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Mayor Val Clark. Prize chump

A collection of blogs illustrating the mayor’s unfitness for office
17 May 2011 - The blame game - go to blog

Mayor Val ClarkWe are about to see the end of the incompetent and irrational mayor Val Clark, for tomorrow she will be gone - and Good Riddance.

Among her claims to fame are…

• Singling out members of the public attending council meetings and criticising them for “parsimonious appreciation’. Link
• Allowing councillor Craske to insult and attempt to belittle a member of the public at a council meeting. Link
• Allowing Conservative councillors to ramble on ‘for ever’ and label Christians a rabble. Link
• Allowing councillor Craske to filibuster and repeatedly not answer questions. Link. One example of many!
• Allowing councillor Craske to blatantly lie in answer to a member of the public’s question. Link. One example of several
• Allowing one councillor to call another a “tosser” without challenge. Link
• Writing to a member of the public to tell him how good a chairman she is because of her 20 years experience. Link
• Writing to another member of the public to suggest he read Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship. Link
• Refusing to correct minutes in contravention of said book. Link
• Refusing the public the opportunity to record council meetings in contravention of guidance from the Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Link
• Bringing in the police to prevent members of the public from entering the Civic Offices with a camera - even if there was no intention of using it. Link
• Stating she would grant permission for recording on request but refusing every such request. Link
• Hiring a team of bouncers to prevent a wide variety of ‘offences’ (including carrying a placard) at a cost of £1,320 a time. Link
• Provoking Constitutional change to restrict the ability of all residents to question the council. Link
• Reducing the time for public questions at the meeting of 2nd March 2011 from 15 minutes to eleven and ignoring protestations from members of the public. Link

The last of these provoked an official complaint and as recently as last Friday I said that the council had still not managed to dream up a response. The problem for the mayor and the council is that they could not simply deny the time reduction happened as they knew there was a video tape of the proceedings so a suitable whitewash was going to take more time to prepare than their usual run of the mill denial of all wrong-doing. I can imagine that when a criminal is charged with a crime by the police he will, if he is rich enough, call in a top barrister, and if he isn’t rich he will look to his criminal friends for advice.

In the council the well paid lawyer is readily available, always on hand and loyal thanks to the post’s 27% pay rise last year. And if you want to consult a criminal, they are not strangers to our Civic Offices either. So what did all this legal expertise and application of devious minds produce by way of excuse for mayor Twankey? It wasn’t her fault; someone else was in charge of the stop watch! The Assistant Chief Executive. So we have someone on £122,00 a year and he can’t even tell the time.

Another limp excuse was that the Constitution says that the time shall not exceed 15 minutes - stand by for only two minutes being allocated at some point in the future. Yet another excuse is to imply that poor old Twankey was entirely unaware of her error because there is no record of any one complaining. This poses an interesting question. If protests from the public are not recorded how is this bunch of charlatans and cheats going to know who has shown disrespect or behaved badly in the chamber in order to ban them from future question times or worse?

The councillors who dreamed up this ingenious method of getting Twankey off the hook, i.e. blame it all on Andrew Cresswell the Assistant Chief Executive, were Cheryl Bacon (Cray Meadows, £17,770) and John Fuller (Lesnes). At least I will have the satisfaction of being able to vote against him in three years time.

If you are desperate to read the whole sorry charade, then it is here.

12 March 2011 - The chocolate teapot - it spouts and drips but it has no handle - go to blog
His success in exposing the false accounting councillor Craske (TLC) used to excuse his tripling of the price of Residents’ Parking Permits does not make Nicholas Dowling a popular man in council circles. His questions at meetings have provoked the mayor into losing her cool several times, last week she even lost her wrist watch, and she just doesn’t understand Dennis Healey’s old adage, ‘When in a hole stop digging’ or in teapot terminology, ‘keep your lid on’.

To prove the point Twankey wrote Nick a letter complaining that he didn’t clap loudly enough when he found himself part of an audience at an awards ceremony. He wasn’t even supposed to be there, the council had messed up its published schedule of meetings. What the hell is a mayor doing picking out individual members of the public and taking the trouble to write to them saying their “appreciation had been parsimonious”? But all credit to Nick; of all the people in the council chamber, the mayor couldn’t keep her eyes off him. Watch it Twankey, you are old enough to be his mother!

Last Wednesday Nick attempted to draw Twankey’s attention to an error in the minutes that had become available only a few minutes earlier. Minutes which Twankey had already acknowledged no one had had time to read. Nick got a put down and the unread minutes got signed off, mistake and all. As I said, the mayor is no Dennis Healey so she piled in with an email to Nick. It said…

It is because I am “a Chairwoman with so many years of self-acknowledged experience” that I adhere strictly to standing orders, protocols and laid down procedures. If residents have concerns that they want to express, there are many ways for them to do so and I advise them to take advantage of these facilities. There is accountability and openness at every stage of the Councils (sic) committee process, which are open for residents to participate in. To try to engage in that process at the ratifying stage is not particularly helpful to either party.

