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Bonkers Blog October 2010

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31 October - More parking restrictions on the way. Another cynical tax on motorists by the despot Craske?

Last Wednesday’s News Shopper carried an announcement by Bexley council to the effect that 160 roads within the borough are to have their waiting and loading restrictions amended. That will be code for further restrictions won’t it? With road and traffic matters under the malign control of the vile councillor Craske it’s not going to be a token of generosity by a benevolent council, that’s for sure. A further twelve roads not so far subject to Craske’s tax raising megalomania are to be patrolled by the his S.S. boys. The detail is said to be available at the council’s Contact Centre.

Two of the roads listed I pass along twice daily so I know that they are in one case completely devoid of adjoining properties with space for about six cars if they are parked considerately, and the other road has seven houses and six spaces, one of which is ‘disabled only’ and three of which are very rare specimens, they are within a Controlled Parking Zone but totally free of restrictions. What odds would you give on them disappearing? There used to be four parking spots there but six months ago Bexley council surreptitiously extended the double yellow line by one car length.

I try to be careful when accusing councillors and officials of law-breaking and corruption and only do so when they have admitted it or it is only too obvious, but a number of leaks from inside sources make me ever more confident that they are guilty of both. A phone call from a council office threw some light on how there is little or no chance of life in Bexley improving and the entire emphasis is on pain for residents, and papers I saw from legal sources I could hardly believe such is the level of dishonesty by high-ranking officials and councillors they portray. It’s not for me to steal the thunder of others but I await their decision to go public with great interest. It would appear we are being governed locally by crooks.

 

30 October - More neglect by your caring council - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Obscured speed indicator Unfinished cycle path

It is not as bad as it has been since the Spring but this is how the Vehicle Activated Speed Sign on the B213 looked yesterday. Autumn has ensured it is no longer completely obscured by foliage but is is still impossible to read from an approaching car. For speeds under 40 m.p.h. it doesn’t even work, it simply displays three horizontal bars. It is supposed to be a road safety measure but the Traffic and Road Safety Group at Bexley council has ignored reports that it may as well be broken for all the use it is. Actually another one a quarter of a mile to the West is also broken, it hasn’t worked at all for at least a month. For the record, the white van triggered a 42 m.p.h. reading.

The major inconveniences placed on Bexley’s road users are nearly always said to be due to road safety considerations, even when expert opinion is that Bexley’s road planning is either malicious or incompetent. My suspicion is that big schemes go ahead solely to ensure continuing employment for bureaucrats. If they were seriously interested in road safety they would deal with the trivial end of the spectrum too, like this pavement sign left unfinished for more than a year or the hole in the pedestrian refuge reported yesterday. How is it that Abbey Road was signed off as completed in 2009 when so many sections of it were not properly finished? (See yesterday’s photos). It only confirms my view that project management in Bexley is virtually non-existent. My contracting informant tells me that Bexley’s idea of an inspection is to turn up in a car, sit in it and eat a sandwich and go away again. At least we won’t notice the difference when Teresa O’Neill cuts their jobs. Let’s hope she doesn’t make cuts the same way as the Prime Minister ‘freezes’ our E.U. contribution; by letting it rise by more than £400m.

For even more neglect view the photo gallery.

 

29 October - Crazy changes to Abbey Road are still a load of bollards - click any image for more information and photo gallery (4 images)

Abbey Road Bollards fiasco Abbey Road Bollards fiasco Abbey Road Bollards unfinished Abbey Road Bollards lit

Long term readers will know that this website began as a reaction to the changes imposed on the B213 in Belvedere and the incompetence, deceit and lies of the responsible officer; the duplicity of councillor Davey and the gullibility, or as seems more likely in retrospect, the sheer bloody-mindedness of the council’s transport villain, self-publicist, expenses king and crass councillor, one Peter Craske.

The failure to complete the job more than 18 months after work began has been regularly documented here, most recently on 31 August and more extensively a few days earlier.

Last Monday a little bit more work was done towards final completion; why it has to be done in dribs and drabs can probably only be answered by the tortured minds to be found in Bexley’s planning departments - the very people who install roundabouts that cannot be driven around. I don’t propose to go into the details of the latest developments here but they are available as part of the associated photo gallery. To avoid any possible misinterpretation of the accompanying photos I should state that the first is a previously unused one from the blog of 31 August, the middle pair is from Tuesday of this week, and the fourth was taken at 6.30 yesterday morning. The reason for the differing dates is explained in the picture gallery. The latest work was carried out last Monday, the day I had traded in my camera for another that arrived the next day. Hence no picture of Conway’s latest little earner in progress.

