Yesterday’s Full Council meeting was not the most exciting affair I have
witnessed in the chamber. The last meeting of the civic year is usually marked
by a bad tempered display by the Mayor but last night it didn’t happen.
A Mayor (Val Clark excepted) invariably starts a term of office with the best of intentions and is fair to all but towards the end of the twelve months realises that they must soon return to the fold and prepares the ground by going all tribal again.
However last night Mayor Eileen Pallen asked for Members to show respect to each other and reprimanded Conservative Councillors several times when they unnecessarily aimed minor abuse at opposition Members. It was forgivable perhaps that she allowed Cabinet Member Peter Craske to get away with worse because abuse is his stock in trade and to put a stop to it is probably an impossible ask.
It’s a shame that Councillor Craske feels it’s necessary to plumb the depths because beneath that ruddy exterior lies some good ideas. Why he feels the need to add a veneer of lies might occupy a psychiatrist for a lifetime.
Someone else in need of a good psychiatrist is Chief Executive Gill Steward. For some unknown reason a camera and lens that had behaved perfectly at last week’s People meeting and not used since had lost all its focus calibration settings so many of my shots last night were just tests while I fiddled with the settings. I never did get them right.
However the Chief Executive thought it was appropriate to stare at me adjusting the lens while she pulled idiotic faces. The photos are below par but one just about passes muster as a new banner overlay (above). Every time you see it remember that we pay that twerp £176,000 a year.
A question from a member of the public managed to link President Donald Trump, his alleged responsibility for climate change and how it potentially might drown everyone in Bexley so it wasn’t too surprising that the questioner didn’t want to show his face. I was very much looking forward to Councillor Craske’s withering put down but it wasn’t to be.
The first proper question came from Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) who wanted to know if Councillor Craske thought that the Northumberland Heath riot might have been prevented if he had not cut the £225,000 expenditure on CCTV surveillance. Councillor Craske said “the question does not make sense to me” because only last week the Borough Commander reported to the People Scrutiny meeting that the disturbance was first noticed in Bexleyheath on the CCTV.
This would have been a nice answer if it was truthful but as you might expect it was not. The Police Commander’s only reference to a camera was his own “mobile camera used as a deterrent after school”, and not the abandoned Council system. The early signs of a ‘riot’ were picked up via social media messages which were monitored by teachers. (I listened to the recording of the Police Commander again to make sure.)
Councillor Craske got away with another of his trademark deceptions and Councillor Ferreira never did get an answer to his question.
Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) was concerned about the standard of street cleaning in Thamesmead. This gave Councillor Craske the opportunity to trumpet his Tosser scheme.
Councillor John Fuller (Conservative, Christchurch) chipped in with an uncharacteristically spiteful and presumably Craske inspired comment to the effect that the Labour Group had voted against increasing the frequency of street cleaning which technically they did, but that was because the budget as a whole cut expenditure on street cleaning.
Councillor Craske said he would “not waste a moment pointing that out to voters [at the forthcoming election]”. The truth it may be but far from being the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) asked Councillor Craske if he would kindly boast for his entertainment and the webcams about the street cleaning machine he has purchased. Councillor Craske duly boasted about what he termed his “boys’ toy” accompanied by the customary distortion of the facts relating to who voted for what.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) asked a similar question about fly tipping. Cue Craske returning to his Tosser campaign which he said was widely welcomed across the borough and resulted in a reduction in levels of fly tipping.
John Davey asked if the Cabinet Member had any figures for fly tipping in other boroughs and by an enormous stroke of good fortune he had. He reeled off a list of London boroughs with far worse fly tipping figures than Bexley, all of them Labour controlled as he proudly told us.
1,000 fly tipping reports in Bexley. 70,000 in Enfield.
He rounded off with abuse of Councillor Danny Hackett who had
earlier unsuccessfully asked Councillor Craske to look at the fly tipping
problem in his ward. Craske said that Councillor Hackett had a good record for clearing up rubbish himself but
it transpired that Craske was alleging that Danny Hackett had deleted many of
his old Tweets. Allegations that are both untruthful and irrelevant. The Mayor thought so too.
She cut Craske short and moved rapidly on to the next question.
Councillor Hackett stood to deny deleting any Tweets but the Mayor would not let him continue.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked if any of the unspent Section 106 money was about to expire. Cabinet Member Sawyer thought not but added “Labour will get a thrashing [for their inclination to spend] at the next election”. The Mayor told him that her words about respect applied to him too.
Labour Leader Alan Deadman (North End) askd the Council Leader if, following all the cuts, residents now had lower expectations of service delivery. Teresa O’Neill said “No”. She had taken £1·7 million out of the budget and the alternative was doubling Council Tax.
Councillor Deadman said that people were now very aware that “they no longer get the services they were used to and their expectation is that will be the norm.” The Leader said it was what people wanted and “she was sure they will vote for it again”. Much the same response as Alex Sawyer’s but without the Mayoral rebuke.
To be continued…