7 p.m. last night three policeman were guarding the Civic Centre. Probably the
Controller had been tipped off about John Kerlen’s (aka Olly Cromwell) rhetorical Tweet and
called in a favour from the boys in blue yellow. They were bemused to
find the only threat came from four septuagenarians who took five minutes to educate
them about the disreputable crew they had been sent to protect.
When will Bexley council get used to the idea that John Kerlen gets his kicks from harmless, sometimes vulgar and sometimes rhetorical Tweets? Has it already forgotten his “Which wotsit lives in a house like this” was proved in court to be a nonsense tease?
Teresa O’Neill has been to the police several times before, they jump at her command and she has form for trying to criminalise anyone who says so.
For the record the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that the issue of the harassment warnings was wrong, broke police operational procedures and had no validity. A combination of a corrupt council and a police force in hock to it. £159.02 for a meal for police commander Tony Dawson was a shrewd investment.
Can you imagine the manager of the bingo hall opposite the Civic Centre telling the police that in March last year a patron loudly popped a crisp bag and he’d heard he might make a return visit, asking for urgent protection and not being told where he could go? If not you have your proof that Bexley’s police are in council leader Teresa O’Neill’s pocket.
Twice in the past week I have heard Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa bleating on about staff reductions and shortages but one word from Bexley council and he can waste around six man hours satisfying his mistress. Has he not yet realised that there has never been any trouble at any council meeting? For the most part only a bunch of old men turn up and even Olly Cromwell did nothing worse than sitting down and saying nothing when asked to leave. The police station is 100 yards away at the end of a 999 call. The last two borough commanders left under a cloud, in trouble because of their unhealthy associations with Bexley council. Will the new one prove to be just as stupid?
I could of course be wrong about Olly Cromwell and the council was concerned I might demand a desk.
Inside the council chamber access to the best seats was blocked by a total of four armchairs and notices saying they were reserved for councillors. I found a table elsewhere which I assumed was provided for my use.
The meeting itself was a sombre affair lasting just under 40 minutes, most of it taken up by contrition and self-flagellation over their horrendous OFSTED report on safeguarding children in care. While Teresa O’Neill has been telling the electorate porkies in leaflets poked through every letterbox the truth is rather different. Leadership and Management: INADEQUATE. Performance management and quality assurance: INADEQUATE. Quality of Provision. INADEQUATE. Children and young people are safe and feel safe: INADEQUATE. Overall effectiveness: INADEQUATE.
If it wasn’t for the firm suspicion that Cabinet meetings are rehearsed you might think from last night’s performance there was genuine concern but Will Tuckley is still in his job and so is the responsible cabinet member, councillor Katie Perrior.
Tuckley said the OFSTED report was “serious and disappointing”, “very poor” and “clearly not acceptable” but there was “no evidence of systemic poor practice”. A member of staff had been dismissed and a new head of service was appointed. There was “ongoing disciplinary action” involving two more members of staff. The usual shoot the foot soldiers approach.
He had brought in one of his old chums, Dame Moira Gibb, until last year Chief Executive of Camden Council to head up his new ‘Improvement Board’ and the council had found another £1.1 million pounds to spend on child care and her fee.
Sheila Murphy, Bexley’s Deputy Director of Social care, was still in her job too. She said she had a “four key plan” to get child services back on track. Quality and Consistency, Improving Management, Quality Assurance and Improving Culture. Yes, that should do the job.
Whilst recovering from the sight of Will Tuckley in sack cloth and ashes along came Katie Perrior to bare her soul. There was “No excuse, no hiding place and it must never happen again”. “OFSTED have done us a favour, it has put us in the best position because the only way is up”. At any moment she could have broken into Tony Blair’s theme song.
She was “quietly enthusiastic that staff now knew what was expected of them“. She was “delighted by the opportunity”. Bexley was going to be “best in London” and possibly “best in the country”. Well maybe the only way is up and staff do now know what is expected of them but she could hardly have delivered a more damning indictment of her past failures. And this is the woman so on top of her game that Teresa O’Neill loaded her with more work when Peter Craske was drummed out of the club.
Councillor Campbell did his usual thing of warning that money doesn’t grow on trees and it “may need to come from other parts of the organisation”. A sage like councillor Bailey said that “throwing in money doesn’t always solve problems”. Katie Perrior said new IT will ultimately save money and Teresa O’Neill chipped in with “the IT will allow professionals to get on with their professional work”. She indicated they had more often been filing clerks in the past. Cabinet member Chris Taylor was anxious to assure the meeting he was “confident adults are safe”, that being his responsibility.
The meeting moved on to the subject of Council Tax Relief, or rather the lack of it next year. The discussion was very short, it being a subject covered in more depth two weeks ago at the Finance meeting. Councillor Campbell was more than a little concerned for the plight of those on benefits who will eventually have to find around £30 a month. Several hundred people are likely to need help from a £100,000 hardship fund. “It’s not going to be a bed of roses”. If his concern is genuine expect him to be sporting a red one at the next election.
And that was it. All over by 20:10 after a slightly late start. A peak audience of seven people including myself and the three cops were still wondering what they were there for as I passed them on the way out.
One thing unusual about this cabinet meeting was the number of ordinary councillors who had turned up to ogle. Normally there would be two or three but I noted Roy Ashmole, Chris Ball, Val Clark, Peter Craske, John Davey, Ross Downing, Richard Gillespie, James Hunt, Harry Persaud, Philip Read, June Slaughter and Simon Windle. Could they all be there to watch Tuckley squirm?
Once again the members of the public present were acknowledged by just a few. Councillors June Slaughter and John Fuller took the honours, and are you ready for this? Chief Executive Will Tuckley. There’s a first time for everything.