 

28 October - Time for a root and branch clear-out? - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Lesnes Abbey new trees Lesnes Abbey new trees

You may not believe it but three months ago we were gripped by a prolonged hot and dry spell and the young trees in Lesnes Abbey Park which had been protected from youthful vandals over several years were left to die. I reported on the apparent neglect and waste of money on 7th August. Soon after that an amateur arborologist told me that the trees had most likely gone into a self-protect mode and had dropped their leaves to save themselves. I only half believed it as the leaves hadn’t actually fallen off but gone brittle and brown. But the prospect of me having to eat humble pie next Spring has disappeared because Bexley council has replaced the affected trees and encased them in nice new wire mesh. Wasting tax-payers money is the local authority norm.

Council Leader Teresa O’Neill keeps warning residents of the forthcoming cuts and asking our opinion on where the axe should fall. She was at it again in this week’s News Shopper. All very laudable to those who have forgotten that Bexley council usually ignores suggestions. I made a money saving one when the Conservatives took over four years ago but my local councillor Dozy Davey said that whilst he agreed with me his colleagues wouldn’t. He went on to be similarly two faced over the ruination of Abbey Road. I conclude he is untrustworthy; but back to the point. Councillor O’Neill needs to look long and hard at how the council is run if savings are to be made. How can it cost £250 to issue a resident’s parking permit for example?

When I was manager of a factory employing 1,300 people, quite a long time ago, I went to the Union Rep. and said “Ray, I think I could lose a third of the staff and have no real impact on the running of this place”. Ray, who was not from the usual union mould replied, “Malcolm, if you let me choose who should go we can lose two thirds of the staff and still run the place properly”. And over a period of some years that is exactly what we did. I bet Bexley council is no better and probably worse. When did you last see any of them act in a way that would be applauded in private sector employment?

The council will be meeting next Wednesday evening to discuss cuts. The papers up for discussion are available for download on the council’s website.

 

27 October - Dick Turpin rules in Bexley

It’s Wednesday and the on-line News Shopper is once again a rich source of stories about the “mob of nasty evil people” that infest the Civic Centre. The issue of using lie-detectors against single people rumbles on with another case of someone who is being persecuted with unjustified tax demands for having the temerity to be single. Unfortunately I have yet to be challenged this year by the judge jury and executioner which inflicts “as much pain as possible” on residents. Maybe they are scared that all correspondence and phone recordings will immediately go on-line but I shall tip them off about something which may encourage Bexley’s huge team of vindictive morons. I have a friend who lives in Bromley and on just a handful of occasions each year we take a trip out together. Sometimes she has come here in her working clothes with smarter ones packed in a case. Sometimes she has left one set behind and I now have a cupboard with a small selection of female garments on the rail. Some have been there so long that I doubt they fit any more. So come on Bexley council, surely that makes me guilty of tax fiddling?

Only yesterday I voiced my suspicions that Bexley council may be up to new tricks, and very possibly illegal new tricks, in their enforcement of parking regulations. At the site I pictured below a friend of a friend was stopped within the marked bus stop by a driver who made an emergency stop in front of him. He got a ticket for not swerving on to the pavement and killing someone. Today’s News Shopper carries an identical story. There is no justice in Bexley and the council is well deserving of the description “maggots and bags of filth” that appeared in the News Shopper a few months ago. Today’s description is mild by comparison. “Dick Turpin is alive and well in Bexley”.

 

26 October - Clandestine spying? - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Gayton Road Spycams Gayton Road Spycams

Gayton Road Belvedere is not alone in getting regular visits from the council’s gestapo car which they prefer to call a Mobile In-car Camera Enforcement vehicle (MICE). When MICE are on site the driver puts up a warning sign as required by law but two weeks ago a sign was taped to a lamp post as usual with no MICE in sight. I assumed that one of the operatives had forgotten to remove it; but two weeks later it is still there and one must wonder if it is intentional. Could it be that instead of sending a MICE to occupy a parking spot and thereby displacing someone into the bus stop area so as to better fund Craske’s expenses pot, they now use RATS (Remote Attrition on Temporarily Stopping) to spy on offenders instead? With something over a dozen cameras hanging over the area it could well be the case.

The sign was not facing the road today and on a windy day last week it had somehow folded itself around the lamp post in a way that totally obscured every part of the camera icon. If the RATS were really spying that day (or today) and issuing tickets it would be totally illegal, not that that would trouble a corrupt council very much.

I would ask the council to explain but they no longer reply to my enquiries. Mr. Puomo (rubbish department) has remained silent since the middle of August and Mr. Kiley (Road Safety) has not responded since I named his colleague Rupert Cheeseman for mismanagement of the Abbey Road death-trap project. Probably I shall have to send a list of outstanding questions to the Deputy Director of Customer Relations, who, to be fair has always been very responsive but not unreasonably asked me to go through normal channels if I can. But if Serge Poumo and Gordon Kiley are going to play silly-beggars then maybe I’ll have to lumber the top brass. Either that or put in an FOI and incur the wrath of another councillor who has lost sight of what democracy means.

