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Bonkers Blog April 2016

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6 April (Part 2) - What use are Bexley Council webcasts?

HuntThere was a People Scrutiny Committee meeting last night but I didn’t go. Right to the last minute I planned to be there but I am on my third really nasty cold since Christmas. I’ve been at Council meetings before and suffered non-stop coughing fits and it is not fair on anyone. Last night they returned with a vengeance so I hope James Hunt is duly grateful for my absence.

I hoped to be able to provide an adequate report based on the webcast which I audio recorded and watched live but Bexley’s webcast proved to be technical disaster zone. Are they always that bad?

My PC is equipped with fairly beefy speakers, several years ago some wannabe pop mogul mixed a record on them, although it’s true I no longer use such an expensive multi-channel sound card. Last night at full volume I could barely hear a word. By sticking my recorder right up against a speaker cone and boosting the record level above normal I have miraculously ended up with a recording which can be heard, albeit with a strange acoustic and poor signal to noise ratio.

MedicsThe guest speakers didn’t help. The first one decided to speak standing up which put his head out of the camera’s view and his mouth a long way from the microphone. The next speaker didn’t seem to realise she had a microphone although not standing improved audibility somewhat.

Both were commenting on a projected slide show which couldn’t be seen, so the internet audience was treated to a near mute commentary on a presentation they were not able to see.

All I learned from those two medical types that may be of widespread interest is that the new cancer treatment unit should open at Queen Mary’s Hospital by the summer, the radiotherapy machines have been delivered to site. Good news for many I am sure but us Northerners will probably find it easier and quicker to go to St. Thomas’ by train than sit for ever on a meandering 229 bus. It would get boring after 37 consecutive day trips. Been there done that! (And buses don’t have toilets on board.)

Dialysis facilities are expected by 2017.

The new management teams have provided patients with wi-fi too which may or not please one BiB reader who has been stuck in QEH for five weeks with nothing but a window looking on to a blank wall for entertainment.

The medics said the developments were “exciting” and a number of councillors agreed. A Phoenix appears to have risen from the disaster of six years ago when locals feared the hospital would give way to more houses. Something I have wondered about; with their being no maternity facilities in the borough, does it mean that future genealogists will come across almost no registration records that say, place of birth Bexley?

There was a new police officer to report crime statistics although it was confirmed that Jeff Boothe was still the borough’s Chief Superintendent. Superintendent Bell reeled off the usual set of numbers.

Burglary, robbery, theft of and from motor vehicles, criminal damage and violence, when combined for a MOPAC (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) statistical exercise, were down over the past 12 months, Bexley being third best in London by that percentage measure. Over three years there have been more than 600 fewer victims of crime in Bexley, per year presumably. Unfortunately violence and thefts of vehicles are on the up.

The operation in Thamesmead to attempt to rid it of its serious illegal motorbike activities was deemed a success with about a dozen arrests in three weeks but it may prove difficult to repeat it. The problem has apparently simply been moved to another borough.

Councillor Alan Downing was perplexed by the fact that motorcyclists who are not wearing crash helmets are not pursued by the police in case the poor dears fall off and hurt themselves. Councillor Downing has a consistent record of cutting through the politically correct claptrap that has destroyed common sense. Teachers, medics, policemen, they are all fair game to him and it is “ludicrous”. Well said that man.

Supt. Bell continued; “An increasing level of policing resources is having to be diverted to cyber crime and bullying, social media offences”. However figures are not recorded “but it is, particularly among younger people, a growing trend. Some of the behaviour on line is really destructive to people’s lives". I’d better not comment.

Murphy and PickeringBefore closing the meeting, the Chairman said that two regular members of the Committee would be leaving the Council very soon. Sheila Murphy, Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care and Moyra Pickering, Deputy Director of Education both resigned their posts within a couple of weeks of each other. Ms. Murphy is going to Sunderland and Ms. Pickering is to retire. Ms. Murphy had been at Bexley for 33 or 34 years according to Chairman James Hunt.

It wasn’t just the frequently low audio levels which devalued the webcast, there were numerous periods of total silence causing the mic activated cameras went back to the default overall view of the Council Chamber.

Bexley Council never did make public their May 2015 review of the case for and against webcasting. My recollection is that they set aside £20,000 a year for the service. Maybe a Freedom of Information request is in order. It looks to me like money down the drain.

The webcams revealed a total absence of any member of the public witnessing the event, but it is the only way to properly understand what goes on.


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