In my opinion Bexley Conservatives were playing slightly undemocratic games at last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting
and one of the less important ones concerned a Motion put forward by Councillor Wendy Perfect for the Labour Group.
As is often the case with Labour Motions it was pretty dry stuff but suffice to say that it included education statistics which did not make for good reading. 137,000 more pupils nationally, 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff.
It asked Bexley Council to oppose Central Government cuts and lobby the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor to provide the resources to give Bexley’s children “the best start in life”.
For some reason best known to herself the Mayor decided to break the rules relating to the time allocated for debating Motions and extended it by about 15 minutes, maybe so that the Tories would have more time in which to demolish Ms. Perfect’s Motion.
Councillor Perfect spoke for nine and a half minutes trotting out a catalogue of anecdotes of schools that had no money, begging from parents and not turning on the heating etc. For no obvious reason the Mayor did not allow her the full ten minutes. (The tape does not lie.)
However the weakness in her tales of woe, if Bexley Tories are telling the truth - and that is something that one always has to keep in mind - is that none of Councillor Perfect’s anecdotes or statistics applied to Bexley.
The Conservative Group decided to put out their own Motion, not an amendment which is the usual procedure with paragraphs marked so that the changes are easily seen, but a completely new Motion.
The Conservatives said that pupil numbers in Bexley were stable, the number of teacher posts had increased by more than 50. Teaching Assistant numbers had gone up by 200 and other education posts had increased by more than 400.
Additionally two new special schools had been approved.
The reason for the time extension began to come clear and unsurprisingly the Labour Group objected to such a wholesale shift in emphasis on their Motion.
Unscrupulous Tories merely wished to welcome what was happening in Bexley and they believed the Council had successfully lobbied government to fund the borough's educational needs.
Labour Leader Daniel Francis protested with exampleְs of what Bexley parents are actually seeing “on the ground”.
Councillor Sybil Camsey proceeded to rub the local statistics into the Labour noses which had rooted out the lamentable national statistics. Reluctantly I have to agree that she probably had a valid point.
The Labour Motion was thrown out and Labour abstained on the Tory alternative. Independent Councillor Danny Hackett voted with the Tories, He was right to do so; it’s not the first time that Labour has put forward sometimes laudable Motions which are not very relevant to local government.