On Sunday this website will be four years old. It didn’t start with any long
term plan, it just sort of evolved. At the outset the blog was an occasional
add-on to the main pages but there can be little doubt
that the tail soon began to wag the dog. The site is now clearly divided into two bits
accessed directly by the .com and .info variants of the domain name. Essentially
the blog and the supporting pages.
For good or bad I don’t think there is any other borough based blog that has taken the same path as Bonkers and I feel that must be due to Bexley council being different to any other in London.
Most days I look at a Greenwich blog and two in Barnet, one seems to specialise in parking issues and constantly trips up NSL and Barnet council at PATAS - the Adjudication service.
The nearest blog in style is probably The BarnetEye but Roger Tichborne its author seems to think Barnet and Bexley councils are alike. I respectfully disagree with Roger.
If a Barnet blogger sends an email to all 63 councillors they may not all reply but some at least will do so. Roger sent such an email only a few days ago and got only eight replies, but that is hugely better than what always happens in Bexley. Send a message to all 63 here - there is a facility to automate it on Bexley’s website - and the response is always the same. Teresa O’Neill will reply saying she has instructed all her disciples not to respond. They are not allowed independent thought.
This is confirmed by the fact that no councillor ever votes against the leader’s line in Bexley; votes are always unanimous. If a Tory councillor should linger and engage in polite conversation when out paths cross in the council chamber they scuttle away if Teresa O’Neill should come into view. One once muttered something about being burned alive by Teresa if we were spotted passing the time of day.
There have been meetings where it has been made absolutely clear that decisions taken at Scrutiny Committee meetings must be approved by the leader beforehand. Teresa O’Neill’s evil influence is everywhere.
Another difference between the two boroughs is that in Barnet the police are independent. When councillor Brian Coleman (Barnet) assaulted a woman who had criticised him he was convicted for it. Criticising councillors has seen me threatened with arrest at the request of Teresa O’Neill
In Bexley when homophobic obscenities were directed at me and traced to a councillor’s IP address, the police informed me at a meeting that their investigation had failed due to “political interference”. You can guess who arranged that.
In Barnet the bloggers are upset because their council has handed over all its services to Capita in one go. In Bexley that has been slipped in over several years, albeit to a variety of contractors, but the end result is the same. There is nothing much left for the Chief Executive to do and we see appalling things happen of which the most recent is the fate of domiciliary care workers being paid illegally low wages.
Recording has long been a feature of Barnet’s meetings but secrecy and a lack of democratic input is a major feature of Bexley. Questions to council are restricted to an hour a year for the near 300,000 population. In Barnet they hold meetings devoted to questions. Six every quarter.
In the final six months of 2013 Barnet council scheduled 124 meetings, Bexley managed 73. They never meet on Friday either, in Barnet they are not so work-shy.
Barnet has two Health committees compared to Bexley’s one which inflates the meeting numbers a bit and so do meetings for engaging with the public but the main committees all meet more often than in Bexley. That’s fewer opportunities for public scrutiny in Bexley and it’ll be easier for Teresa to be pulling the strings.
To quote Boris Johnson, if you hold views different from Teresa you can “get stuffed”.