significant part of last Wednesday’s council meeting was the 19 page ‘Report of
the Leader of the Council’ in which she lists her achievements over the past six
months. It wasn’t the last item on the Agenda, that went on for a further
141 A4 pages but most of those were nodded through without comment.
I suppose it is fortunate that the leader chose not to comment on her report but invited questions straight away. Labour councillor Brenda Langstead got the ball rolling with a suggestion that Bexley should ensure its staff (I think Brenda was referring to those employed by agencies and contractors) were paid at least the London Living Wage. Cabinet member Campbell’s response was “we participate in the London pay bargaining scheme” but he refused to “reveal any details of what we put in the budget for pay rises”.
Opposition leader Chris Ball shifted the ground to fostering and adoption and if I heard him correctly was particularly interested in the time such procedures were currently taking. Cabinet member Katie Perrior told him she had been advertising services on the back of buses, revised leaflets, improved the website and held an open day in Medway, but I didn’t hear her answer the question. Perhaps the defective microphones were to blame.
Councillor Crawler Camsey gave cabinet member John Fuller an opportunity to restate that Bexley does pretty well in providing parents with their first choice for their children’s schools. Third best in London according to Fuller.
Labour councillor Stefano Borella had more serious things on his mind when he reminded the leader that domiciliary care workers are being employed on zero hours contracts and weren’t being paid for their travelling time. Teresa O’Neill replied that “we don’t employ care workers” thereby appearing to wash her hands of the hardship her council is causing, but she did claim that “our care workers are better off than Greenwich care workers”. Hang on a minute… “Our care workers”? I thought she just said that Bexley didn’t employ any care workers. One thing is certain though, we have a ‘Woman Who Doesn’t Care’ as well as Chris Taylor, ‘The Man Who Doesn’t Care’. One up to Stefano for exposing the real and callous Teresa O’Neill.
Councillor John Waters was concerned about the mud bath which is Danson Park after a wet winter and cabinet member Don Massey reported on the remedial action taken. He said “the Danson Festival is currently in the lap of the gods”.
Councillor Val Clark wished to congratulate Tony Hughes (Head of Operational Services) on his sterling performance in keeping the borough’s roads open through the winter. I wish to second that, a good bloke always ready to swing into action to fix a reported problem. Someone should vote him some extra money to fix the pot holes. The past winter seems to have done even more damage than usual. Not nearly as bad as I see on my weekly trip to Newham though, they’ve been neglecting them for years. I could show you one which must be 15 inches deep; but enough of this digression.
After spending 30 minutes on the leader’s report, it was time to skip rapidly through 13 reports from the scrutiny committee chairmen. Most were deemed unworthy of comment.
The one chaired by councillor Maxine Fothergill which supposedly examined the effectiveness of the other scrutiny committees provoked most comment. One Conservative member had already whispered to me that it was a complete waste of time so to hear the same from Labour’s Alan Deadman and Seán Newman was not a big surprise. There is “a lack of transparency” and “a tyranny of the majority”, comments which provoked a chorus of jeering from that majority. The cretinous mayor Downing failed to bring his attack dogs to heel.
Councillor Philip Read said the committee’s report was “well balanced and constructive”.
Sean (or was it Alan, my notes have failed me) went on to remind the leader of her refusal to accept a 2,219 signature petition and referred to it as a “democratic deficit”. The leader has “an inability to scrutinise patronage” and “failed to hold the executive to account”. Alan said the whole thing had been “a total waste of money”.
Council leader Teresa O’Neill said her version of democracy “is the result of the electors [who provided her majority]. Don’t give us any lessons on not allowing free speech”, she said.
Maxine Fothergill said she spent 270 hours working for the committee she chaired and that “Labour’s attendance was disappointing”. Councillor Alan Deadman, who as a consequence of being a member of more than a few committees, said he suffered unavoidable date clashes. However Stefano Borella came out with something far more interesting, he suggested that Ms. Fothergill was paid for her efforts.
After that the discussion degenerated, if that is possible, into a pointless argument about who introduced Bexley’s cabinet system.
As the meeting drew to a close and the debate had moved on to “Health and Wellbeing’, Labour councillor Gill MacDonald asked the leader if she could accommodate an opposition member on the Board. Teresa said “No”. I suppose that is “the result of the electors” too. Perhaps we would be better off not voting Tory next year.
Incidentally, as I left the chamber, I could have sworn I heard someone say that councillor Lucia-Hennis is to be deputy mayor from next month, with councillor Sharon Massey as head girl.