It was councillor
Linda Bailey who coined that phrase, but it is true.
There will be a council meeting on November 5th, a mere 15 weeks after the last one. Full council meetings are the only gatherings where the public may ask a question. Only 15 minutes allowed for 200,000 odd residents mind, we can’t have democracy getting the upper hand can we?
Some people like to ask questions because they think that the council should be constantly held to account. Most people don’t bother because Bexley council is under no obligation to answer questions, truthfully or at all.
One member of the public who likes to ask a question is Elwyn Bryant. Before the July meeting he asked one which I felt was more than a little cheeky. It said…
Due to the exoneration of Councillor Cheryl Bacon for her wrongdoing when Chairperson of the Public Realm meeting of 19th of June 2013 under the Council’s Complaints procedure, despite overwhelming evidence against her, Councillor Cheryl Bacon is now subject to Criminal Allegations to the Metropolitan Police for Misconduct in Public Office and Perverting the Course of Justice.
Between 5th May 2010 and 26th November 2013, 49 complaints were made against Bexley Councillors of which only one was upheld, that being a complaint from one Councillor against another Councillor.
No complaint from members of the Public was upheld. Does the Leader agree that the Council’s Complaints Procedure is unfit for purpose and therefore recommends that a full scale independent inquiry be held into the running of the Council’s Complaints Procedure?
You may have expected that question to be rejected out of hand, it’s not the sort of comment that Bexley council would want to webcast. However it was rejected for being submitted too late even though by any reasonable day counting scheme it wasn’t.
Elwyn submitted it again for the November meeting and got the following reply a day or two ago.
The Mayor considers it is inappropriate for your question to be put to the Council. This is because the first paragraph of your submission refers to allegations made against a Councillor. In relation to the criminal allegations you refer to, it is a matter for the Metropolitan Police in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with those allegations as they deem appropriate.
I think if I was in Elwyn’s shoes I would remove the first sentence and put it in again. We really ought to better understand how it is that no complaint by any member of the public against any Bexley councillor has ever been upheld. Is it because the Standards Committee is chaired by that renowned liar councillor Cheryl Bacon?
Meanwhile Mick Barnbrook who submitted a question twelve days before the July meeting but also had it rejected for being too late set in motion a complaint about twelve days being whittled down below seven when by even the meanest of anti-democratic counting methods he had given seven clear days of notice.
Mick pointed out that there was no practical difference between a question submitted at five to midnight on a Friday evening (allowed) and one sent in on Saturday morning (rejected). In any case the official guidance says that Saturday must be counted as a working day but Bexley doesn’t count weekends or the day of submission or the day of the meeting.
Mr. Barnbrook eventually got a reply from Paul Moore, Director of Customer and Corporate Services, which is probably as close to being an admission that Bexley council is undemocratic as any you are likely to get. Moore has acknowledged that Bexley’s Constitution does not conform to the norm and entertains the possibility that this may get changed at some unspecified future date. Meanwhile Bexley council’s unorthodox day counting procedure stands. Even seven honestly counted days is longer than other nearby councils demand.
Two extracts from Mr. Moore’s letter follow.