There was a Code of Conduct Committee meeting last Thursday, I have never
known one yet that is not a farce and on the basis of what was in the Agenda -
almost nothing - I didn’t bother to go, however my colleague John Watson who
has been attending Council meetings for longer than my eight years is more of an optimist than I am,
and hoping to witness something interesting, he dropped in to watch proceedings.
That in itself is worth doing, it reminds the blighters that they are supposed to serve the public.
John has kindly written a brief report.
Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct Committee, whose purported
purpose is to investigate complaints against Councillors made by residents
met at 7:30 p.m. today in Bexley Council’s main chamber.
Councillor Linda Bailey, Chairman, announced that this was the first meeting of the Committee since the May 2018 elections but she added that there had been some “informal” meetings.
Virtually the whole of the meeting was taken up discussing the “do’s” and “don’ts” for Councillors. Nick Hollier, Bexley Council’s temporary Monitoring Officer, informed the Committee he would be drafting new rules that will require Councillors to adhere to the policies determined by Bexley Council. “He who pays the Councillors, calls the tune.”
There was quite a lot of discussion about how Councillors must deal with gifts of over £100 or a contribution of gifts the total value of which exceeds that figure. Mr. Hollier will draft a form on which Councillors must make declarations relating to gifts received since becoming a Councillor.
Councillor Steven Hall expressed concerns that some Councillors attending meetings are using Social Media instead of concentrating on the meetings. This, he said, was a distraction for other Councillors and it was unanimously agreed that the Councillors Code of Conduct should contain appropriate provisions.
The Independent Person, Elizabeth Dawes voiced her full support and slipped in, without any obvious reason, that she is a Magistrate who sits on the Local Bench.
The Agenda referred to two complaints made against Councillors. One was that a Councillor sent an email to a resident after the resident had specifically asked him not to do so.
The other complaint alleged that a Councillor had been using Twitter and Facebook to insult Bexley residents. On the face of it this is a clear breach of the Code, however the Agenda revealed that both complaints were dismissed without a hearing.
Matters of concern are:
• The identity of Councillors against whom complaints are made are always kept secret.
• The name of the complainant is always kept secret.
• The grounds on which Decisions are reached are always kept secret.
• The name of the person dismissing complaints is always kept secret.
• By labelling Code of Conduct Committee “informal” what should be public meetings become private.
• The reasons for the Decisions made are always kept secret.
• There is a strong suspicion that Decisions at these secret informal meetings are being made by officers of the Council which cannot be right.
• If a complainant does eventually achieve a hearing that too is always held in secret.
• This is very strong evidence by Bexley Council and against Bexley Council that the openness and transparency that is required from individuals in public office is not being achieved by either Bexley Council or its Councillors.
• The composition of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct Committee gives cause for concern because it is made up entirely of Councillors who sit as judge of their colleague Councillors while being supported by their Paymaster, Bexley Council.
• The Councillors’ Code of Conduct Committees of some local authorities do not contain any members who are Councillors. All its members are local residents.
Secret meetings. Councillors judging Councillors. No reasons given for decisions. Sounds like it’s time for a change!
John’s personal Mission Statement refers to the “liars, cheats and fraudsters” at Bexley Council and he knows absolutely that everything is contrived to protect Councillors and staff at the expense of residents but not being a user of Social Media he will not know anything about the insults issued by a Councillor against Bexley residents.
I don’t think there can be a lot of doubt who the Councillor can be. The only one who repeatedly insults residents is Philip Read and the example shown here is only one of many. When the insults are directed at me his Conservative colleagues sometimes email me their apologies and dissociate themselves from his comments.
His achievements are acknowledged but at the personal level he is despised by several of his colleagues.
It is not surprising that it is now official Bexley Council policy to approve of Councillors insulting residents via Twitter and Facebook and have refused to curb their excesses. Now that the Monitoring Officer plans to make failure to adhere to Council Policy a disciplinary offence, presumably we can look forward to more comments of the type preferred by Philip Read.