Agenda Item 9 (Financial Plans) was over and done with within seconds. It
consisted only of the leader asking that they were approved, seconded by deputy
leader Gareth Bacon without the assistance of their designated Jack in the Box,
Graham D’Amiral, so the mayor moved on to Item 10.
Item 10 is Committee Chairmen’s reports which can be a bore if like me, but unlike most councillors, you’ve been to most of the meetings and have already acquired some idea of what has gone on.
The Jack in the Box sprung to attention to move that the reports were all adopted without discussion and little Sir Echo Brad Smith did likewise. However a few had already been previously queried (excepted is the jargon) by the opposition.
Cabinet member Don Massey stood up to object to the opposition being allowed to speak quoting Standing Order 28. It was some obscure point about not correctly identifying the excepted items. A lack of correct numerical punctuation or something equally trivial. He did so to cries of Hear Hear from the assembled Tory sheep. The mayor said it was “an interesting interpretation” of the rules. Councillor Don Massey fought back with another obscure but equally asinine argument.
The mayor overruled the sheep but one of them, councillor Sharon Massey rose to her feet, after some prompting, to dip her oar in. The mayor was wrong!
The mayor put her, shorn of all her woolly thinking, firmly back in her pen and carried on regardless.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour) commented on the Licensing Committee’s inconsistent judgments and was presumably referring to the incident at The Charlotte, but he was too discreet to say so.
Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour leader) said the Licensing Committee was feeling the loss of an experienced police officer for which he was reprimanded by Sharon Bossey for in effect criticising the newcomer. Whoops! She may have had a point.
Moving on to the report by James Hunt the People chairman, councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour) wanted to raise the subject of Belvedere’s Splash Park on behalf of “the thousands of people” who are against its closure. She asked for the pollution figures for previous years mentioned by cabinet member Sawyer at the previous Saturday’s protest meeting. “You cannot build a community without infrastructure” she said to some applause.
Councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP) tried to raise an issue relating to burglaries and the police only to be struck down by councillor John Waters, if I recognise his voice correctly from the audio recording, on some procedural matter. He was overruled by the mayor but a commotion broke out with various unidentified voices being raised.
The mayor calmed them and apologised to councillor Beazley and asked him to proceed. I think I am warming to this mayor.
However Chris was again warned about going off topic and the mayor offered advice. Friendly but not very helpful. Chris Beazley knew he was beaten by the system and “basically I have just been silenced again”. His colleague Lynn Smith said that Bexley council is a dictatorship. She is learning fast.
Councillor David Leaf stood up to lecture the multitude on the dangers of E. coli as if we didn’t know and a Labour voice, maybe it was Joe Ferreira, stood to say something but was greeted only by Tory groans. Leaf went on to berate Labour for building the Splash Park in the first place until pulled up and put in his place by the mayor.
Cabinet member Alex Sawyer rose to make some points hopefully more relevant to the present position. He referred to the protest meeting last Saturday and implied he did not find it a pleasant experience. He said he wasn’t invited to the meeting, he happened to find out about it and decided to go. The pollution figures he was asked for at the meeting and which councillor Langstead had just requested again are not yet available and may never be.
Sawyer said he did not enjoy not having any figures to give to angry residents at meetings although for the record I think he acquitted himself pretty well on that point in the circumstances. His position seemed reasonable enough to me and probably there are no figures for previous years. Not his fault.
The cabinet member repeated his assertion that the Splash Park was old technology which, he added, was on the way out when it was installed. The Splash Park protesters say it is still available new from the distributor. Maybe it is but I couldn’t find it on their website. Sawyer also repeated his ‘not good enough for my child so not good enough for yours’ story which is easy to say but without the figures for earlier years and no knowledge of why they are supposed to have got worse, may not mean a lot.
He summed up by saying that “if someone has a magic wand and can come up with a solution which is both revenue and capital neutral” he will look at it. “In an ideal world I would like to save the Splash Park but I have to work with what I have got and the budget of the council is the budget of the council”.
Call me a pessimist if you like but I recognise that as council code for the Splash Park being a goner.
People Scrutiny Committee chairman James Hunt summed up by saying that he had no idea what councillor Langstead had been talking about and the chairman brought the discussion to a welcome close before any more councillors made fools of themselves.
There are only 20 minutes left on the recording of this council meeting and tomorrow I shall check if there is anything worth reporting. Hopefully not.
Note: There is a Splash Park meeting in Belvedere tonight, The Royal Standard, Nuxley Road at 19:30. Maybe I will be given cause for optimism.