Bromley Council spent over £90,000 on Consultants' Fees for the planning application and appeals for Bullers Wood School for Boys, it has been revealed today.
The Council have once again refused to divulge the amount of money they spent on legal fees, stating that the Queens Counsel they used has objected to the disclosure of his fees, but we estimate these would be at least double the consultants' costs, possibly considerably more.
The information about the Consultants' Fees was acquired by the Liberal Democrats only after a request under the Freedom of Information Act - it took more than 5 months for the council to reply, despite several reminders and the fact that they are legally obliged to respond within 20 working days of the request. Bromley Council were recently found to be the third worst in London for delaying responses to Freedom of Information requests.
The background to this information is that Bromley Council refused planning permission to build a new school on St Hugh's playing fields in Bickley in January 2018, This decision was then appealed to the Planning Inspector which was heard in November 2018. The school had massive support amongst parents and residents in the borough, and there were several public demonstrations as thousands walked through Bromley during the period of the planning process to protest at the Council's decision. The school did finally open on a temporary site in September 2018, and is due to move to temporary buildings on their permanent site in September 2019.
Membership of Bromley Liberal Democrats has soared since the party won the European Elections in London - an increase of 40% which has taken the membership to a record level. Nationally, the party’s membership now tops 115,000. Each of the three constituencies in the Bromley borough party – Beckenham, Bromley & Chislehurst and Orpington - have benefited from this surge.
Chloe-Jane Ross, an activist in Beckenham said: "The growth in membership is phenomenal - our new members are sick of Brexit, sick of our country being run into the ground and are joining from Labour and the Tories or as first time members of a party because they want to stop Brexit and fight for the liberal values our country needs. "
The party is benefiting from its success in the European elections, when it won in London, its best ever council election results, and victory in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. The recent election of Jo Swinson as the party's new leader, as well as a reaction to Boris Johnson's arrival in no. 10 have all brought extra membership. Julie Ireland, Lib Dem activist in Bromley and Chislehurst said: "Each new member has a story to tell, what brings them to the Lib Dems, why they think now is the time to step up and become a member, and almost always it is a reaction to the reckless way the Conservatives are handling Brexit and their lurch towards a no-deal, combined with a genuine desire to protect the liberal values our country is so proud of."
If you would like to join the Liberal Democrats you can do so using this link.
Jo Swinson is the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, and immediately declared that her first priority is - as it is for all of us - to Stop Brexit! "We're at a pivotal moment, our country needs a strong, liberal movement more than ever. This is only the country of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson if we let it be. We all know that Britain deserves better than both of them. Only the Liberal Democrats have the values, the ideas and the sheer bloody determination to stand up to those who are doing so much to damage our country. This is our time."
During our by-election campaign last November, we campaigned for a safe crossing near the junction of Upper Elmers End Road and Balmoral Road - we were concerned that this crossing point had already been highlighted as dangerous by local residents, and the opening of the new Eden Park High School made it a priority.
Bromley Lib Dems were dismayed when our two of our three local MP's (Bob Stewart and Jo Johnson) supported the Government's attempt to flagrantly usurp the authority of Parliament in order to force through a no deal Brexit that nobody voted for (Bob Neill MP for Bromley and Chislehurst was absent for the vote).
Both Bob Stewart and Bob Neil have argued for Brexit on the grounds that it is the democratic will of the people. Allowing any Government to bypass Parliament and turning Britain into a virtual dictatorship simply to "get Brexit done" makes a mockery of any such claim.
Most disappointing of all has been the stance taken by Orpington MP Jo Johnson. Last November Mr Johnson made the headlines when he resigned from Theresa May's Government and called for a People's Vote. In his statement he said
"The first option is the one the Government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business. The second option is a “no deal” Brexit that I know as a Transport Minister will inflict untold damage on our nation. To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis. My constituents in Orpington deserve better than this from their Government. ... given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say."
Unfortunately, since then Mr Johnson has been a leading figure in his hard-brexiteer brother's Tory leadership campaign, and is now trying to make it possible for brother Boris to govern without Parliament. Does he think that's what his constituents in Orpington deserve?
Since his resignation, and the reasons for it, were so well publicised, we are also disappointed that Mr Johnson has not taken the trouble to explain his apparent change of heart on Brexit to his constituents. What we would particularly like to know is
- Will he still support a People's Vote, and if not, why not?
- How does he square his support for his brother's stance on Brexit with his assessment of the economic harm that Brexit will do to our country?
- 8 months on, which does he now prefer, vassalage or chaos?
Mr Johnson has every right to change his mind on Brexit. In fact, he has many political, and personal, reasons to do so. He is also extremely fortunate that, thanks to being an MP and the brother of the man most likely to be our next Prime Minister, his vote counts.
We call on him to remember the British people. Some of us might like the opportunity to change our minds too.
You can read Jo Johnson's full resignation statement at the following link.