The first Full Council meeting of the municipal year always sees the tribal back stabbing replaced
by back slapping as praise is heaped upon the outgoing Mayor and the wonder that
is the new one is hailed. When the meeting is the first after a successful
Conservative election campaign the meeting becomes even more of a show piece.
All the recently retired and defeated Conservative Councillors were there to soak up the party atmosphere and not a little of the booze on offer at the end - with one exception of course. Maxine Fothergill was nowhere to be seen.
Two Councillors and Sir David Evennett MP were especially friendly towards me but not to the point of being invited to join them at the bar.
As already reported the Conservatives had chosen Councillor Brian Bishop to be Mayor and he was formally proposed by Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath). New Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) seconded with a suitably creepy speech.
Councillor Brenda Langstead’s proposal (seconded by Councillor Daniel Francis) that Stefano Borella be Mayor inevitably got nowhere at all. Councillor Bishop was duly elected Mayor.
There was then a 22 minute interval while Mayor Bishop was sewn into his red regalia during which time I took the opportunity to speak to the two sound engineers who were monitoring what had been the Chamber’s appalling sound system.
It had always been poor since it was installed in 2014 but at the last meeting it embarrassed even the Chief Executive and she promised to have something done about it. Last night there was a vast improvement and I asked the audio men how it was achieved.
Basically the whole of the old wireless based system had been thrown out and replaced by new microphones and a network of cables taped to the floor. The contractor was hoping that the improvements would be sufficient to persuade Bexley Council to buy such a system and have it properly installed.
They should do that, the cabled system was a huge improvement on one which was at the mercy of every stray radio signal that permeated the Civic Centre walls.
After Mayor Bishop returned and signed his statutory declaration to abide by the Code of Conduct his wife Councillor Christine Bishop was unsurprisingly chosen to be his Mayoress. A little more surprising is that Councillor John Davey and his wife Marilyn were appointed deputies.
Councillor Philip Read (Conservative, West Heath) who had proposed retiring Mayor Peter Reader a year ago with some slightly risqué stories stood to thank him for his year of service. He admitted that some of what he said back then was not entirely truthful but “embellished” for effect. Councillor Read said that Mayor Reader had been outstanding and compared to many he has been, as Full Council Meeting Chairman anyway, which is all I observed. Generally fair and always civil and friendly. His charitable endeavours had raised more than £25,000 for Parkinson’s support in Bexley.
Probably the best Bexley Mayor of recent times.
Labour Leader Daniel Francis similarly heaped praise on Mayor Peter Reader but could not resist retelling how, when opening the new Lidl store in Bexleyheath, he twice referred to opening Aldi in his speech.
Retiring Mayor Peter Reader gave his thanks not least to his wife who had supported him through every one of his many Mayoral engagements.
And then it was time for normal business which included the approval of a pay rise for Councillors.
To be continued…