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Bonkers Blog March 2011

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3 March (Part 2) - Pantomime at the Civic Centre - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

BCRE protest groupThe council meeting was preceded by the 2011 Civic Recognition Awards which deferred the start time to 8 p.m. That fact should have been posted on the council website. We were told that the people honoured had in some cases devoted their lives to working for community projects so shouldn’t such worthy people have been given a ceremony of their own away from placard waving protestors? Why did the council not arrange a photographer to record a memento of their great day? You know the answer, their claimed sincerity is a sham and it would have caused our over-paid councillors to be dragged away from the telly for one more evening. Any enthusiasm for ‘The Big Society’ is lukewarm at best, The Big Paycheque perhaps but Cameron’s idea stands little chance hereabouts.

Ironically one of the award winners was a protestor. Gurdial Singh Shergill has been Executive Committee member of Bexley Council for Racial Equality (BCRE) for over 34 years. For his pains he was announced as leader of the Boy’s Brigade much to the annoyance of some of his supporters. According to a leaflet thrust into my hand by the BCRE his real reward is not a badly organised presentation at the Civic Centre but a 100% cut in the grant made to his organisation. You have to hand it to Bexley council, their respect to civic societies knows no bounds.

When the council meeting did begin a gentleman representing the users of Belvedere library was told he had five minutes to make his case against possible closure or a downgrading to voluntary status. He spoke passionately to much applause and in the process proved the council wrong in several respects, among them that their data on libraries across the capital was flawed and didn’t even count the number of boroughs correctly. Bexley’s response was that the borough was just as well provided with libraries as those paragons of literary excellence Lambeth, Haringey and Newham which didn’t go down too well. Councillor Seymour (Crayford, £9,543) tried to lower the tone with an injection of party politics but the gentleman from Belvedere was having none of it. Then, mid-flow in his dissection of the council’s case, the mayor and chairman told him to wrap it up. To his credit Belvedere’s library dissident carried on until he had finished what he had to say thereby unwittingly setting the tone for the whole evening.

As someone who had asked a formal question to the council under their Standing Orders I was provided with a reserved seat next to all the other people who had done likewise. Thus I found myself sitting next to long-time thorns in the council’s side, Michael Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant, the man who Craske attempted to ridicule three months ago, and Nick Dowling who has done so much to expose Craske’s false accounting. Mick Barnbrook’s formal question was to ask for the 15 minutes allocated to public questions to be extended. After all, an hour a year for 200 thousand odd residents is not a lot of time for a Listening Council to listen.

Mr. Barnbrook had planned to put his question informally to individual councillors before the meeting began but the unannounced revision to the timetable scuppered that idea, he managed to put it only to councillor Campbell (St. Mary’s, £22,650). Campbell said a better approach was to allow fewer questions. Do you notice a pattern here? It is Campbell who wants to put restrictions on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, it is Campbell who sacked a whistleblower who embarrassed him and his manager now on a paedophilia charge and it is Campbell who would prefer fewer questions. Something to hide no doubt. When Mick formally put his question to council leader Teresa O’Neill (Brampton, £35,844) she was in a belligerent mood, maybe not surprising given that his letter reminding us of the rôle played by the Fat Controller (FC) in the cover-up following the Ian Clement fraud scandal had been in that morning’s Shopper. As was to be expected the FC didn’t want to discuss the question and Mike was cut short by the mayor though not without offering a spirited resistance.

He was followed by Mr. Nicholas Dowling asking about the number of Residents’ Parking Permits issued because the number he had obtained via FOI didn’t match the number bandied about by Craske in emails to residents. Craske said neither figure was right and came up with another. I’m not going to waste space re-inventing the wheel, Craske has proved himself a liar in the past, who believes him now? Like Mr. Barnbrook before him, Nicholas was cut short by the silly mayor but carried on nevertheless to cheers from various sections of the public gallery.