The Council does not produce verbatim minutes. Verbatim responses to questions from both the public and Members are produced, along with written replies to question that were not reached. These are produced approximately a week later. You can find everything that you wish to know on the Council’s web site. I (sic) appears, from your questions, that you are not particularly aware of how formal meetings are structured. May I suggest that you study Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship, edited by Michael Cannell and Norman Citrine? It is a very useful book for people wishing to understand more about formal procedures, processes and associated matters to do with official meetings.

I hope that my email helps you in understanding Bexley Council a bit more but please do not hesitate to look anything up on the web site, that you are still not sure about.

Condescending eh? I suppose you want to know what happened next? I’m sorry it’s going to have to wait, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and rolling around with mirth at what is coming next from Nick. No I’m sorry I can’t go on, this is just too hilarious.

Before I go I should explain my use of the teapot joke. It came to me from one of Twankey’s own lieutenants. He said she is an embarrassment and as much use as a chocolate teapot. No I am not making that up, he really said it and not anonymously either. Why would I make something up and risk being caught out for that when there are so many other provable events to draw on? The phrase “a Chairwoman with so many years of self-acknowledged experience” is drawn from one of Nick’s emails to the mayor and I believe a reference to the ‘God’s gift’ to chairmanship letter she sent to me.

13 March 2011 - The chocolate fireguard - will it stand the heat? - go to blog
This is going to have to be strung out for one more day as it needs to be savoured; by me at least. I keep imagining the mayor sitting in her parlour in the pantomime dame’s outfit thinking how clever she is to recommend that Nicholas Dowling goes and reads a book on chairmanship; then I think of what Nick did when he read her email. Maybe I am easily amused but this one is going to run and run, all because Twankey thinks she can out-smart Nick.

Maybe I should introduce him properly. Nick is a young man (by my standards) with a BSc (Hons) degree in Public & Social Administration. Public Administration? Nice one Nick, maybe you should be Mayor. He also has a small string of mathematic qualifications which is why he is able to count to 15 without getting stuck at eleven.

Perhaps I should introduce the rest of the people behind Bonkers too. Other than Nick, there is a Legal Executive, a retired Police Inspector, someone who managed a factory employing 1,300 people, a Trade Union official (by coincidence in the same industry as the factory manager) and someone who spent a lifetime sitting at a steering wheel with 40 tons behind him. He is sometimes a little reticent about his lack of academic qualifications, but as we keep telling him, he had far more responsibility and skill than someone who sits in the passenger seat of a small car all day long. (Click on ‘passenger seat’ for explanation.)

Chairmanship is not a completely foreign territory to four of the six but maybe we should bow to Twankey’s superior knowledge of such things; she claims to have read Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship which whilst it may now be out of print is still widely considered to be the chairman’s bible. If she knows that book inside out as she implies, she is never going to make any mistakes is she and all that has been reported before must be malicious tittle-tattle?

So what did young Nick do when he read that email from Twankey… You may have guessed already but I’m not going to tell you until tomorrow; which may be seen as a cruel suspense for Twankey but after seeing the tearful eyes of all the young mums of disabled children streaming from last Wednesday’s meeting I simply do not care. If Twankey can withdraw support on the grand scale from such deserving people while being part of a gang that refuses to reduce their allowances which are almost exactly half what they spend on the disabled, why should she think she shouldn’t be subjected to daily criticism and ridicule?

14 March 2011 - Mayor approves disrespect to residents by councillors - go to blog
The following formal question was sent to the council for their next meeting by a resident…

“At the last two full Council Meetings I have noticed that a number of Councillors have turned up for the meeting in a slovenly and unkempt manner. The general demeanour of some Members towards members of the public asking questions is also disrespectful. Can the Leader therefore introduce a dress code for all Members befitting the importance of a full Council Meeting and also remind all Members of the Council that they are Public Servants, paid from the public purse and therefore have a public duty to act with decorum and professionalism when engaged on public duties.”

Given the mayor’s irrational behaviour to the public recently, choosing to write to them at home for “parsimonious appreciation” and the like the reply was not unexpected… “The Mayor has ruled this question out of order as vexatious and it will therefore not go forward to the next Council meeting.”

So it’s official then. Councillors are encouraged to not answer questions posed by members of the public, laugh at them, ridicule them, cut their question time short and offend their ears with the cry of “tosser”. We should have expected nothing less from a mayor so disrespectful of residents and council procedures. Labelling something vexatious is the last refuge of a council scoundrel - with apologies to Samuel Johnson.

