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I had four meetings scheduled for today, only three of them BiB related, the
fourth was a two hour session with a dentist. It has not left any time for more than one hasty blog.
One of the meetings was Bexley’s Members’ Code of Conduct Appeals Sub-Committee. I assumed it was Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s appeal against her December 2015 conviction for bringing Bexley Council into disrepute but the Agenda offered no clue and if one Councillor at the meeting hadn’t unintentionally or otherwise let the cat out of the bag no one would know for certain why the Sub-Committee was meeting. But thanks to the Councillor’s slip we know it was to consider Maxine’s appeal.
The Councillors on the Sub-Committee were not those who found Councillor Fothergill guilty as is only right and proper but Councillor June Slaughter was once again representing Maxine’s interests and perhaps more interesting was the fact that Bexley Council had hired a barrister to look after their own interests.
Their own Head of Legal was present but as we know neither the Law Society, the Bar Council or Bexley Council themselves have been able to provide any evidence that he might be either qualified or have a practising certificate.
Councillor Fothergill had employed a barrister too who said his only role would be to ask for an adjournment.
The Chairman of the meeting was Councillor Peter Reader who almost immediately said he was going to exclude the members of the public. There were two Councillors in the public gallery and they weren’t welcome either. Bexley Council is going to extraordinary lengths to keep this case as secret as possible. I’m still not sure whether Councillor Fothergill has done something really serious, simply carried on her property business while canvassing or whether Bexley Council is stitching her up on flimsy evidence that the alleged complainant didn’t even put in writing.
As with the December meeting the order of business was not in accordance with the Council’s own rules. Those rules, and logic, are that the Sub-Committee should debate whether the meeting should be held in private or not and then, dependent on that decision, either allow the public to be present or not.
Michael Barnbrook asked if he could raise a point of order which would have related to Bexley Council not adhering to their own rules. The Chairman said he could not but Michael persevered and he eventually made his point which the Chairman chose to ignore. Four members of the public and the two Councillors were asked to leave.
After about 20 minutes - I wasn’t counting - we were invited back in to the meeting where we were told that the decision had been taken to exclude the public from the rest of the meeting and there was no point in us hanging around because we would not be allowed back to hear the verdict.
The Chairman told us that Councillor Fothergill’s barrister’s request for an adjournment had been rejected and he went off to the coffee shop with Councillor Slaughter while the Sub-Committee considered whether she would be allowed to stay to represent Maxine Fothergill.
I decided I had to leave to get to the next meeting on time but not before taking a look at the new Chief Executive’s new televisions. They weren’t TVs, they were screens displaying the Civic Office’s floor plan; one outside each lift. Hence the report of six screens; two lifts, three floors,
Monitor screens would have been much cheaper to install than TVs so my cost estimate would be far too high, but why a screen for a floor plan? A laminated poster, even a nicely framed poster, would be far cheaper and not add to the electricity bill.
But if you have a total salary package approaching a quarter of a million pounds you probably think that money grows on trees and you just won't care.
The audio recording of the meeting has not yet been examined and given other commitments may not be until next week. This may prove to be a superficial and interim report.
The Maxine Fothergill index.