Our followers will know that we are encouraging people to vote ‘disagree’ to Question 22 in the Council’s budget consultation, which closes on January 9th.
But there are several other questions with environmental implications that may cause people to get a bit bamboozled and feel they can’t do a proper job of responding unless they have an answer for them all , and then give up. Here are the answers I gave to these questions, in case that helps others. Note that these are entirely personal views and do not represent the collective opinion of any group I belong to. You will see I was in two minds about some of them because of various imponderables and caveats about possible contexts and outcomes.
You don’t have to have a firm opinion on every question (there are several about healthcare, for example, that I didn’t know enough about to give an informed view upon) , and you can vote ‘neither agree nor disagree’ instead. Although the system doesn’t say you have to, I did vote ‘agree’, ‘disagree’ or ‘neither agree nor disagree’ for EVERY question just in case failure to do so would lead to my submission being rejected as a whole.
8. Street Cleansing: A reduction in street cleansing frequencies and standards by reducing the number of ‘stand down’ operatives in Bexleyheath shopping area from six to five; and removing the litter patrols on all main distributor roads e.g. North Cray Road, Thames Road (Total saving over four years = £256,000)
Neither agree or disagree
Comment: Not clear whether this means no litter removal on Thames Rd etc. at all. As it is a lot of litter gets chucked or is blown over the fence onto Thames Road Wetland that I manage, and I repeatedly clear it up for free.
9. Grounds maintenance – parks including allotments: Grass would be cut less frequently and standards of general grounds maintenance would be lower with fewer maintenance visits. Reductions in reactive maintenance in stages of 33% (2015/16) then 55% (2016/17). Sport and playgrounds would be unaffected. (Total saving over four years = £805,000)
This could be beneficial for biodiversity and bioabundance, but please consult with local wildlife experts first and check the SINC review citations. There are a few sites where closely cut grass is necessary to maintain rare plant species in the sward.
11. Re-use and Recycle Centres: Partial closure of Thames Road Re-use and Recycling Centre and/or further partial closure of Foots Cray site by closing on certain weekdays (Total saving over four years = £175,000)
We should be seeking to increase recycling rates even further. 54% or whatever it is now means 46% still thrown away. There is also a big danger that the saving will be offset by an increase in fly-tipping.
12. Grounds maintenance of highways, verges and shrub beds: Cutting of highways verges would be reduced and hard edging removed, reactive grounds maintenance reduced to meet health and safety needs only. (Total saving over four years = £264,000)
Quite a lot of the maintenance is inept e.g. cutting Forsythias in parks right back in spring just as they are about to flower, and excessive hacking back of roadside shrubs, thereby reducing bird habitat. If this is stopped it will be an improvement. What should not happen is that some outfit then comes along every 5 years and razes everything to the ground instead.
13. Increased on and off street parking charges: This proposal would increase car park charges in Bexley for the first time in three years. (Total saving over four years = £800,000)
Neither agree nor disagree.
In principle I agree, as cars are a major cause of inefficient land use, but I am concerned that in practice this would simply result in even more people despoiling the borough by trashing their front gardens for car parking.
15. Parking charges at Hall Place and Danson Park: Introduce daily parking charges at Hall Place and formalise charging (including daily charges) in Danson Park (Total saving over four years = £240,000)
The council should promote arrival by foot, bike or public transport anyway. The SINC review threatened removal of a further area of Danson from within the SINC boundary due to repeated damage from car parking, so perhaps charges are too low anyway.
16. Charging for garden waste collection: Implement a scheme to charge for the collection of garden waste to recover collection costs. (Total saving over four years = £1,900,000)
Neither agree nor disagree
If you look out of train windows into Bexley back gardens you do not see a lot of compost bins, so a lot more material could and should be composted on site, which would also cut carbon emissions. On balance I would support this if the Council had a big push on the virtues and simplicity of home composting. The danger is fly-tipping, plus lazy people just covering their gardens with plastic or paving to avoid the charge, with further detriment to wildlife.
22. Parks: Bexley has 106 parks and open spaces plus numerous pieces of ‘green’ highway land across the borough. Disposal of 27 of these sites would generate receipts which would reduce the financing costs on the Council’s capital programme. Half the saving would be generated through the disposal of half of one site.This proposal is the disposal of 27 out of 106 open spaces or pieces of ‘green’ highway land (Total savings over four years = £1,620,000)
Since you will not treat us like adults, and have refused several requests for the list of sites, including under an FOI request, giving woeful and anti-democratic excuses. I therefore have to vote disagree because any site in the Borough could be on that list. It also sets a bad precedent. It is one-off income. Once lost to concrete those areas are gone. There is no guarantee that the income would be ring-fenced for the open spaces left, so that they could soon be under the same threat. Bexley claims it can cover the borough with more ‘development’ whilst protecting what we value. This proposal says otherwise. I want more open space, more nature and less concrete.
40. Please use this space to make any general comments or suggestions about the proposals and the Council’s budget.
I repeat the proposal I made at the last budget consultation regarding the large savings that it would appear from other parts of the country could be made by reducing and dimming lighting, and the opportunity this also presents to improve the environment for nocturnal animals and for cutting carbon emissions. This should be in addition to replacing lights with more energy efficient (and bat-friendly) lighting equipment. I understand that Bexley has been put off by data suggesting a possible small increase in accidents, but any such probability could easily be counteracted by 20 mph speed limits and a rigorous traffic reduction strategy.