There was a full council meeting last night with mayor Sams presiding in full
‘fish out of water’ mode. Exude confidence he does not and Wishy Washy
effortlessly rose close to the heights of incompetence and partisanship achieved by his old
mum Widow Twanky. He began proceedings with his tired old speech about any form
of recording not being permitted and for a moment I felt he had his eye on my
pencil and notepad. Following that it was question time. Wishy Washy made great
play of his intention to time things carefully as he didn’t want democracy to be
given more freedom than strictly necessary. Not that it actually got much of a
look in at all. Bexley council has successfully banished public questioning
with a draconian set of rules and if any should manage to wriggle past they are
deemed “vexatious” by WW Sams and cast aside. The only questions permitted now are of
the arse-licking variety designed to allow a cabinet member to blow his or her
trumpet. And so two failed Conservative electoral candidates and a councillor’s
wife were lined up with their tongues at the ready.
Amandeep Singh Bhogal of 108a Lower Road, Belvedere asked councillor Gareth Bacon to say how successful Bexley’s refuse services have been and he duly (and rightly) did just that. John Ault of 6 Westergate Road, Abbey Wood asked councillor Campbell to confirm that the Strategy 2014 programme of savings was on schedule and he duly did - although without the caveats reported at the recent Public Realm meeting. Mrs. Christine Bishop of 76 Danson Crescent, Welling asked councillor Bailey to tell us about the money Boris Johnson had granted Bexley via his Outer London Fund, and she duly did. Sidcup is going to get £1·8 million apparently. None of these Conservative sycophants could have been truly interested in proceedings, they all left together the moment question time ended. Is it not ironic that Bexley’s plan to discourage questioning by publishing home addresses makes it so much easier to confirm a question is planted?
It was then councillors’ turn to ask questions. Councillor Deadman (Labour) asked Craske “when he is likely to follow Westminster’s example and stop 24/7 parking charges”. Craske duly lied. “Bexley will never have 24/7 parking charges” lied the habitual liar. Councillor Deadman asked him to “stop playing with words” and helpfully rephrased his question in a manner even a moron might understand. Craske retaliated with his well rehearsed diatribe about Bexley having the cheapest parking and more of it than anywhere else in South East London. Once a liar always a liar. Councillor Philip Read chimed in with more of the same. Once again the car park in the historic centre of Greenwich with its tourist level parking charges was reported as if it is the norm for the Royal borough. Craske as his wont interspersed his bile with anti-Labour jibes based on events long gone.
Councillor Margaret O’Neill (Labour) managed to provoke a minor storm by asking about the number of new homes to be provided by the regeneration of Larner Road. She may be concerned by the government’s failure to ring-fence Bexley’s £697,379 New Homes Bonus and that the council may have no intention of spending the money on new homes. Councillor Bacon had covered the housing numbers reasonably well at the recent Public Realm meeting and Cheryl objected to the suggestion she hadn’t. I’m not sure she gave precise figures on that occasion (622 homes demolished, 648 new ones to be built) but her implication was plain enough. She strongly defended herself against the suggestion that something was being hidden from view - the New Homes Bonus perhaps? - to the point that mayor WW Sams told her to stop, but she did not. I was on Cheryl’s side with that one.
After a short and pointless anti-Labour party speech by councillor John Waters, the mayor said time was up even though on his own admission there were two minutes to go. We were thus deprived of the opportunity to hear councillor Philip Read crawl up Craske's rear end with a question which included the assertion “that Bexley waived parking charges for six days over the festive period”. In fact the only truly free day was Christmas Eve tacked on to the usual days when parking staff demand the day off. Even then it didn’t apply to all car parks and the machines were still taking money because users didn’t know about the last minute concession. Council leader Teresa O’Neill said later in the meeting that that freebie day was financed by the council staff who went on strike just before Christmas.
Councillor Stefano Borella then put forward a Motion which included a resolution that the council should “champion diversity in all cases including gay rights and promoting equality at every opportunity”. He then provided a lengthy treatise on the history of gay rights (or lack thereof). He didn’t manage to go back as far as Leviticus Chapter 20 Verse 13 but he did get back to the Wolfenden Report of 1957 and reminded everyone of the almost forgotten gay rights campaigner, Leo Abse MP.
Borella portrayed every Conservative leader before Cameron as wickedly homophobic and said the Labour party had, for the last fifty years at least, been quite the reverse. All the progress towards gay rights had been the work of Labour said councillor Borella while aiming vitriol in the direction of Mrs. now Lady, Thatcher at every opportunity. It was an over the top performance with as far as I could see, just one aim: to lay a trap for Conservative councillors by praising David Cameron to the heavens and then expecting them to fail to show total support for gay marriage and their party leader. Borella won applause from Labour councillors for his cunning while the Tories sat in stony silence.
