It’s been a very quiet week for Bexley council related
news and the situation isn’t helped by the fact there has not been a proper council
meeting with questions from the public
since 26th April.
Tomorrow there will be another one, complete with questions from the public, though
reduced to about half the usual number, probably as a result of the council’s attempt
to restrict them to areas of policy only. Most questions will allow cabinet members to
blow their own trumpets or give simple yes/no answers. You can guess which of those
two words will be used when council leader Teresa O’Neill answers Derek Steedman’s question
“Does the leader of the council think that the cabinet provides good value for
money?” Presumably that is the same Derek Steedman who was an unelected
Labour candidate in the 2010 council election.
There is a couple of more difficult questions. Councillor Colin Campbell is to be asked why it was necessary to hold a strategy meeting in the exclusive Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye rather than locally. Let’s hope he answers more accurately than when questioned in Court about the cafe at the Thames Innovation Centre. Councillor Peter Craske is to be asked why absolutely nothing has been done about the appalling traffic conditions that exist in County Gate. I expect we will get the same answer as he provided on 23 June but without such direct criticism of Greenwich council for blocking the remedies Craske had proposed five years ago. Criticism for which councillor Craske found himself front page news in the News Shopper with a follow up from Greenwich council in the letters column a week later.
Councillors are not subject to the same questioning rules as the peasants they wish to suppress. For example “will the cabinet member please tell us how many hits there were on the council website in the six months from October 2010 to March 2011 inclusive, and how that compares to the equivalent period in the previous year?” wouldn’t be allowed by a member of the public. He would be directed, not entirely unreasonably, to the appropriate council official. Somewhat ironically it would be the wife of the councillor who wants to know about website hits who would do that redirection, for this simple question is the best that councillor Philip Read can muster.
Pretty much the same question was posed via Freedom of Information request (FOI 11/277) as recently as last April and answered only three weeks late on 31 May. The answer was 7,551,100 hits in 2009/10 and 11,137,843 in 2010/11. What is councillor Read doing “wasting time and money” by asking cabinet member Colin Campbell such a question? Maybe he should take note of the advice he dished out to residents in his own Twitter post. Read seems to be more than usually interested in web related things. It was Read who registered the internet domain name bexley-is-bonkers.com and it was Read who ran amok on Twitter accusing Teresa Pearce MP of doing ‘bad’ things she hadn’t done. He even wrote a mischievous and untruthful letter about her to the News Shopper.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be chaired by new mayor Ray Sams who probably won’t provide the same non-stop entertainment as his predecessor Val Clark. I’m hoping he will play fair to public and opposition members, something that was sadly absent under the previous regime, but with one resident already banned from attending since Sams’ appointment, I fear the worst.