Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the
tests would help to detect asymptomatic cases.
The areas in
London getting the kits are:
Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Camden, City of London, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney,
Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon
Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond, Southwark, Tower
Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth.
Twitter posts headline complaints against Bexley councillors
Bexley councillors have been warned to “consider carefully” their use of social media, after a report was tabled showing half of all complaints against elected members since May this year involved elected members’ online activity.
Bexley’s code of conduct committee heard that social media misuse was the source of four of the eight complaints logged against councillors since May.
Among the complaints were that a councillor had shared and written social media posts which were alleged to be racist, in a series of incidents reported in August.
The report stated those complaints were resolved “informally”, with the councillor also advised about “avoiding perception of endorsement of others’ views”.
While councillors weren’t named in the report, Nick Hollier, Bexley Council’s monitoring officer, said the complaints highlight “social media is a rich vein for people to write and complain about”.
“The number of complaints I think is evidence of the environment social media promotes, in terms of people complaining about what’s said and also about how easy it is for complaints against (council) members to be made.
“It’s very wise for members to consider carefully how their posts and retweets…can be interpreted as support for the views expressed
in the tweet or post (they) retweeted.”
Senior staff at Bexley Council say they are “prepared as they can be” for a second wave of the deadly coronavirus if it hits.
The vote of confidence comes as further information about the number of deaths caused so far by the Covid-19 virus in the borough was revealed.
“We’ve learned invaluable lessons through the Covid process,”
Stuart Rowbotham, director of adult social care and health, told members of the authority’s children’s and adult’s service scrutiny committee.
He added there was now a “phenomenal stash of PPE” in the borough, after health and social services across the UK were stretched to the brink during the first wave.
“We’ve learnt a huge amount about the value of testing for care settings…and we have a phenomenal stash of PPE so we’re very well placed in regards to the supply of PPE and have high confidence in supply chains.”
He also said council services now had a better understanding of the joint effort required to battle the virus.
“In particularly we need to meet this challenge as a partnership with our NHS colleagues, our voluntary sector and council departments,” he said.
Chair Cafer Munur said it was “quite clear the feeling is the council has done a wonderful job in terms of response”.
Nearly one in three Bexley workers receive financial aid
Almost one in three working adults in Bexley have received income support from the Government during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.
Statistics released by HM Revenue and Customs show that since April 37,100 wages in the borough have been paid by the Government, either through the furlough scheme or measures to support the self-employed.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was 122,000 workers in Bexley aged over 16 at the end of 2019 – meaning almost a third of those employed in the borough received financial aid from the Government since the coronavirus brought business to a screeching halt in the country.
With the midway point of June seeing many businesses in the borough reopen their doors for the first time in months, Cllr Louie French, the deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for growth, urged residents to support local businesses.
“The global pandemic has evidently had a dramatic impact on people’s lives and we are extremely grateful for the various government support packages that have helped local businesses and individuals,” he said.
“However, we all have a role to play in supporting local businesses and jobs as our local economy re-opens. If you can, please shop local.”
Instances of rip-off merchants illegally selling puppies in Bexley have sky-rocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, the local authority has warned.
Unscrupulous and unlicensed breeders are using Covid-19 as an excuse not to meet people in their homes, but to instead arrange sales with buyers in car parks or other public places, according to Bexley Council.
The authority said some of the puppies sold in this way have turned out to be “very sick”, leading to costly vets’ bills for the new owners.
One puppy was later revealed to not even be the same breed it was advertised as, the council said.
Attempts to return the puppies or obtain a refund have been difficult or impossible.
The warning comes as Bexley Council revealed the current pandemic has seen a spike in the number of calls to Bexley Trading Standards about unlicensed breeders.
It’s prompted the trading standards team to advise potential puppy buyers in the borough to check they’re purchasing from sellers with the appropriate permit.
According to the council, there is currently only one licensed dog breeder in the borough – who is licensed to only breed miniature Schnauzers.
When Dave Tingle started online classes for free on Zoom and Facebook he didn’t quite expect 240,000 views in a week.
