There was a good attendance at last Wednesday’s council meeting, just about
50 people, many of them being victims of Bexley council’s policy on care services
for those with learning difficulties. Dangerous people whose presence demanded
the attendance of police officers both inside and outside the chamber. Money is
no object when councillors demand to be looked after but is in short supply for
I was told on arrival that a table had been provided for my use but it was offset to the extreme left of the chamber and a good couple of feet lower than most councillors. It afforded a poor view of fewer than half of them and none of the top brass. I accept that too many speak from their backsides but I have no desire to be staring at those orifices. Three rows up in the centre of the public gallery gives a much better chance of seeing who is speaking.
The deaf abusing mayor took eight minutes to get through the formalities. Once again he told us that recording his dire performance was verboten without permission and no such permission had been granted. I think I knew that, having asked to take one photograph before the meeting began and supervised by a council official who I would allow to censor it if he felt it was intrusive. I was refused point blank. Open government? Don’t make me laugh.
The meeting opened with a deputation sponsored by councillor Stefano Borella (Labour North End) who seemed to be in particularly fine form all evening. The issue was the failure of Bexley council to provide enough money to their contractor MCCH to run an adequate service to those with learning difficulties. Last month councillor Colin Campbell said it was all MCCH’s fault for being bad managers. Even if that were true I cannot see how Bexley council can justify washing its hands of the problem on the grounds that the service is contracted out. Why should Will Tuckley on his £258,000 salary package be absolved of responsibility?
The deputation headed by a Mrs. Jo Stanton (†) who has a son in need of a proper service put her case to a largely indifferent council. "Drastic changes were being made to services for those with learning disabilities” she said and “the new staffing models are immoral and make staff leave”. “I am helpless and hopeless and [Bexley council] is an uncaring organisation”. “I have no faith that you are a listening council and I am sure you are not working. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Programmed assistance for her son and others was, she said, simply cancelled without notice leaving her son and others distraught, ill tempered and tearful. “It takes up to four hours to calm them down.”
Councillor Borella referred to MCCH management’s claim that the changes will have “no impact on the services it provides” clearly attempting to provoke a rebuttal from Mrs. Stanton. He got one. Staff pay is being reduced by up to 40% and “it makes staff leave. Advertisements for replacements say that no qualifications are required for the job”.
The inadequate cabinet member for Adults’ Services, Chris Taylor, asked condescendingly and ungrammatically of Mrs. Stanton “Are you aware that MCCH are not council staff for the last ten years?” The stupid question got the answer it deserved. “It worries me very much that you are passing the buck. I am not convinced you understand the services you provide.”
Councillor Katie Perrior was keen to add her name to the list of silly questioners. “Have you raised your concerns with Adults’ Social Care?” Obviously Mrs. Stanton had. Why do councillors assume everyone is as ineffective as they are?
Councillor Edward Boateng (Labour, Erith) asked if Mrs. Stanton thought that Bexley council was about to renew their contract with the failing MCCH? She said “Yes I think they will on the basis that Bexley council does not listen”.
All too soon the disabled dismissing useless pen jabbing mayor declared that time was up and referred the issue back to the equally useless councillor Chris Taylor (Conservative Colyers) who confirmed that services in the hands of private companies are no longer his concern. It’s at Pontius Pilate moments like this that I wonder why Bexley council insists on a Christian clergyman sitting in on council meetings. Perhaps he is praying for them.
As circumstances have contrived to make this report very late I have been beaten to it by the News Shopper. Their report is here.
According to the News Shopper MCCH management has said, “Those who will be adversely affected will receive a transitional payment equivalent to any loss of basic pay calculated over a six month period. We have provided as much notice as possible to our employees of the changes, having notified all staff back in March 2012 and the transitional payment we have offered gives further time to adjust to the new rates of pay we are offering”.
If your pay is about to be reduced by up to 50% doing it over six months is no real consolation. I imagine even Bexley council staff on nearly £1,000 a day might find it tricky making adjustments to live on only £600 a day. But it should be possible; if you are on only only one twentieth of that figure the situation may not be manageable. In the immortal words published in the News Shopper three years ago. Bexley council has been “taken over by a mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”.
† An earlier deputation on behalf of the disabled, this time by Mr. John Stanton.