Conservative-led Bromley Council was the best prepared London Borough for the recent severe winter with its salt and grit reserves.
Despite this, we are aware that the recent harsh winter has taken its toll on the Borough’s roads, and that potholes have appeared in many places.
The Council’s road inspectors spent several weekend in March identifying potholes for repair. As the road surface is still brittle as a result of cold temperatures, we will continue to see new potholes appearing at a faster rate than in previous years. Cllr Colin Smith, the Councillor responsible for road maintenance, has instructed the contractor to provide extra road maintenance teams to identify where the problems are and clear the backlog of potholes.
In their recent budget, the Council allowed for an additional £250,000 to repair potholes, in addition to extra funds for general environmental improvements.
Bromley’s Conservative Councillors have today published their manifesto for the 2010 council elections.
You can view or download the manifesto here (pdf 254kb).
Councillors’ allowances for 2010/11 will be frozen, Conservative councillors have agreed.
The pay increase would normally have happened automatically but the increases have been cancelled in the light of the financial situation facing many residents, as well as the fact that council staff are also being asked to take a freeze in basic pay next year.
Council tax in Bromley will rise by 0 94% in 2010/11 – the lowest increase since council tax was introduced – in a move that equates to a real terms cut. Bromley also retains its title of lowest Council Tax in Outer London*.
Plans to implement a Council Tax freeze were derailed by the government reneging on a deal on the funding of Freedom Passes next year, which will cost the borough over £1.2m.
In addition to the core budget, an extra £1m has been set aside to tackle various environmental issues round the borough, as well as a £250k “community chest” for the voluntary sector and local community investment and another £250k to tackle the effects on roads and pavements of the exceptionally adverse winter.
Conservative Leader of the Council, Councillor Stephen Carr, said: “This is a budget that represents value for money in the current economic climate, while continuing to reflect residents’ needs and hopes for the future. Despite ongoing under funding by central government, and outright grant cuts in some cases, previous sound financial management means we are able to continue to invest in Building a Better Bromley.
Among other things 2010/11 will see:
• the opening of a new library and leisure complex in Biggin Hill
• completion of a state of the art extra care housing scheme in Bromley Common
• improvements to Orpington High Street and relocation of the library to a more modern, central location in the town
• investment in our schools including plans to enhance facilities and establish a first class performance space at Langley Park School for Boys in Beckenham
But with pressure on public spending set to build, we cannot be complacent. We’ll continue to drive through money saving efficiencies, campaign for a fairer funding settlement and listen to residents as we plan ahead and endeavour to keep council tax as low as possible.”
Cabinet member for Resources, Cllr. Neil Reddin, added, “As part of our budget setting, we have found over £6m of savings with a minimal effect on frontline services. We now expect to be in a position to freeze Council Tax in the next two years, should a Conservative government be elected in the General Election.”
* Using the official definition of “Outer London” as classified by the Office for National Statistics.
Bromley Conservatives have suggested that Prime Minister Gordon Brown takes a leaf out of their book as they mark a year of being a debt-free authority.
While the government’s official level of debt is expected to hit £1 trillion by the end of this year, Bromley paid off its last long-term debt a year ago this month.
Ahead of next week’s Executive meeting, where councillors will receive an update on the Council’s finances, Cllr. Neil Reddin, cabinet member for resources, said, “The country is facing a crisis in public finances that hasn’t been seen since the late Seventies, with the IMF at the door and a Prime Minister who refuses to accept the severity of the crisis. In contrast, here in Bromley, we have been debt free for a year – we are not having to use taxpayers money to finance borrowing.
“While Gordon Brown is mortgaging the future, we are investing in it, with a new leisure centre in Biggin Hill, concert hall in Beckenham and library in Orpington.”
“Perhaps Gordon Brown should take some lessons from Conservative Bromley on how to balance the books.”
Conservatives on Bromley Council have reacted angrily to Gordon Brown’s plans to have local councils sell assets to plug the hole in the government’s finances.
The Prime Minister today announced £16bn of asset sales in an attempt to reduce the massive budget deficit. However, only £3bn is to come from selling assets directly owned by central government.
The remainder of the total is to be raised by “encouraging” local authorities to sell assets of their own over the next two years.
