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News and Comment April 2011

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28 April (Part 1) - Under the Jackboot

Yesterday evening a small group of council dictators (the Constitutional Review Panel) met to rubber stamp their draconian proposals to strangle yet another avenue for open democracy in this thoroughly disreputable borough. The councillors concerned were Graham D’Amiral (Blendon & Penhill, £9,543), Caroline Newton (St. Michael’s, £9,543), June Slaughter (Sidcup, £22,650), Simon Windle (Barnehurst, £27,048) and Teresa Ann Jude O’Neill (Brampton, £35,844) who chaired the meeting. Councillor Chris Ball, the Labour opposition leader was also present but as his was the lone voice against an arrangement designed solely to erect a barrier between residents and the dictatorship which is Bexley council I will not include his name in the same sentence as the bunch of cowards who want to hide themselves as much as possible from public scrutiny.

I reported the proposals when they first leaked out nearly two weeks ago and the News Shopper devoted page 2 of yesterday’s edition to the further restrictions on open and transparent governance. It was proposed that any resident who dares to ask a question of the council will have to stand before the council but not be allowed to state his question. It would be answered by any old tripe the council came out with, and very often the answer is a load of old tripe, and then withdraw totally silently. For this privilege, and as a deterrent to asking a question in the first place the resident must agree to having his address published on the council’s website.

As stated, councillor Ball was the only voice on the side of the people. He said it was unreasonable to publish residents’ addresses, it was only necessary to check that the questioner was a resident. Councillor June Slaughter said her address was well known and she didn’t see why residents’ addresses should not be just as well known, totally ignoring the fact that she has decided to make herself a public figure and residents have not. Councillor Ball tried to explain this simple fact to her but she wasn’t bright enough to spot the flaw in her argument. Councillor Windle claimed to be able to see the point but that didn’t stop him voting for addresses to be published.

Similar flawed logic was applied to confirm the intention to defy government guidance by banning any form of recording at council meetings. Once again councillor Ball attempted to inject some sense into the assembled thick skulls by pointing out that blogging and tweeting was now a fact of modern life but the thought of the mayor being caught out malevolently manipulating Standing Orders again was too much to contemplate.

In a little over 20 minutes this bunch of hypocrites (all but one of those present won’t allow their own addresses to appear on the council’s website) signed off the proposals with one concession, that questioners do not have to walk silently away after their question is answered, they will be allowed to make a secondary one. If it is deemed to be disrespectful by the mayor, that person will not be allowed to ask any more questions ever again.

I don’t much care if my address is published on the council’s website, with a little lateral thinking Google will provide it with a few clicks and it’s in the telephone book, but I am aware that a lot of people will regard publication as a deterrent. Several times when researching features for this website I have had to find the address of a councillor but chose not to publish it for reasons of privacy. The most recent example was when revealing councillor Alex Sawyer’s secretive marriage to Priti Patel MP. Before that there was the examination of councillor Waters’ links to a council funded nursery and leader O’Neill’s directorship of that hotbed of criminality, the Thames Innovation Centre. It seems to me that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and when the first resident has his address published it will not look unreasonable if more councillors' addresses found their way into the public domain.


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