last 20 minutes of the Full Council meeting produced a few fireworks and the
first followed councillor Brenda Langstead’s (Labour, North End) attempt to
interest the chairman of the People Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the plight of homeless people.
After allowing her to speak for two and a half minutes, interrupted only by Tory laughter, councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham), said that homeless people were irrelevant to his People committee. Every Tory agreed with him.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) put a recycling question to the chairman of the Places Scrutiny committee. He thought that the new recycling arrangements might lead to an increase in the use of the Recycling Centres. Had the chairman taken this fully into consideration?
Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) refused to answer that question or a similar one from councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) on the grounds that they should have been asked at Scrutiny and “I do not think that is acceptable, it’s unhelpful and it is not the way to go”. He thought asking questions at Full Council meetings was “grandstanding for the TV” and that the high take up of chargeable bins will have minimised any increase in fly tipping. “We made the charge sensible and people are not stupid.”
With three Labour councillors failing to get much from their questioning, councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) tried his luck. He was concerned that the Resources committee “operates differently to the other two”. He questioned the need for the new seating arrangements which chairmen Steven Hall had said was “experimental”. It obscured the public view and to a degree interfered in democracy. Resources was the smallest of the three committees so the need to do it was “a struggle to understand”.
He generously suggested that putting the two vice-chairman on the top table might be to justify the newly introduced allowance of £3,000 each. (None existed previously.)
The Mayor decided she had heard enough and tried interrupt proceedings but councillor Francis appeared to persuade her that his complaint was justified - but not for long.
Daniel Francis complained of being criticised for asking a council officer a question about the budget during a trip to inspect the Capita operation at Erith Town Hall and a Scrutiny vice-chairman who admitted to not having read the budget papers accused him of making things up. It was too much for the Mayor and she resorted to her old friend, the broken clock. Time was running out. She told councilor Francis she was “sorry but you are now moving away from Resources” and she ordered him to sit down. “I have ruled that you are not talking to the Resources Committee.”
Councillor Francis called Standing Order 41 whatever that may be but the Mayor loud mouthed over him. When allowed a word in edgeways he insisted that he was referring to things said at the Resources Scrutiny meeting. “Watch the webcast.”
The Mayor’s only defence against the truth was to say “Councillor Francis you are well over your time and you were disrespectful”. Which is worse? Disrespecting a retired headmistress or her disrespect for democracy itself?
Getting the better of the Mayor is of course a heinous crime, so some Tory imbecile decided it justified a gross distortion of the truth be posted to the web.
Scrutiny chairman Steven Hall tried to answer some of the questions but the Mayor said he had misunderstood them and told him to “please sum up” instead. It would be a shame if a Labour member’s question was actually answered.
The final item on the Agenda was looking after councillors’ allowances. Councillor O’Hare moved they all be adopted without delay and Rob Leitch immediately seconded him. They are the chosen cheer leaders for this year and they must be the obedient Jack in the Boxes jumping up and down on cue for the Mayor at every vote. Personal opinions are not permitted within Bexley’s ruling clique.
However councillor Borella had other ideas, a very good one as it happens. He moved that the six vice-chairman who were appointed after the 2014 election for no other reason than to lavish cash on them - they were unpaid until then - should have their pay cut. Councillor Borella wanted the £3,000 allowance (times six) to be halved and was allowed five minutes to put his case.
However even the thickest of Tories can divide by two and councillor Borella got his point across in fewer than ten seconds.
Cabinet member Don Massey (Conservative, Cray Meadows) immediately flew to his feet to ask his cronies to vote the amendment down. They needed no persuasion and the opportunity to save £18,000 a year was thrown out by the money grabbing party.
The meeting ended two hours and ten minutes after it started. Another lesson in democracy handed out by the head girl.