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Bonkers Blog July 2013

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31 July - In like a lion, out like a lamb

The month of March is supposed to be like that but in July blogging has followed that weather pattern and probably August will continue to be a quiet period. The Licensing and Planning Committees will reluctantly meet but in other areas Bexley council will be on hold.

In all probability one particular councillor will not put in an appearance as a planning committee member in August due to ill health, continuing the pattern of the past three months. If the Bonkers’ postbag is any guide this is creating a strong undercurrent of discontent from residents who consider the situation warrants a by-election but at the same time I can expect criticism from respected quarters for daring to mention the subject again.

DutiesI recognise the sensitivity of the subject and it is a cowardly streak coming to the fore that causes it to be slipped in just hours before the July blog is wrapped up and forgotten. However I am of the opinion that the secrecy surrounding the unfortunate councillor’s predicament is a prime example of the dishonesty at the heart of Bexley council and of its leader Teresa O’Neill in particular; and that is reason enough not bury the subject.

Teresa O’Neill knows that one councillor is no longer able to carry out her duties because of dementia, yet instead of encouraging a resignation she attempts to hide the fact from the electorate. This is a blatant and head on attack on democracy typical of Teresa O’Neill.

The issue has been put to the the MP for the area in question, James Brokenshire, and he is not unexpectedly distancing himself from the dilemma. When asked for an opinion on the following…

Councillors may not be able to force [name redacted] to retire but they should be capable of persuasion.
She is certainly not capable of acting in a responsible way on council committees, particularly planning. Only over the last two/three months has it been arranged for her to have a substitute at planning - and only then because I was kicking up a fuss. This should have been done last year.
I am now having to publicly disseminate the information that [the councillor] is suffering from dementia and incapable of performing her duties as a councillor. If she had been persuaded to retire due to health grounds I would not have had to do so.
Local councillors have treated this serious matter irresponsibly and to [the councillor’s name] public detriment because I understand they do not want the bother of a by-election. (†)

and he carefully and correctly replied…

There is no mechanism to force a councillor to be retired or to be removed in the manner you suggest. Whilst councillors may be elected on the basis of representing a particular political Party, they hold their offices as individuals and cannot - and I would argue should not - be capable of being removed forthwith at the executive edict of their Party.

As is well known, no one can remove a councillor who is too unwell to perform his or her duties so long as he or she can be wheeled into a council meeting once in six months. One can only rely on their conscience. Nothing addresses the problem created by an illness which deprives the victim of their faculties and their conscience.

Sidcup may very well get along with just two councillors, the same might be said for all 63 wards, but what if either of those two should fall ill but remain mobile? The law has no answer to that. In the absence of any shred of honesty by the ruling party there is no recourse for the electorate. Not until next May in Brampton ward anyway.

† Some words removed for reasons of anonymity and brevity.


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