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Bonkers Blog April 2011

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18 April (Part 3) - Don’t tell Audit

I think I promised a bit of a history lesson for today about Bexley’s unenviable record in the honesty stakes to satisfy all the new readers that the council very kindly directed my way. It’s not an easy job; I have before me a pile of papers 22 millimetres thick when compressed, all concerned with the Ian Clement expenses cover-up alone. Far too much to put on line, I am going to have to attempt a different tack.

There have been two local government scandals in London in recent years that kept the national press occupied for a long time, one still rumbles on and I had one of the Sundays ask for information for their new investigation only last week. Both scandals involved Bexley. Coincidence? Probably not. Dishonesty and scheming has been and continues to be endemic in our benighted borough. Just look at the latest attempt to subvert democracy.

Probably this short extract from an email, redacted under Freedom of Information rules, but telling just the same, sums it all up. (Click image for complete email.)

Redacted emailIt is pretty well known that former Bexley council leader Ian Clement left to work for Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) and while there misbehaved with his mayoral credit card. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, just £227 if I remember correctly, but he was given a suspended prison sentence for it just the same.

Back here in Bexley our Ian had a council credit card too, no one of any note knew about it according to our current leader. Believe that if you like. An investigation showed that Mr. Clement had spent £2,087.85 that couldn’t be justified. If the council’s website is up to date it has not been recovered 20 months after the investigation was completed.

Mr. Clement got up to all sorts of tricks like staying at hotels overnight when an early morning journey would have been easy enough, but mainly it was wining and dining. One ‘lunch’ bill was settled after ten in the evening. Quite some lunch and quite some bill but no one at all at Bexley council knew anything about anything. Not his deputy, the current leader Teresa O’Neill, not the top brass, no one. I wonder who signed off the council cheque. Presumably whoever it was who sent the email above.

Among the many people entertained at public expense was the then Chief Executive Nick Johnson and the incoming replacement Will Tuckley. Nick went off on a sickness pension of £50,000 a year and a golden good-bye said to exceed £300,000. He’s been in the news on and off ever since because this sick man charged straight into a new £260k. job with Hammersmith and Fulham council. Bexley tax payers continue to fund his pension and it is all legal. There is a detailed report of these shenanigans on the Daily Mail website. The Sunday paper journalist who said he was working on another exposé asked if I knew what sickness afflicted Nick Johnson. He should have looked at the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservatives’ website which says that Nick Johnson suffered a heart attack while working for Bexley council and that he didn’t really want to leave. I suppose that is why he needed such a large sum to persuade him that he should.

A few paragraphs here is a totally inadequate summary of the events of 2009 but the local press summarised it quite well. The News Shopper’s report is worth a read and some newspaper cuttings which have otherwise disappeared from view are indexed on this site. For in depth research a complete list of the queried expenditure is available here and Bexley council’s final report on credit card use is also available on-line.(PDF file.)


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