The last part of a council meeting is the report from committee
chairmen and anyone who has attended all the scrutiny meetings (e.g. me) is unlikely to learn
anything new; however 41 councillors at scrutiny committees may not be going down as well
as the leader had hoped and with the official opposition upping the stakes this concluding session
was not as boring as usual.
Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) soon laid into the lack of democracy on show and complained that six of the 41 hadn’t any say in the make up of sub-committees. #democraticdeficit.
Councillor Langstead alleged that no one had been allowed to discuss housing. #democraticdeficit. Social care workers are leaving in droves because of the sub-minimum wages and the council should be ashamed of the way staff have been treated. Care workers’ time with patients has been cut from 45 to 30 minutes. (Some have told me occasionally 15). Chairman James Hunt responded with what may be described as a stout defence of his chairmanship while councillor Don Massey revealed that he was a director of a domiciliary care agency. To save you looking it up it is called Supreme Home Care (Bexley) Limited.
The meeting moved on from People to Places.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) complimented the council on adopting Labour policy on housing and asked what other imaginative and dynamic ideas did they have. Did they plan to participate in the Treasury’s Housing Zones for London scheme?
Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) said he expected to be consulted about moving Bexley town centre bus stops and wanted to know what lessons had been learned from Phase One of the Bexleyheath regeneration. He repeated what councillor Val Clark had called scurrilous by referring to the money sucked out of Howbury to fund the new Civic Offices. I was under the impression that was fact not scurrilous rumour.
Councillor Don Massey thought Labour’s questions were an abuse of process and he may have had a point. Places chairman Melvin Seymour, unlike James Hunt (People), is no gentleman so promptly put the boot into councillor Borella - especially on the matter of bus stops. He said he was fed up with Labour going on about homelessness as he knew what it was like to live in a deprived area referring, for emphasis, to certain members of his family, who we know from the Olly Cromwell affair - they beat him up as he emerged from hospital on the night his son was born - are thugs.
The Tory’s response ensured that none of the Labour questions were answered. Result!
The third and last Scrutiny Report to come up for approval was Resources. Chairman Steven Hall called on Labour “to ramble on”. Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) duly obliged making the point he made at the meeting, that members of the scrutiny committee were invited to approve proposals before they had a chance to meet. He said the council leader had said that the new scrutiny arrangements would be more rounded and robust and they were not. Maybe she was describing herself?
Councillor Daniel Francis said it was another example of the Conservatives making decisions before committees meet and expecting them to be rubber stamped. #democraticdeficit. Nothing new there, I have an email from a Conservative councillor telling me how it is done and blaming the rounded one.
Labour leader Alan Deadman (Labour, North End) added his weight to the theme that the scrutiny committees are too big. Four meetings a year is not enough time for the wide ranging subjects. He had noticed that more time was spent at the Resources Committee discussing Computers than Health or Housing. He asked that democracy be allowed to return to the chamber. #democraticdeficit.
Councillor Colin Tandy said that from 2002 to 2006 when Labour had a majority of one they cut the Tories very little slack implying that what was going on now was justifiable tit for tat. He said the Conservatives “had a substantial majority” and he wanted “no more Labour nonsense”. Alan Deadman immediately came up with facts and figures that proved that councillor Tandy’s recollection of 2006 was far from accurate. With a majority of only one I doubt it would have been possible for Labour to run all the committees and sub-committees by themselves.
Resources chairman Steven Hall summed up with a reasonable defence of his decisions, heavily tinged with sarcasm directed at councillor Francis.
And with that the mayor drew a another fiery exchange of views to a halt. He did a pretty good job of keeping everyone happy and unlike all his recent predecessors showed no sign of blatant right wing bias.
The above report was written with the aid of the technically poor webcast. My browser didn’t like it any more than I did.
My vote for malicious add-on goes to Deputy Chief Executive Paul Moore. Malfunctioning too I shouldn’t wonder.