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Bonkers Blog May 2011

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9 May - Turning her back on the electorate

Council leader Teresa O'NeillAt a time when many local authorities are merging departments and sharing chief executives Bexley’s council leader has turned her back on anything that might cut the high cost of its top layers of beaucracy. Islington, Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster, The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea are all intent on merging departments and sharing executives. In Lewisham the Chief Executive is to work part-time. The Local Government Minister Bob Neil has said, “I want to see more sharing management, expertise and resources. Incremental changes won’t be enough. Councils need to think about how they can radically reconfigure services”.

O’Neill (Bexley council’s leader) defied Mr. Neil (the man from the ministry) over the issue of transparency at council meetings and enshrined that defiance in a revised Constitution. She is defying Mr. Neil again over his wish to see “sharing” and “radically reconfigured services”. What did we get that is radical in Bexley? Public conveniences shut, a historic fountain filled with dirt, parking charges raised and a leader who says that executives on £200,000 plus benefits are “good value for money”. There will be workers in this borough who slave all year to make as much as Will Tuckley picked up last Thursday afternoon.

It was suggested last month that it might be possible to hold a local referendum asking the population if they thought the high salaries paid to Bexley council executives who have been so enthusiastically imposing cuts on everyone but themselves should also be cut, but it would appear that the referendum legislation does not apply to London boroughs. An alternative approach would be to organise a petition, requiring only two thousand signatures, which would force Bexley council to debate the issue in public. It is within the council’s power to declare all attempts to curtail their greed as “vexatious” but if they do it will be yet more evidence that the main priority of Bexley council is to protect themselves from public questioning.

Things of this nature tend to always take far longer than anticipated but it is my understanding that those proposing such a scheme are talking to council officials about the procedure and will then move on to preparing the documentation.

 

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