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Sadiq Khan

Bonkers Blog March 2016

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8 March - Choose the simple option. Assume it’s a lie, it usually is

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.

Mr. Barnbrook is still trying to get straight answers to his questions which followed Councillor Fothergill’s ‘conviction’ for obtaining a financial advantage for herself, the punishment for which was not being able to sit on the Appeals Committee to which she might be tempted to appeal.

Whilst a couple of people have alleged that Councillor Fothergill has been known to live dangerously, there is still no evidence to suggest that the case against her at the Code of Conduct Committee was other than flimsy, totally lacking evidence or just a fit up.

One question that has been answered, albeit not satisfactorily, concerns the appointment of the Independent Person. One is required under the Localism Act passed in 2012.

Rebecca Sandhu was chosen for Bexley in 2013 after the position was advertised and following a selection process. The position was for a period of two years expiring in May 2015.

In 2015 there was no advertisement, there was no new selection process and there was no discussion in Council. The Independent Person was merely listed like this (see below) in a 28 Page Supplement to the 66 Page Agenda to the Council meeting held on 20th May 2015.

CommitteeProbably nobody noticed. You can elect or reject a councillor every four years. Independent Persons can go on for ever, in Bexley anyway, maybe not in honest boroughs.

Possibly not so easily explained is the decision to exclude members of the public from the Code of Conduct Committee on 10th December.

The Procedural Rules clearly state that the Members of the Committee must be given an opportunity to say whether of not they think the hearing should be in public or behind closed doors.

Then a decision has to be taken. Entirely logical.

However it is not what those who were present on 10th December say happened and the Minutes of the meeting make no reference to any discussion or vote on exclusion. Twice recently I have seen that happen at other meetings where the public might be excluded.

The procedure is that the Chairman says that an exclusion has been recommended by Council officers and asks for a vote in favour. It’s simple enough and insofar that anything is democratic in Bexley, this is.

However the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Committee didn’t do that. She saw the recommendation and the allegation is that she took it upon herself to exclude the public without asking other members. I wasn’t present.

In response to a complaint, Bexley Council has said (sic) “It is clear from the published agenda for the item in relation to the Exclusion of Press and Public preceded the item of substantive business to which the Rules of Procedure to which you refer applies.”

No one is disputing that, the exclusion obviously preceded the substantive business, otherwise the members of the public would have heard the complaint and the need to keep secrets would have gone.

The issue remains that Chairman Cheryl Bacon made no attempt to follow procedures, something for which she has form.

The exclusion vote is not only absent from the Agenda Item, it’s not in the Minutes and three members of the public know they didn’t hear their exclusion either proposed or debated.

Mr. Barnbrook is planning to escalate his complaint and the ensuing obfuscation to the Information Commissioner. I think it is far simpler to assume that Bexley Council is lying again as they always do when caught breaking their own rules or statutes.

Rules of Procedure.


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