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Bonkers Blog May 2011

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28 May (Part 3) - Questions, letters, damn lies and statistics

Extract of letter in News Shopper dated 25th May 2011We are fortunate to be one of the few boroughs who actually allow time for public questions at council meetings.” Who does that sound like? It sounds like a councillor talking doesn’t it and all too reminiscent of leader Teresa O’Neill’s false claim that “Bexley now has one of the lowest council tax rates per household in outer London”. My list of all London’s council tax rates shows her to have been issuing totally false propaganda. The claim about public questions is complete nonsense too, compounded by that fact that the claim was part of a letter to the News Shopper which we are asked to believe wasn’t written by a councillor. Would an ordinary and genuine resident know every other borough’s constitutional procedures on questions? Of course not. It would take far too long to research, it has to be either inside knowledge or a made up statistic.

I know such a statistic would take a long time to research because as soon as the News Shopper’s editor published that letter (I suspect he is mischievous rather than gullible and is seeking a response) the Bonkers Team divided up London and shot off questions, phone calls and web searches to all 32 boroughs. Only Redbridge failed to reply and now we know exactly if we are one of the few that allow questions at council meetings. Guess what? We are not one of the few, we are one of the many. Only seven councils make no provision for questions.

Bexley is nowhere near being the best of the remaining 24 either. There are variations on the theme and three councils run meetings expressly designed for questions where pretty much anything goes so long as advance notice is given. Bexley doesn’t get a look in compared to that level of democracy. 20 councils have a similar system to Bexley which vary only in the detail; number of questions, time allowed - that sort of thing. Bexley’s two questions rule is not unduly generous and no council allows less time than Bexley’s 15 minutes. None have dared try eleven!

If a point is arbitrarily awarded for every question allowed and another for every five minutes of question time plus one more for allowing a supplementary question then the top scoring council gets twelve points and the worst gets four points. Bexley “one of the few boroughs that actually allow public questions” ties with Islington, Haringey and Bromley for 14th place. It’s true that there are 14 councils that fall behind Bexley but to state that there are few as good as Bexley when there are 16 that are as good or better makes the Shopper letter a lie. And who but a council stooge would phrase a letter that way? It’s an all too obvious plant by our ever more desperate council.

The ‘points chart’ is available here.


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