mid-May council meeting is not like others, its prime purpose is to elect the
new mayor and rubber stamp the minutes of all the
sub-committee AGMs. It is unlike the others in style too; whereas a
regular council meeting offers the spectacle of politicians portraying
themselves as clowns, last night’s offered third rate comedians trying to be
funny. We learned nothing of note except that new mayor Alan Downing likes to
dress up as a Spice Girl. Scary Spice might be appropriate if his debut was
anything to go by.
When I arrived there were 48 people in the gallery, adoring Spice Girl fans presumably and the numbers eventually grew to about 60. They were warned by the outgoing mayor Sams that they weren't allowed to photograph or video the proceedings and this was to ensure the public was protected. Once a liar always a liar. The formalities were that councillor Colin Campbell proposed the new appointment and councillor Sawyer seconded it. Councillor Ross Downing would become mayoress and the Beckwiths were proposed for deputy mayor and mayoress. There was a vote and all the Conservatives raised their hands while from the Labour group only three arms were clearly outstretched, those of councillors Ball, Persaud and Boateng.
A game of musical chairs then followed in which outgoing mayor Sams disappeared to be replaced ten minutes later by Alan Downing complete with Captain Jack Sparrow black hat. He announced that his chosen charity would be Action on Hearing Loss to make amends for his bad tempered assault upon deaf people… No of course he didn’t. He chose two. Diabetes UK (Bexley Support Group) and Help for Heroes.
After a number of speeches to say how brilliant everyone is, the festivities ended at 20:37 when the real business, such as it was, began.
This essential business consisted of the chairman of each of the sub-committees popping up like so many Jacks in the Box to ask for the minutes of their AGMs to be approved. The mayor said there must be no votes against so all the Tories dutifully ticked the appropriate box while the Labour group, by and large, abstained.
All went according to plan until councillor Cheryl Bacon asked that her Public Realm minutes be approved. Councillor Munir Malik said that the minutes did not reflect the meeting accurately and objected. If you cast your mind back to the beginning of April and the report on that meeting you will see that councillor Malik asked to see a copy of a survey being discussed but which was unavailable for anyone to see. Chairman Cheryl said he couldn’t have it and councillor ‘Biffa’ Bailey said he was rude for asking.
Councillor Malik revealed that the report was called ‘Town Centres Realities Check Report’ and to get a copy he had to resort to the Freedom of Information Act. Can you imagine it? Bexley council is so secretive that its Conservative chairman of the Public Realm committee will not let a Labour member know what is going on? Councillor Malik was aggrieved that the minutes white-washed chairman Cheryl Bacon’s ridiculous affront to democracy.
Scary Spice raised his voice as if he was addressing a deaf man and told councillor Malik that he must not speak unless he raised his hand and was invited to do so. He also went out of his way to insult and belittle the councillor by referring to him as Mr. Malik.
When councillor Malik raised his hand and was invited to speak he rose to his feet only to be told to sit down when he asked councillor Cheryl Bacon if she was denying the events he had described took place. Clearly they did occur but Cheryl could not bring herself to admit that her minutes were not a true account. Jabber Downing called for a vote and scored his first significant victory over Bexley council’s great enemy, Truth and Transparency. He sanctioned falsifying the minutes of a meeting to protect another Spice Girl. Ginger.
Councillor Malik was not happy and nor was the small section of the audience which wasn’t part of Downing’s personal entourage. Malik rose again to his feet and said he “did not feel the Standing Orders should have been subverted“ in this way. Jabber Downing bellowed back that Mr. Malik should sit down. No hearing loop system was required even for the most profoundly deaf. There was no Help for this Hero.
Councillor Gareth Bacon then waded in, no doubt incensed that his wife’s lack of integrity was exposed for all reasonable men to see. He said a vote had been taken and that was the end of the matter. The minutes were now the official record of events. He indicated councillor Malik should sit down and shut up. Scary Spice bellowed his agreement. His performance is in stark contrast to his rather dull predecessor and I am looking forward to reporting on his antics again. I expect he is already poring over the elusive Constitutional Review to see how he might exploit the rules that permit him to ban anyone from any meeting on any pretext.
The meeting ended at 20:52.