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Bexley's Tory councillors on trial

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Will the Conservative regime prove to be any better than its Labour predecessor?

Our correspondent writes ...

When the London Borough of Bexley was ruled by the Labour Party, many residents were badly affected by the horrendous increases in council tax, especially when there was no noticeable increase in service levels. Indeed, some of the services deteriorated markedly.

At a time when the whole country was sickened to the stomach by New Labour policies in general, and Tony Blair's dictatorship in particular, the last round of by-elections brought sweeping changes to council chambers around the country. Bexley also benefited from these changes and the Conservatives were returned to power with a massive majority.

Unfortunately, having witnessed the corrupt practises of members of the present government, I am now suspicious of all politicians, whether at national or local level. Too many are in it for what they personally get out of it and, since local councillors now receive better salaries than many full-time workers, one has to question their motivation if they do little to justify the votes they received.

Even when the Labour councillors dominated the Bexley chamber, I had reservations about the motives behind one Conservative councillor's decisions. He fought desperately hard to influence the planning committee that mobile telephone masts should be erected very close to one of our largest schools. Yet masts have traditionally been fought by everyone they affected and most have won their objections. In this one case, where the masts were allowed (read the full story on this page), the Conservative councillor in question appeared to have something to gain by voting with the opposition.

On several other occasions, I noticed that another Conservative councillor disappeared after the first item on the agenda at several planning committee meetings. When I raised the matter with another Conservative councillor, she told me his wife was seriously ill so he had to leave early. In truth, he only attended for a few minutes so that he could claim his full allowance and this totally handicapped the Tories because the Labour members always had a one-seat majority. He made it two!

Now that we have a Tory-controlled council, the newly-elected members are all on trial. They have to prove that they are more dedicated than the Labour councillors they deposed.

Early indications are not good.

Another article on this website recounts the tale of innocent motorists who are being deliberately victimised by traffic wardens enforcing a parking bay suspension that has been illegally applied. The full details are shown here. The facts have been reported to Bexley Council on at least four occasions but they have not responded except to acknowledge receipt of the emails.

The later messages, containing the full story, have also been copied to the three new Conservative councillors who represent the Northumberland Heath ward - Helen Fuller, Peter Reader and Alex Sawyer. An out of office acknowledgement showed that Ms Fuller is currently on holiday but 'message read' acknowledgements were received from the other two.

And that was it!

There was no reply to say they would be looking into the matter and one shopkeeper who had contacted one of the councillors directly was told the said councillor did not have time to visit Northumberland Heath to watch the underhanded acts of the traffic wardens for himself. In other words, he wasn't really interested enough to ensure that Bexley Borough did not carry on breaking the law!

Well, that's not good enough for us. We expect these elected representatives of the people to do what they're paid to do. We expect them to justify their salaries and we expect them to protect residents who are being unfairly victimised by unscrupulous traffic wardens.

Regrettably, once these people get into power, some of them think they are impervious to criticism and they do not consider themselves to be accountable to anyone but themselves. Our "mobile mast loving" Tory councillor refused to retract the most ridiculous statement he made in a public session and he never challenged our accusations even though he was fully aware of the comments made on this website.

Over the course of time, we have come to realise that it's never easy to persuade the rats to vacate the rotten woodpile but we intend to keep the pressure on.

Councillors Reader and Sawyer are new to the game but they have been given a golden opportunity to prove their mettle. If they fail to do so they can expect to be castigated.

Some good news to report

Although he didn't write to let us know, Councillor Alex Sawyer did go into action the day after I copied him in on the correspondence between Parking Services and myself. He wrote to Peter Ellershaw, Director of Environment and Regeneration, who passed the complaint on to Mike Frizoni, Assistant Director (Highways and Amenities), who in turn passed it on to Graham Ward, the Head of Parking, Enviro-Crime and Performance.

Eventually, Mr Ward responded to Cllr Sawyer admitting that some of the signage was insufficient but unfortunately he tried to disguise the true facts behind a layer of bureaucratic bullshit.

So who comes out of this with credit?

Well, certainly Cllr Sawyer does and considerable credit must also go Chris Long, the Northumberland Heath Neighbourhood Worker who recognised the council's failing and raised the issue with Cllr Sawyer.

As for the council's officers ... well, it appears all these costly executives hiding behind grandiose, and largely meaningless titles, do what they always do best - they pass the buck down the line with orders to admit nothing.

'Twas ever thus!

Former Tory leader of Bexley Council gets into hot water over expenses

Ian Clement led the Tory-run Council when it took over in 2006 but resigned in 2008 to take a position as Deputy Mayor of London. Now, in 2009, he's been caught up in yet another expenses row. Click here to read the full story.

Visitors' Comments

KH writes:

Why are Ward/Borough councillors being prevented from carrying out their corporate duties to 'look after children'? County councils pretend it is only at their level that they have corporate duties. Is this why children are being stolen for 'forced adoptions' whilst councillors (and MPs) turn a blind (Masonic) eye?

Kent County Council refuses to answer most questions accurately or completely. I wonder what they have to hide? The Tax Payers Alliance tried to get an up-to-date account of the chief executive's pay but was also refused.

Pat Gravell of Bexleyheath writes:

I think solicitors at Bexley council need to be named and shamed on your site for their failure to invoke their whistleblowing policies and have any investigation into complaints about their own conduct which are likely to cause miscarriages of justice.

I reported that solicitor Guy Atkins conducted a lengthy and costly prosecution on behalf of Bexley against a Mr and Mrs Skeete until the case was set for a crown court hearing when Bexley offered no evidence against them. Bexley had a letter in their possession which would have helped the defence lawyers but it was not listed on the schedule of documents which was required by law to be disclosed to the defence, thus risking a miscarriage of justice. No whistleblowing investigation took place about this complaint of wrong-doing.

I also reported concerns that Hamish Craig had conduct of the prosecution in Bexley v Akyena and that a prosecution witness - a council employee - appeared to have had her witness statement manipulated to hide her failure to caution Akyena as required by PACE 1984, and also that a land registry document was not disclosed to the defence, as required, but was replaced by a newer freshly-dated registry document in an attempt to deceive the defence about the sequence of events.

Concerns were raised with Guy Atkins who said he'd found nothing wrong but later said he'd never examined the file - how bizarre!! Concerns raised at every level up to the head of legal services were ignored and no investigation of this fraudulent conduct likely to result in miscarriages of justice ever took place. Guy Atkins was supervising solicitor of Hamish Craig who also appeared to have failed to disclose a draft witness statement to the defence in the case of Bexley v Kemal.

If concerns about the conduct of solicitors in legal services acting fraudulently and risking miscarriages of justice are referred to themselves for possible investigation under the whistleblowing procedures then it seems that there won't be any investigations taking place and they will just carry on as before.

April 2010

Scott Bullock of Bexley writes:

I'm glad I stumbled upon your website as I too have been repeatedly stung by the corruption of Bexley Council. Enough is enough! I have now snapped and will devote all my spare time in fighting this corruption.
I would like to get all the people who have been ripped off in our borough together and do something about this once and for all. The more we - the people - let them get away with it the more they will keep doing it. It's bad enough with the government ripping us off but now it's rife on our own doorstep.
Any ideas?

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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