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News and Comment November 2012

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12 November (Part 3) - Full council meeting. The left overs

Mayor Alan DowningItem 8 on the Agenda of last Wednesday’s council meeting was for things deferred from the July meeting because of lack of time. Councillor Cheryl Bacon wanted to show her Waitrose credentials by putting forward a motion about Sidcup High Street in general and Waitrose in particular. “The council urges Waitrose to rethink [its commercial decision to avoid Sidcup] and looks forward to welcoming them to Sidcup soon.”

Councillor June Slaughter seconded the motion and made an impassioned speech in favour of the upmarket grocer. It is easy to imagine a lady such as Mrs. Slaughter as a Waitrose customer and she had “sighed with relief when Waitrose signed the lease” only to be disappointed by the “lack of openness on the part of Waitrose management”. They gave no warning of their change of heart, “the news just leaked out”. Now we have “yet another empty shop which makes Sidcup look like a ghost town”.

Mrs. Slaughter is not wrong but whether Bexley council is right to become so intimately involved in a commercial decision by the John Lewis Partnership seems politically dubious to me. I have no issue with Mr. & Mrs. Slaughter as the locally elected representatives starting a petition but for the whole Conservative administration of Bexley to take over the council’s propaganda machine to please some upmarket shoppers who probably vote Conservative looks a bit too like Dame Shirley Porter in Westminster to me.

Aileen BeckwithNext on the bandwagon was deputy mayoress Aileen Beckwith who I had assumed might be more of a Poundland shopper than a Waitrose patron. She said that “not a single person in Sidcup did not want Waitrose” to a small chorus of “well I didn’t” and a single “playing to the crowd” from the public gallery. She was “heartily disappointed”.

Councillor Stefano Borella, not usually a man with whom I would align myself politically, tried to make the point that Bexley has had no “We want Tescos” petition so why “We want Waitrose”? Cabinet member Linda Bailey tried to shut him up with a point of order but was herself stopped in her tracks. Councillor Borella asked why the council was authorised to invoke all its “propaganda machinery” to encourage what many would say is a Conservative cause. He may well ask but he got no answer. The council’s war cry is to be amended to “Waiting for Waitrose” and the vote for and against the motion encouraging Waitrose was divided precisely along party lines.

A second motion was put forward by councillor Chris Ball. “This council resolves to support The Armed Forces Covenant” which in the week before Armistice Sunday should be pushing against an open door but you never know with Bexley council so I was relieved when councillor James Hunt stood up to second the motion. A man who champions the Scout movement and a former member of the Air Training Corps one would think must be a double yolked good egg. Fortunately he didn’t disappoint. The motion was carried unanimously. At least I think it was. The clown who calls himself mayor forgot to take the vote and no one noticed for a while.


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