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Bonkers Blog September 2010

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29 September - News update

Last week the News Shopper carried the council’s excuse for four months of traffic delays in Wickham Lane which skirted around the truth to conceal their incompetence but this week the letters page gets to the heart of the matter. Some idiot designed a roundabout that a bus couldn’t navigate. At the weekend I mentioned this latest in a long line of Bexley council fiascos to my friend the Transport Research Laboratory’s senior consultant. He said that they produced some software several years ago (now marketed by Savoy Computing) into which you enter the dimensions of your road junction or roundabout and it will tell you what sort of vehicle can get round it - and vice-versa. “Only an idiot wouldn’t use it”. But unfortunately we are in Bexley and the council is in the grip of idiots.

Everyone’s favourite idiot, councillor Craske, is still intent on penalising residents who need to buy a parking permit. The News Shopper reports the growing list of protest groups. Shouldn’t they be grouping together to stand up against the little tyrant?  I’m not against his basic philosophy that services shouldn’t be subsidised, but only an idiot blindly accepts that administration costs of £249 a permit doesn’t need to be urgently investigated and reduced. Craske treats the council as a gravy train run for the benefit of councillors and senior employees.

The News Shopper also reports that John Watson of Sidcup who requested a reduction in the very high salary paid to the Chief Executive be discussed at the next council meeting has had his request rejected because “under standing orders it cannot debate staff’s salaries even when they are in the public domain”. There was bound to be some excuse trumped up, secrecy is one of the tools of corruption. The News Shopper’s website has today reported how Bromley council is freezing its top executive’s pay at some twenty odd thousand below Bexley’s; and guess which council has the lowest council tax. Not wasteful incompetent mismanaged Bexley that’s for sure.


25 September - OFCOM takes an interest in community websites - click any image for photo gallery (9 images)

OFCOM meeting room The audience gathers The lecture begins

Along with other London bloggers I was invited to a meeting today organised by OFCOM and The London Civic Forum to discuss the impact and influence of websites such as this one on the local community and borough authorities. It was gratifying that so many of the attendees had seen Bexley-is-Bonkers and remembered its name, probably because it is catchier than some. The conference leader told me it was one of his top two interesting sites but I rather suspect he may have said that to everyone. Much of the day long discussions were taken up with how to run and moderate on-line discussion forums and how to subdue belligerent political activists, none of which applies here because I decided I didn’t have sufficient free time to manage a forum; however today’s comments suggest I may have been over-cautious.

Perhaps the most interesting session was about the rôle of local websites within the government’s Big Society agenda. It is possible that the government’s interest comes from getting volunteers to ‘spread the word’ at little or no cost. A number of examples were provided of council’s refusing to play ball with the Coalition’s plan, all Labour controlled apparently, but no one produced an example of any council of any political persuasion actually co-operating. They still don’t accept that monetary cuts may compel them to relinquish some of their powers and give up what was referred to as “tribal tendencies“. It is fair to say that not a word was spoken in praise of any local authority for the whole day; indeed it was said that some had offered monetary inducements to bloggers to influence their output.

The six additional photographs in the gallery are pure self-indulgence on my part. From 1966 to 1968 I worked in the very same room as today’s meeting when Riverside House (OFCOM’s H.Q.) was a Civil Service building occupied by G.P.O. Telephones. I enjoyed the glorious views over the river and the city but by comparison with the decor provided for OFCOM, the G.P.O. was drab and dirty.


24 September - Work-shy bin men. Useless officialdom part 4 - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Uncollected rubbish

Possibly the non-collection of rubbish in my street is too trivial to report here; on the other hand problems with rubbish collection seem to be widespread across the borough. A new problem (to me) is that the collectors are too idle to reach into the bin when a householder has recycled so successfully that the small amount that remains in the green bin is out of arms’ reach. A request for advice made six weeks ago produced an unintelligible response from Serge Poumo and when a neighbour fell foul of the same laziness a month ago I repeated my enquiry. Serge Puomo did not bother to reply. As a direct result of that non-collection the bin became overfull and so wasn’t emptied at all two weeks ago. Then the foxes got busy and spread the rubbish around.

There is a language problem at the house in question. It is used by a succession of people from Nigeria who stay for a couple of weeks, occasionally longer and are then replaced by someone else. All perfectly decent people so far as one can judge but they do not understand a system that gives them six different bins. If they can be persuaded to use them at all the colour coding is ignored. Last year the occupant merely threw all their rubbish out the door in the general direction of the front garden until a small mountain of rubbish built up. The useless Serge Poumo failed to solve that problem too and it fell to neighbours to get it taken to the dump. Something similar has had to be done to solve the latest problem too. The contents of the overflowing bins was redistributed among other nearby bins. Due to the amount left behind following a month of neglect by Bexley council it is quite possible that those doing the redistribution weren’t able to observe all the usual rules relating to what goes where, but at least the bins are all empty now. Serge Poumo, Bexley’s useless Recycling Advisor, is slowly turning me from being an enthusiastic recycler into someone who rather enjoys the thought that a group of people, fed up with having rubbish blown along the street and into their gardens should fool the collectors into taking it away - even if this week’s load is going to prove to be more contaminated than usual.

