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Bonkers Blog July 2011

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30 July - It’s the end of the month already

I never feel it’s worth writing anything important at the end of the month with a new blog about to overtake the current one, and with this month’s end falling at a weekend and me feeling lazy I shall award myself a short break during which I offer only a few words from the last two days’ postbag.


• Bexley council is not my favourite organisation, but I didn't know they were SO bad - bit of an eye opener.
• I don't think there is another council in the UK which has so many dodgy events that have been connected to it.
• Great news on that petition. Where do we sign?
• Came across your site by accident, have spent a really enjoyable hour here. Very interesting stuff.
• Brilliant reporting. I follow your blog regularly.
• I don't know how you maintain your patience in the face of such hostility.
• Keep up the good work.


I do try to answer all emails but there have been a few occasions recently when I have fallen behind by several days if not a bit longer. If anyone does not get a reply within 48 hours, excluding weekends, please don’t hesitate to resend, as it is quite possible I have overlooked it.

 

29 July - Petition against excessive salaries

Petition
Council leader Teresa O'NeillI think the first reference made here to the high salaries paid to Bexley council was on 2nd October last year when the News Shopper reported that Bexley council declined to answer a question on the subject at a council meeting. Since then various alternative approaches have been tried, most often by Mr. Elwyn Bryant of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group, but although he has the backing of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who has said that salaries should be no higher than £100,000 a year our council knows better, the main obstacle being leader Teresa O’Neill who has said that the salaries are “good value for money” and that the Chief Executive’s two hundred thousand plus various benefits is “worth every penny”.

Mr. Bryant‘s latest attempt to impress on Ms. O’Neill that she is hopelessly out of touch with most residents is a petition which he is taking from door-to-door, and not just any old Bexley door, he is concentrating on houses within Teresa O’Neill’s own ward of Brampton. His aim is to get 2,000 signatures and push a reluctant council into a debate on the subject. Now that he is within a whisker of the half way stage he has asked me to let you know how he is getting on. He is helped by Mr. Mick Barnbrook and Mr. Nicholas Dowling who exposed the untruthful figures Craske’s used to justify a tripling of the cost of a Residents’ Parking Permit. Nicholas has promised to provide some more shocking details of Craske’s deception very soon.

Knocking on doors is a slow process because most people want to spend time slagging off Bexley council. No one likes them which ensures a success rate of just a little over 95%. Elwyn reports that by accident he knocked on the door of a councillor whose spouse answered. The person concerned was sympathetic but thought signing the petition might cause friction and apologetically declined. Another unfortunate knock was on the door of Teresa O’Neill’s parents who were unable to differentiate between staff salaries and councillors’ allowances. Naturally they defended the latter but failed to understand that the petition was on something different.

Councillor Sybil CamseySeveral councillors were asked to sign at the Boris Show last Thursday and they all seemed to know about the petition already, no doubt the aforementioned spouse spread the word. Councillors Davey, Gareth Bacon, June Slaughter and former mayor Clark all refused to sign with a variety of dismissive comments but councillor Sybil Camsey (Brampton ward) was particularly scathing. She said that no petition is “worth the paper it is written on” and “no one will take any notice” and that “I don’t care”. What she doesn’t care about was not made clear. Maybe it is her seat, 2,000 of her own voters may take note of her contempt for their views.

I asked Mr. Barnbrook to summarise the reasons people were giving for not signing. He said there was a handful that said they were not interested in politics but he was surprised by the larger number who believed that if the council got hold of their name and address it would be vindictive enough to blacklist them. However the most interesting comment by far was, “I’d love to mate but I’m a builder and I pay them so much in back handers already that I daren’t risk wasting all that investment by going against them”.

I have heard that sort of thing before but I don’t see any way of getting cast iron evidence.

Probably Sybil Camsey is right and petitions to Bexley council are not worth the paper they are written on. That would surprise no one who has studied their methods but if nothing else the petition will demonstrate the contempt of Bexley councillors for their electorate and the petition will allow that message to be reinforced and promulgated further. Mick said a satisfying number of householders asked if he was part of the Bonkers mob and he most certainly is.

 

28 July - Newsreel

Chief Executive’s salary


It has long been rumoured that the Chief Executive’s salary reached stratospheric levels because the previous incumbent, Nick Johnson, when he first became unwell, did a deal over a taxpayer funded dinner with the council leader of the time, the fraudster Ian Clement. The object being to boost Johnson’s pension. Mr. Johnson was initially employed by Bexley council in December 2003 on £153,468 a year and his pay went up by £4,218, £4,734 and £4,791 over the next three years. However just two months after that last increase his pay was boosted by another £31,269. And then he went sick and left, only to get a similar job with Hammersmith & Fulham council a few months later. Bexley taxpayers were left with a £50,000 a year pension bill. Suspicious I think you will agree.

