The following statements were made –
(1) Women’s Safety –
At the request of Councillors Angela Wilkins and Kathy Bance MBE, the Portfolio Holder for Public Protection and Enforcement, Cllr Angela Page, made a statement about the steps being taken to improve the safety of women in the borough and address the issue of violence against women and girls following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.
The Portfolio Holder emphasised that Bromley had relatively low rates of domestic abuse and sexual offences both in the public and private realms, but the Safer Bromley Partnership was committed to improving the situation and had specific priorities around reducing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). The Council’s Public Protection and Early Intervention services were key to this, and domestic abuse was a high priority for the Metropolitan Police. The Safer Bromley Partnership had submitted a joint bid for funding under Round 3 of the Safer Streets Fund, but had not been shortlisted by the Mayor’s Office. Chief Inspector Craig Knight was leading research on aggression against women in the public realm across the boroughs of Bromley, Croydon and Sutton that was not currently being reported to the Police. Police Officers were responding to information from the public about where they felt unsafe, and working with Head Teachers in schools and with the voluntary sector. A new team of Police Officers dedicated to Bromley town centre had just been announced.
Responding to questions, the Portfolio Holder stated that she was open to new suggestions from Members. There were a number of concerns about the vetting of police officers in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, but while the Council could discuss this with the Police they were ultimately matters for the Police and not the Council. She acknowledged that CCTV and lighting were issues that had been raised frequently in the past, and conversations with the Police would continue, but she cautioned against installing new lighting and CCTV in isolation, and was not minded to disagree with decisions made on these issues by the previous Portfolio Holder. Other Members raised the issue of how women often only reported domestic abuse after numerous offences, and were sometimes intimidated into withdrawing allegations, and the issue of spiking of drinks, which the Council could tackle using its licensing powers.
(2) Care and Health Integration Award
The Portfolio Holder for Adult Care and Health, Cllr Diane Smith, reported that Bromley had won an award for Care and Health Integration at the Municipal Journal Achievement Awards. The Council, along with Health and Voluntary sector partners, had won the award for two projects which provided an effective and joined-up response to the Covid-19 pandemic – the Bromley Discharge Partnership and the Care Home Support Programme. The Portfolio Holder was joined by other Members in congratulating the Bromley staff involved in these initiatives. Asked about respite care, the Portfolio Holder stated that she expected this to be considered by the PDS Committee.
(3) Ofsted Inspection
The Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Families, Cllr Kate Lymer, informed the Council that a two day inspection of arrangements for Children in Care, including disabled children, had taken place the previous month. The report was due to be published at midnight that evening, and although a formal grading was not being awarded if there was a grading it would be outstanding. The Portfolio Holder thanked frontline staff, the Senior Leadership Team in the Department, Jim Gamble, Ade Adetosoye, Councillor Peter Fortune and, most of all, Janet Bailey, who would be retiring from the Council soon.
Responding to questions from Members, the Portfolio Holder welcomed Cllr Thomson’s interest in Mentoring and offered to ensure that a meeting was arranged with officers for him. In terms of the lessons learnt since 2016, the main point was that the Council put children first in everything. Caseloads were on amber, and referrals were up, but caseloads were being managed down and staff were being moved to meet priorities. Permanent staff numbers were very high at 84%, but recruitment and retention remained a priority.
(4) Public Finance Award for Excellence in Asset Management
The Portfolio Holder for Resources, Commissioning and Contract Management, Cllr Graham Arthur, announced that the Council had recently received the Public Finance Award for Excellence in Asset Management, recognising two key achievements – generating £13.8m pa through strategic investment and a 34.1% return on Pension Fund performance, resulting in a fully funded Scheme. These achievements secured vital services and ensuring value for money for Council tax payers. He thanked the Director of Finance, Peter Turner, and his team for their excellent work in winning this and other recent awards.
Cllr Arthur also took the opportunity to congratulate Cllr Kevin Kennedy Brooks on his recent wedding.
Cllr Arthur announced that after nearly twenty years serving across four portfolios he would be standing down from the Executive, handing over to Cllr Michael Rutherford. He paid tribute to the managers and their teams within his portfolio, who had risen to the challenges of recent months. Councillors Colin Smith and Angela Wilkins thanked him for his service to the Council.