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Bonkers Blog March 2011

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16 March (Part 1) - The police state of Bexley

The police were outside the Civic Centre again last night, summoned by a panicky Chief Executive seeing trouble where none exists. Two hundred odd thousand a year for someone whose management style owes more to the headless chicken than the wily old fox. The police wouldn’t tell me how many of them turned out to protect the cabinet from the people and responded in an unfriendly manner when I asked. There may well have been ten.

The warnings about no audio or video recording or photography were in evidence as they were a week ago and the reception area was graced by a bouncer employed to search and deal with anyone that the council didn’t like. I was told there were more at the back door. However the council door staff were back to their jovial selves and had clearly come to their senses far earlier than the top brass. The ‘No photography’ rule was employed literally rather than the ‘No cameras’ of last week. I walked in with a large camera bag stuffed with nothing but a notebook and a pen but no one seriously queried it, not even the bouncer who wasn’t displaying his SIA accreditation. However it was all good natured banter and he happily showed it on request.

The public had turned out for the cabinet meeting in their usual large numbers, there were five of ‘the gang’ closely associated with this website and three more with looser associations. Apart from that the assembled throng consisted of just one woman, so more cops than residents. No press was in evidence as they know that this cabinet meeting was just a ritual to be gone through as quickly as possible with nothing said that wasn’t agreed beforehand and published.

The council leader Teresa O’Neill in the chair doesn’t have much to do; unlike mayor Twankey at the full council meeting where the opposition (of the elected and unelected variety) are allowed in. As such the leader was able to act out her Fat Controller role without difficulty. It’s not a pantomime but it is well rehearsed with the occasional topical joke. Councillor Catterall tried to toss one in by making suggestions after a long presentation on Bexley’s ‘Core Strategy’ but he didn’t get any laughs, indeed the remainder of the cabinet looked on disapprovingly as the councillor made the cardinal sin of mistaking a rubber stamp machine for a debate. It fell to councillor John Waters (Danson Park, £12,864 and TIC Director) to be prat-of-the-night by preaching to his fellow Tory cabinet members that the cause of all the borough’s ills was the last Labour government. Yes John, we know that this cabinet is not from the top drawer but surely even they don’t need another reminder. Then, suddenly it was all over. 38 minutes, ten cops, several bouncers (someone is already lining up the FOI on the cost), nine members of the public, no press and no protests.


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