Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Barmy Bexley Borough *UPDATED*

I am not Old Holborn.

Many thanks to OH for allowing me to grace his place with my unworthy presence, much appreciated.

As most of this blog's regular readers know the democratic process in this country is practically non-existent, and can only be described as a "faux-democracy". The farce that is our democracy is evident at both local and national level. When you delve into local politics it quickly becomes evident that local councillors beat the thieving 650 hands down when it comes to troughing at the expense of the taxpayer, whilst perverting the course of OUR democracy for their own gain.

Bexley Council is one of those councils where they laugh in the face of democracy as long as they get to do what they want, where they want and how they want, nothing else matters. In my opinion this is because there is far less scrutiny at local level than there is at a national level.

I had occassion last week to attend one of their council meetings, and to say I was shocked at how little the democratic process was respected would be an understatement. Bexley's rules are simple, 15 minutes for residents to ask questions, and 15 minutes for councillors to ask questions. Of course those 15 minutes of so called democracy are rather expensive when you take into account how much we all pay in taxes.

The problem in Bexley however is that whilst your are talking or asking questions councillors are laughing at you, insulting you and generally trying to interrupt your train of thought. Our esteemed mayor also gets a shout in, rather impolitely telling residents to keep quiet or sit down. That's the least of her transgressions however, last week she cut those 15 minutes down to 11 minutes, it might sound fickle but that's 11 minutes of democracy for over 200 000 residents of Bexley. Those 11 minutes however pale in comparison to the 20 minutes she gave the councillors to rattle on.

Like I mentioned, I was there, recording every word, of course throwing in a heckle or two. You see our Chief Executive earns in excess of £200k p/a and the council is thinking of cutting local services. Don't get me wrong I'm pro-cuts I believe the state is way over-bloated and we need those cuts, what I'm opposed to is local people, who contribute to the wealth of the council, losing out on services when idiots like Will Tuckley sit minted in their ivory towers. It's not right. I made that clear at the meeting, drawing attention to myself.

I was eventually asked to turn my video camera off as it was against "council rules", to which I said no, of course. THE most powerful word in anyone's vocabulary is NO. That didn't go down too well. I continued to film and I continued to heckle until I couldn't take it any longer and left.

After experiencing the farce of democracy I decided that enough was enough and a few days ago I sent an email to Bexley Council advising them that at this weeks budget meeting I would be making a statement to the council. I explained I was going to withdraw my consent to them, so that they would no longer have my consent to rule/govern me at a local level. My vote belongs to me and as such I can give it and take it away as I please. Sadly our democracy doesn't make this facility available to us, and is why I am an advocate of the Right to Recall, locally and nationally.

I also informed the council that I would be witholding my council tax until such time as they produced a signed contract outlining both mine and their obligations to each other. I also notified the council that I would be filming my statement contrary to what they said I could or couldn't do.

I hadn't heard anything from the council until tonight. Will Tuckley the Chief Executive of Bexley wrote:

Dear Sir,

I am responding to your lengthy email to all Bexley Councillors sent on 6th March.
The Council, consisting of the democratically elected representatives of the borough,
has a Protocol governing the way meetings are conducted. This states that
permission from the Mayor, the Chairman of the meeting, is required for “any video or
audio visual recording of proceedings”. You do not have that permission.
Consequently you will not be able to film the meeting.

We have one Council meeting to set the budget each year as required by statute. In
accordance with Standing Orders this is only addressed by elected Councillors so
consequently you will not be able to make a statement to the meeting. As you know
from your attendance at the last Council meeting residents can contribute to regular
Council meetings through processes such as public questions and deputations.

Yours sincerely,
Will Tuckley
Now an ordinary person would stop there and leave it, an ordinary person would do as they're told and not film, nor would they attempt to make their statement. I'm no ordinary person. So I AM going to film and I AM going to make my statement, we do after all live in a democracy. Other than that though, I'd like you to read this letter from Bob Neil MP which he sent to all council leaders.

I'm sure you can see then that there's a bit of hypocrisy/contradictory stuff going on. Now the reason I've hijacked OH's blog is because I need your help, and it's a rather urgent appeal. Bexley are holding their budget meeting tomorrow at 7:30pm at the Bexley Civic Hall:

London Borough of Bexley
Civic Offices

I'd like to cordially invite like-minded people in the area (or from afar) to attend this meeting so we can facilitate a bit of democracy at a local level and to show the council where the power really lies. With the people.

For more information on the Bexley story you can go here and here. Please note those links will be dead from lunchtime tomorrow until Friday lunch time due to server upgrades.

I hope I haven't bored too many people with my ramblings. Once again thanks to OH for the opportunity to write here and thanks to those of you who can help.


UPDATE: You can read the follow up story here.

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