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Sadiq Khan

Bonkers Blog January 2016

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11 January - A transparency request. Naive or not? Time will tell

This blog is one of several relating to Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill and linked from the relevant Index page. Together they cover five different subjects all related in some way to Ms. Fothergill.

• Some cover her Code of Conduct Committee hearing which resulted in sanctions against Councillor Fothergill. It was alleged that she used her position as Councillor to obtain a financial advantage. viz. that she bought a bungalow from a vulnerable Bexley resident at an advantageous price.
No evidence that Ms. Fothergill paid less than the market price ever came to light and the alleged victim did not make the written complaint necessary to cause a Code of Conduct hearing. When Bexley Council was pressed to provide evidence it could only point to a document written by a Member of its own Code of Conduct Committee, Judge and Jury.
The probability is that the Leader of Bexley Council was unwilling to forgive the fact that Maxine Fothergill had brought down the Leader’s preferred election candidate by reporting him to the police for more than one theft. The sanctions appeared to be nothing but retribution. The Leader of Bexley Council is renowned for her ruthless retribution.
The police issued a caution.
• Others show how she was alleged to have conducted her business affairs in a way that some of her associates considered ethically dubious and have almost no link to Bexley Council.
• Councillor Maxine Fothergill fought Sevenoaks Council over an unauthorised house extension and lost. There is again no Bexley Council link apart from it becoming clear that her main residence is not in the borough
• When a resident requested a Judicial Review of Bexley Council’s refusal to state that it would always comply with the law they managed to convince a barrister that he was taking issue with them over the entirely unconnected issue of the verdict given by the Code of Conduct Committee Committee in the Maxine Fothergill case.
Nothing could be further from the truth and there is documentary evidence to that effect that Bexley Council lied to their barrister.
Nevertheless the barrister persuaded a judge to refuse to hear the Judical Review and Bexley Council, dishonest to the last, billed the resident the cost of hiring their tame barrister.
• Councillor Fothergill was sued for libel and lost.

As you may have guessed, I have been away. If I had not been there might still have been no blog because apart from the Maxine Fothergill business there is nothing much going on. It would be possible to bring a new Freedom of Information request to your notice every day into the middle of next week but that may become monotonous. I suspect that one or two will be enough.

To me the interesting thing will be how Bexley Council chooses to refuse to answer every enquiry. Every refusal will further emphasise their reputation for being the most secretive and dishonest council in London. No other has a record like theirs.

One of the things I pondered last week was how Bexley Council could have been brought into disrepute by an event the public knew nothing about. A bit like the old conundrum, ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?’

Bexley village resident Mr. Elwyn Bryant decided to test it out with a simple letter…

Dear Mr. Akin Alabi,
Having read the minutes of the Members’ Code of Conduct Sub-Committee meeting held on 10th December 2015, I find myself somewhat confused by Paragraphs 3(1) and 3(8) which states that I, as a member of the public, could have certain perceptions about actions taken by Councillor Fothergill.

I must put this question to you Mr. Alabi. How can I have perceptions on actions that I know nothing about?

Will you please forward to me by email full details of the actions that Councillor Fothergill took that caused her to be accused of Misconduct and found guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct.

I wish to emphasize that I am not requesting names of any other individuals that may have been involved in the allegation and actions of Councillor Fothergill in this particular case. In granting my request I am sure you will agree it will make the situation much more transparent.

Yours sincerely,

Transparency? I think that is the last thing that Bexley Council will want and probably Mr. Alabi (Head of Legal Services) will have to do what the Committee Chairman Councillor Cheryl Bacon tells him to do, just as former Chief Executive Will Tuckley was forced to support her fantasies the last time she made a big mess as a chairman. And look where that took him? (A criminal investigation - for those who may have been away enjoying Life on Mars.)

Without transparency the rumours will spread. One that reached me says that the old lady who wanted to finance sheltered accommodation from the proceeds of a house sale is having part of the bill paid by Bexley council. The other says the complainant was bunged a large sum of money to keep his mouth shut. I very much doubt the former but gagging clauses are a tactic which Bexley insiders claim has been used before.


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