Yesterday evening’s council meeting was a celebratory affair. An opportunity
for Tories to slap each other on the back, move a few deckchairs around the
ship to make room for prodigal sons whose sins have been forgiven and display
the usual arrogance and contempt for democracy. Something some elderly ladies
sitting close to me were quick to observe.
The main object of the evening was the game of Buggin’s Turn in which councillor Sybil Camsey was due to be made mayor. The Labour group put forward their preferred candidate, councillor Edward Boateng, and Conservative John Wilkinson proposed his Brampton ward mate Sybil Camsey.
John Wilkinson may have assumed during his address that the election of councillor Camsey was a foregone conclusion but the leader who seconded the appointment avoided that mistake and councillor Camsey was predictably elected with 100% of the Tory vote. Councillor David Hurt had already been selected as deputy mayor.
I have never thought much of councillor Camsey and that stems from her assertion in July 2011 when she said that Bexley council never takes any notice of petitions, so Elwyn Bryant, who had embarked on one at the time, would be well advised not to waste his time.
Young and naive as I was four years ago I thought this was an outrageous comment but as numerous people have seen since, it is nothing other than the absolute truth.
After disappearing for 20 minutes, presumably while six inches were snipped from the mayoral robes, mayor Camsey emerged resplendent in scarlet.
It was a little disappointing to note that from that point until she brought the meeting to a close the new mayor spoke with admirable clarity and a degree of confidence I have not seen from the top table before. Her predecessor may have been a nice man for all I know but his trademark as council meeting chairman was always one of bumbling buffoonery. My hope for another Val Clark figure to put an element of farce back into council meetings may well have been dashed for another twelve months.
A mayoral tradition is that they announce a favoured charity to be the recipient of their fund raising effort. Mayor Camsey said hers would be Special Needs Children which provoked a round of applause from Mick Barnbrook. Then I remembered he has an SEN grandson. The previous mayor raised over £15,000 for his charity.
The formal business included nodding through the leader’s cabinet appointments. With councillor Gareth Bacon exposed as the highest paid councillor in London and stepping down from his least well paid job (deputy leader of Bexley council) the way was clear for Alex Sawyer to make a dash for the almost top spot. He takes Traffic and Transport responsibilities with him too, previously the domain of councillor Don Massey.
Sawyer’s place was taken by Batman Craske renowned for his dexterity with the forked tongue, rude words and One Armed Bandits. The future of the Splash Park now lies in his hands. Councillor Don Massey picks up Bacon’s Finance and Corporate Services role. The Rogues Gallery will need updating.
Councillor Stefano Borella proposed that some Labour names be appointed to outside bodies but he was given short shrift. Then Labour councillor Daniel Francis put forward a Motion regarding the scheduling of meetings. The Conservatives’ preferred timetable is that more than four months should elapse between decision making and Scrutiny…
That the Public Cabinet meeting be moved from the 21st July 1015 to the 6th July, an additional Full Council Meeting be scheduled for the 20th January 2016 and the Full Council Meeting on the 20th April 2016 commence at 19:30hrs.
The latter being a reference to the Conservatives being able to debate their Motions at late starting meetings but leaving no time for Labour’s Motions. A blatant attack on democracy by the ruling party.
Both suggestions went down like lead balloons and were duly rejected unanimously. Surely councillor Francis has been a councillor in Bexley long enough to realise that a Teresa O’Neill priority is to clamp down on Scrutiny. Why else would she have reduced committee numbers from seven to three last year?
Councillor Stefano Borella proposed another eminently sensible amendment. He saw no reason why payments totalling £18,000 were introduced for Scrutiny vice-chairman for the first time last year at a time of supposed council austerity.
That the special responsibility allowance for Vice-Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committees be deleted and the special responsibility allowance for Cabinet/Scrutiny Liaison Member be halved.
This too was rejected unanimously by the nasty party. Surely councillor Borella has been a councillor in Bexley long enough to realise that Bexley Conservative’s priority is to line their own pockets as generously as possible and sneaking in new allowances for their members is to be expected?
The meeting ended about 80 minutes after it started.
During a leisurely exit, Mick Barnbrook proposed to his fellow Bexley Action Group members that they make an immediate donation to the mayor’s fund for special needs children. He attempted to make his way to the mayor who was by then wining and dining at the taxpayers’ expense. Unfortunately he was barred from approaching the mayor by an uncharacteristically officious, Dave Easton, who runs beanos such as last night’s.
I suspect that Mr. Barnbrook being a man of principle will find some other way of presenting the mayor with a modest cheque, but it was not a good start to the mayor’s fund raising effort.