However, the south east London teacher has seen exactly those numbers roll in as he brought his small tuition Learning Cabin to the online realm after coronavirus forced the closure of their three physical centres.
Mr Tingle, a former secondary maths teacher and one-time Labour parliamentary candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup, owns Learning Centre, a tuition-based education business offering tutoring in maths, English, and science for pupils between six to 16.
Coronavirus lockdowns have seen Mr Tingle take lessons fully online, in a bid to make sure his nine members of staff don’t have to be furloughed and will have a job to come back to when precautions are finally rolled back.
The move – which has seen tuition classes move to live-video streaming sites Zoom and Facebook – has snowballed far beyond educating his current students, he said.
“What started as just a small gathering for current students turned first into a larger gathering of siblings and extended family into something that went far bigger than that,” he said.
The successful move is a bright story among the coronavirus crisis, as schools and other educational institutions make moves to adapt to the unprecedented measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.
Bexley Libraries earlier this month reported that downloads of e-books and audio books have almost doubled since the pandemic took hold.
The number of weekly downloads has increased from just over 500 a month ago to more than 900 last week.
Library staff have been busy buying more digital stock, to provide customers with even more choice, Bexley Council said.
Schools and libraries close in Bexley over coronavirus
All libraries and schools across the Borough of Bexley
will close from today.
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
Library online services will be available as usual and will be enhanced, to provide additional opportunities for people who are required to self-isolate over the coming weeks, Bexley council said. .
The home library service closed earlier this week, and loan periods on all books will be extended until 11 June.
Libraries will also be suspending all further fines and suspend notices and debt collection activities.
A number of other key services will also shut, including children’s and youth centres
Consultation has started on plans which could see more than 15,000 new homes and 8,000 businesses built across two south-east London boroughs in the coming decades.
Public comments are wanted on the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Area of Opportunity, with the feedback to help shape future developments in the area.
The comments will form part of a long-term planning and framework document, which will potentially be adopted by summer 2020.
Stretching across the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley, the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood area is one of the largest of the 38 sites identified as being suitable for large scale development in the Mayor’s 2015 London Plan.
The Mayor of London, in partnership with Transport for London (TfL), Royal Borough of Greenwich and London Borough of Bexley are working together to produce the plan.
Draft proposals state the area could potentially deliver 15,500 new and affordable homes and 8,000 jobs – while ensuring the area “remains a mixed and inclusive place” – by 2041.
Bexley residents have compared the council removing a swathe of trees to fires tearing through the Amazon rainforest.
Lorraine Sheen, who has lived adjacent to the River Shuttle in Sidcup since 1964, said she was “devastated” to see Bexley council undertaking tree clearing work near her home this week.
“It is like the fires in the Amazon,” she said. “It’s vandalism…the wildlife that is now gone, the trees that are never going to recover."
She added the vegetation acted as important cover for local wildlife such as kingfishers and hedgehogs, as well as adding much-valued privacy for residents along the road.
A spokesperson for the council said the tree clearing work on Berwick Crescent, Sidcup, was “essential and proactive work being carried out…to remove and prune trees that are potentially dangerous or are growing in unsuitable locations."
The council added that, following discussions with residents, additional trees would be planted at the site next year.
However, Mrs Sheen claimed the change in plans was due to the council “realising they’ve made a mistake”.
Merger 'caused Bexley to slip' from being safest borough
A controversial merger of police units has caused Bexley to slip from being the safest borough in London.
Councillors claim the impact of the new Basic Command Unit, combining Bexley with Greenwich and Lewisham, has had a detrimental impact on the outer London borough.
Since the new structure went live, Bexley has fallen from being the safest borough to the third, then seventh safest, and now fifth.
The new basic command units were rolled out across London in November, bringing together single police units into joint operations for two or three boroughs.
The decision to merge units comes as Scotland Yard looks to save £325m by 2021/2022.
At a meeting this week communities’ cabinet member Alex Sawyer said the model was far from working for Bexley.