The most recent enquiry about the reason for the massive extra salary increase reveals only that it was “a technical adjustment”. A friendly ex-councillor has told me that term is code for “it wasn’t agreed by any council committee but was agreed solely by Clement.” Clement still owes Bexley council around £2,000 from his abused credit card but his generosity lives on in Will Tuckley’s inflated salary. Council leader Teresa O’Neill may have said at last week’s Boris Show that he was “worth every penny” (See page 11 of this week’s News Shopper) but the survey being conducted by the Bexley Council Monitoring Group indicates that 95% of residents in the leader’s own ward think she is absolutely wrong. (More news soon.)


Council inspired obscene blog


Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police has not had the decency to acknowledge my email of 19 July but James Brokenshire MP phoned Elwyn Bryant (who was a victim of the blogger) to assure him that the police are taking the investigation seriously.

I am not in my daughter’s league when it comes to confronting police wrong-doing. She has been with Tim Godwin, the Met’s new Acting Commissioner at City Hall this morning with her partner Alastair, putting questions about their cover up of his brother’s murder. Godwin wouldn’t answer any questions either. The rot goes to the top.


Councillors’ allowances


When the list of councillors and their allowances was last updated it proved impossible to attribute all the available allowances to individual councillors because the source data was inadequate. As a result some councillors may get a bigger allowance than is shown on the list. The problem arises because the council used to publish “Details of Members’ Allowances” but now it is only a “Scheme of Members’ Allowances”. It is far harder to unravel a generalised ‘Scheme’ than it is to extract information from the “Details”. The information should be available from the council’s website but it is no longer as clear as it used to be. I wonder why.


Bexley is Bonkers blocked at council offices and libraries


A much delayed response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the decision to block access to this site via council servers was taken by the Chief Executive, Will Tuckley.


Short breaks for disabled children


Last December the government allocated £800 million to allowing parents with disabled children a short break from their non-stop caring duties. The government regarded the scheme as being vital enough to be exempted from their Comprehensive Spending Review. Bexley was allocated £883,000 but just as it did with the Ethic Minority Grant, Bexley council kept back a large chunk of the money for itself. £81,000 to be precise giving as its excuse, "coordination". That’s an awful lot of staff hours to coordinate well deserved breaks for children and carers. Possibly three full time members of staff to administer a few holidays.

 

27 July - Bexley council. In the wrong again

News Shopper headlineThree parking stories in this week’s News Shopper. Not content with fining Post Office vans when emptying mailboxes, they are now doing the same to contractors maintaining the bus stops. The parking adjudicator has ruled in favour of a man who claimed Bexley’s parking on the pavement signs weren’t clear and the Local Government Ombudsman has said Bexley council was wholly wrong to have sent in the bailiffs in yet another mishandled parking dispute.

Not to be outdone, the Bexleyheath Chronicle features the confusing disabled bay markings at the Bowling Centre car park which has caught out so many drivers and has brought criticism of Bexley council from the parking adjudicator. Bexley continues to be defiant.

 

26 July (Part 2) - Teresa goes to Pickles. James gets in a pickle

Teresa Pearce MP James Brokenshire MPAt the council meeting on 13th July the petition presented by Mrs. Joan McCarthy on behalf of FORGE (Friends Of Riverside Gardens Erith) was received with a mixture of boredom and mirth by Bexley councillors. Fortunately Mrs. McCarthy is represented by an MP who takes democracy and preservation of the environment more seriously than Bexley council and she has presented the petition in the House of Commons. Maybe the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles will be more sympathetic but the signs are not good. Mr. Pickles issues guidance but when Bexley council ignores it he looks the other way, but at least Erith has an MP that sticks up for her constituents. Teresa’s plea to Eric Pickles is in the panel below. Petition to Eric Pickles

James Brokenshire statement One of many things I did not like about Teresa’s party in government was the constant assault on personal freedoms so when James Brokenshire and others came out against the DNA database in 2009 I looked forward to some back tracking from the police state being progressively created by Labour Home Secretaries. James still has his statement of 1st November 2009 on his website and an extract from it is provided here. Today’s newspapers tell a very different story about James Brokenshire. They report he has said that the DNA of innocent people is to be retained after all. The proposed system is not entirely without merit but the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights is cast aside in what The Daily Telegraph said is the 14th U-turn by the coalition government.

James Brokenshire lost the trust of many local people when his promises for Queen Mary’s Hospital were over-ruled by the government of which he is a member. History appears to be repeating itself.

Another anti-DNA retention statement by James Brokenshire.

