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Bonkers Blog September 2013

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2 September (Part 4) - Defy, fudge or obey. That is the question

Tomorrow evening sees the long awaited meeting of Bexley council’s Constitutional Review Panel, the panel which at its last meeting in April 2011 decided it would be a good idea to break the Data Protection Act. This time its members are even more disreputable than the last lot. The central question of the evening will be whether they comply with government policy, come up with a useless fudge, or continue to defy Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, outright.

One of the things that no one in Bexley has asked for is webcasting but it is seen as a way at paying lip service to democracy while actually doing nothing to encourage ‘citizen journalism’ as Pickles sometimes calls activity via social media.

Experience elsewhere is that no more than two or three people per borough bother to tune in to webcasts, meetings are nearly always a bore and even more so if the public gallery is empty. And then there is the matter of cost, something up to £20,000 for maybe 80 hours. (Bexley council figures.) Around £500 per meeting for no good reason other than a possible temporary face measure for those determined to hold on to as much control as possible.
As can be seen, the control freakery is top priority, as it always is for Bexley council.

While no one has expressed an interest in webcasting, a very few, well one resident anyway, appear to advocate do-it-yourself filming. Personally I cannot see the attraction and as the people who regularly attend committee meetings generally consist of me and members of the Bexley Action Group I think it is reasonable to assume nothing will change whatever the council decides. There is an interest in doing what is not allowed but there is no fun in doing what is permitted.

Nick Dowling took his audio recorder to the shambles which was Cheryl Bacon’s meeting simply to make a point. If he had seriously wanted a make a recording he would have ensured he borrowed a recorder that actually worked.
If the first decision is that webcasting makes unnecessary “recording from outside of the council” all these options become academic.

Next is the only item of interest to me, the taking of the occasional photograph. I regard even that as a likely five minute wonder. Take a few pictures at half a dozen meetings, realise they are all much the same. Don’t bother again. Taking along my longest telephoto lens for a tight close up of the biggest villains might sound attractive but I bet that common sense would soon prevail. Here’s Bexley’s alternative proposals…
One thing is for sure. If Bexley council fails once again to take heed of government advice and fall in line with the norm for local authorities it will be, to quote a comment overheard in the chamber, “another PR disaster” and Bexley council will continue to hog the headlines, not to mention being held up as a bad example by government ministers, for all the wrong reasons.

Surely a sensible council doesn’t spend £20,000 on something unlikely to prove popular and instead lets residents do it for free - if they can be bothered. At least until the next elections when the incoming council can take stock and review the situation at another Constitutional Review Panel meeting.

The only problem I can think of with that is that I will be short of blog material. Oh wait! Mrs. Lynn Tyler wouldn’t be able to write a load of codswallop about what happened at Cheryl Bacon’s Public Realm meeting if someone had a decent recording of it. Bexley council deprived of the opportunity to lie? Hmmm. They aren’t going to like that are they?


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