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Bonkers Blog March 2013

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23 March - Because she can

Complaints procedureI’m not very good at complaints. I’ve been known to make one and when the postman eventually delivered a response to chuck it unopened in the bin because so much time has gone by I’ve lost interest. I’m quite good at boycotts however. I’ve only just gone back to Marks & Spencer after returning an umbrella that had rusted away in only four months in 1968 and the manager of the Aldershot branch told me he couldn’t replace it because “I must have got it wet”. ASDA in Belvedere stands no chance of getting my money after their mail order operation swindled me a few months ago.

So I’m full of admiration for the elderly gentleman who batted letters to and from Bexley council for two and a half years after the crooks admitted they had fined him after they ignored statutory procedures but wouldn’t admit that what they did was illegal. Illegality is Bexley council’s hallmark. Publishing residents’ addresses contrary to the Data Protection Act, not making meeting Agendas available to the public, operating without a Constitution; you name it, they’ve done it.

The guys from the Bexley Council Monitoring Group (BCMG) don’t share my reluctance to complain and they jump through Bexley council’s hoops frequently. The procedure seems to be; write a letter of complaint (Stage 1), chase the council three weeks later when they’ve not heard anything. Get an evasive answer, tell them it isn’t good enough (Stage 2). Get a damn fool or dishonest answer. Complain about it (Stage 3). Be told that Bexley council has nothing more to say, then go to the Information Commissioner or Local Government Ombudsman and start all over again.

Bexley council seems to have given up on this game and has taken to breaking its own rules. It’s happened twice recently to my knowledge. (†)

You will recall that when Peter Craske got himself in a spot of bother last year he left the Cabinet and the Fib Controller passed most of his responsibilities to councillor Gareth Bacon. It slowly dawned on some people that he was then subject to scrutiny by his wife. Hardly best practice one would have thought. The BCMG complained that it was not in the public interest for the scrutiny function to be compromised in this way. Mr. Tuckley replied that Teresa O’Neill was legally entitled to do absolutely what she liked and her decision was approved by council, so there was nothing whatever he could do. The BCMG went in with the Stage 2 complaint and got this reply…
Tuckley's reply
So there is no avenue left apart from immediate escalation to the Local Government Ombudsman. As yet I have no idea whether that is planned. On the other hand we do know that councillor leader Teresa O’Neill is more than willing to sacrifice accountability if it keeps her dishonourable little clique happy. And residents pay the price.

Because she can. A reference to the leader’s dictatorial answer to a question last year.
† Within 25 minutes of this blog entry going on line two more examples were relayed to me. The procedure may save time on all sides but it deprives the complainant of his right under Bexley council’s own rules to have more than one person assess the validity of the complaint.


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