That's blog writing, not just keeping a park open in the face of political intransigence.
Council meetings are a lot more interesting when I don’t have to listen in near solitary splendour trying to take note of anything interesting and the inevitable inconsistencies which arise when councillors stray from the truth. So yesterday’s cabinet meeting had the potential to be a good one, there were two campaign groups waiting on the steps when I arrived.
Once inside they spread themselves across all three public gallery seating areas the total number must have been well in excess of 60 more likely 80. A large gathering by cabinet meeting standards.
My usual technique for reporting meetings is to audio record it and make a note of the time and the speaker’s name when anything interesting is said. Eventually I listen to the whole recording but the notes ensure I miss nothing drawn to my attention live.
The process typically takes two to three times the length of the meeting, tackling the longer ones in manageable segments, and generally finishing up with 5% to 10% of spoken statements, often in shortened form, committed to the blog. I confess that figure is a best guess.
Yesterday’s meeting confounds that process because almost all of it was interesting, the monetary facts, the budgetary decisions to be made, the arguments, the arrogance, the mendacity and the insults. Yes, councillor Peter Craske was back on form belittling residents as he did in the good old days before the cops felt his collar.
It’s amazing that council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Old Boy’s Ethics) reappointed him. It must be the case that it is either deliberate provocation of his many critics, that he has something on her for his own protection, or there is simply a lack of talent within Bexley council.
Not all the principal speakers descended to Craske’s level of debate, I was rather impressed by one or two and I suspect some campaigners will fall out with me for saying so but one can only tell it as it is or maybe that should be as I see it.
What makes large gatherings such as was seen yesterday so welcome is that more people get to know the truth about Bexley council. I occasionally get emails along the lines of ‘Great read thank you, but it’s all exaggeration isn’t it?’.
I always check every blog for exaggeration and strive to avoid it. There is simply no need to stretch the truth. Meetings like yesterday’s serve to make that very obvious to even more people.
The Splash Park campaigners had asked councillors to put pertinent questions to the cabinet, Peter Craske in particular, but not a single Conservative dared offer any opposition - though the same was not true for Old Farm Avenue Park.
There was a good turn out of Conservatives considering the meeting was held in school holiday time instead of the customary ten days beforehand.
The noted absentees were Cheryl and Gareth Bacon, Linda Bailey, Nigel Betts, Brian and Christine Bishop, Christine Catterall, Graham D’Amiral, John Davey, Andy Dourmoush, Alan and Ross Downing, Maxine Fothergill, Louie French, Steven Hall, David Hurt, Geraldene Lucia-Hennis, Sharon Massey, Nick O’Hare, Joseph Pollard, Melvin Seymour, Colin The Splash Park Must Go Tandy and John Waters.
The notable absentee on the Labour side was Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) who has been the driving political force for the Splash Park. Yesterday’s date was in his diary nine months ago but for a vital commitment that took him a long way from Bexley and not the cabinet meeting. Now you might guess why the Cabinet meeting was uniquely deferred to the school holidays. It was the talk of the gossiping classes but given the dirty tricks for which Bexley council is renowned it would be folly to discount the story.
The formal report on the cabinet meeting will necessarily be presented in small chunks over several days. Commitments in Newham have got worse rather than better this week.