This report comes to you courtesy of Blackfen & Lamorbey Independent candidate Nicholas Dowling without the aid of his Dictaphone, it’s broken remember. I am sure councillor Cheryl Bacon bitterly regrets that. If it had been working on 19th June she may not have been tempted to don the mantle of the biggest liar in Bexley. Akin Alabi, Lynn Tyler, Nick Hollier and Rebecca Sandhu might have retained just a smidgen of a respectable reputation. However without more ado here is Nick’s report, just as scribbled into his notebook and complete with his own title.
Malcolm had mentioned to me that he would be unable to make the Public Cabinet on Tuesday 8th April 2014 and I assured him that if I had nothing else to do so I would wander up to the Civic Centre and report on it for him.
The Agenda was a hefty 148 pages and there were a further 36 pages relating to the Quarter 3 Status report for 2013-14. ‘Gosh, this might be a long one.’ I thought. Still, I need not have overly worried as it was all taken care of in less than 25 minutes.
As per normal there was not a big crowd. Apart from myself there were two others in the public gallery, although, one of them was sporting a Bexley council badge and the other, it transpired, was a Labour candidate for the upcoming local elections. Councillor Deadman joined his colleague in the cheap seats shortly after the meeting started and complementing the assorted masses was a handful of Conservative councillors on the wings of the debating – Ha! Ha! – chamber. Even by normal standards it was a pitiful attendance effort all round. Perhaps it is just too hard for most of our elected representatives to even pretend to bother with local democracy as the elections loom large.
So first up was some 60 pages on the adoption of an Adult Social Care Vision Statement. It was obviously all crystal clear to those present as a mere four minutes sufficed to shelve this “very important” (according to councillor Chris Taylor cabinet member for Adult Services) document. However, it did evince the only question of the night, coming from councillor Linda Bailey who evidently had not been listening to the person sitting next to her, one Mark Charters, who as the Director for Education & Social Care had clearly stated that Bexley council had consulted widely about the vision statement. So why she ridiculously enquired if the document had been widely consulted on was probably a mystery to everybody present. What is it they say? Oh yes, you get what you pay for and clearly £22,000+ doesn’t go far here in Bexley! A really poor effort tonight Linda.
The next item was only 20 pages long so unsurprisingly it was all wrapped up in around three minutes or so. The headline here was that Bexley council is going to use an ‘as the crow flies’ measurement for its admission arrangements for community and voluntary controlled schools in 2015/16. From what I could garner it seems that the shortest walking route currently employed has led to all sorts of confusion as officers of the council cannot read maps very well; with the end result being that pesky parents have been disputing our local bureaucrats orienteering skills and winning their appeals on too many occasions. Clearly the council cannot have residents gaining the upper hand in any arena so rather than improve their own level of service and general attention to detail they have decided to skew the game back in their own favour. Now in all fairness that was not how Jane Richardson, the deputy Director of Strategic Planning & Regeneration put it but if you want the official version you can read it here. (PDF.)
Another four minutes saw the London Local Government Pension Scheme Collective Investment Vehicle all done and dusted and given it was only eight pages of the agenda this was proportionately the most intensively discussed item all night. Everybody seemed very keen to stress that it was all about driving down the costs of fund management but there was absolutely no indication provided as to how this would actually be achieved. Indeed a cursory glance at the paperwork supplied seemed to indicate that this was actually significantly unlikely. And in fact the only thing that was stressed above everything else was that our glorious leader, councillor Teresa O’Neill, would not benefit at all from her membership on the committee, which until everybody kept repeating this fact I did not for one moment assume that she would.
Frankly, when the likes of councillor Colin Campbell and councillor Don Massey keep insisting that there will be no personal gain I am afraid that I am wholly unconvinced. I guess we will all have to wait and see!
Getting things back on track some forty four pages relating to the Children’s Social Care Quality Assurance and Performance Management framework took a mere seven minutes to address. The rather irritating thing here was that it related in large part to a very recent OFSTED inspection that the council knew the results of but, of course, was not going to discuss in public just yet. So why bother mentioning it at all then? I guess it just about sums up this rather shoddy lot!
Luckily for some, councillor Teresa O’Neill took great pleasure in announcing that this inspection report would not be published until the day after the local elections and one can only wonder if Bexley has really markedly improved since the the previous damning OFSTED report?
The final item on the agenda was led by Paul Moore, the Director for Customer & Corporate Services, who jauntily trotted through some aspects of the Performance Management Framework for Quarter 3 which related to Bexley council’s performance for October to December 2013. Now this is normally an exercise in self-gratification as the council dutifully achieves all of the (low) targets that it sets for itself and if it doesn’t it can always claim that things have moved on since the data was compiled; or claim that things are getting better now; or moving in the right direction et cetera. Indeed, generally, this was what Mr. Moore proffered and without a murmur from any of the attending champions of local democracy he wrapped things up in a little over six minutes.
How odd that this supposedly diligent senior officer whose basic salary is a meagre £125,439 could take no time to highlight the travesty that was indicated on Page 21 with regards to Tackling Childhood & Adult Obesity. (See below.)
Teresa O’Neill should take note that a great deal needs to be done in this area. Perhaps she could even lead by example on this one? Marvel at all of the red rated and amber categories. This is failure on an epic scale. I have just never seen Bexley council admit to such a fiasco and not unsurprisingly nobody wanted to scrutinise or talk about this huge matter in any way shape or form. Shame on them all. There are millions of pounds potentially involved here and Bexley’s residents deserve so much better. I am pleased to think that I am responsible for putting this in the public domain. What a shame; Paul you didn’t manage to hide this one very well at all!
Teresa O’Neill brought the meeting to a close at 7:54 but not before finding time to thank her cabinet colleagues Colin Campbell and Katie Perrior for all of their hard work as both of them are standing down come the May elections. She felt it was important to put this note on the public record. Big deal! Personally I wondered what Machiavellian shenanigans are going on behind the scenes to fill their plum spots and pocket the extra two lots of £13,197 allowances up for grabs? Watch this space…