Take six seconds if you can to listen to the wise words of councillor Alex Sawyer. He was speaking at last week’s People Scrutiny meeting and said that that was not the place for councillors to “tear chunks out of each other”. A moment later, chairman James Hunt confirmed that ‘tearing chunks’ was something to be done under the mayor’s chairmanship at full council meetings.
Having established what is reasonable behaviour at scrutiny meetings the
committee moved on to discussing children’s services which is the domain of the far from reasonable
cabinet member, Philip Read.
There can be little doubt that Bexley went right off the children’s services rails under the stewardship of former councillor Katie Perrior and after a lot of effort and taxpayers’ cash was thrown at the problem, things are getting better although Bexley still trails most London boroughs on most child related things. Philip Read is keen that the improvement message should get around and I am happy to oblige, but woe betide anyone who isn't wholly enthusiastic about the progress made over the past year.
At the last council meeting (more than three months ago!) the Labour opposition put forward a Motion that was critical of children’s services. It came from the youthful and female councillor Ogundayo, both attributes which traditionally get under Philip Read’s collar. The Motion caused panic among the Tory ranks and the public were thrown out of the chamber while the Conservatives flung insults with the microphones switched off, away from the cameras’ prying eyes.
Ms. Ogundayo has not been forgiven for having the temerity to criticise Bexley’s self appointed elder statesman. At the People meeting he let rip without a word from chairman Hunt who a quarter of an hour earlier had said that ‘tearing chunks’ was not appropriate at a scrutiny meeting. Either James Hunt is a poor chairman or he has a vested interest in demonstrating how big an idiot Read can prove himself to be.
However it was councillor Peter Craske who set things up for Read by asking a question relating to the Motion. He pulled the same stunt for councilor Sawyer at the last People Scrutiny meeting. Read had his speech prepared and gratefully grasped the line that Craske had thrown to him.
The clown said that the Motion contradicted OFSTED’s comments and that councillor Mabel Ogundayo wrote an unsigned letter to advise him that she had heard of a child who had been trafficked to Ireland, something that was later found to be incorrect. Apparently she was guilty of writing the letter using too many capital letters. In reporting the supposed case directly to Read and not to Children’s Services she had breached her duty of care towards the child. Another capital offence obviously.
Councillor Ogundayo, said Read, had either lost her evidential letter or shredded it and did not communicate with him again. He was critical of the fact that when given the opportunity to respond to his previous attack on councillor Ogundayo, she refused to do so. Ogundayo was guilty of wasting Read’s time and that of council staff and “members will make their own judgment of councillor Ogundayo’s conduct”. All councillors, he said, are of the opinion that “she did not write the original Motion and it was the work of Labour’s master strategists”, to mutters of “outrageous” from the opposition side.
Read’s final comment was that councillor Ogundayo had failed to substantiate the Motion put forward in her name. Can anyone tell me why that question is being asked three and a half months after the Motion was put to council? Wasn’t it fully discussed then or were the Conservatives not paying attention while too busy throwing mud?
Conscious of the fact that she had been criticised for not responding last time councillor Ogundayo opted to do so last Tuesday. She reiterated that the OFSTED and London Councils’ reports on Bexley both said Bexley was not good and; living dangerously, councillor Ogundayo referred to Read’s readiness to make “personal attacks on councillors to score cheap political points” in the face of “continuing failures” and instead Read should “devote his remaining energy to protecting children” in the borough.
The hooligans jeered.
Councillor Read complained that councillor Ogundayo was reading from something
written in advance apparently forgetting that councillor Craske had only a few
minutes before provided him with the pre-arranged hook which enabled him to
spout from his own pre-prepared speech. Does he think we are all as stupid as he is?
Councillor Read complained that councillor Ogundayo was making “cheap political points”. Her Motion was “a disaster, it was inept, it was ill founded, ill conceived and long out of date”. Councilor Ogundayo reminded Read that the most recent London council’s report still reflected very badly on Bexley. Read said London Councils were out of date.
At this point, and exactly nine minutes too late, chairman James Hunt woke up and put a stop to further discussion.
Next time councillor Ogundayo is given information about a Bexley child at risk she should consider shrugging her shoulders and walking away. Why risk ridicule from Read when forgetfulness is the safe option? Perhaps that is how Bexley came to sink to its parlous state?
In my nigh on five years observing council meetings it has only ever been Conservatives who shout, jeer and indulge in personal insults. That's a fact.