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News and Comment April 2012

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15 April (Part 2) - Bexley council - a newcomer’s guide

Olly Cromwell and a lot of other people, including myself obviously, have come to believe that Bexley council is by far the most corrupt in London. I feel those who are interested in what led to Olly’s arrest and the prosecution that was lined up for me should be given a quick resumé of what has been going on under Conservative rule in this corner of South East London. Olly was not in court for Tweeting the ‘C’ word, he was in court for exposing Bexley council for what they are; the ‘C’ word is just a convenient hook to hang him on.

• Bexley’s former council leader, Ian Clement was selected by London Mayor Boris Johnson to be his Deputy four years ago. He was given a 12 week suspended prison sentence for misusing his GLA credit card to the tune of two hundred odd pounds and he was brought to book because of the complaints made by someone on the team of six that runs this website. However enquiries revealed that he had taken Bexley council via the same trick to the tune of £2,200. Bexley council identified all the abuse, sent an internal email saying how it was to be hidden from the auditor and refused to report it to the police. The woman responsible for all that is Bexley’s current leader councillor Teresa Jude O’Neill, the local politician Boris admires most according to an FOI response from the Mayor’s office when he appointed her his ambassador to Outer London. The likelihood is she is being groomed for high office at the GLA; remember that if you are tempted to vote for Boris next month. Do you really want someone who covers up crime to be given any more power? It’s not a one off; here’s another crime she would prefer to cover up…

• In May 2011 someone at Bexley council set up a blogspot in my name. It accused Olly and me and others of indulging in homosexual practices, some in the Civic Centre, others in a council car park. To give her her due, the website was removed an hour or so after it was brought to leader O’Neill’s attention, but she refuses to say anything about it and to this day the culprit remains free. An FOI seeking information was deemed not in the public interest. A Subject Access Request has never been answered even after pressure from the Information Commissioner.

• Bexley council’s slogan is ‘Listening to you, working for you’ but when presented with a petition signed by 2,219 residents it ruled it out of order for quoting figures in the introductory comments to the petition. It said they were wrong and misleading. The introduction was an extract from Bexley council’s website. The decision was upheld by the Scrutiny Committee chaired by Bexley magistrate, councillor Donald Massey. All Conservatives voting to ignore the petition, both Labour members disagreeing.

• Bexley council doesn’t like being questioned. It generally fails to answer FOIs and excludes as many as possible by costing them at more than twice the government’s guidance level, thus excluding as many as possible on cost grounds. In a further attempt to prevent questions it allows only one hour per year for questions at council meetings and then attempts to fill the available time with questions from Conservative placemen. Any member of the public asking a question must agree to have his name and address published on the council’s website. It was the introduction of this rule that led to this website listing all councillors’ addresses which were already in the public domain but not easy to find. It was this tit for tat which led to Bexley council publishing its obscene blog about me and to Olly being accused of publishing addresses. It was me who was the prime mover in this sin against Bexley council’s secretiveness not Olly and I very much suspect it is me they want to see behind bars, not Olly, but I haven’t yet provided them with the hook. (It probably helps to have so many House of Commons based readers too!)

• When Eric Pickles’ department wrote to all councils in February 2011 telling them “citizen journalists” should be allowed to Tweet and film in council meetings even the most hard line of secretive Conservative councils like Barnet and Westminster caved in. Bexley however changed its Constitution to exclude all forms of recording at meetings. All their Agendas repeat the prohibition and when questioned they say it is to protect members of the public from appearing on tape. They sheepishly offer the excuse that permission may be granted on request but not a single request has been approved, not even for an audio only recording at a meeting where the public is not allowed to speak.

• Another thing that should not have been laid at Olly’s door was the assertion that both he and I had advocated marching on the Civic Offices with flaming torches and pitchforks. The original comment was made by a leading light in the local Neighbourhood Watch movement. I linked to his comment, I do not believe Olly did. No one has said a word to the Neighbourhood Watch man but Bexley council had the local police send an unjustified complaint about it to the Crown Prosecution Service who made a recommendation that I should be prosecuted. It is only due to the diligence of DI Keith Marshall of Bexleyheath Police that I was not prosecuted. In the words of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, “no crime had been committed”. Bexley’s leader Teresa O’Neill and her Chief Executive Will Tuckley were personally responsible (thanks to the Information Commissioner for that) for the attempt to pervert the course of justice. The Local Government Ombudsman is currently looking into their little conspiracy.

• Bexley council complains that Olly and I have stated that there has been too cosy a relationship between the police and Bexley council. That false evidence about the flaming torches went from Bexley council to the police and came back from the CPS with a recommendation to prosecute in just three weeks. Bexley council’s obscene blog which was easy to investigate because of the trail left through Google went nowhere for six months and was pronounced dead in fewer than three. It was only resurrected because two MPs, Teresa Pearce for Erith & Thamesmead and James Brokenshire representing Old Bexley & Sidcup were embarrassed by events on their patch and brought pressure to bear; James Brokenshire being potentially hamstrung by the fact that Bexley councillors will be on his selection committee come the next general election. Not all politicians are bent.

This has probably gone on long enough, perhaps we can have a Round 2 before long, but the above examples of what Bexley council is prepared to do to citizens who hold them to account may illustrate why they are so keen to shut Olly up for the trivial offence of swearing on Twitter.


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