Will Tuckley wrote to me as part of his ill-judged defence of
councillor Cheryl Bacon to say that I should sit well away from other members of
the public when attending meetings if I did not want to be associated with them.
Actually I had, but as I said, councillor Bacon lied to him so he wasn’t to
know and Tuckley refused to listen to more independent witnesses. Fortunately the
police have done that job for him.
After making such a suggestion you would think Tuckley might make it possible for me to sit apart, but the new council chamber is an abomination and doesn’t allow it.
It is a legal requirement that the council provides anyone
intending to report on their meetings with the means to do so.
At last night’s Places Scrutiny meeting two tables were provided as part of the public seating. One was occupied by a Conservative Party supporter and I grabbed the other only to be instantly surrounded by other members of the public. Inevitably they whisper to each other, constantly flick through their agenda pages, tinker with laptops, cough, clear their throats and tap their feet on the floor.
Audibility in the chamber is variable to say the least and it requires constant concentration to follow what is being said. Councillors John Waters and Don Massey were no more than seven feet from me and were very difficult to follow. Council officer Jane Richardson was more like 50 feet away and she was as clear as a bell. Chairman Melvin Seymour at the same distance was very nearly as good. It obviously doesn’t help that this dreadful new council chamber allows mainly only a back view of heads.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out why Don Massey is indistinct; as the photo below shows, he simply doesn’t bother to use his microphone. That’s his by his left shoulder in the photograph. He was speaking when that picture was taken and councillor Linda Bailey who was sitting to Massey’s left and using the same microphone was much easier to hear.
The meeting itself was long. Chairman councillor Melvin Seymour is not a hard task master and runs a decent enough meeting. He started by saying he had no intention of beating James Hunt’s Marathon 219 minutes but by my watch he over ran that record by a minute. Councillor Alex Sawyer thought it was a minute or two less. Either way it is no credit on leader Teresa O’Neill that her decision to restrict the opportunity for scrutinising cabinet decisions is causing the final agenda items to be rushed through by councillors who may be close to falling asleep and indisputably keen to get home.
In addition to the usual small handful of council meeting attendees and the unknown Tory party supporter was would-be Erith & Thamesmead MP Anna Firth. I would have welcomed her to Thamesmead but she was closely chaperoned throughout by the disreputable Philip Read. I hope she isn’t learning too many bad habits but I fear she has.