this time of the year council’s are compelled by law to let any resident inspect
their accounts so the Bonkers team sent their accountant in to look at one or
two things. He asked to see the invoice and associated documents relating to
the Flackley Ash Hotel.
This unnecessary beano was first revealed by the Bexleyheath Chronicle which
assumed (based on the available evidence) that this was a pre-Christmas bash at
a time when most of the borough was devoid of Christmas decorations because the
council said we couldn’t afford them.
At a council meeting leader Teresa O’Neill claimed she and her colleagues paid for the trip themselves but the council’s Payments Manager failed to come up with figures to fully support the claim. A reply to a Freedom of Information request didn’t help much either. It indicated that cabinet members who attended may have made payments of £90 each but if the document provided was connected to Flackley Ash (it didn’t include anything to prove it) then in addition to the figures still not making sense, the payment date of September looked odd for a December trip.
At the time the news first broke, the Chronicle’s Editor checked that the Marriott Hotel next door to the Civic Centre had suitable accommodation before Christmas but no councillor said he had the date wrong. The aforesaid accountant has an email from a council officer confirming that the assumption was indeed “correct” but later it became apparent that there had been a trip to the hotel in October, whether that made two trips or whether it was the only one, Bexley council wouldn’t say. (Unanswered question at the council meeting of 13th July 2011.)
Now, thanks to the inspection of the accounts, the truth is out. Ten cabinet members and nine of the top brass went to the Flackley Ash Hotel on 8th October 2010. Why, we do not know because when Mr. Bryant asked that question at the last council meeting he was told to “Go away”. The cost was £135 a head (19 x £135=£2,565) and the total cost was brought up to £2,585 by “Secretarial Services”, probably photocopying or something similar. Teresa O’Neill’s claim that cabinet members’ attendance didn’t cost the taxpayer anything (if she allowed recording of meetings it would be possible to check the exact wording, as it is I can rely only on memory) is now exposed for the lie that was always suspected.
There are still unanswered questions. Who footed the travel costs and isn’t it a nice little coincidence that the £90 that cabinet members chipped in towards the £135 bill would be covered by their £90.25 subsistence allowance? It’s not surprising that no one would answer the original questions fully, their part answer wasn’t true and the complete answer would have exposed the lie.
The picture is of a bed in the Flackley Ash Hotel. Doesn’t look like one of councillor Colin Campbell’s candlewick bedspreads to me.