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Bonkers Blog August 2018

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25 August - Another trick up Bexley Council’s question dodging sleeve

Bexley Council has always had a problem with questions and they have tried all sorts of tactics to avoid answering them. There was a time when they would publish your name and address if you posed a question formally at a Council meeting and although that is no longer the case, if you ask too many awkward ones they will ban you from asking more. My associate John Watson is banned from corresponding with Bexley Council by any means if they deem his communication to be a question and it is not an uncommon Council practice.

The Thurrock and South Essex Independent became very agitated about being given the John Watson treatment by its local Council, although only for six months. Imagine any Council Chief Executive instructing her Press Office not to say anything to the local paper. Utter madness!

Could it happen in Bexley? Probably. The News Shopper was recently pushed away by Bexley’s Press Office. They wouldn’t answer the Shopper’s questions about the unexplained departure of Chief Executive Gill Steward and they would not answer a Freedom of Information request either.

I would hope the Shopper Appeals the decision. Maybe they should FOI Gill Steward’s Contract of Employment to see if it says anything about severance pay. When John Watson FOI’d her predecessor’s contract he was sent a copy.

A new dodge-a-question trick has been referred to Bonkers by a correspondent who makes irregular trips to a small Kentish town. He went there a year ago and was surprised to see the parking places empty and what had been a thriving shopping centre on its uppers. He then discovered that parking had become chargeable and shoppers were going elsewhere.

More recently he had to go there again and found a total transformation, The small town was mobbed with shoppers and he had to look hard for a parking spot. The Council had introduced free short stay (three hours) parking.

The local government election was approaching so my informant wrote to both Bexley Labour and the Conservative Mayor (maybe not the most obvious choice) to ask what their views were on free short stay parking.

Labour did not reply and the Conservatives may as well not have done.

The Mayor referred what was clearly an election question to Committee Services and in due course Kevin Fox told my correspondent that the only way to have his question answered was to formally submit it to him and stand before Full Council to ask the relevant Cabinet Member.

They are question dodging experts aren’t they? A voter cannot ask the two main parties in Bexley what its views are on parking policy.

Maybe I should answer the question. In Bexley all policies are directed at raising as much money as possible irrespective of any harm that they might inflict on the borough’s economy and the populace. 15 minutes free parking was considered two or three years ago. The idea was rejected.


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