Speaking of useless publicly funded parasites brings me to the subject of Will Tuckley, the council’s obscenely over-paid and utterly useless C.E.O. I hear a group of Bexley residents has asked that his salary of around a quarter of a million pounds a year be reduced to something close to that of the Prime Minister’s £143,000 a year and failing that that his post be abolished altogether. Would anyone notice his absence? The question should be, according to my informant, on the Agenda at the council’s next meeting.


13 September - Another massive Bexley council cock-up - click image for photo gallery (3 images)

New roundabout impassable by buses Someone in the know at F.M. Conway’s who do practically all the council’s road works has called to let me know why the roundabout construction at the junction of Wickham Lane and Oakhampton Crescent has been on hold for the last month or so. Apparently it has been so beautifully designed by the council’s best brains that buses can’t get round it. And you thought I was being a bit hard on Andrew Bashford’s road planning department and cretinous councillor Craske? Shouldn’t they be made to pay for their costly mistakes?

The same source told me that the power cut last week was caused by someone working on the Ruxley corner roundabout fiasco severing a very large cable. Councillor Peter Catterall (Welling) is quoted in the press as saying “these latest cuts reflect more problems with EDF Energy” but if he is quoted accurately, and there is evidence that at the very least the words were taken out of context, it could more fairly be argued that they reflect the total lack of project management skills by Bexley council. My informant said that someone didn’t want to pay for the detailed plans and took a chance. Lucky it didn’t kill someone, that sort of power can vapourise large chunks of metal.


10 September - Work-shy bin men. Useless officialdom part 3

Four weeks ago my green bin wasn’t emptied and Mr. Serge Poulo sent an excuse that didn’t make any sense at all; I have no idea what he was talking about. Two weeks ago my new neighbour had the same problem, only a small amount of rubbish in the bottom of the bin so the collectors were too lazy to reach in and remove it. I sent a complaint on her behalf which was acknowledged but no one bothered to reply or empty the bin. Today the lid of her bin couldn’t be fully closed but only because it wasn’t emptied two weeks ago. So the lazy bin men have left her rubbish behind again. But it is the management at Bexley council which is at fault. The problem can’t be unique to me and my neighbours but the council does nothing except organise the next round of pay increases.


9 September - Profligate Bexley council impoverishes residents to protect their own jobs

The rising tide of opposition to councillor Craske’s greed over the matter of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) and the exorbitant cost of residents’ parking permits has brought forth comment from blog readers and a few interesting figures gleaned from council sources. Apparently there are only 3,081 takers for residents’ parking permits in Bexley and the costs of issuing each one works out at £84 in staff costs and £23 for their accommodation and other overheads. On top of that ridiculous sum each ticket costs £16 to print and post. ICT costs, whatever they are, but I assume computers and the like, adds another (almost) £4 per permit. Then it is said that road marking costs £36,000 a year. Nearly £12 per permit. It might be interesting to do some arithmetic on that.

If we assume that 3,500 cars have to be accommodated and are allowed a generous 20 feet each then that is just over 13 miles of painted line. If there is more lining than that it is not really part of the CPZ but part of needing to cater for normal parking activity, the casual comings and goings of daily life. Why should residents in CPZs pay for general parking infrastructure when those who live elsewhere don’t pay directly for any yellow line that may pass their home?

I know the lines close to my home haven’t been repainted in the ten years since first installation, so if we assume that is the norm, then that’s not much over a mile of painted line which has to be renewed each year, in fact only 7,000 feet. If that costs £36,000 to paint it works out at just over £5 a foot. If the lines are repainted less frequently the true figure might be eight or even ten pounds per foot. They are joking aren’t they? Not just about the cost of painting a line but on the fact that every single permit issued costs £139. The figure may in fact be nearer £150, because according to the council they spend another £10 per permit on road safety schemes directly associated with the provision of CPZs. I haven’t a clue what they can be and it seems like another bit of Bexley figure fiddling to me so I shall exclude it. If I am wrong it makes the waste even worse.

Some of that is offset by penalty charges but the cost of enforcement is irrelevant. The real issue is how can a tiny scrap of paper cost that much to issue. You don’t have to be an accountant and probably don’t need any qualification at all to know that there is something seriously wrong with that. It is bureaucracy gone totally berserk. Someone should get in there quick and sort out the inefficiencies that the idiot councillor Craske hasn’t even begun to think about, cocooned as he is from the realities of life by his massive expense account.

