Proposals for councillors to forgo a 3% pay rise and donate the savings to community library services were rejected at last night's Bexley Full Council Meeting.

A motion put forward by opposition Labour councillors would have seen around £42,000, saved by waiving planned increases in councillor allowances, instead spent on six community libraries in Bexley due to see there funding cut.

But the move was rejected by Conservative and independent councillors.

Wednesday night's Bexley Council meeting saw the budget for 2021/21 approved in full, including a number of cuts and job losses needed to balance the books after a challenging financial year.

But the meeting also saw the separate issue of councillor allowances crop up, with multiple motions and amendments put forward.

In 2020, all Bexley councillors voluntarily refused take a 2.75% rise in their allowances, but at the meeting Labour suggested forgoing a 3% increase planned for May 2021.

The motion would have seen the removal of the May 2020 rise set in stone, and the total £42,543 saved instead invested into community libraries in Bexley Village, Blackfen, Bostall, Northumberland Heath, Slade Green and Upper Belvedere. 

The motion also asked the Conservative Council to issue an apology for the financial management and leadership of the council.

Unsurprisingly, the motion was voted for solely by Labour councillors and rejected by their Tory counterparts.

A further amendment was put forward by independent councillor for Thamesmead East, Danny Hackett, which would also have seen scrapping the allowance rise, and instead redirecting the money into the Economic Development Service.

But the amendment from the ex-Labour councillor saw no support from the rest of the council.

At the meeting, Council Leader Teresa O’Neill OBE referenced the decision to forgo last year's allowance increase

She also used the meeting to criticise the system used to allocate funding to councils and calling for Bexley to receive a "fairer share."

Cllr Stefano Borella, Labour candidate for Bexley and Bromley in the London Assembly elections and Shadow Cabinet Member for Places said: “The choice before the Conservatives was clear tonight – cut funding to community libraries or maintain space in the budget for councillors’ pay rises. 

“They chose to cut grants to community libraries – libraries which are the centre of our communities, a place where people come together, a base for community groups. 

“The pandemic has been hard on our local residents. They deserve more than warm words – they deserve real investment in local services.”  

Cllr Hackett said in a statement that it "comes as no surprise that Conservative, and Labour Councillors have once again joined forces to frustrate the democratic process.

"Hard working members of Bexley Council staff who have been made redundant and residents across the borough will be shocked that whilst politicians say ‘we have difficult decisions to make’, their actions just don’t stack up."

At the same meeting, Bexley Council also rubber stamped its final budget and council tax plans for 2021/22, approved last week by the borough's cabinet.

The hypothetical savings from last night's amendment would have been small, with councillors' allowances rising by £42,000 in total, but comes amid times of financial worry for the council, exacerbated by the pandemic.

It was reported last year that over a 100 jobs were on the line as the council battled a 'financial cliff edge'.

In February it was announced that Bexley, along with three other councils in England, were to be offered a taxpayer bailout worth around £9m, offering the council more financial flexibility if needed.