Bromley Council Meeting July 2019


On Monday 15th July, Julie Ireland, Rick Das and myself went along to Bromley Council’s general meeting of councillors to ask important questions, hold the council to account and represent the values of the Liberal Democrats.

There were several interesting debates and announcements at the meeting as usual, but perhaps the two most memorable moments involved an incident with a Pride flag and a motion to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.

Regarding the first, Councillor Simon Jeal asked the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Colin Smith, why it was the case that many councils across the UK recently flew Pride flags atop their town halls or civic centres to mark Pride month and visibly show their support for LGBT+ residents, yet in Bromley no such solidarity or support was offered. In response, Cllr. Smith insisted that the Council would stick to flying the Union Flag on the basis that he’d rather show a flag that united us rather than divided us. In 2019, this came as quite a remarkable admission by not only an elected politician, but the Leader of Bromley Council no less. After some chortling and heckling from the public gallery, Cllrs. Marina Ahmed and Simon Jeal unveiled a Pride flag and hung it across the Labour bench to the applause of many in the public gallery.

Arguably, the key event of the evening, which attracted lots of attention from the audience, was a motion proposed by Cllr. Will Harmer to commit Bromley Council to the Government’s policy of reducing its Carbon emission to net zero by 2050. In line with the Government, this motion was passed unanimously by the Council and this surely pleased those sat in the public gallery wearing Extinction Rebellion badges. Yet this did not go as far as many would have liked. Cllr. Simon Jeal proposed an amendment to Harmer’s motion to include Bromley Council declaring a climate emergency but this amendment was defeated.

In addition to this, there were several questions asked on the topic of the environment. Jonathan Douglas-Green of the Lib Dems asked whether the Council would review the 2007 Air Quality Management Area. In reply, the Council insisted that there was no need to undertake further modelling across the Borough. Although the Council committed to keeping the Air Quality Management Area under review, this came as no real surprise seeing that it has not changed in the last twelve years.                                       

Moreover, Chloe Jane-Ross - Head of the Beckenham Lib Dems - asked if the Council would be taking part in the 2019 London Car Free day on 22nd September. In response, the Council remarked that it would be more efficient to use its funds in other ways than to take part in “more virtue signalling events or set of events”. Although the Council offers other ways to decrease carbon emission and pollution, this kind of response directly contradicts its intentions to ensure that it meets the Government’s 2050 net carbon zero emissions deadline, and its reference to such events as “virtue signalling” raises questions as to whether this Council is indeed committed to both a greener and a serious future.

Julie Ireland, another Lib Dem activist, asked the Council why they had such a poor record on responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests – with only 64% answered within the statutory timescale, ranking third worst in London by the Campaign for Freedom of Information.[1] This was followed up by an interesting question regarding the Council’s plans to replace Mr. Ade Adetesoye as Director of Children’s Services (DCS) now that he has been promoted to the post of Chief Executive. This was important because Julie’s question reminded the Council that it was their failure to replace the previous DCS which directly led to the collapse of in the quality of care, culminating in an Ofsted rating of “Inadequate”.

Rick Das, attending his first General Meeting of Bromley Council, asked an important and illuminating question surrounding the average and maximum waiting times for initial special-needs assessments with a Development Paediatrician for children across the Borough during 2017, 2018 and if possible 2019. The results given by the Council are provided in the helpful table below.[1]

Period

Average (weeks)

Maximum (weeks)

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

11

28

Apr 2018 – Mar 2019

8

33

Apr 2019 – Jun 2019

7

21

 

Rick Dak’s analysis worryingly shows that average waiting times span a significant part of a school term. The maximums are alarmingly high, in fact two to four times the averages, suggesting that looking at average figures alone is misleading. This means that will have been a good number of cases in Bromley borough where vulnerable children would have either struggled through school or suffered exclusion, while kept waiting for over half a year for an initial assessment. A supplementary question followed this, asking what the Council was doing to reduce waiting times, yet when responding the Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Families simply remarked that the Council would continue monitoring the waiting times, illustrating a lack of pro-activity to effectively reduce waiting times to a minimum across Bromley.

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.chiswickw4.com/shared/hounscoun542.htm


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