The first step in a package of measures which Bexley Council will consider to help mitigate a potential financial blackhole have been unveiled for public consultation.

Residents living within the borough are being urged to take part in a survey over five new measures the authority is considering introducing to claw back some cash amid the monetary free fall of the coronavirus pandemic.

The five-pronged approach includes plans to increase parking charges, cutting children’s centres, bumping up the costs of garden waste collection, strengthening the policy against parking ticket appeals, and adding automated CCTV enforcement to those flouting the rules in bus lanes.

1. CCTV automated enforcement on Harrow Manor Way

The authority plans to introduce new camera enforcement to bus lanes on Harrow Manor Way, while also exploring other opportunities for other bus lanes.

According to the council, installing cameras at Harrow Manor Way would cost £60,000, with £10,000 budgeted each year for maintenance and other costs.

The authority predicts it’ll make £50,000 from fines to those flouting bus lane laws in the first year, with £40,000 predicted in the second year.

The council is also confident bus journey times will quicken if enforcement is introduced.

2. Stricter parking appeals policy 

Council’s Parking Services adopted a more educational and lenient policy towards appeals in 2014, resulting in a higher number of penalty cancellations for notices which had been issued correctly.

If it reverted to its previous policy, the number of parking penalties cancelled would drop from 20 per cent to 10 – which the council says would result in a significant increase in income from penalties.

An extra appeals officer would need to be employed at a total annual cost of £36,000 a year to deal with the extra work involved.

3. Garden waste collection increase 

That from April 2021 charges for the garden waste collection service increase by £10, to £50 a year for those paying by direct debit and to £55 for those who do not.

4. Rise in parking charges 

Council is considering introducing a 20 or 30 per cent increase against all parking charges in the borough.

In some locations, such as busy town centres, it is also recommended that the 30 minutes tariff is removed. However, for smaller shopping parades where there is alternative free parking within the nearby vicinity, the 30 minute tariff will remain as an option.

5. Children’s centres

Another measure proposed is the closure of all council-run children’s centres in the borough, with the authority to instead commission one main Children’s Centre hub run by the Danson Youth Trust and a smaller SEND Hub run by Bexley SNAP.

The proposal would see the council save £492k each year for the coming four years.

Cllr Philip Read, the cabinet member for children’s services, said at a meeting earlier this month the move was necessary given the “significant squeeze” on council funding.

Budget pressure 

In a statement on Wednesday, the council said it was considering the measures to help address a looming £32 million budget gap by 2025.

“As well as increasing spending, the pandemic has also caused a dramatic fall in the Council’s income, including from Business Rates, commercial rents and other fees and charges,” the authority said.

“Based on its latest forecasts, the Council faces a budget gap of more than £10m in 2021/22, increasing to £32m by 2024/25. These figures do not yet take into consideration the longer-term impact of the pandemic.

“The five savings proposals on which the Council is consulting will help reduce its spending and increase income to balance its budget. Many other savings proposals have already been approved that will have no direct impact on local people.”

The proposals are the first to be considered by the council as it looks to negate a looming financial blackhole worsened by the coronavirus.

A second and larger set of proposals is being developed for public consultation from November to January.

Residents can have their say on the first set of proposals by taking part in an online survey here:

A paper copy of the survey will be available in libraries shortly.

The deadline for responses is September 30.