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Bonkers Blog June 2013

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20 June (Part 3) - Public Realm report : Round 2

The morning did not go according to plan. I should have known better than to expect anything else but there is more you should know about last night. For a start, what the heck is the Bexley Action Group?

I was never a member of John Watson’s Bexley Council Monitoring Group but from what I can gather John is no longer able to commit time to it and has not put in an appearance at its meetings for three or four months. John, the group’s founder, was always a bit proprietorial about its name, hence the new title for the remaining members. As it implies, they intend to ratchet things up a bit having grown tired of mere monitoring. I would not be surprised to see them all put themselves up for election next May.

Bexley Action GroupFollowing last evening’s fiasco in the council chamber it seemed appropriate for the group to hold its inaugural meeting there. See picture.

I’m tempted to join the new group, in fact I have already made a donation to its fighting fund.

Nick Dowling is pleased with the way things went last night and is hoping to be banned from attending future meetings as that will make his story even more attractive to the press than it is already.

Among those 350 people who have sent emails of support and encouragement are some who I consider ‘regulars’ who have built up a reputation for good information and among them is a legal eagle who posts from his chambers or scruffy office and likes to help when he can. I’ve not had time to check this out yet but this morning’s contribution reads as follows…

There is no general power to hold a meeting in private. Under S.O.74, meetings must be held in public unless business of a confidential nature is to be discussed within the meaning of Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, but in that case a motion must be passed making specific reference to that Act (S.O.74(3)).

Under Standing Order 75(6), "In the event of a general disturbance which in the opinion of the Chairman renders the due and orderly despatch of business impossible, he may, in addition to any other power vested in him/her, adjourn the meeting for such period as he/she shall consider expedient." However, there is no power then to resume the meeting in private, if the business to be conducted has not been specified as confidential.

It would appear that your council is in breach of the Local Government Act 1972.

I can see Mick Barnbrook reaching for his green inked complaint pen even now.

No doubt you are expecting the link to the audio file to come up next but my inclination has always been not to indulge in such things. You have to be a bit strange to attend council meetings in the first place, you’d need to be totally mad to want to listen to it afterwards.

As a bit of an audio snob myself I asked Nick after the meeting how he hoped to get a decent recording in a room where it is never easy to hear anything. In my opinion you’d need nothing less than a £600 condenser mic on a boom, not some tuppenny ha’penny apology for a microphone in a matchbox. Nick agreed there was no chance of making a decent recording as he didn’t own a suitable machine and the best he had managed was to borrow one from a friend, which had been dropped and didn’t work any more. He’d not even bothered to put a battery in it. I once thought Nick was some stuffy accountant sort of fellow but he is just a big joker after all.

So now it seems you can get a meeting stopped just by clutching a silver box and quoting Eric Pickles. It might be fun next time for all attendees to secret a silver box around their person and after the police had asked the first box owner to leave and the fuzz had gone away, the next person would produce his box and start the cycle all over again. Any volunteers?

So what if anything is Bexley council going to charge Nick with now? It can’t be attempting to break their ban on recording. Is it a crime to indulge in make-believe and engage an idiot chairman in debate?


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