Cllr. Neil Reddin, Cabinet Member for Resources on Bromley, said, “The clear implication is that Gordon Brown plans to cut funding to local government even more than he has already, and expects us to sell Council assets to make up the difference.
“There are two major problems with Gordon Brown’s approach. First is that you can only sell these assets once, but cuts in our government funding will have to made up for many years into the future. If he expects us to start draining our cash reserves, then that will create more problems as we lose the interest we get on those funds.
“Secondly, we in Bromley have been avoiding selling property while prices are depressed, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Gordon Brown might have been happy to sell our gold reserves at the bottom of the market, but we do not intend to do the same with what are effectively our residents’ assets.
“It’s Gordon Brown’s poor handling of the public finances over the last twelve years that left us so badly prepared for the recession; now he expects residents in financially prudent councils like Bromley to get him out of the hole he’s dug for himself.”
Beckenham Conservatives held a petition-signing session in Beckenham High Street on Saturday 18th April to help savers and pensioners.
The petition calls on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to introduce Conservative proposals in his next budget to abolish income tax on savings for basic rate tax payers and to raise the pensioners’ personal allowance by £2,000 to £11,490.
The proposals met with agreement from locals, as well over 300 people signed the petition in a couple of hours.
Cllr Alexa Michael, Deputy Chairman (Political) who organised the event, said: “There is a groundswell of opinion that the average person is paying too much tax, and that both savers and pensioners get a raw deal under New Labour. These proposals, if enacted, would mean that people would be able to keep more of their own money.”
New figures from Bromley Council show that fewer than half the homes planned by developers were actually built, even before the current recession.
Between 2003 and 2008 Bromley granted planning permission for building a total of 7,688 new homes. However only 3,505 were completed during that period, leaving 4,183 homes unbuilt — even though the permission to build them is still valid.
Despite this, Government Planning Inspectors are allowing appeals for more new housing developments on the grounds that Bromley Council is not meeting housing targets set by the Labour Government. One recent case is the appeal which was allowed for nearly 800 units of housing on the Blue Circle site in Bromley Common, which is located in the Green Belt.
The reality is that Conservative-run Bromley is more than fulfilling its obligation to grant permissions, so that 4850 new housing units can be built in Bromley Borough by 2017. However house builders are simply not building.
The issue was raised by Cllr Nicholas Bennett (Conservative, West Wickham Ward) at last week’s meeting of the Full Council.
Announcing the new figures, Cllr Alexa Michael, Chairman of the Development Control Committee, said:
“Inspectors need to be aware that the Council is not a house builder. If developers then choose not to build for economic or other reasons, Inspectors should not blame the Council for the ‘insufficient’ housing numbers that are currently being constructed. Inspectors should not allow permissions on environmentally sensitive sites in order to meet housing targets, which are arbitrary in any case.”
Bromley Conservative Councillors have expressed alarm at plans by the Government which could force up Council Tax by an extra 4%, as well as fear that councils will receive yet another poor deal from the Chancellor when he lays out the Governments spending plans tomorrow (Tuesday).
The changes to the complex formula that decides how much Councils receive from the Government is set to change next year – and a range of options are being suggested which could see funding cuts of up to £4.4m, including slashing social services funding by over £2m.
In addition to the changes in the formula, the Chancellor will today announce the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007, which sets out the Government’s spending plans for the next three years, including how much will be made available to local councils.
Bromley receives two thirds of its funding from central government, so a 1% cut in government funding could force Council Tax up by twice that amount. In recent years, despite the headline announcements by the Chancellor, the actual amount received by Bromley has failed to keep up with inflation. Last year, Bromley had an increase of just 1.7%.
Councillors discussed the changes at the Council’s Executive’s meeting on Monday night (8th).
The Conservatives saw the largest increase in vote share of all the parties in the Crystal Palace by-election on 6th September.
Jason Hadden saw a 3.5% increase in the Conservative vote, compared to 2.5% for the Lib Dems, 1.5% for Labour and a devastating 7.5% drop in the Green vote.
The by-election was called following the sad death of Cllr. Chris Gaster (Lib Dem) who was first elected in 1971. Jason paid tribute to Cllr. Gaster, saying, “This was an election that no one wanted to fight. He did a fantastic job in Crystal Palace.”