The coming of webcasts and recording by any member of the public has resulted
in sanitized and often dull council meetings with only councillor Philip Read
determined to make an idiot of himself. But it wasn’t always thus.
In the good old days when the only witnesses were a few old men from the Bexley Action Group, councillors Craske and Campbell were content to insult them at will safe in the knowledge that any Standards Board (as it was called then) meeting would find them innocent of all wrong doing. Other Conservative councillors would happily aim insults at the Labour “tossers” - sorry, opposition members.
Anyone who has attended council meetings for more than a couple of years will remember those chaired by councillor Val Clark with special affection. Not content with criticising those asking questions she would abuse her position by looking up the addresses of the public present and berating them in letters to their homes. So it was with some sense of nostalgia that I made my way to the council chamber last night for a meeting of the Transport Users Committee chaired by none other than councillor Val Clark.
She was not expecting me.
She was not expecting anyone.
Not a single chair was provided other than for committee members. There was no table for any journalist or blogger who might wish to report on the meeting. (Illegal). There were no Agendas available for members of the public which made the meeting very difficult to follow. (Illegal again.)
It was said that the sound system was switched off (probably another offence) so nobody attempted to use it except that towards the end the two Labour members, councillors Borella and Francis, managed to get their microphones to work.
So not the finest hour for democracy in Bexley. The committee had obviously adopted a relaxed attitude free from the public’s gaze and the chairman, for the most part, just sort of sat there and let it happen. The two Labour members observed the tradition of raising their hands to be asked to speak whereas the four Conservatives present (of which only two said anything at all) simply interrupted when they felt like it, cabinet member Don Massey being the principal offender. I wouldn’t say it was bad in the circumstances, it was just a contrast to the usual stage managed meetings that have become the norm.
A few snippets of information were obtained. A brief summary coming later.
Note: The committee officer allowed me to use the chair of a committee member who had not shown up. She was unable to find a table. It’s fortunate that I had not persuaded Mick Barnbrook to come with me or there would be complaints being penned right now.