40% during their 4-year term of office.
We fought the election in 2006 on the basis of wanting to bring value for money, effective, efficient services to Bexley residents at a price they could afford. We won 54 of the 63 seats (the remaining nine were won by Labour but one of those has since become an Independent) and set about our work.
We based our work based on our 100 day action plan and the work we had done with Officers prior to the election but the picture was bleak – on course for a 10% Council Tax rise the following year or find £10 million worth of savings!
We recognised that taxpayers couldn’t afford the landfill taxes/fines that the Government/Europe were proposing so we set about ensuring a high rate of recycling – we are the highest recyclers in London at over 50% and 11 years ahead of the Government’s target!
Education was a priority for us so, in addition to protecting our grammar schools, we also wanted to raise the bar in the non-selective sector. We did that by attracting some powerful organisations such as Harris Federation, Haberdasher’s Aske’s, Academies Enterprise Trust & Kemnal Technology Trust. We negotiated with Government to get funding for a new school in Crayford in addition to the rebuild of one secondary and four primary schools. We have worked with the schools to increase SEN provisions locally and are one of the furthest LAs ahead on the Children’s Centres programme.
All these measures (and others) have led to improved results and have set us on a journey that can only increase the life chances for the young people of Bexley. The changes to the Licensing laws brought about an increased fear of crime locally so we worked with licensees, Police and local businesses to “cut through the red tape” and change licensing in Bexley. We showed that we weren’t frightened to revoke licensees – even from the “big boys” and led to us achieving a Beacon Award for “Cutting Red Tape”.
Partnership working – especially with the newly elected Conservative Mayor of London – to remove the threat to our neighbourhoods of increased traffic from the Thames Gateway Bridge and working with Transport for London to make better use of resources available and seek increased public transport provision.
Although constantly seeking out efficiencies, we have kept our promise of three below inflation Council Tax rises and look towards next year’s election. Being a “floor authority” the challenge gets ever greater but we know that it is our Party that is best placed to ensure that Bexley residents get the services they deserve at a price they can afford.
In 2006 our message to the residents of Bexley was “Listening to you, working for you” – we believe we have delivered on that pledge and we want to continue to drive forward change in Bexley for the benefit of our residents for many years into the future.