There was a meeting of the Crime and Disorder committee at the Civic Offices
last night. There was no disorder but the expenditure of time and money might be
considered a crime. It was chaired by councillor Alan Downing who
controls it well enough and he began by welcoming “Members” to the meeting. I
can imagine he would not welcome three members of the Bexley Council Monitoring
Group being present but I have not known any other chairman to not welcome members of the
public to a meeting before. When
Steven Hall chaired the Audit Committee in June he even managed to sound
totally sincere with his welcome. Councillor Downing didn’t even welcome his
guest speakers, not even Police Commander Stringer, so perhaps he really is
the rudest councillor in Bexley.
The principal guest speaker was Mr. Nick Darvill who presented the work of the
Charlton Athletic Community Trust which was impressive, surprising and
sometimes moving. CACT appears to be doing an amazing job, keeping youngsters on
the straight and narrow. The
CACT website might be a bit of an eye-opener if you are not already aware of
their work. I was ready to give a round of applause when Mr. Darvill sat down
but he didn’t even get a word of thanks which was really quite embarrassing.
Maybe councillor Val Clark will be sending out some of her
parsimonious appreciation letters.
After that things went further downhill. Councillors Ball, Clark, Craske, Hall,
Massey and Read all made comments at one time or another but nothing of any
note. Read begins every question or comment by heaping praise on the council and
if I mention that councillor Steven Hall (East Wickham) asked the most incisive questions, like “how
are children [to be placed on a remedial course] identified?” and “what sanctions
are there against children who don’t turn up [at CACT training sessions]?” you
will understand why the others are not worth quoting.
In an Agenda segment that seemed like a digression to me councillor Ball asked what
safeguards there were against the new council performance parameters being
chosen by cabinet members solely to massage the cabinet member’s
self-esteem. Perhaps he had in mind the spurious
claim to have “the lowest parking charges in SE London” but if he did it would be
impossible for the crimson councillor Craske to blush any more.
Councillor Alex Sawyer had been appointed to chair a sub-committee on the
probation service and presented his report in a businesslike fashion. He went
through it quickly and clearly and I understood every point he was making which
is in stark contrast to the waffling that comes from too many of those
present. I have yet to decide whether councillor Sawyer is a cut above the
average Bexley councillor or whether I am biased because from many angles, most
angles if I am honest, he could be mistaken for my own son’s twin brother - if
he had one. It is hard for me not to stare. But on balance I suspect Sawyer is a
good deal brighter than some of his colleagues.
Councillor Sawyer opined that some of those who didn’t co-operate with the
probation services should perhaps be shown “more stick and a little less carrot”.
This should make for harmonious matrimonial relations when he next meets up with
Ms. Patel his wife, the MP for Witham, who was on BBC Question Time two weeks ago
expounding the virtues of capital punishment.
We had to wait until nearly ten o’clock to hear the words of wisdom from Borough
Police Commander, Chief Inspector Dave Stringer; and we didn’t get any. In
commenting on a trial in Barnehurst of greater cooperation between his Safer Neighbourhood
Team and the Neighbourhood Watch he said that “not much data came in because
there is not much crime in Barnehurst”. Brilliant! Couldn’t he have worked that
out before he wasted everyone’s time?
The quotations attributed to councillor Hall may not be
word perfect but they are very close. Similarly councillor Ball’s comment about
‘Cabinet Portfolio Priorities’ is only an indication of his precise words. With
recording banned that is the best that could be achieved. The dead tree outside
the Bexley Civic Offices is intended to symbolise the calibre of most of the
people inside last night. The total number of members of the
public present was four. Apathy allows the dead wood to rule.