There was an intriguing meeting listed in the Appendix to Agenda Item 12 of
last Wednesday’s council meeting. A meeting tonight about ward boundaries.
Bexley Conservatives’ record on boundary revisions is a shameful one. In 2010, council leader Teresa O’Neill made the front page of the News Shopper by saying she was considering reducing the number of councillors. She did absolutely nothing about it.
A year later Bexley’s Conservatives put forward proposals to change the Parliamentary constituency boundaries. The general idea was to ‘lend’ Thamesmead some surplus Tory votes from Welling and move the more easterly parts of Thamesmead voters into Bexleyheath but not enough to dent the Tory majority there.
A blatant bit of gerrymandering aimed at painting Thamesmead blue but the Tories justified it on the grounds that Erith and Sidcup had a lot in common - like both being home to munitions factories in the First World War.
More recently the Labour Group returned to the subject of borough boundaries and put forward a Motion calling on a reduction in the number of councillors. As is always the case, the Tories threw it out lock, stock and barrel. When UKIP suggested that the same savings could be made immediately by reducing allowances by one third (†), the Tories threw that out too. What else from a group whose primary purpose is to look after themselves?
However in September 2014, Teresa O’Neill wrote to the Boundary Commission. It couldn’t have been a more vague letter, it merely asked for a review.
The Boundary Commission and its rulings are very obviously of supreme importance to democracy in Bexley as they are everywhere and definitely something the public should know about.
However Bexley council has never been a strong believer in democracy and in this case it has placed two obstacles in its way. Firstly the time of the meeting is not given and secondly it is not shown at all on the on-line calendar of meetings.
An enquiry elicited a comment from Mr. Fox, the council’s senior committee officer, to the effect that he “understands the meeting is not open to the public”. Perhaps Mr. Fox has forgotten that council meetings are regulated by Statute and his ‘understanding’ has no bearing on such matters.
Maybe something more definitive will emerge during the course of the day, but the last time Mr. Fox gave advice on the exclusion of the public from meetings the police took an interest and Mr. Tuckley, the Chief Executive, his Legal Officer, Lynn Tyler and the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon continue to be investigated for Misconduct in Public Office two years later.
† Also reported on 7th March 2015.