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Labour slams council’s timing as spending rises by £1.84million - a year before Bexley local elections

PUBLISHED: 14:43 16 November 2017 | UPDATED: 14:43 16 November 2017

Bexley council offices

Bexley council offices

Archant

The extra funding is going towards road and resurfacing work

Rowing has broken out over the council’s spending ahead of next year’s local elections.

Opposition Labour members have criticised the Tory council’s sudden increased investment on improving the borough’s streets and parks.

But senior cabinet member Peter Craske has defended the move, branding Labour’s criticism as “baffling”.

A cabinet meeting last week revealed the council had upped spending on roads and resurfacing to £3.49million for the coming year, a rise from £1.65million in 2016/2017.

Joe Ferreira, shadow cabinet member for community safety, environment and leisure, said: “It is now clear that Bexley’s Conservatives are using the underspends from the 2016/17 budget to fund a pre-election programme of tidying up the borough focusing on areas represented by Conservative councillors.

“In a number of areas, they are attempting to re-invest services to 2014 levels, showing they now accept that their programme of cuts to street cleansing and parks have failed, albeit with an acceptance that this spending cannot be guaranteed to continue after the election.

“The Tories are desperately trying to use our residents’ money to fund their pre-election campaign and are reversing their entire budget policy in an attempt to retain control of the council.”

Cllr Ferreira’s opposite number, Peter Craske, says the new spending is the result of long-term planning.

He said: “In 2014 we announced a strategy mapping out how we would deal with continuing pressures on the council.

“Some councils have chosen to deal with pressure on a year-by-year basis but doing it this way has put us in a stronger position.

“When we announced the strategy we knew we were making savings then so we could use that money saved at a later date, that’s the point we’re out now.

“Labour voted against the strategy when we put it forward, its baffling that they would bring it up now.

“This strategy is helping us improve local spaces, we’re already planning to plant 230 trees over the coming months and by 2020 we hope to have planted around 1,000 across the whole borough.”

Bexley voters will go the polls for the local elections on May 3.

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