John Watson, who attends almost as many Council meetings as I do was banned from contacting Council officers by Chief Executive Gill Steward for asking an awkward question, has taken issue with my speculation that Bexley Council may be less corrupt than it used to be.
He has sent me a list of outstanding matters with the unstated implication that I have no business blaming slack periods on BiB on a lack of material.
John’s list includes 22 matters which Bexley Council thinks it has got away with over the past few months but some are overlapping and around half too obscure to be, in my opinion, of wide interest.
So here’s an edited list with comments
• Finance Director Alison Griffin refused Michael Barnbrook’s Freedom of Information request at the review stage. She responded initially by refusing him any information but when Michael sought a review which is his legal right she declared him vexatious. She has no power to revise the FOI laws.
There is nothing further to report on this, the case is with the information Commissioner who will give a response when it gets to the top of his pending tray.
This may be technically correct because Michael is still awaiting a formal response from the Crown Prosecution Service. However given the information that I received via the back door he has decided not to pursue it further.
If the CPS is prepared to spend 15 months and more public money than was necessary on a scheme to undermine the case against Tuckley and Bacon it is a battle that is bound to be lost and Michael’s energies would be better directed elsewhere. It comes as no surprise to me that the CPS is unwilling to put their deliberations in writing.
• Allegations made by Elwyn Bryant and Malcolm Knight about police officers in the Craske affair.
This one has been done to death already. It is nearly five years since the initial complaint was made and three years since it was escalated to an allegation of crime. It then took two years and pressure from Teresa Pearce MP before the Met. Police decided to take things seriously.
It is quite obvious that they have uncovered a great deal of wrong doing at Bexleyheath police station and I am very interested in seeing how the police will wriggle off their own hook. If they find in our favour I shall make further criminal allegations against the Bexley Council people who begged the favour from their police friends. I believe that is likely to be Teresa O’Neill and Will Tuckley.
• Bexley Council is alone among local Councils in installing coin operated parking meters which do not give change.
I know that Bexley Council has never purchased a ticket machine that gives change because an FOI response said so - what else would you expect of a dishonest Council? I have no idea what other local Councils do. I don’t think I have ever paid for parking within a London borough in the 33 years I have lived in London but I suspect Bexley will not be alone.
• Falsification of Minutes of Bexley Council’s Members Code of Conduct Sub-Committee by Akin Alabi and Lynn Tyler relating to the Maxine Fothergill decision stating that it had been Judicially Reviewed although it had not.
I am aware that certain aspects of the minutes of the meeting were very obviously untrue. They were falsified as part of the Council’s defence against court action proposed by John Watson and he has given me the names of two Councillors who refused to answer his questions about it. How could they when any comment must either be a lie or confirm that the minutes were? You can see why Gill Steward doesn’t like John’s questions.
The Maxine Fothergill business to which John is referring was a huge lie designed to exact revenge after Maxine reported Teresa O’Neill’s favoured election candidate to the police for repeated thefts. Unless Maxine issues a further challenge to her malicious conviction we are not likely to learn any more. BiB can only scratch the surface of Council corruption. Any Councillor who rebels or tries to do the decent thing faces dire retribution. I have occasionally been told about it by the few prepared to say anything at all.
• Akin Alabi was appointed to be Bexley Council’s Head of Legal Services and Monitoring Office without any evidence that he holds the qualifications deemed essential by Bexley Council and the issue is still not resolved. Bexley Council does not dispute the facts but refuses to make further comment.
Whilst John with his legal background is understandably agitated about the situation what can be done about it? Surely he must know by now that Bexley Council believes it is is above the law and can do whatever it likes. History suggests that is the situation and there is little or nothing that can be done about it. I feel John should watch what Mr. Alabi does very closely and make sure it is never something that only a practising solicitor is allowed to do. Then if it is not, report him to the Law Society or the police. It would be a criminal act.
It is slightly puzzling that it was announced about three months ago that Director Mr. Paul Moore was to be appointed Monitor Officer but the Council’s website still says the post is held by Mr. Alabi.
As you have hopefully seen, John gets into some obscure areas which might bore BiB readers if repeated too often. What his list does do is further enforce my view that Bexley Council can do pretty much what it wants, lawful or not, and no amount of exposure will change things. With the Information Commissioner and the Independent Police Complaints Commission typically taking around six months to answer a complaint, life is too short to tackle everything.
Let’s hope John doesn't dig back further in time. He might remember how Bexley Council closed off a bridleway to please one of their mates without obtaining the necessary authorisation from the Secretary of State and how they were happy to employ a gang of law breaking bailiffs and refused to give back the money falsely extracted from the public, safe in the knowledge that no one could afford to take them to court. Crooks the lot of them!