Bromley’s Labour opposition leader Cllr Angela Wilkins has served up a plateful of criticism over claims about food safety in a council publication.
Cllr Wilkins says that in a front page editorial in Safer Bromley News, Cllr Kate Lymer, portfolio holder for public safety and protection, “refers proudly to Bromley council making ‘additional investment’ in its food safety team.”
A further article ‘Cutting the mustard’ on the back-page claims ‘every business is assessed and inspected as frequently as required….’
But Cllr Wilkins says:
“In February 2015, Bromley Tories cut the budget for this service, a decision opposed by the Labour group.
“In January 2016, an officers’ report warned councillors that there was a serious backlog of food inspections due to lack of staff resources.
“In April 2017, the Food Standards Agency carried out an inspection of Bromley’s Food Safety operation and found it did not comply with statutory requirements.
“In September 2017, Cllr Lymer agreed to an extra £125,000 to appoint additional food safety officers.”
Speaking on behalf of the Labour group, Cllr Angela Wilkins said: “What Cllr Lymer says is so far from the full story that it’s almost a lie – if there were a Booker Prize for political spin, she’d win it!
“When the Tories cut the budget for the food safety team back in 2015, we warned them of the dangers of losing two officers and we voted against.
“A year later, they ignored officers’ warnings too.
“This April, the truth came out when the Food Standards Agency did an audit and Bromley Council failed. “The FSA found more than 1,000 overdue inspections of food premises and 671 that hadn’t been rated at all.
“How she has the front to hide the truth and claim safety will always be a priority is just beyond me – the facts speak for themselves on this. “To make it worse, council tax payers are paying for this work of fiction to be put through our doors!.”
News From Crystal Palace contacted Cllr Lymer for a response – and got one.*
Cllr Lymer said: “It is noteworthy that the criticism of Safer Bromley News appears to focus on just one line of a comprehensive update in this important area.
“We are committed to working with residents to help keep our borough as safe as possible across the many different areas that affect us all and that residents righty care about.
“Far from hiding anything, I actually drew attention to the matter.
“It is ironic that the council is being criticised for rightly confirming that safety is a priority and no doubt we’re also being criticised for making sure that we have the resources available when they are required.
“I suspect we would also be criticised for having the lowest council tax in outer London too.
I am surprised that this criticism didn’t come in August when the decision was actually made rather than the factually incorrect assertion that it was in September.
“Although this report was made public at the time and reported in the local press, I can’t help wondering why this seems to have gone unnoticed until now.
“The council are not just investing £125k this financial year as is being stated as our investment increases to £250k next financial year, with the increased funding then reducing to £100k the year after.
“The Food Standards Agency report is publicly available if anyone wants to read it and I challenge anyone to find the word ‘fail’ when the report actually recognises our “commitment to providing a good quality service”.
“It should be noted that the council have actively targeted the high risk food premises and now as the FSA report recommends, we will also be inspecting the lower risk premises, which is the right thing to do and I won’t be criticised for it nor making sure that there are budgetary resources to do this.”
(*Regular readers will understand News From Crystal Palace’s surprise at actually getting a full and detailed response from a ruling party member given that ruling Labour councillors in Lambeth’s cabinet never – or almost never – respond. – Ed.)