Anyone who has been interested in photography for as long as I have will know that the representation of a camera on the warning sign is of an old Rollieflex popular with wedding photographers until the late 1960s. They will also notice that the one shown here is upside down. If a disabled person displays his badge upside down he will get a ticket so surely Bexley’s warning sign, hanging upside down is also illegal, even if it faced the road, which it doesn’t? One rule for the council criminals and another one for the innocent?

 

22 October - Cowardly Craske goes to ground

If you have read this blog over several months you will know I am a frequent visitor to the neighbouring borough of Newham and that last month they extended their Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) to the address I visit. The fee imposed on each resident for a permit to park their own car was zero - absolutely nothing, although there was a sting in the tail of the supplied documentation. It said there had been no price increase on any Newham parking services for several years and a review was due in October. That review has now taken place and the new prices are available. A resident’s permit to park will remain free although car park charges will rise. From observation it would appear that most of Newham is covered by CPZs and it’s almost certainly a far bigger operation than poorly managed Bexley’s who spend, if you can believe the fanciful figures that Craske plucked from the air, £783,200 on issuing 3,081 bits of paper. It would be interesting to know comparable figures from Newham. If Newham was a small town in Florida I expect the greedy little expenses king would take an exploratory trip to see how they do it, but because Newham Town Hall is no more than an hour away by public transport I expect he will prefer to bury his head in the sand; for that is what he has done recently. None of the CPZ campaigners I have heard from can get a word out of this useless representative of the people. He has no answers so he has gone to ground big time. From cowardice or shame? Almost certainly the former; shame would be an alien concept to Craske.

 

21 October - Council Health Scrutiny Committee - what a bunch of hypocrites!

Friends I have made through this website have persuaded me that I should attend council committee meetings and this evening I did exactly that and attended the Health Scrutiny Committee meeting. I’ve not followed the shenanigans at Sidcup hospital as closely as I might have done but in essence the council is fighting a rear-guard action that it cannot possibly win against the closure of Queen Mary’s Hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) and its maternity unit leaving Bexley the only London borough without either. I listened to the health authority’s chief executive (Dr. Streather) put his case to the council and I came to the conclusion that through his mismanagement Queen Mary’s has failed to recruit enough staff and run up losses of more than £40m a year and Streather now believes that the only way out of trouble is to close bits of it down. To achieve this in the face of council objections and a government moratorium on the closure he has ignored all public comment by manipulating the cut off date for its submission and exploited legal loop-holes to get around all official protest and a promise by the local MP, James Brokenshire.

The council’s health committee chaired by councillor Ross Downing (Conservative, Cray Meadows) put up a show of protesting when they did not in law have a leg to stand on and with the notable exception of councillor Sharon Massey (Conservative, Danson Park) no one put a question to Streather worth asking and certainly didn’t get an answer worth listening to. The A&E closure will happen in November and the maternity unit a month later and Bexley council is powerless to stop it.

I couldn’t help noticing the irony of it all. Here we have a public body that ignored the results of consultation and played fast and loose with the law to win its way over the wishes of a council who may be indignant and annoyed by it all or might just be pretending to be. Either way it is an object lesson in hypocrisy by Bexley council who ignore local residents and ride rough-shod over them through a mixture of incompetence, profligacy, mismanagement and lawlessness at every opportunity. If it wasn’t so serious it would be hilarious. The committee chairman waffled on and off for nearly two hours, rudely cut off questions from a member of the public who had been allowed to speak and provoked whispers of “sanctimonious cow” from the listening public; ungallant but a fair enough description. In two weeks time I shall attend a similar meeting on the proposed council cuts. Based on councillor Downing’s performance tonight chairing an aimless mess of a meeting that achieved nothing whatever I think I know where my axe would fall.

 

17 October - Councillor Craske declares he does not believe in democracy

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 don’t 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 year’s 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 council’s 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 council’s 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 borough’s 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 Craske’s 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 wouldn’t 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, it’s a shambles. The council admits it doesn’t 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. Didn’t consult anyone, won’t 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 can’t.

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 car’s 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 hasn’t 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 leader’s 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 isn’t all spent on roads, a lot of the income is creamed off for other things; which makes Bexley’s Conservative councillors look even more like a bunch of lying con-men - and women.)

