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News and Comment January 2012

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31 January (Part 2) - Cabinet capers

The Agenda and associated documents for yesterday’s cabinet meeting measured 24 millimetres thick and some sections are beautifully produced; I shudder to think what they might have cost. Probably it is unavoidable so perhaps it is fortunate that few copies are needed. There were just three members of the public present, two from the Bexley Council Monitoring Group, and me. Almost an inch of paper looked like we were in for a long meeting, but no. It started at 19:32 and by 19:51 it was all over.

When I first attended these meetings just over a year ago I commented on how they were amateur night and nothing like the board meetings I participated in before retirement. Things have improved. Last night there was an outward appearance of good management and discipline. The simple expedient of gagging councillor Craske has worked wonders. Nevertheless I suspect that the brevity is intended to restrict the opportunity for criticism and that democracy is being shafted big time.

The big issue of the evening was approval of a new school for autistic children and welcome though that must be to those affected by the condition I suspect that it was councillor Colin Campbell’s brief address that will be of greatest interest. After taking the customary swipe at the Labour Party and councillor Munir Malik in particular he came as close as he could do before the formal decision is taken, to announcing that Bexley’s council tax rates will not be going up this year. Not as good as a couple of other London boroughs which have already announced reductions but at least we don’t look like being robbed any more than we are already - except that a quick read through the 24 millimetres of paper shows that charges for services other than parking are all being increased at around the rate of inflation. So try not to die, return your library book late or borrow the box set of Downton Abbey.

CCTV for road safetyThe biggest surprise to be found buried in the documentation is that the scheme to use the fixed CCTV system for fining motorists parking badly or doing U-turns etc. has been abandoned. The warning signs have gone up all over town, Craske said that he wanted to get full “value for money” from the cameras but all we have now for an explanation of his own U-turn is “planned income of £81,000 from enforcement of moving traffic contraventions will not now be forthcoming”. Elsewhere in the comments on parking it is revealed that income for the current financial year is down “by £0·4 million reflecting continued reduced usage which is attributed to the recession”. No mention of the fact that Bexley has the most expensive shopping centre parking of all the adjacent boroughs and is the only one that aims to deter evening and Sunday trade. Not to mention the phone only fiasco.

Chief Executive Will Tuckley was on the top table, he uttered not a word. This evening the rejection of the petition on excessive salaries is to be considered by the Scrutiny Committee.


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