A recent report into public sector workers said that on average they spend 68% of their time farting about doing nothing but even if they were made to work twice as hard the staff costs per permit issued would only fall to about £50. There must be simply too many of them and too many fiddles going on with the line painting and printing contracts. Even four pounds a permit to keep the computer database alive is silly. Bexley council is absolutely bonkers and needs pulling apart from top to bottom to root out the incompetence, inefficiency and corruption.


8 September - Bexley continues with its vicious anti-motorist agenda

Next Monday an address I frequently visit in East Ham (Newham council) will be included in a new controlled parking scheme. The cost of an annual resident’s ticket will be zero; absolutely nothing. A visitors’ ticket will be 30 pence a day and their council tax remains low. Contrast that with the fees set by the vultures who control high taxing Bexley. They have just doubled the cost of parking to £70 a year (more in some streets) and visitors are charged up to 30 pence an hour. Naturally the council gave no prior warning to residents who are beginning to protest against this blatant taxation increase and expenses funding operation. Meanwhile the same council has set aside £4 million to pay a firm of consultants to improve the local roads. It’s almost impossible to find any road in Bexley that has been improved in recent years, with one or two exceptions all changes are for the worse. An instant improvement could be made by merely reversing the “crass stupidity”.

Meanwhile, this week brings the usual crop of injustices by a council described in the local paper as “taken over by a mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”. They have fined a pensioner half his weekly income because his blue badge was allegedly not visible and a fireman has been fined for parking in a road he wasn’t in supported by a photograph of a car that isn’t his. Our council is managed by heartless jobsworths or in the more colourful language of the local paper, “worthless bags of filth”. Just a reminder of who is Bexley’s transport boss. His name is Peter Craske, a so called Tory councillor and king of their allowance claimers. Suddenly the words nasty, evil, filth and maggot don’t seem to be over-the-top at all.


6 September - Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah to the last free parking space in Sidcup

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are building a new church in Sidcup, a town that has been dying of neglect and attrition by the mindless collection of ne’re-do-wells at Bexley council for many a long year. You can’t blame them for trying but the Witnesses asked if the free parking spaces in St. John’s Road could be made over to them in exchange for placing a sum of money into Bexley’s coffers. As the town is in such a desperate state with its shopping centre barely worthy of that title any more, Bexley council in its ‘Listening’ and ‘Working for you’ mode obviously said “No” didn’t they? Not a bit of it; an easy way of financing their expenses pot cannot be turned down whatever the consequences for local businesses and residents. What an appalling amoral bunch our councillors are.


4 September - Scum rises to the top of a fetid pool

Councillor John DaveyI had a phone call this morning to ask why I hadn’t mentioned councillor John Davey’s appointment to the Board of Bexley Care (N.H.S.) Trust and the answer is that I really didn’t think that there was anything exceptional about it. It is the height of naivety to believe that these appointments are not all part of the cosy system of back-slapping and self-enrichment that pervades councils and quangos, but I was wrong to ignore it and my caller was right. That a councillor who says one thing to his constituents and does the opposite on Bexley council committees, and walks away when shown evidence of motorists being ticketed for parking in a ‘prohibited’ place where Bexley council hadn’t bothered to put up signs, is deemed a fit person to sit on the board of anything is alarming but sadly no longer surprising. The press release about the appointment is available on-line.

I expect his expertise in double-talk will come in handy if my experience of the N.H.S. is anything to go by. I’m still waiting for an honest reply from them on why they came to throw me out of A&E to meet their targets. Currently they have lied themselves into the position of having to admit they diagnosed a severe stomach problem but gave me no treatment for it whatever. Eight months on and they are still looking for an explanation but they are good at sending me holding letters to cover the delay. Councillor Davey should feel very much at home in his new sinecure and the £8,000 he will get for it will augment his councillor’s expenses very nicely.


3 September - The traffic chaos goes on and on

Six weeks ago reports came in that Wickham Lane was totally disrupted by the installation of a roundabout and I took some photos of the mess that Bexley council had created. Further reports say work has stalled so I drove by twice between 11 a.m and noon today and it’s true. I saw no sign of progress or anyone on site or indications that there may have been activity recently. Nothing! On my return trip I was sixth in line waiting for the lights and when the green came the first three vehicles and the fifth got through, the rest of us had to wait again. If that happens in the middle of the day, it must be every bit as bad in the rush hour as reports suggest. Let’s hope it gets finished quicker than the 18 months and more that it has taken Bexley’s incompetent contract managers to (not quite) finish Abbey Road. “Listening to you, working for you”. What a joke. “Laughing at you, wreaking havoc”; would be nearer the truth.

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