 

26 July (Part 1) - Road Rage offender fined

John Nicholls, farrier from DartfordThe man who attacked a cyclist in Bexley in May was in Bexleyheath Magistrate’s Court yesterday. John Nicholls, a farrier from Dartford pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault, was fined £400, ordered to pay £100 compensation to the victim, Simon Page, with £85 prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £15.

Bexleyheath’s police did not cover themselves with glory in this case, they knew who owned the car but gave up the investigation when the owner said (rightly) “it wasn’t me guv”.

 

25 July (Part 2) - Freedom of Information (FOI)

ICO LogoBexley council doesn’t like FOIs, it’s one of the few ways of getting information out of them. Councillor Campbell and councillor Betts have both said some sort of barrier should be erected against FOI requests. Councillor Craske went on the record to complain that answering FOIs costs more than enforcing parking controls, which is likely to be a lie, but it serves to illustrate how Bexley council would opt out of FOIs if it could. Because of the large number of FOIs which appeared not to be answered within the legal timeframe I started to record those I knew of on this site, but that has not proved to be a success. People may tell me of an FOI request, but they don’t always remember to let me know when they are answered. The list is inclined to show a very high proportion of FOIs not being answered within the statutory 20 day time limit, maybe as many as half of them, but it is possible that only the most controversial questions are being submitted for the list, so to get nearer to the truth - possibly - I have obtained a list of all the FOIs acknowledged by Bexley council for the 13 months ending April 30th 2011. (158 KB Excel file.) It shows that failure to comply with the law is running at around 20%. Some of the FOIs are many months overdue and one more than a year. A disappointingly high proportion of the unanswered FOIs are those allocated to the Chief Executive. The man on two hundred grand a year who leader Teresa O’Neill says is good value for money.

Among the ‘forgotten’ FOIs is the two concerning this website and the Harassment Letter. It seems it is Will Tuckley that is breaking the law with FOIs 11/327 and 11/328 and I am pleased to be able to report that at long last he has been reported to the Information Commissioner for deliberately and routinely flouting that law. Within a couple of days I expect to report him to the Commissioner for refusing to answer my Subject Access Request too . If answered properly it would reveal who it was who set up the obscene blog. A decent manager would want to root out whoever did that, but then no one but Teresa O’Neill has said Will Tuckley is a decent manager.

 

25 July (Part 1) - Boris in Bexley - An alternative view

An alternative view of last Thursday’s Boris Johnson Roadshow may be read on one of the Greenwich blogs, 853, so named after the local telephone code. The author covers some different ground to that recorded below though some might think he attempts to paint Bexley residents as racists. He reports that Teresa O’Neill “received a gentle round of clapping” when denying a stabbing at the Danson Festival. Apparently that proved the audience was racist because the questioner “won applause” and used to be a prominent member of the BNP. How would the audience know the man was once a member of the BNP? I didn’t and on 853’s own admission the man did not identify himself. According to the blogger, “Playing to prejudices still wins friends around these parts”. Read the blog and make up your own mind.

 

24 July - Flackley Ash Hotel. The truth at last

Flackley Ash HotelAt this time of the year council’s are compelled by law to let any resident inspect their accounts so the Bonkers team sent their accountant in to look at one or two things. He asked to see the invoice and associated documents relating to the Flackley Ash Hotel. This unnecessary beano was first revealed by the Bexleyheath Chronicle which assumed (based on the available evidence) that this was a pre-Christmas bash at a time when most of the borough was devoid of Christmas decorations because the council said we couldn’t afford them.

At a council meeting leader Teresa O’Neill claimed she and her colleagues paid for the trip themselves but the council’s Payments Manager failed to come up with figures to fully support the claim. A reply to a Freedom of Information request didn’t help much either. It indicated that cabinet members who attended may have made payments of £90 each but if the document provided was connected to Flackley Ash (it didn’t include anything to prove it) then in addition to the figures still not making sense, the payment date of September looked odd for a December trip.

At the time the news first broke, the Chronicle’s Editor checked that the Marriott Hotel next door to the Civic Centre had suitable accommodation before Christmas but no councillor said he had the date wrong. The aforesaid accountant has an email from a council officer confirming that the assumption was indeed “correct” but later it became apparent that there had been a trip to the hotel in October, whether that made two trips or whether it was the only one, Bexley council wouldn’t say. (Unanswered question at the council meeting of 13th July 2011.)

Now, thanks to the inspection of the accounts, the truth is out. Ten cabinet members and nine of the top brass went to the Flackley Ash Hotel on 8th October 2010. Why, we do not know because when Mr. Bryant asked that question at the last council meeting he was told to “Go away”. The cost was £135 a head (19 x £135=£2,565) and the total cost was brought up to £2,585 by “Secretarial Services”, probably photocopying or something similar. Teresa O’Neill’s claim that cabinet members’ attendance didn’t cost the taxpayer anything (if she allowed recording of meetings it would be possible to check the exact wording, as it is I can rely only on memory) is now exposed for the lie that was always suspected.

