Dishonesty, shameful behaviour and being unwilling to answer questions are
all activities that go hand in hand with each other and Bexley council has
developed question dodging to an art form.
Changing the Constitution
was part of the grand plan and in practice questions to the council can now only be ones of policy.
However such questions do have one notable advantage over Freedom of Information (FOI) requests,
you can ask a cabinet member how something was justified, FOIs aren’t a lot of good for that. With
that in mind a question was submitted to councillor Philip Read’s wife, for it is she whose job it
is to log the questions and respond, on 5th May at 16:01. The question was about the
wood carvings in Bursted Woods which cost £31,710 and councillor and cabinet
member for the environment Gareth Bacon was to be asked what exactly that amount
of money purchased and “why this was deemed appropriate expenditure by the council in
the current economic climate". It doesn’t seem unreasonable at a time when
the loss of all Bexley’s toilets was the piss poor idea of the very same Gareth Bacon.
Mrs. Read acknowledged the question within half an hour adding a reminder that no questions could be accepted until the council meeting due on 13th July. OK, we can wait but it would be nice to know why councillor Gareth Bacon thinks that wooden posts in the woods are more useful than public toilets; for dogs maybe…
On 10th June, that’s a little over five weeks, Kevin Fox, Bexley’s head of committee services and architect of the new rules on questions designed to ban as many as possible realised that a possibly embarrassing question was in danger of getting past his barriers, so he ruled it out of order. “The questions are for Council officers to answer” and he went on to suggest an FOI. Clever stuff Kevin, you get a question which only councillor Bacon can answer but you pass it off as an FOI to a council officer who is in no position to look inside councillor Bacon’s head. And if it is an FOI, the statutory date for an answer was 3rd June. Just how many variants of “I dont want to accept this question because the answer would prove highly embarrassing / the answer would incriminate me” can Bexley council come up with?