I was attracted to the Audit Committee meeting because the agenda included an item on
Bexley council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)
which some councils use to excuse covert surveillance of residents in an
unreasonable way. Given Bexley council’s
unlawful use of the police to threaten
residents and the near certain use of
obscene blogs in an attempt to discredit
me and some other residents the misuse of RIPA cannot be entirely ruled out. The
meeting was chaired by councillor Steven Hall who began by welcoming members of
the public. At the outset only three were present (plus one child) and the
number subsequently grew to five but I do not recall a committee chairman
acknowledging the public before except to warn them of the consequences of ‘bad
behaviour’. Could we have the first councillor who respects the public?
The District Auditor was present who said that in the two previous years the council was guilty of overstating assets and liabilities in their draft financial statements. The auditor is going to specially check this area in this year’s accounts which are due in tomorrow. The auditor will charge £289,900 which will be rebated by £29,545 due to two separate ‘government’ grants.
The RIPA discussion did not in the event prove to be particularly interesting. Bexley council claimed to have used its powers twice in the last year, once against shopkeepers who persist in selling alcohol and tobacco to minors and once against fly tippers. Hopefully the sort of people against whom councillor Tarrant’s conducts his vendettas will not be spied on. The government has proposed that only crimes that would attract a prison sentence should be pursued via RIPA but Bexley and other local authorities are campaigning that this safeguard is abandoned thus ensuring that those whose dustbins are vandalised and have the contents distributed along the street can continue to be persecuted.
I only just made it to the Audit Committee meeting as I was in Ashford again all day. Ms. B. proved to the Ashford Employment Tribunal that she had been unfairly dismissed by Bexley council and that she had good reason to blow the whistle on criminal activity at the Thames Innovation Centre but the Tribunal refused to award her compensation on a legal technicality. The Court very specifically said that Bexley council’s procedures were unfair. As a one time manager of an outfit several hundreds of times bigger than the Thames Innovation Centre in terms of staff numbers, I was amazed at how everything done there was a management disaster. I noted absolutely nothing of which a half decent manager or director shouldn’t be thoroughly ashamed. Given the necessity to report the details accurately I anticipate it will be Friday before anything more about it appears here and that will have the advantage of putting it in July’s blog rather than publishing tomorrow and having it effectively lost at the end of the day.