established pattern for new Mayors has been that they do a fair job chairing
their first Full Council meeting and things gradually deteriorate as they become
ever more power crazed dictators. The same pattern has been detected with Mayor
Eileen Pallen except that she degenerated into a bungling dictator after only an
hour or so behind the bling at her first meeting! It was an unedifying spectacle but perhaps one I
should have anticipated as soon as it was announced that her Deputy was to be
Councillor Val Clark,
by far the most dictatorial Mayor of recent times.
It’s all very regrettable as Councillor Pallen is probably not all bad like some of her Cabinet colleagues and relying on Mr. Alabi for legal advice might well add to her discomfiture. No one by that name is recognised as qualified by the Law Society or the Bar Council and Bexley Council has failed to come up with any evidence of legal expertise either, nevertheless he continues to sit by the Mayor’s side whispering into her ear.
The former Chief Executive who used to sit on the top table under a wig has been replaced by the pathetic figure of Gill Steward who has been too busy to accept a report of possible criminality by Mr. Barnbrook and who thinks indulging in petty mind games is a worthwhile occupation.
The meeting started well enough with the question session, answered in a professional manner by Cabinet Members Craske and Sawyer.
There was only one question from a member of the public; there would have been two but the ultimatum to Danson Youth Trust arrived just a few hours after the deadline for questions which is an unreasonably long five working days not including the day of the meeting or the day of submission.
The public question suggested climate change was “a serious threat to Bexley” and did Councillor Craske agree. Councillor Craske said the borough was “well prepared”. He was so sure of it he said it twice.
The questioner then thought it relevant to castigate the Council for including Shell and BP in its pension fund share portfolio. Councillor Craske rightly said that was nothing to do with him, it was a matter for the Pensions Committee.
The first serious question came from Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) who said his ward residents were concerned about hate crime since the Referendum decision that Britain should leave the EU.
Councillor Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) deplored the horrific hate crimes perpetrated both in this country and overseas but said that locally there had been no increase in reported hate crime. He spoke eloquently about how it was tackled by “hard work by a lot of dedicated people, day in and day out” and was especially concerned by “internet trolls pedalling poison from their keyboards” which caused a titter of laughter from those who remember the obscenities that the police traced to Councillor Craske’s telephone line, but apart from that he did not put a foot wrong. “We must stand together to condemn the mindless morons.”
Councillor Hackett’s supplementary question was not a question at all. He was keen to label Councillor Chris Beazley’s (UKIP, St. Michael’s) question “disgraceful, small minded, bigoted and xenophobic” and called for the Cabinet Member to condemn the “outrageous question which inflamed hatred”. Rarely have I heard such utter nonsense in the Council Chamber. Chris’s question seems entirely reasonable to me and I simply cannot see what the problem is.
The population is rising much more steeply than in the past and immigration is the only credible explanation. Would Danny deny that house building is at a historic low and if it is that there must be consequences?
Cabinet Member Craske expertly dodged the question by speaking only of the extremely unpleasant events recorded in Penhill Road a couple of weeks ago.
Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked how he would prevent an increase in violent crime in the borough. Councillor Craske batted that one away in just over ten seconds. A follow up question was about better recording of hate crime. Councillor Craske thought that was one for the police.
Councillor Bishop (Conservative, Colyers) complained that Labour Members never recognised that Bexley was “the safest borough in London”. It is good to be able to report that both parties can talk rubbish when they put their minds to it.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) enquired about discussions with Thames Water to ensure that sewers are adequately maintained. Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said there was a quarterly meeting and the recent spate of sewer problems, Main Road, Sidcup in particular, had been fixed but Thames Water suffered from “poor communications skills”.
Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) asked Alex Sawyer about the installation of LED lighting. Councillor Sawyer quoted public response figures. 200 residents were against the switch off, 132 for it and 43 undecided. He had taken the decision to accelerate the installation of LED bulbs despite the higher than anticipated costs and keep the lights on. The bill will be £3·8 million this year and £1·4 million next year with 92% of the borough’s street lights converted. Councillor Newton’s follow up question was a particularly silly one, she wanted to know who took the credit for the outcome of the trial. A generous Alex Sawyer gave credit mainly to officers and residents with only a small “pat on the back’ for the Council.
The Mayor then declared that time was up.