Bexley council would claim that they have an independent standards committee to keep
rogue councillors in check but their committee does
not conform to government recommendations and instead takes advantage of every
legal escape clause to pay mere lip-service to the requirements. The opposition party
is under-represented and the chairman is not truly independent. He is selected
and approved by councillors and his income depends on him retaining their
approval. If he fails to do that the £2,133 awarded for attending a few meetings
would be in jeopardy. At
the last meeting of the Standards Committee, the
decision to exclude the public was challenged. The so-called independent
Chairman looked to the council for guidance.
Over the last two years, 24 complaints have been brought against councillors. One councillor was subjected to ‘sanctions’ and another case is currently in progress. Of the remainder two councillors were given “words of advice”. So what of the remaining 20? Complaints that is, not councillors, because the arithmetic is complicated by multiple offenders. They were all found to be entirely innocent of all wrong-doing.
The top complaint scorers were councillors Peter Craske and Val Clark with seven complaints each. Ian Clement the former council leader had two. All the others, Cheryl Bacon, Peter Catterall, John Davey, Alan Downing, Geraldine Lucia-Hennis, Munir Malik, Mike Slaughter and Harbans Singh Buttar scored one each in the last two years; the latter councillor did not seek re-election in 2010.
Appeals against the lack of sanctions resulted in the Review Committee meeting four times in the last two years. No appeals were upheld, it’s easy money for the chairman, nearly all meetings consist of two Conservative councillors judging one of their own. A casting vote is never likely to be needed.