14 March 2011 - ‘Citrine’ is a book, the mayor is a lemon - go to blog
So what was it I found so damned funny about the thought of Nick reading Twankey’s condescending suggestion that he should swat up on Citrine’s book on chairmanship? It was the mental picture of him putting his laptop to one side, getting out of his armchair, taking a few steps to his bookcase and taking his copy of Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship from the shelf. Yes I know small minds are easily amused and all that but the consequences will be enormous; the mayor has in effect invited Nick to take the book to the next council meeting and pick Twankey up on each and every mistake. Let me run through some she made recently…

Paragraph 352 : ‘Questions would not be intelligible unless a few brief introductory sentences were allowed.’
Now that is a particularly nice one as council Standing Orders are in direct conflict with it. It is exactly what Phil was complaining about a week ago. He couldn’t understand any answers because the question wasn’t allowed to be heard. Citrine 1 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 403 : ‘All speeches must be relevant to the subject, and the speaker must not stray from the point.’
So she allows Craske (TLC) to carry out a filibuster, distort the truth on the Brinckerhoff contract and insult a Bexley resident without intervention and then have the gall to defend herself in writing afterwards. Not to mention the dishonest Standards Board supporting her too. Citrine 2 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 430 : ‘If … there is an error in, or an omission from the minutes [you] should insist on the error being rectified.’
Last week she rudely tried to shut Nick Dowling up when he with the good of residents in mind brought an error to Twankey’s attention. Citrine 3 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 442 : ‘You will never achieve success unless you are absolutely impartial.’
Lets Conservatives ramble and cuts Labour councillors’ speeches short. Citrine 4 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 444 : ‘See that speakers do not exceed their time limit.’
Public cut short by four minutes. Councillors allowed an extra five minutes. Citrine 5 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 456 : ‘It is really no compliment to an audience for a speaker … to get up and spout. They expect something better than mere generalities.’
We are back to O’Neill, Campbell and Craske’s waffling and insults again. Citrine 6 : Twankey nil.

This is déjà vu all over again! It is so like when Andrew Bashford of the road planning department tried to shut me up by referring to some obscure Transport Research Laboratory report on road design, saying he had followed its advice so I must be wrong with my criticisms. Hard luck on Bashford that the head of the TRL department that issued the report is a personal friend and so I got a free copy of the report and a free road inspection. When will these over-paid public servants stop treating us as fools? Bashford hadn’t read the report and Twankey hasn’t read the book, or if she did she has forgotten every last vestige of Citrine’s advice. She has opened a can of worms for herself, I shall be having fun with her mistakes for weeks to come. No, much longer than that!

Clicking the image reveals extracts from the book. Feel free to read it Twankey. Ask nicely and Nick might lend you his copy.

15 March 2011 - Twankey’s toy-boy doesn’t take orders - go to blog
She just can’t stop herself; here’s another extract from one of Twankey’s love letters to Nicholas Dowling…

Thank you for your email about the resent (sic) Council meeting. Had you listened to my welcome speech you would have heard that it was a Budget Meeting and not an ordinary Council Meeting, that there was no public participation or any facility for questions from the public. There are, indeed standing orders to cover ALL aspects of the procedures at ALL meetings held by the Council. Should you want to spend the time looking up the Council standing orders you may wish to look at S.O.19(3), S.O.25(ii) and S.O.19(3). (sic repetition.)

So Nick stands accused of trying to participate in Twankey’s pantomime from the wrong side of the orchestra pit and sent away with his tail between his legs to read some boring old Standing Orders. Unlike Citrine’s ABC they are not sitting in his book case ready to throw back at the wicked witch. What to do now Nick? In desperation he searches Bexley’s website for salvation.

Standing Order19(3). No discussion shall take place upon the minutes except upon their accuracy and any question upon their accuracy shall be raised by motion pursuant to S.O.25(ii) below. If no such motion is raised, or if raised then as soon as debate thereon has been concluded, the Mayor shall sign the minutes.

An extract from Standing Order 25(ii)…


The following motions may be moved without notice…

(ii) That the minutes are or are not accurate, in accordance with S.O.19(3) above.

So what do we have here then? It looks like we have a mayor behaving like an idiot again. She shuts Nick up at the meeting when he is trying to be helpful by bringing a mistake in the minutes to attention. She then writes to him referring him to Standing Orders S.O.19(3) and S.O. 25(ii) to back up her decision but it does no such thing. Corrections to minutes are exempted. It looks like Standing Orders can be added to Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship as things Twankey should have read and memorised but hasn’t.


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