Before Mayor Eileen Pallen
lost the plot at approximately one third of the way through last Wednesday’s
Council Meeting, events were for the most part fairly mundane. It was question time for
Councillors. Nothing from the public because none had been asked that Bexley Council was prepared to answer.
Questions from Conservative Councillors are too often nothing but an excuse for Cabinet Member grandstanding and the first was not an exception.
It came from Social Media Queen Sharon Massey who asked the Cabinet Member for Education to welcome expansion of grammar schools in Bexley.
Deputy Leader Rob Leitch said he strongly welcomed anything that would diversify education.
Councillor Massey came back to admit that she was a governor of a local grammar school and to brag that her daughter was deputy head girl. She gave the Cabinet Member another opportunity to push the case for grammar schools with another loaded question. “What sort of children do you think would benefit from expansion of grammar schools?” During his 50 second, beautifully delivered and presumably pre-prepared response, Rob Leitch didn’t actually answer the question.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if Cabinet Member Leitch would like to see the expansion of good state schools. Councillor Leitch said “absolutely. The borough has outstanding grammar and outstanding comprehensive schools. Choice and competition is a good thing”.
Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) asked about progress towards a new river crossing in Belvedere.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said the London Mayor had set out plans for new crossings. “A DLR extension to Thamesmead town centre which is across the border in Greenwich is being considered but the Belvedere crossing has been kicked into the long grass. The Council will carry on fighting.”
Councillor Seymour asked if Alex Sawyer thought that the new Mayor “had let Bexley down”. Councillor Sawyer said that Mayor Sadiq Khan “has let everybody down. It is our residents who will suffer the most”. He did not think a DLR extension, “though welcome would benefit this borough as much as road crossings. The Mayor seems to think that London ends at the boundary of the People’s Republic of Greenwich. It remains to be seen if the Mayor is a Mayor for all of London or just his socialist comrades”.
For what it is worth, this alleged Labour supporter, falsely accused by Bexley Conservatives of hurling abuse from the public gallery during this Council meeting, agrees with every word Alex Sawyer uttered. I am ready to say that I believe Sadiq Khan, after less than six months in office, is proving to be a disaster for London. And still the Bexley liars would like you to believe BiB is a Labour sponsored blog!
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) displayed the taxpayer funded anti-crossing propaganda sent to every Bexley resident three years ago which demonstrates even more clearly now than it did in January 2013, that Bexley Conservatives made grave errors of judgment on the subject.
Cabinet Member Sawyer repeated the old excuse that the ‘old’ bridge was in the wrong place despite one of the two crossings he recently encouraged being proposed for the same location and he instead spoke of some of the inadequacies of the proposed DLR extension.
“It once again isolates Thamesmead and the journey times do not make sense. Gallions Reach to Canary Wharf is 22 minutes” and obviously longer from Thamesmead. From Abbey Wood it will be eleven minutes.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked Cabinet Member Peter Craske about the 50% increase in fly tipping and why there was an underspend of £221,000 on street cleaning when the roads are filthy.
Councillor Craske said he would be spending the money on more cleaning.
Councillor Ferreira reminded the Cabinet Member that a recent survey revealed that a majority of residents felt the Council was very poor at street cleaning. Councillor Craske acknowledged the need to do better.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) made an apparently innocent enough comment - though you can never be absolutely sure of what is staged - about the need to make further investment in cleaning which gave Councillor Craske the opportunity to say that the Labour group had voted against his Don’t be a Tosser initiative.
I have no recollection of that but the usual trick is to bundle the acceptable into a single package with the not so acceptable to force Labour into a reluctant No vote.
335 fines had been issued including 13 for spitting.
Councillor Craske went on to say that on fly tipping, he looks for evidence and then prosecutes. My neighbour and I are still waiting for any response to the video and photographic evidence delivered to the Council offices four weeks ago.
Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked how many fly tipping prosecutions there had been. “Four fined in court with two cases pending in the last few months.”
Councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP, St. Michael’s) put his question to Cabinet Member Craske. He wanted to know if racist crime in Bexley was increasing. At the previous Council meeting Peter Craske reported that it had not increased in the month since Brexit.
Fortunately Councillor Craske said the same thing again. There was no evidence of an increase since the referendum. There were actually more racist crimes in Bexley in the month before the Brexit vote than there were in the following month.
Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham) introduced an entirely new subject and referred to a Parliamentary committee which alleged that the Labour party was “a safe place for anti-Semitism”. Labour Councillors Stefano Borella and Daniel Francis both drew the Mayor’s attention to the Constitution (Rule 20.4) which does not allow questions of a non-local nature. It was at this point that the Mayor first demonstrated that she is the worst since Val Clark who is her Deputy.
She said she saw no need to abide by the Constitution, she wanted to hear what Councillor Hunt had to say and that was her ruling whatever the Constitution might say.
After Councillor Hunt had finished his attempt to besmirch the opposition Councillor Craske tried to pull the question back to a local one. There had been no anti-Semitic crime in Bexley during the past year. The fact that he had that obscure statistic to hand strongly suggests that James Hunt’s question was pre-arranged. The statistic was accompanied by some clapping. The webcast does not reveal who was responsible for it but my recorder suggests it was someone very close to me. My money is on Michael Barnbrook.
Cabinet Member Read was asked what the latest percentage was for permanent staff within Children’s Services. He said it was 77% in August and now 84%. Philip Read is obviously a far more successful Cabinet Member than his predecessor Katie Perrior who has gone away to work in Downing Street for Theresa May. What a disaster she was.
Philip Read’s response was not without a jibe or two at the opposition party but was otherwise informative. The academy for new social workers, the combatting of tax avoidance schemes and taking the lead role with a London wide cooperation scheme are all going well.
For the record it was a this point that I was left alone in the Public Gallery and the possibility of there being Labour supporters shouting abuse later, as published on the Conservative’s website, evaporated.
Councillor Nick O’Hare asked Councillor Craske to crow over the success of community libraries and denigrate the opposition. He was happy to oblige. He confirmed that the joint venture with Bromley Council has failed.
The Mayor finished the session on time which meant we missed some absolute gems of questions like, for example, Councillor John Wilkinsons’ which asked Peter Craske what he was doing to tackle the litter problem. Is he really the only person in the borough who has not seen the Tosser posters and the Council’s constant stream of Tweets about the number of penalty notices issued?
As the Agenda moved on to the next Item the Mayor announced that it must be kept within its allotted 30 minutes, an instruction that she instantly forgot.