Yesterday’s secret Boundaries Commission meeting provoked a considerable
amount of correspondence. Kevin Fox, Bexley’s highly paid meeting fixer didn’t
reply to Mr. Barnbrook’s request for something more definitive than Fox’s ‘understanding’, instead it came from his boss, Deputy Director for HR and
Corporate Support, Nick Hollier. One can only assume that Mick Barnbrook’s reference to the criminal
investigation that followed
the last occasion he was excluded from a meeting and
his promise to start that process again if wrong doing was uncovered, put the matter above Fox’s pay grade.
Mr. Hollier’s letter was not an unreasonable one and the relevant part read as follows…
As is its usual practice, the [Boundaries] Commission wishes to provide a briefing for Members which will focus on the general activity, processes and timescales that the review will require from the Council. The Commission has stated that this is not a public meeting. The meeting is not a meeting of any committee or sub-committee established under the Council’s constitutional and governance arrangements, nor is it a meeting that any statute provides should be open to members of the public.
Polite and businesslike you might think and I would agree; but truthful? Probably not.
Messrs. Barnbrook and Bryant are nothing but thorough when hunting down the corruption and dishonesty that pervades Bexley council, they had been exchanging messages with the Boundary Commission too. These told a very different story.
The meeting was called by Bexley council and the Commission had been “invited” to attend and were “guests”. That may of course be simply semantics and Civil Service protocol but the next bit couldn’t be. The Commission stated it had no input to the meeting’s arrangements and would not object to a public presence. That decision was Bexley council’s and no one else’s.
My own attempts to extract information from within Bexley council fell mainly on stony ground. The best I obtained was a suggestion that council leader Teresa O’Neill has already had a meeting with the Boundaries Commission and rapidly abandoned the position she and her voting fodder adopted at last July’s meeting.
The Tories amended the Labour Motion to exclude reference to numbers
The reason was said to be that the Commission was not ruling out going lower than
councillors proposed by the Labour group. If true it would be very funny.
What is not so funny is the further suggestion that an illegal meeting has been arranged for next week.
I wasn’t able to attend the most recent General Purposes meeting on 14th April which was chaired by the historically dishonest councillor Peter Craske, but its Agenda confirms that the council and the Commission had already met and that things would move more quickly than at first anticipated.
To this end a General Purposes Sub-Committee was to be established. Sub-Committees of public meetings remain public but next week’s and its Agenda has yet to appear on the council’s website. This is already in contravention of the Local Government Act which prescribes seven days notice. It may be down to incompetence and in most councils it would be, but experience suggests that in Bexley the reason will be rather more sinister.
Their allowances are on the line and as many as possible must be retained. Losses must be guided towards Labour areas. Public exposure is the last thing the Conservatives will want.