I asked my neighbour Elwyn Bryant what gay marriage was to do with Bexley council and he didn’t know either. Surely if it became lawful Bexley would implement it and meanwhile it shouldn’t be a priority for any council. That sort of thing, I had believed, ended with the demise of Looney Left councils. Maybe I am behind the times, but if so I am not alone. Bexley’s Conservatives were not going to fall into Borella’s trap. For complete clarity I should at this stage show you Stefano Borella’s Motion. See below left.
It was seconded by councillor Munir Malik who spoke up for the Motion in more restrained terms.
Councillor Chris Taylor (Conservative) who entered a Civil Partnership only a year ago proposed a revised Motion. He had had the foresight to have a printed copy for everyone present. See above right. A somewhat bland and self congratulatory form of words compared to Borella’s blatantly pro-gay agenda. It has several times been suggested to me that Bexley council is run by a “gay mafia” (list of names supplied) but if it is I don’t think it matters - not if they refrain from obscene blogging anyway - but the council being run for a gay mafia would be a very different kettle of fish. Borella’s Motion was in danger of straying into that area.
Councillor Taylor said gay rights are not a matter for Bexley council and would cost money to ensure compliance, hence his amended Motion. The Labour sponsors argued that Taylor’s Motion was not a revision, it amounted to an entirely new Motion and should be ruled out of order. Wishy Washy ducked the issue by passing it to the council’s legal officer. I got the impression from what he said that he agreed it was a new Motion but if he did he allowed it to stand anyway, superseding Borella’s Motion. Well he has his inflated salary to protect. It gave the green light to councillor Sawyer to let rip with a speech that probably owed much to his wife Priti Patel MP. It included numerous choice phrases. Certain activities were not his business nor the council’s. The Motion was cynical and for nothing other than political gain, to promote positive discrimination and to score cheap political points. It attempts to create division where there is none and lives in the Looney Left past. It showed why the Labour group was unfit to run a council and if anyone wanted proof of that, tonight was the night. It’s a tragedy that they still want to distribute money like an incontinent ATM, the gay marriage cause may be just but the Motion is political window dressing.
Councillor Malik responded but was rudely told to sit down and stop speaking by the gavel waving imbecile on the top bench. Councillor Malik finished making his point anyway and as a result overran his allotted time by all of four seconds.
The revised Motion was approved by 45 votes with six abstentions and ten against. I have a note of which Conservatives abstained and assume that is as a result of deeply held religious convictions. For that reason they won’t be named here.
Following all that excitement the council leader’s Report was questioned. There was more than a little interest in Boris Johnson’s new ‘Routemaster’ bus. For some reason the Conservatives thought it highly amusing that Craske had photographed the Labour group skulking behind the clock tower when Boris brought his bus to town. Small minds are easily amused I suppose. Councillor Craske could not resist indulging in one of his trademark cheap jibes. He said that the Boris Bus had visited Bexley more often than Ken Livingstone. Unless the local press has been guilty of a very big failure to report facts I think this has to go down as yet another of Craske’s lies. Why does he do it? Is he totally stupid?
Councillor Clark was concerned by Blue Badge crime and quite right too. The disabled were having their windscreens broken by thieves she said, something I know all too well to be true. Councillor Craske said that in the last year 60 badges had been seized, 30 abusers issued with police cautions and eight prosecuted and fined up to £500.
Councillor Ball commented on the road outside the Civic Centre being clogged with cars on a Sunday since 24/7 parking charges had been introduced and yellow lines might be considered. Craske said he only added to the number of double yellow lines if residents asked for them. No one pointed out that there were no residents in that road nor did Craske dispute the “24/7”.
More than once during the meeting the Labour group expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the arrangements made for the Howbury area of Slade Green. The council leader said that surveys had been positive and residents delighted and on at least two occasions added that the Slade Green (Labour) councillors should be very pleased that theirs was the only area on the receiving end of council investment. What there is to be proud of in neglecting the whole borough other than Howbury puzzles me but if it keeps Teresa happy…
Councillor Munir Malik was concerned for the future of the Freedom Pass and asked if the Boris Bus was good use of public money. Munir in full flow went on to ask why, if it was necessary to boost business by waiving parking charges on Christmas Eve, does it make sense to impose increased charges for the rest of the year? It seemed to be a question worthy of consideration but mayor Sams banged his gavel, told Munir to sit down and by implication shut up. It was the second unwarranted attack on councillor Malik by the mayor and Munir asked why he was being asked to stop when there was no imposed time limit. He got no answer from Sams so I will give him one. If you dress up a pathetic little man with a gold chain, deliver him to his parlour in a limousine and arm him with a wooden hammer, he won’t be able to resist banging it on his highchair like a baby with a spoon.
It had been announced at the start of the meeting that the final Agenda item (11) might necessitate exclusion of the public and I decided to get out at that point rather than be thrown out. However in the minute or so it took me to visit the boys’ room I found everyone, mayor included, leaving the building.
In total the peak number of members of the public present was around a dozen, although some of them looked to be council staff. There is another council meeting next week. I’ll have to check the Agenda to see if it might provide more gaiety. Craske’s performance might be good for a laugh.