In some ways last night’s cabinet meeting was business as usual. i.e.
everything had been stitched up privately following which a rubber stamping
machine was briefly put on show.
However there were also differences. I am aware of six people who asked to record the meeting in one form or another and I half expected to see the police posted outside but instead the cabinet had settled for two security men stationed in the chamber. Just an idle gesture because you can be sure that if they had touched anyone there’d be assault charges made. Extra barricades had been erected, well carefully placed tables and chairs to be precise, to prevent access to the top table.
The usual suspects (six) were in attendance, a couple I had noticed at a recent UKIP meeting, a Bonkers reading couple from Abbey Wood (nice to meet you R.), and four more hungry to see democracy in action. As is usual at cabinet meetings two representatives of Bexley’s lie factory (Press Office) were also in the public gallery.
Before the meeting started Elwyn Bryant asked his local councillor if he could “have a word”. The answer was “please go away I have no intention of speaking to you”. When Elwyn protested “but you are my councillor” he said “I feel threatened by you”. Mr. Bryant is 76 years old and cannot quite muster 5'8" and ten stone. His councillor is the TV celebrity Colin Campbell who just two days previously had announced that Bexley council allows meetings to be filmed.
Mr. Barnbrook was in exuberant form having spent the afternoon celebrating a birthday and wished to avail himself of the facility exhibited on a notice in the foyer below, to ask a question. Tyrannical O’Neill the power crazed leader of the council said “There are no provisions for members of the public to ask questions. You are not entitled to ask a question because you are not an elected member”. What’s this council’s slogan? Ah yes, “Listening to you. Working for you”.
The meeting began at 19:32 with a longer than usual diatribe from the leader about photography and the like. She may as well have said “over my dead body” and there may well be some who look forward to that. “The 2010 (†) statement about filming still stands and I shall not give permission in the light of the [new] DCLG guidance.”
She dangled the prospect of a change following a Constitution Review Committee meeting next September. She waffled on about needing to respect members of the public who do not wish to be photographed or filmed, which doesn’t bother her when the cameras are fixed to Parking Attendants’ helmets, nor does it make any sense when you consider any photograph I might take would be from ‘my’ front desk and not include anyone but councillors. But we are dealing with someone who cannot open her mouth without a lie emerging from it.
My suspicion is that our lying leader will set up some scheme whereby a council officer with a video camera on a tripod will film proceedings for later streaming on the council’s website. Not what the government had in mind at all.
Teresa’s lies brought us to 19:36 and Page 11 of the Agenda. Mr. Ellsmore the Finance Director then came out with his brief spiel about going £2·3 million over budget on children’s services but being £4 million to the good overall. 26 pages of Agenda in two minutes.
Mrs. Richardson was more interesting, informing us in her usual admirably clear manner that Old Bexley School was to be expanded. Seven pages in five minutes.
No one had anything to say about the next 36 Agenda pages - Safeguarding Children’s Services - so the lottery fund application for Lesnes Abbey Woods was discussed from 19:45. They are looking for £2·9 million. Councillors Gareth Bacon and Don Massey found a few platitudes and another 12 pages were rubber stamped.
Cabinet member Chris Taylor made a few comments about Adults’ Services from 19:47, another twelve pages done and dusted.
Finally Chief Executive Will Tuckley piped up at 19:51 to say the council had yet to capitalize on the Public Health rearrangements. Not sure what he had in mind but he has to justify his existence somehow. Game over at 19:54.
121 pages of Agenda proposals all moved, seconded and approved in 22 minutes. 18 if you exclude the introductory photographic prevarications. Good job they had rigged it all beforehand or I might think they were a bunch of skivers and not just a motley collection of frauds and scoundrels.
Note: With no photography permissible I’ve had to commission an artist to give us an impression of the fork-tongued dictator.
† I’m not sure where this 2010 reference comes from. No one ever tried to film a meeting until March 2011 and the council hastily changed its constitution a month later.