first of the new Public Realm Committee meetings was held yesterday and chaired
by councillor Cheryl Bacon with cabinet member Peter Craske in attendance. I didn’t do any counting but I was told there
were slightly more observers present than councillors. Certainly the numbers
must have been close and that is thanks to
Notomob who had come to hear about
our roads and CCTV system. Martin Peaple who was the subject of police action
for asking his customers not to park outside the shop where he works was also
present. Bexley council has subsequently admitted that Martin broke no laws
(admission obtained via FOI) but they
have yet to get around to issuing him with an apology.
A lot of the meeting was taken up by senior council officers explaining their roles to the new Committee which probably restricted the Chairman’s opportunity to show her true worth. Overall things seemed slightly shambolic to me but there was probably no other way, we were well away from a Val Clark style shambles. There were few questions from councillors, Colin Tandy asked when Bexley (I assume he meant the village area) would be covered by CCTV - by the end of this year apparently - but the real star of the show was councillor Munir Malik. I think I can see why he is on some disciplinary charge at the moment because he asks pertinent and sometimes difficult question. Thats going to label him a rebel straight away.
His first question concerned a road right on the edge of the borough, County Gate, which suffers appalling traffic problems caused by lorries trying to get to the A20. Councillor Malik had hoped to have a resident describe the situation but Munir may be alone in supporting democracy as his idea had been stamped on by the Chairman; instead some photographs were circulated. They were bordering on the horrifying and something needs to be done urgently.
Councillor Craske agreed and explained how he had gone as far as getting contractors in to implement a solution soon after the council went Tory in 2006 but on the day before work was due to commence Greenwich council took action under “the GLA Act” which allows neighbouring councils to exercise some control over borough boundary issues. His plan had been blocked for five years and he said this was because a Greenwich councillor lived in the next road along from County Gate and the Greenwich councillor was concerned lorries might be displaced into his road. Councillor Craske said that this was “disgraceful” and one can only agree with him. Something like that would never happen in Bexley. No councillor would try it on with a planning application for example.
Another of councillor Malik’s questions was about the council’s persecution of motorists who stop for just a few seconds in a restricted area and referred to a letter which appeared in last week’s News Shopper from someone who had successfully had his penalty notice overturned by the adjudicator who described the offences as “trifling”. Mike Frizoni, the council officer and deputy director in charge of parking was dismissive of the question adding that the case featured in the News Shopper was being appealed by the council. I seem to have scribbled the word “bastard” in the margin of my notebook but I’m no longer sure who I was thinking of at the time.
A friend of a friend is the Chief Adjudicator of the England and Wales Traffic Penalty Tribunal and from that source comes the information that stopping, getting out to read the restriction sign, and driving off after realising that the time of day prevents stopping is not an offence. It seems that the London Adjudicator agrees. A pity that Bexley council thinks it is above the law.
Councillor Malik’s final question was to ask which other local authority was supposedly interested in using Bexley’s CCTV control facility and so help pay for it as the council hopes. Mr. Frizoni refused to answer his question. Councillor Malik represents Thamesmead East so I didn’t understand why he is so concerned about County Gate which is in Longlands ward, but Thamesmead voters seem to be in good hands, at least until the one-sided Standards Committee finds a reason to shackle him.
The only other thing of interest to come from the meeting, thanks to a question from councillor John Waters, is that the stupidly placed width restrictor on The Green, Sidcup, and the adjacent fire gate, will be removed or otherwise attended to in 2013. Personally I find the silly width restrictor to be quite good fun. Swing to the left to approach it head on, place offside wheel close to the post and go straight through without slowing at all.