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News and Comment January 2012

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19 January - Council leader Teresa O’Neill has rejected the Petition. What next?

Council leader Teresa O'NeillThe likelihood is that Elwyn Bryant’s petition will finish up with the Local Government Ombudsman for maladministration but before that can happen it has to go through all the standard procedures. Bexley council’s refusal to follow its own Constitution could be summarised as saying the petition was “inaccurate, misleading and inappropriate” which is an excuse that will not withstand detailed analysis.

Leaving aside the arrogance that questioning Bexley council’s senior pay levels is “inappropriate” displays, how was the petition inaccurate and misleading? Elwyn asked for these and other questions to be put to the council’s Scrutiny Committee. His letter may be read in full here but an edited summary is as follows…

The petition is inaccurate, misleading and inappropriate

“The web-page you supplied does not supply a total remuneration package for any of the Council employees mentioned in the preamble to the petition” – which I assume is what you are implying is in some way remiss. In the absence of the specific total amount actually being supplied by Bexley Council I used the £208,983 figure as supplied on the [council’s] web page you mentioned in your letter for Will Tuckley. Are you claiming that this was an unreasonable thing to do? In what way was this misleading anybody that read and signed the petition? My figures were derived directly from Bexley council webpages.

The Council is a responsible employer and respects the legal rights of all our employees

This is very interesting information but seems to me to have no relevance at all to the petition submitted which is asking about Bexley Council’s response to the Secretary of State and the perceived Government policy. The point also does not provide any specific grounds for why the petition itself should not be discussed at a Council meeting.

You have been told on a number of occasions the Council’s Constitution and rules would not allow your petition to be debated, yet you have chosen to ignore this and mislead those you have approached to sign.

This seems to me to have no relevance at all to the petition submitted which is asking about Bexley Council’s response to the Secretary of State and the perceived Government policy. If you have evidence that this particular petition was discussed with me and that I was told it specifically would not be debated then please supply it as I have no recollection of this in my dealings with the Council. If you cannot substantiate your claim then I ask you politely to withdraw this claim. Standing Order 84 states clearly that it refers to a question that might arise in a Council meeting. It has no bearing on whether a petition should be accepted in the first place. Your attempt to stifle debate beforehand cannot be substantiated with this rule and at this point in the petition process.

There is a lot more in similar vein but Bexley council has chosen not to answer any of the questions, instead, it has said, “the Chairman [of the Scrutiny Committee] is minded to allow you, as the petition organiser, up to five minutes to address the Committee, confining your comments to an explanation of why the Council’s response is not considered to be adequate.

This is what is now likely to happen. The Scrutiny Committee meeting is scheduled for 19:30 on 31st January in the Civic Offices. It is open to the public, the 2,219 petition signatories, the press, MPs and anyone who wishes to see Bexley council consider whether the views of residents should carry any weight at all.


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