There was a another scrutiny committee meeting last night; Resources, and
whilst not uninteresting is the
least likely of the three to provide eye catching headlines.
I didn’t want to go, it was raining, the Civic Offices’ automatic front door didn’t want to open. A jobsworth on the front desk would not let me in until 19:29 and made me sign a register. She insulted my intelligence by saying that in case of fire the register would inform her who was in the building while councillors and staff were leaving and entering freely. Without a name badge she wouldn’t be able to match my signature against my charred body anyway.
Once inside I took my place behind the gap in chairman Steven Hall’s ‘doughnut’ and immediately took the photograph which appears below. (Not everybody had arrived.)
The last time I attended a Resources meeting I had to change seat because I could see even less than usual. Steven Hall, for perfectly good reasons, had changed the seating layout to something that made more sense to him, and, for his purposes, to me as well if I am honest. However it meant it went from something like a horseshoe to the aforesaid view blocking doughnut.
Last night he had arranged a decent size bite out of the doughnut and the view was better than at most meetings in that damned awful council chamber. Steven’s scheme will work for the public so long as almost none turns up. Someone must have anticipated that last night because only one copy of the Agenda was available for the public. However there were two of us. Fortunately the other one, John Watson, uses the occasion to catch up on his correspondence without having to pay for heating his home and so had no need of an Agenda.
When chairman Hall first introduced his new seating plan and I had to move to get any sort of view at all, councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) commented on the change in defence of observers. It was good of him to do so but he could have said the same at any meeting and the liars who run Bexley Conservative’s website used his support for open democracy as an excuse to claim it was his only contribution to the budget debate. As I said, liars through and through.
The inadequacy of the new council chamber can be traced directly back to council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Overspent Building Extravagance). She was hell bent on converting an ancient building society headquarters designed to store millions of paper files before the widespread use of desktop computers into an edifice for her self-gratification. It was “iconic” she said and its roof could be seen from miles around.
O’Neill OBE (Other Building Excluder) said it would cost £36 million to convert and wanted nothing to do with a rebuild on the old Broadway site which council officers recommended at a cost of less than £30 million.
Just think of how much better off the borough would be now if Teresa O’Neill had not indulged in her own personal vanity project. Instead of a badly lit dance floor we could have had a properly designed debating chamber, but that is not all.
Where there is now a bombsite blighting Bexleyheath would stand a modern building. Tesco would own the Watling Street site and be in the process of selling it off for housing instead of whatever they have in mind for Broadway. Chief Executive Paul Moore mumbled something about mixed retail and housing developments on the Broadway bombsite a few days ago but refused to elaborate. Watling Street will be increasingly marginalised and divorced from the town centre.
Most importantly of all, the borough would not be in such dire financial straits as it is now. The conversion bodge job in Watling Street ended up costing £42 million, in the region of £14 million more than a purpose build on Broadway. Just think what could be done with that amount of money? There might be no talk of selling off 26 parks and open spaces for a start.
Councillors who elected Teresa O’Neill to the top job when her predecessor Ian Clement went to the GLA where his fraud was not overlooked as was the £2,200 filched in Bexley and who continue to elect her have a lot to answer for.
This is a bit of an early morning rant isn’t it but an occasional reminder of a major reason for Bexley being in the financial mire should be regurgitated once in a while. There is no getting away from the fact that Teresa O’Neill has presided over a general decline of the borough lifted only here and there by TfL money. It is little wonder that she would like those who revisit the past to be silenced by her police friends.
More formal meeting report later. The Places meeting is not done with yet.