 

13 October - Bexley council declares war on single people

One must wonder what the local paper would do for front page headlines if it wasn’t for the twin bogeymen of the NHS Trust and the would-be Nazis of Bexley council. For some months I have been aware that Bexley council has been asking residents who claim the single person’s discount of 25% off their council tax to justify their claim. I have been expecting a questionnaire myself having completed them in some previous years and had them queried. I take the view that I live alone and I am entitled by law to the 25% discount and if Bexley council doubts my word it is up to them to disprove my claim, not for me to prove it. When threatened with having the discount withdrawn I have nothing to fear from a court appearance as there is no way the council could ever show my claim was invalid and I would bring 100 witnesses, including a vicar, a Justice of the Peace, and a couple of O.B.E.s who would testify accordingly. So far Bexley’s gestapo team have always gone silent after I have resisted their threats.

However according to today’s News Shopper they are now tricking single people into telephone interviews to which they attach lie-detector equipment. What chance is there of someone from Bexley council being competent to operate such a machine, which is in any case far from foolproof? They would find it difficult to interview me by phone. Mine, a model unfortunately no longer available, includes the facility to allow the bell to ring only if the number calling is on my list of friends and contacts. For everyone else it remains silent and I review the list of callers every so often and decide whether I want to call them back on my free calls package. There are a few decent people still working at Bexley council but even they are no more likely to be on my phone’s friends’ list than I am of being on our vindictive council’s friends’ list.

It would seem from the newspaper report that after one unfortunate and totally innocent lady was pronounced a liar by the unskilled operator of an inaccurate machine the council hounded her mercilessly with no supporting evidence that they should be even slightly suspicious of her claim. How is it that everything Bexley council does indicates a total lack of common sense? When next you hear them claiming they are “listening to you”, you will know that this trite and dishonest phrase is intended to mask the fact that they are spying on us and recording us in the hope that they can find the slightest excuse to exercise their vindictive and evil practices. With any luck, following the News Shopper’s exposé of Bexley council’s underhand trickery, no more residents will have their lives blighted by the nasty crew who run it.

Whilst I may not be on Bexley’s list of phone friends I may well be on their list of email correspondents. Last week I was sent a confidential document concerning the billing of commercial services that should have gone to a local organisation and was absolutely none of my business.

 

11 October - No news is good news? - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Gas works in Wilton Road Gas works in Wilton Road Flood in Wilton Road

A whole week with nothing new to report; now that is good news. Wouldn’t it be nice if Bexley council was overcome by common sense and good management and there was nothing bad to say?

After sitting in on a discussion about Bexley’s anti-business parking policies a week or so ago I spent several hours observing what happens in practice in my local shopping street. 20 years ago it was home to all the usual trades but now it is reduced to little more than betting shops, taxi ranks, take-aways, hairdressers and estate agents. I use the plural in each case deliberately. I have counted five hairdressers but I am told there are seven.

The road has been disrupted by gas-works and I was told that before that happened Greenwich patrolled their side of the street about once a month but Bexley returned every hour penalising motorists for the most trivial of transgressions and absolutely refusing to make any comment when asked about their activities. There were no concessions to the much reduced parking capacity. I’m not sure why anyone should be surprised at that. How many times do I have to repeat the News Shopper description of Bexley’s staff and their desire to inflict as much pain as possible on residents?

To my surprise my loitering in Wilton Road revealed no particular problem; a parking space was nearly always available to visitors and everything was orderly and no obvious problems came to light; maybe that is because not a single parking attendant was in evidence while I was there. The flood which is pictured here nearly 48 hours after the last rainfall further reduced parking capacity and has been a problem for the whole of the 24 years I have lived close by. Further proof if it be needed of Bexley council’s incompetence.

Moving back to the issue of John Watson’s questioning of the Chief Executive’s inflated salary, I hear that the council has conceded that the question is acceptable on their agenda but have said that the answer could not be made publicly available so there is no point in asking it. If only as much ingenuity was available for running the borough efficiently as is available for protecting their own jobs and deflecting legitimate questioning.

An insider has whispered to me that there was a site meeting today to discuss the new Wickham Lane roundabout so expertly designed by Bexley council that buses can’t get around it. And speaking of roundabouts it seems that there has been another smash up at the silly little ones in Brampton Road, just a week after a pedestrian was killed there.

 

2 October - Will Tuckey’s ridiculous salary

I reported three days ago that John Watson had had his question about the obscenely high salary awarded to Bexley’s C.E.O. rejected on the spurious grounds that they just don’t talk about such things. John has since sent me a copy of his response to the attempt to silence him. It is good to see such challenges to the abuse of democracy and law for which Bexley council is renowned. Last night I sat in on a meeting of local traders who are unhappy about Bexley’s constant attempt to chase their customers away through draconian application of petty parking restrictions. I hope to make a more formal comment on proceedings after conducting a little more research of my own.

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