Cllr Teresa O’Neill is the Leader of Bexley Council.
Tomorrow Bexley’s Conservative Councillors will formally present our budget for 2022/23 – a budget will increase funding for key services such as waste collections and street cleaning, maintaining our parks, complete the building of two new libraries, increase the amount of affordable housing across the Borough and further flood prevention measures.
It has been a difficult two years for everyone, with the pandemic hitting all Councils hard. Plans for 2020 and 2021 had to be changed at a moment’s notice but we’re proud of how our Council responded – setting up a hot food delivery network to ensure vulnerable or isolated residents received a meal every day, or providing millions of pounds of support for local businesses to keep them afloat.
And while we have watched neighbouring Labour Councils like Greenwich make savage cuts to key services or in the case of Croydon go bankrupt, here we have done what all good Conservative Councils do; roll up our sleeves, work hard and see what we need to do.
Yes, we have increased Council Tax but we really want the Government to get on with the fair funding review – if we received the same level of funding as Greenwich, we could actually reduce our Council Tax bills by 70 per cent tomorrow. And while we propose a 1.9 per cent increase this year, residents remember when Labour ran Bexley they increased Council Tax by 40 per cent in 4 years and they can see Mayor Sadiq Khan’s 8.8 per cent rise too while the funding from the Mayor for transport has been cut drastically.
As a result of that work, our 2021/22 budget was in balance and we were able to increase funding for key services; our 2022 budget goes much further, with an eight per cent increase in the overall budget.
This means more investment for highways maintenance and street cleaning, but also for the things that make Bexley such a great place – over the last few weeks we have planted over 61,000 new daffodil bulbs across the Borough, ready for spring.
But it’s not all about being a financially responsible Council, independently rated as being efficient and effective, continuing to deliver value for money. It’s not all about being, as CIPFA noted, having political leadership with understands the challenges facing the organisation with clear commitment to manage the medium term financial resilience of the organisation, important as that is.
It’s not just about building new libraries, having an outstanding children’s services, opening Changing Rooms bathrooms for people with disabilities, being the only Council in the country to open two new schools for children with special needs or leading London for recycling for the 17th year in a row.
It’s also about keeping our word. Every single manifesto pledge we made in 2018 has been delivered in full, exactly as promised.
In fact, we have delivered every manifesto pledge since being elected in 2006.
And all of these achievements also have one other thing in common. All of them were opposed by Bexley’s Labour Councillors. They voted against funding two new SEN schools, opposed the investment in new libraries and new playgrounds; and Labour opposed high quality new affordable housing and homes for first-time buyers built in the Borough, and have even pledged to scrap plans for new mixed tenure developments that create communities and offer homes for all.
We go into this year’s election with a demonstrably proven record for delivering for residents, delivering what we promise and delivering for our Borough. Residents know when we say we will do something, we do it.
And that’s what we will continue to do if given the honour of running Bexley again in May.