Because of time constraints this is only a brief summary of Tuesday’s People Scrutiny Committee meeting written from contemporaneous notes and a bit of memory thrown in. If time permits the recording will be reviewed at the weekend but no promises. For those who simply must have more detail there is always the webcast to fall back on. Webcasts were due for review in May and the official result has not been made public, but presumably money has been found to keep the leader happy.
Hunt is definitely getting on top of his unwieldy committee and managed to trim
an hour and 20 minutes off the worst excesses of the past by galloping through
his Agenda whenever possible, disallowing questions whenever he could and still making time
for the occasional lame joke. Saddled as he is by She Who Must Be Obeyed with
more than forty people around the table he has no real alternative. Whether that
makes for good scrutiny is another matter entirely, but minimum scrutiny was what SWMBO intended.
I was the only member of the public present which was one more than UKIP managed to muster for the occasion. It may give the wrong impression but in practice it doesn’t make a lot of difference whether UKIP opts out or not. Half the Tories may as well not turn up as they just sit there praying for the end to come quickly. From memory I think all the Labour members managed a question on something or other. Councillor Brenda Langstead won the prize for having most questions rejected. That is, all of them.
Early on in the proceedings police Commander Jeff Boothe was asked about legal highs and whether they were a problem locally and I have seen an awful lot of those Nitrous Oxide canisters littering Abbey Wood recently but if there was an answer to the question I must have nodded off for a moment.
Councillor Alan Downing, an ex-policeman himself seemed anxious to get a pat on the back for Bexley’s CCTV system and confirmation that it helped to reduce crime. The Commander expertly kicked that one into the long grass by saying only that it made people feel better and most wouldn’t want to get rid of it.
The Conservatives have no reason to be proud of the CCTV system, they chose to shore up their vote by installing it in sleepy Bexley village instead of Thamesmead and now they have downgraded it to revenue raiser,
Commander Boothe seemed very aware that I singled him out for more photographs than strictly necessary, the problem was that he always had his eyes shut until the final one. I got him in the end!
The main event of the evening was a discussion on Domestic Violence and there were five speakers on the subject. The police handled an almost unbelievable 2,500 cases last year (Bexley council’s figures) but there have been no deaths since 2008. Council figures again.
Councillor Philip Read said that men were victims too and asked how they were helped. The charity sector said they weren’t, at least not by them locally, but once again the responsible Bexley council officer, Nola Saunders, was on the ball. She said that men represented nearly 20% of initial reports. Then she qualified that figure. She said that a large proportion of them turned out to be pre-emptive strikes by violent males who feared being reported for their actions. A get your complaint in first strategy. Why does that remind me of Bexley council’s unfounded accusations against me?
To the surprise of many, the Fire Commander Richard Welch said that he and his men took an active role in tackling Domestic Violence because he saw it as part of his Public Protection role. He had been holding workshops for those affected and attempting to nip the problem in the bud by offering relationship lessons to local secondary schools. Unfortunately the take up for the latter has not been good. Cabinet Member for Education, John Fuller said he would step in to support the Fire Commander.
From Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith we learned that there are more than 700 Bexley families in temporary accommodation and between ten and 15 of them are in Manchester. The figure bobs up and down over time.
The Care Services continue to be under pressure but six newly qualified social workers are now in employment with another ten beginners due in September. Four new managers are joining the team too. I suppose the alternative might be worse but Bexley seems to be attracting the young and inexperienced fairly readily but real experience continues to be beyond its reach.
A discussion on obesity provided an update on the scheme to refer the overweight to Slimming World and Weight Watchers. Most referrals (85%) are female and their average Body Mass Index is 37·6. The highest was 66·2.
Council staff can get free Weight Watchers sessions without the need for referral by a health professional. Who might have signed up for that?
I was hoping that the discussion would continue into smoking as the Agenda indicated but the subject was skipped. Disappointing as far too many of the aforesaid fat mainly females have a death wish and they probably don’t realise that they smell pretty bad too.
And that was about it. Pages 31 to 90 of the Agenda were dealt with between 21:57 and 22:02 for which I suspect a lot of people were duly thankful. Me included.
The terrible twins Pinky and Perky sat in front of me doing nothing apart from blocking the view. Their total contribution was councillor Read’s question on male victims of violence and a contrived statement that “Bexley is the Listening council”. The Pink one said nothing at all. Craske is not quite the man he used to be since the police nabbed him. Not a single Craske lie has come to my ears in recent times. Maybe the Splash Park decision will push him back into familiar territory where his old skills can be put to good use.