arranged to meet Mr. Barnbrook at the Civic Offices last night to hand over
some of the evidence that he needs to support his allegations of criminal
activity, some might call it inactivity, against Chief Executive Will Tuckley
and at the same time take in the Audit Committee meeting under its new chairman
councillor Joe Pollard. If you find yourself asking “who is Joe Pollard?” that’ll
be because he has only been mentioned here twice before; once when his partner
Brian Silk branded UKIP supporters homophobes and again when he was given
two lines in October 2013.
He’s not going to get much of a mention here either as at such a small gathering when only two councillors said anything, and one of those almost nothing, during the first 45 minutes, the meeting runs itself. No chairman required; but I am getting ahead of myself.
As I passed through the imposing if rather ugly entrance to 2 Watling Street I noted a dozen or more union strike banners looking rather wet and sorry for themselves dumped by a long departed picket line. It crossed my mind that I should photograph them but decided there would never be a need for one; a decision I came to regret.
The Audit Committee has traditionally convened in a back room of the old offices and the only thing going for it was the comfy chairs. The doughnut shaped committee seating arrangements providing poor visibility and the lack of microphones and a hearing loop for the hard of hearing would all be addressed by the £42 million glass and polished wood palace we were told. Was it heck! As Mick and I entered the meeting room, Finance Director Mike Ellsmore in full demob happy mode (he goes in September) welcomed us by name and apologised for the dreadful hard chairs.
There was still no hearing loop and the constant noise from the air conditioning (I assume) ensured that I could hear only when listening most intently and when the subject matter is inherently boring that can be hard to do.
I could hear council officer David Hogan reasonably well but could not see him but it was just too difficult to follow what his colleague whispering Stephen Stuchbury was saying. I’m afraid I gave up.
Apart from Mick and me there was one other member of the public present, assuming he was and not an interested council officer as is often the case. But the public were not the only people not much interested in the Audit Committee; no Labour member showed up, nor for that matter did the people from Grant Thornton the auditors, held up in the aftermath of the accident at J4 of the M25.
The only interesting bit of information I picked up from the meeting was that an audit had found more than 1,100 residents in possession of a Blue Badge allocated to residents who had deceased; which is not quite the same thing as found using them, and that no resident had been spied on over the past year under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Not even me.
Councillor Steven Hall asked a stream of questions as you might expect from the outgoing Audit Committee chairman but few or even none were of any general interest but at least he provided a cheap shot title for today’s blog.
Forty five minutes after the meeting started the Grant Thornton man turned up and blocked my view of the councillors. Mick Barnbrook leaned over towards me and said he had not heard a word so far and now he couldn’t see either felt he might as well go home. As I had to be up at 4 a.m. this morning (long story!) the idea seemed more than usually attractive, so we both did.
Within minutes of getting home I noticed that one of the missing Labour councillors was busy Twittering about football. I asked him if he had forgotten the meeting and received the replies you can see here. I’m disgusted to be honest.
I can just about understand a dyed in the wool leftie turning up for work and retreating when confronted by a picket line but these two were not trying to get to work and there was no picket line.
The people of Erith and Belvedere elected Joe Ferreira and Daniel Francis to represent their views and concerns at council and by implication their children’s needs too. Bexley council has made an absolute mess of caring for children in recent years with three of them ending up dead as an arguably direct result, and a councillor thinks his loyalty to a striking union is far more important than bringing a failing council - or maybe failed Deputy Director if some insiders are to be believed - to account!
I voted Labour for the first time in my life in May, I haven’t regretted it until now although some do genuinely care about the disadvantaged and do something about it. Nevertheless I suspect I have now blown any prospect of closer relations with the opposition party, but as always telling it like it is must be top priority. Just because too many Bexley Tories cannot be trusted doesn’t automatically make the other lot saints.
I emailed my councillor Daniel Francis at 17:09 on Saturday 18th August 2001 (Mick Barnbrook doesn’t really believe that I never delete email) to complain that the Chief Executive quickly answered easy questions but ignored those suggesting the council’s interpretation of the law was a little suspect.
The email referred to a question posed the previous Autumn and another from May 2001. Councillor Francis merely passed on my complaint to the Chief Executive which was not a lot of help and all I got in return was a letter from Alan Twyman, someone in the Chief Executive’s office, dated 12th October and copied to councillor Francis threatening to label me vexatious if I dared to complain again. Nothing much changes does it? Councillor Francis did nothing in my defence and as you can tell, I remember these things.
Something else that hasn’t changed is that Mick Barnbrook is going to complain about the new building not complying with equalities legislation. He says that he was told it would do and he is getting to be as deaf as a post.