Over recent weeks I have had the privilege of seeing some of the
correspondence the council is sending to residents who enquire about the
doubling of the cost of a residents parking permit.
It is as you would expect mainly obfuscation and evasion. By my calculation 23 separate
questions have been put over a period of six weeks and I dont think any has been given a
fulsome answer, most questions have not been answered at all. It is clear, because he said so,
that councillor Craske has banned his Conservative colleagues from replying to their own constituents
because he claims the whole thing was his idea and he authorised this years increase -
to be followed by a similar one next year. Gagging his colleagues is exactly what you might
expect of a petty dictator.
I have seen his name appended to emails in which he absolutely refuses to answer direct questions about the way this price increase came about, preferring instead to take irrelevant swipes at the previous Labour administration. When asked again to answer a question he replies in the time honoured way of someone who has lost the argument I have nothing to add to what I have already said. So the arrogant little tyke has banned his colleagues from replying to questions and he refuses to do so himself. But dissecting all the councils non-answers does reveal a few things of interest.
It would seem that the original plan to double the price dates from before the election but strangely absent from any election address. No-one outside the council was consulted on the subject nor has anyone been allowed to question any of the figures bandied about by Craske. None of the permit holders were told of the impending price increase nor was it announced on the councils website until some weeks after its introduction - and only then in response to a specific complaint. At least that might be construed as a rare example of Listening to you.
When I examined the cost of operating the boroughs CPZs on 9th September (a staggering £250 a permit in case you have forgotten) I based the cost of marking out the bays on them being repainted every ten years, however it seems that none were repainted last year. So that looks like £36,000 for nothing at all - and if I am wrong on that blame it on Craskes refusal to answer a straight question. Another thing that Craske refuses to answer is whether anyone has looked at why it costs so much to manage the CPZ operation. You would think that £330,000 per annum would be enough to staff a fantastically efficient outfit absolutely on the ball in every detail wouldnt you? Such a sum must pay for something like ten people (Craske typically refuses to say) even at the silly rates of pay these people award themselves. But no, its a shambles. The council admits it doesnt know anything about who has a permit, whether some residents have more than one permit, or even if they are entitled to hold a permit. It is presumably why they cannot email out renewal notices (the council says most people have purchased a permit on-line) and have to rely on notices placed on windscreens they happen to notice. Just what are all those staff doing if the scheme is so basic that all they do is take your money and send out a piece of paper in the post? Presumably the department is run by rejects from the road planning department!
So we have got to the situation where Craske and his Conservative cohorts decided on the new price in the spring, introduced it in the summer and eventually announced it on their website in early autumn. Didnt consult anyone, wont answer questions about how their figures were arrived at and have removed (compared to what was published last year) the breakdown of outgoings and income from their website to make it even more difficult to check up on their maladministration and secretive manipulation of figures they refuse to justify - probably because they cant.
The only thing that Craske and the complainers seem to agree on is that no one expects the parking permits to be subsidised but he refuses to see that the point at issue is his refusal to stand back and ask himself how in hell can it cost £250 to issue a tiny piece of paper?, especially when no attempt is made to do anything more than the essentials - like bank the money and issue the damn things.
Maybe this disreputable undemocratic disgrace to the Conservative party would do well to compare the cost of a parking permit with that of a cars tax disc. The price of a permit to maybe find a space to stop in Bexley is not very different to what it costs a small car owner to freely roam the entire Kingdom. How can this cretinous apology for a councillor ever come to believe that it should cost much the same to run a scheme that requires him to maintain a few miles of white line with one that maintains the road transport infrastructure for the whole country? All his other claimed expenses; staff, permit production, safety schemes and computers have their equivalents with car tax admin. The only difference is that one pays for a few miles of white paint, the other pays for motorways and bridges. Craske simply hasnt got a clue about managing anything has he? Maybe he should be wearing a Charlie Chaplin moustache not a blue rosette. A comedian and a dictator all rolled into one.
It is illegal for Bexley council to be aiming to make a profit out of its CPZ operation and disregard for the law is something for which Bexley council is rightly reviled. Do we need to be reminded of the cover-up over their recent leaders credit card activity, an offence for which he is now serving a suspended prison sentence? I know at least one group campaigning on the CPZ pricing issue is considering recourse to the law. I wonder if Craske would refuse to answer questions from a judge too.
(Car tax isnt all spent on roads, a lot of the income is creamed off for other things; which makes Bexleys Conservative councillors look even more like a bunch of lying con-men - and women.)