He said: “I hoped things might start to improve and we could look at it objectively and say there are benefits.
“It should be said it is not all bad – there is greater cooperation around gangs, but the simple fact is we have gone from the safest, to one of the safest, to the seventh and now the fifth. It is simply not acceptable."
Fans of craft ale in Blackfen could be set to benefit from a new micropub.
Plans to convert an old pet shop shop in Wellington Parade, Blackfen Road, into a new boozer have been submitted to the council.
It would be the latest in a trend of micropubs in the borough, following on from the likes of the Penny Farthing in Crayford, The Kentish Belle in Bexleyheath, The Broken Drum in Blackfen and The Door Hinge in Welling – the first of its kind in the capital.
Micropubs have rocketed into fashion, following traditional formats of offering cask ales and sometimes ciders, and imposing rules on punters of no phones, no music and no telly.
This new proposed pub would open from 14:00 until 22:30 seven days a week.
According to the new plans: “The trend for micropubs was established in 2005 in Kent and has been growing in popularity ever since.
“There are now over 200 micropubs in the UK with The Micropub Association predicting over 800 micropubs opening by the end of 2018.
“In-keeping with the micropub ethos, there will be no electronic entertainment (sky sports, gambling machines, karaoke nights), instead the entertainment is conversations amongst fellow locals and beer enthusiasts who have travelled from around and out of the borough.”
The plans are currently being looked at by officers at the council, with no decision made yet.
Bexley Council will continue to press for Crossrail to be extended through the borough despite a blow from Transport for London (TfL) this week claiming the move was “not on the agenda”.
Leader Teresa O’Neill said there is still a strong case for taking the Elizabeth line through Bexley despite TfL commissioner Mike Brown playing down the chances of the extension at City Hall this week.
Crossrail will link Abbey Wood through the capital and out as far as Reading when it eventually opens – over a year later than planned.
MPs and council leaders including Bexley’s want the delayed £15.4bn line’s south-eastern arm to be taken further from Abbey Wood, through Belvedere and Dartford and out to Ebbsfleet.
The proposed extension would play a vital role in supporting Bexley Council’s ambitious growth strategy, which plans 30,000 homes by 2050.
Extending the Elizabeth line is a “key infrastructure project”, according to the strategy, which has earmarked the north of the borough for major regeneration.
But Mr Brown said the £1.5bn add-on was not “on the agenda”, New Civil Engineer reported.
Responding to the claim, Councillor O’Neill said: “I understand that City Hall are currently focused on ensuring that Crossrail services operate on the existing line.
“However, this statement doesn’t reflect the conversation with the deputy mayor Heidi Alexander, who visited last week and she could see the tremendous opportunities that will be created by extending the line from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet.
“Taking the line to Ebbsfleet as originally planned will create fantastic opportunities for ‘good growth’ along the Thames."
Bexley Council plans to make the case for the "C2E" extension to be included in the Comprehensive Spending Review this autumn.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds in parking tickets remain outstanding in Bexley, it has been revealed.
Bexley Council is waiting for nearly 13,000 parking tickets to be paid, with an outstanding bill being racked up of over £1.7m.
According to a request under the Freedom of Information act, there are still tickets dating back to 2015 which have not been paid.
So far this year, 8,131 fines remain outstanding, meaning the council is waiting for £969,993 to be coughed up by offending drivers.
The council is still waiting on £723k from 2017/18, and £73k from 2016/17, according to the FOI request.
The car park where most fines have been issued has remained the same every year since 2015.
Oaklands Road, in Bexleyheath, has seen an accumulated 2,822 fines handed out to drivers in the last three years.
There are 19 council-operated car parks in the borough, the most expensive of which charges £8.30 for 24 hours.
Councils across England made £871.5 million in profits from parking in 2017/18, the highest amount since records began.
Calls to scrap school admissions rule in Bexley
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Calls have been made to scrap a school admissions rule in Bexley which prioritises grammar students with high selection test scores even if they live outside the borough.
