Some rather disturbing events in Sandwell which is near Birmingham made me
think back on how exposure to scrutiny by Social Media appears to have changed Bexley
Council very considerably. The past couple of years, Fothergill aside, have been verging on the uneventful.
When Bonkers began in 2009 Bexley Council was almost unimaginably nuts, some might say crooked. I thought so before I was reported to the police for “criticising Councillors” which merely confirmed it. Another blogger was reported for using the C word on Twitter without aiming it at any identifiable person. In no particular order, let’s list some more funny business.
• Bexley Council blocked a Bridle Way without notifying the Secretary of State as required by law. They persuaded a Police Officer to provide some false crime statistics to support their extraordinary decision.
• The parking department drew up a phoney contract with their enforcement contractor and their bailiffs which included unlawful incentives alongside a legal contract to bamboozle the gullible. When Bexley’s finance people found out they were mad about it. I have a copy of their internal report which I chose not to publish. Too late now I suppose.
• Bexley Council was unable to produce the certification for the first of their camera equipped parking enforcement vehicles and without it they were operating and penalising motorists illegally.
• Two children and an adult died in part due to Bexley Council management failures. The cover ups nearly succeeded but a couple of pricked consciences came to the fore and upset Bexley’s apple cart.
• Bexley Council employed a charged - and later convicted - paedophile in an office to which children had access but sacked the employee who complained about their inaction.
• A Bexley Council manager used its CCTV system to monitor a colleague who she was not getting on with. When the victim took action to restore her reputation the manager falsified the records - which I saw for myself - and her victim was sacked.
• Councillor Craske thought he would get away with writing obscenities about me and three other people. He did get away with it despite or maybe because of evidence of a crooked relationship between Bexley Council and Bexley Police. A Detective Sergeant also referred to the political interference. All that remains of the case is Councillor Craske’s indelibly stained reputation.
• Councillor Cheryl Bacon made a silly procedural error while running a Scrutiny meeting, a mistake which would have been long forgotten except that Bexley Council decided it should lie about it and send those lies to the local press. Their legal people, the Chief Executive and the HR Manager all repeatedly lied in support of Cheryl Bacon. Unfortunately for them the Police report did not support their untruthful accounts and neither did the Councillors who witnessed events. Not one of them supported the lies and four made written contradictory statements. A year after the event the Police were made to alter their report to better fit in with the Council’s story. Unfortunately for everyone who had lied it didn’t fit very well and resulted in a formal complaint to Scotland Yard. Naturally it was air-brushed into oblivion.
• It was discovered that the Council’s Monitoring Officer did not possess the qualifications required by his job description and Bexley Council sheltered itself from scrutiny by labelling their principal critic vexatious.
• It labelled another critic vexatious when he asked the Chief Executive if Bexley Council always obeyed the law of the land and she refused to reply. They also employed an expensive lawyer to silence him.
• The former Deputy Leader went on BBC TV to describe how a resident had run amok in the Council Chamber. It was a tissue of lies and the Deputy Leader couldn’t have known what he was talking about because he wasn’t present at the meeting he described.
The good news is that with only one or two exceptions the managers who pushed through all the dishonesty have gone, with fat payouts no doubt, but gone nevertheless. So has the aforesaid Deputy Leader.
Looking back on those events I wonder if those involving the police had just one thing in common and that thing gave Bexley Council the confidence to widely flout decency and the law.
The former Chief Executive Will Tuckley came from Croydon to Bexley and brought along with him Croydon’s Police Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer. When Will Tuckley moved to Tower Hamlets guess who went with him? Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer. A year or so ago Will Tuckley was caught up in a £2 million bribery scandal in Tower Hamlets, not that he was directly implicated of course but the allegation was that he knew about it for six months before finding himself with no alternative but to report it to the police. By that time Chief Superintendent Stringer had left Tower Hamlets under a cloud.
Three identical job location moves seems like one hell of a coincidence. Maybe reporting me to the police in 2011, charging the blogger who used the C word, letting Councillor Craske off the hook for his obscenities and falsifying the Police accounts of Cheryl Bacon’s Scrutiny meeting were all linked to a cosy relationship between Tuckley and Stringer.
Certainly after the pair of them left things resumed a more normal course. When Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling was asked to investigate the lies told on behalf of Councillor Bacon he wisely shunted it over to Greenwich Police. When Councillor Don Massey reported me to the police for harassment I wrote to the then Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe to ensure he knew the facts of the matter and the case was dropped.
Since then there have been two more Borough Commanders neither of whom has from my viewpoint put a foot wrong. The police in Sandwell may also be slowly learning that jumping at every command of the local Council is not a good use of resources.
In Sandwell a blogger by the name of Julian Saunders has been making Bonkers’ style comments about his local Council and its Labour Leader Steve Eling threatened his police chief with a report to the Home Office on contempt charges if he did not immediately arrest Mr. Saunders.
James Morris MP has said in the Commons that Sandwell Council is “synonymous with incompetence, corruption and cronyism”. Mr. Saunders has been interviewed by the police on three occasions and he has in the past accused it of using the police for “purely political reasons”. Just like the Bexley Council of old.
Mr. Saunders may have been unwise to call people Dickheads (†) even when they act like one but is it really that much worse than ‘twerp’ which has been used both by me and Bexley Councillors recently?
The police have asked Labour Leader Steve Eling to stop wasting their time and that it was not their job to stop someone posting “upsetting information that does not pose any wider threat to you or other Councillors”. Can we say thank goodness for a police force which still acts sensibly as Bexley’s may have been doing since the Tuckley/Stringer relationship ended? It looks like that may be premature.
Mr. Saunders’ blog is The Sandwell Skidder. In it he claims that he was interviewed under caution and after the police had told Mr. Eling to go away for the Tweet shown here which if true would appear to be an extreme abuse of power by the West Midlands police force. Mr. Saunders thinks they are acting under political duress.
Despite the belated recognition by at least one West Midland officer that the Labour Leader should grow up Mr. Saunders has been charged with using a rude word on Twitter.
When the C word was used in Bexley the judge in Woolwich Crown Court said it was no longer considered to be grossly offensive.
The Sandwell case being sub judice I will make no comment here except to say it all gets very complicated, as no doubt the Fothergill case did for many people.
Probably Julian Saunders’ blog uses rather stronger language than Bonkers did even in its heyday but the basics remains the same, a Council that does not like being in the spotlight.
Bexley still doesn’t and I don’t know why. Its policies are almost never criticised here as I regard that as a matter for the ballot box and whilst it may have one of the highest Council Tax rates in London it is a very long way from being its worst Council.
Would I rather live in Tory Barnet or Labour Greenwich or Newham? No I definitely would not.
It’s just the constant lying that lets Bexley down.
† The asterisked word c*ksucker comes into the case somewhere.