It has been suggested that the council’s refusal to accept questions at its next meeting on 6th March may have something to do with the Civic Recognition Awards which have traditionally been held before the early Spring council meeting, but right now no such ceremony is listed on the Calendar of Meetings.
I have been examining both my own and the council’s records for 2012 to try to gain an insight into what is going on in 2013. A year ago there were two council meetings only a week apart, the first and standard format meeting allowed questions but the second was an extra one which didn’t. Comparing the Agenda for next week’s meeting with last year’s reveals that the standard meeting has gone and only the ‘special’ remains. It must all be part of Teresa O’Neill’s determination to extinguish scrutiny.
You have to go back two years to find any semblance of democracy at Bexley council’s first meeting of the year. In March 2011 the meeting started half an hour later than normal and those who turned up to ask questions at the usual time had little option but to sit quietly through an event of no special interest to them. I even have a photograph of it as photography wasn’t banned until the following month.
Some days after that meeting those whose names were known to the mayor of the time, councillor Val Clarke, were rather surprised to receive a letter at their home address to criticise their lack of interest in the Civic Recognition Awards.
All they did was sit there with a slightly bored look on their face as did I. I thought they had overlooked my failure to clap loudly but unknown to me on the same day that Val Clark dipped her pen into her bottle of vitriol, her boss, Teresa O’Neill was lying to the police claiming that I was organising an assault on the Civic Centre armed with pitchforks and flaming torches - and the police fell for her lies. The rest, as they say, is history.
But you have to admit it; reducing the number of public meetings and disallowing questions is probably a much cleverer way of subverting democracy.