Opposition councillors are asking for the “180 rule” to be dropped after new figures showed 50.1% of grammar school pupils live outside Bexley.
The rule means places are prioritised for children living outside the borough if they are one of the 180 highest scorers in selection tests.
Admission criteria also favour pupils who have siblings in schools or staff children above children living in the borough.
Councillor Wendy Perfect, shadow spokeswoman for education, said Bexley parents are being offered a false promise.
Cllr Perfect said: “They are being told that grammar schools are provided in Bexley to allow their children to fulfil their potential, but last year Bexley’s four grammar schools’ admission criteria resulted in less than 30% of those students deemed selective at the test living in Bexley.”
A spokesman for Bexley Council said: “The four grammar schools in Bexley are all academies and as such they set their own admissions criteria.
“This includes the guarantee that any child, regardless of where they live, will be offered the grammar school place they want as long they are one of the highest 180 scorers.
“The policy was introduced to ensure that all children from all across the borough had an equal chance of a grammar school place.
Millions in unpaid council tax chased by Bexley
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Bexley Council is chasing millions in unpaid taxes, an investigation has found.
As the council works to become 'self-sustaibale' by 2022, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed it is still chasing thousands of accounts who have not paid up.
Council tax is often a local authority's biggest source of income, and in Bexley it was upped earlier this year to help cover budgets.
In Bexley, the council has been chasing £20m in unpaid council tax since 2012/13.
On average, in the last five years the council has had £3.3m uncollected tax a year, and newly revealed figures show that £150,000 has been written off altogether.
Last year alone nearly £30,000 was let go by the council as it was unable to recover debt.
The council has also been handing out tens of thousands of court summons as it looks crackdown on those who owe.
A council spokesman said the figures include a precept for the Greater London Authority.
The spokesman said: "If that is removed it brings the figure down to £15m.
"These figures were the amounts uncollected at the end of each year and the council continues to work hard to collect these arrears using tracing methods to find absconded debtors and takes court action to collect debt by the use of enforcement agents, attachment orders to wages and benefits, bankruptcy and charging orders on properties including orders for sale.
"Our budget setting process allows for a total collection of 98.5%. Our performance figures across London are based upon the council tax collected within financial year and we collect more than many other authorities collecting around 99% of the debt for each year.
"As an example the 2012/13 arrears of £3.4m have now reduced to £1.6m and work still continues on reducing that figure further down.
"Writing off a debt is a last resort after all other efforts to find and obtain payment have been completely exhausted.
"As the council moves towards self-sufficiency, revenues from council tax are even more important as they are reinvested into key frontline services that support local residents. These services include our outstanding rated children's services, support for adults, investment in housing and keeping our streets clean."
John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said paying tax must be made easier.
Plans for flats in Erith listed building put forward
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Plans to build a block of apartments at a listed building in Erith have been submitted again.
Developers have come back to Bexley Council with revamped proposals for 13 flats in Bexley Road.
It follows several attempts for apartments at the site dating back to 2002, including a rejected plan earlier this year.
The council said previous proposed layouts would have an "adverse impact" on the character of the area and on neighbouring properties.
The most recent attempts, which were for 17 and 14 apartments respectively, were thrown out after the council questioned the density.
The developers have now come back with a scheme for 13 apartments, saying their vision is in keeping with the area.
The development would protect the front of the building, which has been locally listed.
A three-storey building with 13 parking spaces has been proposed but none of the flats included have been earmarked as being affordable.
The plans are being considered by planning officers at the council.
Buildings to be flattened despite objections
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Plans to flatten buildings and build townhouses near Bexley High Street have been given the green light.
An application to build on top of Tanyard House in Tanyard Lane, which includes a vehicle workshop, offices and garages, has been approved.
The plan is to bulldoze buildings on the site and build 10 homes, including four four-bed town houses and some apartments.
Developers said the site has had a high level of crime and the remaining buildings are in a derelict state - all of which was contested by neighbours who objected to this latest version of the plans.