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Crime and Disorder

6th October 2011

Dead wood in and out of the council chamber

There was a meeting of the Crime and Disorder committee at the Civic Offices last night. There was no disorder but the expenditure of time and money might be considered a crime. It was chaired by councillor Alan Downing who controls it well enough and he began by welcoming “Members” to the meeting. I can imagine he would not welcome three members of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group being present but I have not known any other chairman to not welcome members of the public to a meeting before. When councillor Steven Hall chaired the Audit Committee in June he even managed to sound totally sincere with his welcome. Councillor Downing didn’t even welcome his guest speakers, not even Police Commander Stringer, so perhaps he really is the rudest councillor in Bexley.

The principal guest speaker was Mr. Nick Darvill who presented the work of the Charlton Athletic Community Trust which was impressive, surprising and sometimes moving. CACT appears to be doing an amazing job, keeping youngsters on the straight and narrow. The CACT website might be a bit of an eye-opener if you are not already aware of their work. I was ready to give a round of applause when Mr. Darvill sat down but he didn’t even get a word of thanks which was really quite embarrassing. Maybe councillor Val Clark will be sending out some of her parsimonious appreciation letters.

After that things went further downhill. Councillors Ball, Clark, Craske, Hall, Massey and Read all made comments at one time or another but nothing of any note. Read begins every question or comment by heaping praise on the council and if I mention that councillor Steven Hall (East Wickham) asked the most incisive questions, like “how are children [to be placed on a remedial course] identified?” and “what sanctions are there against children who don’t turn up [at CACT training sessions]?” you will understand why the others are not worth quoting.

In an Agenda segment that seemed like a digression to me councillor Ball asked what safeguards there were against the new council performance parameters being chosen by cabinet members solely to massage the cabinet member’s self-esteem. Perhaps he had in mind the spurious claim to have “the lowest parking charges in SE London” but if he did it would be impossible for the crimson councillor Craske to blush any more.

Councillor Alex Sawyer had been appointed to chair a sub-committee on the probation service and presented his report in a businesslike fashion. He went through it quickly and clearly and I understood every point he was making which is in stark contrast to the waffling that comes from too many of those present. I have yet to decide whether councillor Sawyer is a cut above the average Bexley councillor or whether I am biased because from many angles, most angles if I am honest, he could be mistaken for my own son’s twin brother - if he had one. It is hard for me not to stare. But on balance I suspect Sawyer is a good deal brighter than some of his colleagues.

Councillor Sawyer opined that some of those who didn’t co-operate with the probation services should perhaps be shown “more stick and a little less carrot”. This should make for harmonious matrimonial relations when he next meets up with Ms. Patel his wife, the MP for Witham, who was on BBC Question Time two weeks ago expounding the virtues of capital punishment.

We had to wait until nearly ten o’clock to hear the words of wisdom from Borough Police Commander, Chief Inspector Dave Stringer; and we didn’t get any. In commenting on a trial in Barnehurst of greater cooperation between his Safer Neighbourhood Team and the Neighbourhood Watch he said that “not much data came in because there is not much crime in Barnehurst”. Brilliant! Couldn’t he have worked that out before he wasted everyone’s time?

The quotations attributed to councillor Hall may not be word perfect but they are very close. Similarly councillor Ball’s comment about ‘Cabinet Portfolio Priorities’ is only an indication of his precise words. With recording banned that is the best that could be achieved. The dead tree outside the Bexley Civic Offices is intended to symbolise the calibre of most of the people inside last night. The total number of members of the public present was four. Apathy allows the dead wood to rule.

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