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Bonkers Blog July 2011

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14 July (Part 2) - Bexley council. Paranoid and poisonous - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

County Gate County GateAt a few minutes before 7 o’clock there were four people outside the Civic Centre carrying a banner about County Gate - see immediately below. Just a couple of minutes later a police car drew up and out jumped three officers. They were friendly enough and when asked said they were there because Bexley council had advised them of “hard core protestors”. You could almost see the disappointment in their faces. In the half hour before the meeting started they engaged in pleasant conversation and became well acquainted with bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk. They said they would be telling their boss about it but my guess is that he or she already knows. Inside the building were two hired security staff who kept well away from things. Easy money for them.

When the mayor walked into the council chamber he had forsaken his predecessor’s pantomime outfit in favour of a smart dark suit adorned with his chain of office. But not much else had changed, his opening remarks included the standard diatribe about recording not being allowed to protect the public when everyone knows by now that the ban is in place solely to stop the population at large realising what disreputable characters certain councillors are. Mayor Sams also trotted out the lie that residents could seek permission to film, neatly side-stepping the fact that no one who has asked has ever been granted permission and the only resident who did film a meeting is banned from attending any more. Does that make Sams a liar or just naive? Compared to Widow Twankey he was boring, which may be a good thing. At least he knew how to count to 15 accurately.

Incidentally, Westminster council has just announced its policy on recording meetings. You may read what a more democratic council has to say on the matter by clicking here or simply accepting the summary. “Transparency and openness should be the underlying principle behind everything councils do”. Can you imagine Bexley council ever saying anything like that? The BNP proposed freedom to film and record council meetings when contesting Barking & Dagenham last year. Which is most like Adolph? Bexley or the BNP?

There were two deputations to the council, one presented by Mr. James Rayfield, a businessman from the Darenth Industrial Estate who painted a graphic picture of how best part of a thousand people were likely to lose their jobs because the road to the estate has broken up to the extent it is in danger of subsiding into the adjacent creek. After councillors heard the story, only some of them managing to stifle their yawns, they said the situation would be referred to the appropriate cabinet member. I think that is Craske so Mr. Rayfield should not be getting his hopes up. When I can I’ll take my camera along to the industrial estate to see just how bad it is.

A second deputation and petition was made on behalf of the Friends of Riverside Gardens, Erith (FORGE). Mrs. Joan McCarthy made a speech which clearly explained the concerns including the fact that the land had been presented to the people of Erith by Wm. Cory and Son, a major haulage and coal company in days gone by, and the gift conditions did not allow Bexley council to grab control. The councillors were obviously bored by everything and during the later questions laughed at Mrs. McCarthy who asked if councillors were always that rude. Yes, Mrs. McCarthy I am afraid they often are; I’ve seen rude comments, rude gestures and not a few outright lies in the year I have been attending council meetings.

Councillor Bailey took an aggressive stance against the FORGE speaker and told her to remove all references to 25% of the available land being grabbed by Bexley council from her leaflets and substitute 11%. This turned out to be a dispute over whether just the building area should be stated, 11%, or whether the approach roads, walkways and car parking area should be included. Another 14%. Whichever figure you use, only 75% is to remain unspoiled. To adapt Martin Peaple’s phrase, Linda Bailey is one rude woman. (Mr. Peaple was present hoping to hear the answer to councillor Brenda Langstead’s question about parking revenue but with insufficient time allocated to questions that one was not asked.)

Councillor Philip Read lived up to his reputation of being the village idiot by giving a brief history of the borough blaming the Labour party for various mistakes in the past and seemed to think they excused another mistake. It was all irrelevant but he managed to waste several minutes of the 15 allocated to the deputation. It’s what Bexley council would call a success. Councillor John Waters asked a reasonable question of the FORGE lady and got a straight and clear answer, but apart from that the ten minutes discussion time was squandered by the obviously bored councillors. The petition and deputation was then sent to the cabinet member for consideration. I think Linda Bailey has already made her position clear.

If Bailey conducted a survey of what residents thought about Bexley council she may not be so keen to annoy so many of them, there’s another election due in less than three years. Over 90% of residents when asked express 100% negative views of council leader Teresa O’Neill and her cronies. Not a figure I have just made up, but from a real survey. Details coming soon.

Councillor Catterral was asked about some of the borough’s heritage sites. Erith Library (Carnegie Building) : he doesn’t know what can be done with it. Honest I suppose. Lesnes Abbey : He had requested a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) who suggested he ask for even more money. He did so and the application was rejected for asking for too much. Frustrating.

Mr. Barnbrook (picture above left) asked the chairman of the Planning Committee (councillor Reader) if he knew of any plans to build on the Queen Mary’s Hospital site and he replied “None that I know of” which is a nice non-committal phrase.

Mr. Elwyn Bryant (subject of the council inspired lewd blog) asked deputy leader Colin Campbell about the trip to the “exclusive” Flackley Ash Hotel last December. Councillor Campbell said there had been no visit to the Flackley Ash last December, reminiscent of councillor Craske’s claim that Bexley council has no £4 million contract with the transport consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff. As I said a few days ago there has never been any firm evidence that the council took themselves off on a Christmas jolly (it may have been at another time) but they let people believe they did and neither Teresa O’Neill or the impoverished Katie Perrior denied it while justifying it and their expenses in  letters to the Bexleyheath Chronicle.

Why do they lie and obfuscate at every opportunity? When the council’s Procurement Officer, Trevor Mogg received a written enquiry including, “I have been led to believe that ten councillors each paid £90 for their overnight accommodation and food at the Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye last December and that this money was received into the council’s accounts via the cash office at Erith town hall” he replied “This is correct”. He couldn’t have meant the councillors paid their contribution in December because it was later revealed they paid in September. Bexley council gives every impression of being institutionally dishonest. The Payments Manager said several months ago that the cost to the council was £1,685. Last night it was only £1,435 according to deputy leader Campbell.

Councillor Campbell was sporting a complexion every bit as purple as Craske’s and it wasn’t the only thing the pair have in common. Craske makes it his business to humiliate Mr. Bryant when he can and Campbell took a leaf out of the same book.

“I have been in exclusive hotels all across the world, some paid for by my employer, some not and the Flackley Ash is definitely not exclusive. My bed had a candlewick bedspread on it. You should get out more.” Leader Teresa O’Neill thought Campbell’s response was very funny.

“Will you be going there again” asked Mr. Bryant and got no answer. ”Why did you have to go to Rye for a meeting?” “Oh, go away” came the reply. Mr. Bryant dutifully went away. I will concede that the exchange was made in a light-hearted way by all concerned but it shows again the council’s reluctance to answer questions. How difficult would it have been to give a sensible answer? On second thoughts maybe it would be very difficult to give an honest answer.

Mr. Bryant probably would get out more if he was on a £27,000 a year allowance but he gets by on a state pension. He is considering an email to the hotel to let them know that it is not up to Colin Campbell’s high standards and he announced the fact to more than 100 people.

During councillors’ question time the shallow councillor John Davey (Lesnes Abbey) seemed more concerned at delivering swipes at the Labour party than discussing the Neater Neighbourhoods Scheme and councillor Philip Read got his answer to the number of hits on the council’s website. 7·1 million October 2010 to March 2011 and 4·9 million the same period a year before. As councillor Campbell correctly pointed out, hits are not a very useful measure and ‘unique visitors’ may be a better indicator. 1·9m in 2009/10 and 4·9million 2010/11 which is very good news because even if only a small proportion Google for Bexley council a huge number will see Bexley is Bonkers next to it on the search engine list.

 

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