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There are some Council meetings which really have to be
reported straight away and there are some days when the time available for blogs
is extremely limited and sometimes the two coincide. Today is one of those days.
Last night Bexley’s Full Council was due to rubber stamp its 3·99% Council Tax increase, not quite a full Council actually, Councillor Fothergill did not show up. You might think that the huge Tory majority would ensure a quick vote in favour of the proposed increase but there was nothing quick about yesterday evening, it dragged on for close to three and a half hours while numerous Conservatives queued up to tell each other how wonderful they were.
The evening started well enough when Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer gave me an especially warm welcome. I would guess that he at least is content to see the Member for Colyers put back in her bottle, however it was mainly downhill from then onwards.
Something I have noticed with six of the seven Mayors I have seen perform is that even the best of them, and Councillor Peter Reader has been one of the better ones, is that at this time of the year, realisation that they are soon to rejoin their nobody friends on the Tory benches sets in. All trace of impartiality then disappears. Four or five times last night Labour Members pointed out that Tories were breaking Standing Orders and each time it happened the Labour Councillor was told to shut up by the Mayor and the Conservative was invited to carry on. The seventh Mayor did that throughout her year in office and not just at the end.
The Mayor also stretched the rules by allowing a new Tory Motion to take precedence over those already in the queue, it was a blatant piece of electioneering “utterly condemning” Mayor Sadiq Khan for his decision to merge Bexley’s police with Greenwich and Lewisham. In my humble opinion Sadiq Khan is possibly the biggest (or should that be smallest?) idiot to ever be elected to high office and few would doubt that Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich would make a better match.
The Labour Group wanted to expand the Motion to call for more government funding, but that would look like Bexley Tories were criticising the Conservative government so they were having none of it however sensible it might have been. More than once the Conservatives fell about laughing at the very idea and voted it down.
Labour proposed a rebalancing of the budget which would mean that the newly formed BexleyCo would run off with less of our money but the payback would be no park sales and a restored CCTV system.
During the ensuing debate Council Leader Teresa O’Neill criticised Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) for his support for maximising housing opportunities and tried to twist his words to mean he was in favour of building on parks. Danny had been speaking only of brown field sites of course, it is the Tories who are hell bent on building over parks.
Labour Councillor Brenda Langstead (North End) reminded everyone that a huge unused park lay behind Church Road in Bexleyheath. Whose house backs on to that unsullied space? Council Leader O’Neill’s of course.
Labour's Press Release on building over parks.
The abandoned CCTV system came in for much comment. The Tories are spending £585,000 a year on maintaining it but not spending the £220,000 needed to staff it. Both Cabinet Member Craske and Teresa O’Neill said the police were monitoring it but everyone knows that is a lie. In his report to the People Scrutiny Committee following the Northumberland Heath riot the Borough Police Commander stated very clearly that it was followed on Social Media not CCTV. Maybe a few coppers went into the control room late in the day but that is a long way from it being used effectively.
Labour's Press Release on the restoration of CCTV.
After Conservatives Linda Bailey, Val Clark, David Leaf, Gareth Bacon, Geraldine Lucia-Hennis, Ray Sams, Eileen Pallen, Sybil Camsey, Steven Hall, James Hunt, Louie French, Melvin Seymour, Caroline Newton, Brian Bishop, Christine Bishop, Colin Tandy, Brad Smith and Christine Catterall all stood up and waffled to various degrees of ineffectiveness, Cabinet Member Don Massey accused the Labour speakers of being “the comedy act”. The man is a very bad joke.
Councillor June Slaughter said something about Old Farm Park which was so far out of character for her that I am not going to report it before she is given an opportunity to better explain it.
Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) said he was pleased that Bexley Council was building a new town in Thamesmead which will come as news to everyone, especially Peabody Housing Association.
After behaving himself in Council for the past year or so Cabinet Member Philip Read decided it was time to reopen his dispute with his opposition shadow Mabel Ogundayo. When she first took office he took issue wth her youthfulness and inexperience and left many of us with the impression he was not in favour of the election of attractive black women. His criticism then was that she took three weeks to respond to his urgent email about a young child said to be in need of the Council’s help. The delay was entirely due to her parents’ preoccupation with their daughter being close to death with meningitis.
Dragging up ancient history for an imaginery political advantage while he was supposed to be debating the budget was a disgraceful performance by Cabinet Member Read and detrimental to his achievements in Children’s Services. A leopard never changes its spots.
Councillor Read said that Labour was nothing but “a collection of slogans masquerading as a political party”.
As the meeting dragged on I amused myself by viewing it as an election hustings which in many ways it was.
As you may know I am a traditional Tory voter, at least I was until David Cameron became Prime Minister. I very much regret voting Liberal when a friend stood in Aldershot in the 1960s and I gritted my teeth when I cast my one and only Labour vote for Danny Hackett in 2014, but he had become a friend too. I had no idea who I might vote for next May, in part because Danny has gone to Thamesmead and I had no confirmation of who the candidates might be in Belvedere.
Yesterday’s lamentable performance by a bunch of self-serving, self congratulating, arrogant, unlistening and occasionally lying Tories has made up my mind very firmly. There is no way anyone can vote for such a bunch. A bunch who it might be said appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Resources Committee no less, someone who admits to losing “about £100,000” of clients’ money.
I detect not the slightest bit of Corbynitis among Bexley’s present Labour Group, I am going to vote for them next May before Momentum comes and gets them!
Note: Blog from written notes, not the audio recording.