Next to participate in the pantomime was Mr. Elwyn Bryant also with a question for Teresa O’Neill the council leader. It reminded her that it is four months since she said she would consider reducing the number of councillors per ward and that we had heard nothing yet. The FC waffled to explain the lack of an answer and then launched into an astonishing bit of arrogance to the effect that as she had been elected to her post and that Mr. Bryant was a mere resident her view carried far more weight. That is obviously true as anyone who saw the slightly built Mr. Bryant standing next to mistress O’Neill could testify. The exchange was reminiscent of that last year when the same resident was made to suffer put-downs at the hands of councillor Craske.

Mr. Dowling then approached the lectern for his second scheduled question to TLC (The Liar Craske) but was turned back by the Widow Twankey on the top bench. The 15 minutes were up she said. Funny that; five of us had set our watches and barely eleven minutes had passed. Mr. Barnbrook pointed out that Standing Orders had been breached and that Twankey should expect a formal complaint. She will deny everything of course but can she deny a tape? Mr. Barnbrook is not someone to let such malpractice go as a whole host of MPs know to their cost. The fact that it was Mr. Dowling who was stopped in his tracks by Twankey is probably not coincidence, his question was designed to expose the dishonesty of one of Craske’s rants at the previous meeting.

The next session was for councillors to ask questions, that is allocated 15 minutes too so we reset our stop watches. In this session you tend to get the time wasters like Taylor craving attention from the big boys (err… no, it was the pygmy wasn’t it?) but not everyone is that juvenile.

Councillor Borella (North End, £9,543) was concerned about councillor Davey (Lesnes Abbey, £9,543 + £7,782 from the Bexley Care Trust) politicising the Bexley Arts Council website. Davey’s argument has been reported here already and it is illogical balderdash. Councillor Catterall (Falconwood & Welling, £22,650) from whom I would have expected better came out with the same load of old tosh that Davey had written to The Chronicle. Councillor Campbell was then called upon to answer another question and his self-proclaimed saintliness was in stark contrast to his decision to retain on council premises an employee who was in such deep doo-dah with the police they had arrested him for paedophilia. Someone in the audience called out to remind him and then suddenly the 15 minutes was up. However unlike Twankey those in the gallery didn’t think it polite to tell Campbell to wrap up quick, they remained silent until he finished two minutes later. In true dictatorial fashion Twankey, the mayor and chairman, called for another question. There were protests from the floor that time was up but she indicated that breaking Standing Orders for the second time was perfectly OK. I suppose if you are mayor of a corrupt council then it is. Councillor Deadman (North End, £12,114) was called upon to ask a question; he addressed the public and said his question was more important than theirs and so we had to endure Deadman talking. He went on for three more minutes.

At that point it seemed a good time to leave and the group of questioners of which I was one departed, waving to the bunch of grinning parasites as we went. A fair number waved back and some gave the thumbs up sign. Make of that what you will.

On the stairs we passed councillor Tandy (St. Mary’s £18,265) and asked what he thought about the mayor twice breaking Standing Orders. He ran off without replying. It’s the Listening Council in action.

So how do you sum up that lot? Campbell thinks we should have fewer questions. The mayor curtails them by breaking the rules. The FC waffles around her question and the purple pygmy revisits his old routine of saying that honestly set parking charges would mean bigger cuts elsewhere. That’s very likely but not the point. The point is that his figures were imaginary, the FOIs showed that and to cover up his deception he has had to produce a flurry of obfuscation, or lies to you and me. That is what the issue is. We have a liar for a councillor.

I don’t think this council ‘gets it’. When the Fat Controller tries to avoid questions by berating the questioner with nonsense about him being a lower form of life than her because he wasn’t elected and she was, she preaches to a couple of dozen members of the public none of whom is likely to believe her; it’s certainly not a fan club that turns up to meetings. But when her antics are reported here the message goes out to thousands few of whom will believe her. She should get her mind around the fact that traditional paper headlines are here today and soon forgotten but web pages stick around for ever and are regularly brought back to life via the system of links. It’s something she will have to get used to. Her critics are not going away and the only way she and her cronies can kill them off is by going straight. Some hope.


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