The last time there was an opportunity for residents
to ask a Cabinet Member
a question was on Guy Fawkes night so it was disappointing to see that there was
only one such question at last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting. It came from the Head Boy of
Trinity School, Belvedere.
Councillors, however, had been saving up questions as if they were their only source of information and the possibility of a quick email across the council’s intranet did not exist. Their list was extensive, 55 of the things!
Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham) was first in the queue of attention seekers keen to give cabinet member Philip Read his opportunity to sing the praises of Bexley council’s Children’s Services which, despite the improvements, remain among the very worst anywhere.
A purple faced Peter Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) preferred to attempt embarrassing the opposition rather than inflating the ego of a cabinet member. He indulged in a spot of fantasy by asking Linda Bailey the likely consequences had the the recent budget vote been lost. Nor was he satisfied with the simple taunting of the opposition, he felt the need to undermine their Parliamentary Candidate’s election campaign too.
When I spotted that question in the Agenda I asked Teresa Pearce if she knew why it had not been weeded out under the election ‘purdah’ rules. She felt it most certainly should have been but I can’t possibly tell you what else she may have said. With no comment from Teresa I can only refer you to yesterday’s comment about senior officers being paid over the odds to buy loyalty.
The intellectual pygmy was obviously on a roll because yet another of Peter Craske’s questions asked if the opposition party had submitted any budget proposals in October 2014. Ditto, November and December 2014. And for good measure January and February 2015 too.
Craske also invited the Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services, Eileen Pallen, to congratulate her staff who were recently short listed for an award. When it comes to talking trivial tripe the man still has few rivals.
Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) is another councillor without the gumption to ping off an email to the Leader but instead asked her if the council’s achievements should be applauded. You will instantly recognise the talent on display at the average Bexley council meting.
Councillor Steven Hall who used to be a nice bloke but has realised that there is no future in Bexley council for men of integrity asked the Leader to deliver a lecture on the importance of Business Rates. The Leader’s is not a backside one would willing choose to crawl up but there is no alternative for aspiring cabinet members at the moment.
Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) didn’t think Philip Read had been offered sufficient opportunity to bleat on about his achievements so he highlighted the well known fact that the 40% permanent staffing levels had been improved by 50% - to an abysmal 60%. He asked Read how that was going to be pushed higher. Everyone else has heard the stories about Irish newly qualified social workers being bribed to come to Bexley, how come Dourmoush didn’t know about them?
Genuine questions were few and far between but Eliot Smith from Trinity School was genuinely concerned about the absence of any safe crossing point outside those premises. His question was addressed to cabinet member Don Massey who was also genuinely concerned - about spending as little money as possible.
Councillor Massey was quick to imply that any problems were the pupils’ fault. “The bus driver involved [in the recent accident] has not been charged with any offence.” In the previous three years the only accident nearby was between two cars with no pedestrians involved. In the known circumstances improvements do not appear to be “an appropriate measure”. Parking patrols had been increased “to approximately once a week” and not for the first time recently councillor Massey quoted the words of one of Bexley’s two remaining Road Safety Officers at the Transport User’s Committee. “There are no safe crossings, only safer crossing.”
Mr. Smith referred to the average speed of vehicles outside his school which when last measured were in excess of the limits. Councillor Massey said that speeding was a police matter but he might refer the issue to the Borough Commander.
He was clearly of the view that the answer lies in improving road users’ behaviour. And that was it. The answer to road safety is the Highway Code and “Look Right, Look Left, and Right Again” or whatever the modern equivalent of the old slogan is.
To the best of my knowledge, Eliot Smith remains a Conservative supporter.
Photographs 1 and 2 by permission of Brian Barnett. Thamesmeadphotos.co.uk.