There are still unanswered questions. Who footed the travel costs and isn’t it a nice little coincidence that the £90 that cabinet members chipped in towards the £135 bill would be covered by their £90.25 subsistence allowance? It’s not surprising that no one would answer the original questions fully, their part answer wasn’t true and the complete answer would have exposed the lie.

The picture is of a bed in the Flackley Ash Hotel. Doesn’t look like one of councillor Colin Campbell’s candlewick bedspreads to me.

 

23 July - In the news

News Shopper front page, 20th July 2011 Among the six people on the Bonkers team only one has the News Shopper poked through his letterbox every week - and even that one gets missed once in a while - so it may not be old news for everyone to review it here. Last Wednesday the News Shopper headlined how the Post Office has closed a collection box because it cannot get its vans to it without getting a parking ticket from Bexley council. The council denies it and to decide which of the two public bodies concerned is most likely to be untruthful would be difficult. One is the last of the great industrial dinosaurs that offers ever poorer services at ever higher prices run by management on insanely high salaries and the other is; well you get the idea.

Page 3 of the Bexley Times has another Bexley parking story. A 38 year old solicitor left his phone at home and popped back to get it from his wife who was on the pavement to hand it through the window. He was stopped for around ten seconds with a wheel up the kerb to minimise traffic disruption. Result : a £110 fine. Wasn’t there a case only a couple of weeks ago where the adjudicator ruled that Bexley council was prosecuting trivia? The man behind this constant assault on motorists is councillor Peter Craske, he gets some stick from Ana Dakshy in the letters pages of the News Shopper.

Ana is rightly upset at Craske’s inaction over County Gate. She accuses Craske of being more interested in his public image than the people he is supposed to represent, much like councillor Bacon grandstanding at Boris’s meeting by posing easy questions to the Mayor and trying to earn Brownie points. Brownie nose might be more like it.

Councillor Craske attempts to defend himself in another letter to the News Shopper. He doesn’t do too badly until he gets to the penultimate paragraph. “One can only conclude that this is a political decision of a Labour council to stop residents in a Conservative borough from seeing their wishes implemented.” Craske is well known for ending his speeches, filibusters and various diatribes with some ill-thought out retort. Insults to residents, lies to residents and now ridiculous allegations against Greenwich council as a whole. Ana Dakshy makes the point admirably. “The public is not looking for excuses but solutions.” Craske of course is only looking after himself.

 

22 July - Boris in Bexley - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Boris Johnson Teresa O'Neill Please note that this event is being photographed and recordedBoris Johnson, Mayor of London, was in town last night and in sparkling form. With him on the platform was Gurcharan Singh Dhesi MBE, Special Constable for 38 years in Bexley, Ray Lewis who was at one time Boris’s deputy but left under a cloud in 2008 but must have bounced back into favour again; a very smartly turned out Teresa O’Neill leader of Bexley council and our local Assembly Member, James Cleverly as an excellent Chairman.

I estimate an audience of around 300, pretty much a full house and I wouldn’t be surprised if a sizeable number had turned out only to see the showman himself, Boris Johnson. I doubt they would be disappointed. He introduced himself with a 20 minute impromptu speech delivered with his trademark wit. His office had encouraged people to submit questions before the day of the meeting and I expected he would choose the easy questions and ignore the rest as would happen if Bexley’s councillors were in charge, but I was wrong. James Cleverly selected members of the audience almost at random and they could ask any question without restriction. An object lesson to the tyrants that run Bexley council.

Boris did of course have a defence against awkward questions, he would answer a different question altogether leaving the questioner frustrated. He did this several times thereby dodging questions about the number of highly paid managers at Transport for London and talking about councillors allowances when the question was on top salary levels. A taxi-driver alleged the Mayor’s website said that rape offences committed by unlicensed mini-cab drivers were up by 54% under Mayor Johnson and Boris said that was wrong the figure had dropped by 20%. These few mishandled questions provoked some short-lived rowdy moments which was a shame; I felt that the audience was probably bright enough to know that Boris was determined not to answer difficult questions properly and would judge him accordingly without the questioner noisily pushing the point home. James Cleverly handled the situation well, no Widow Twankey moments here.

Where James did I feel put a foot wrong was to allow Bexley cabinet member and London Assembly Member. Gareth Bacon, to put a question. Surely a Bexley councillor and London Assembly Member can ask Boris or Teresa O’Neill any question at any time and doesn’t need a public forum? He knew the answer anyway but it allowed Boris to please the crowd.

Among many wide-ranging questions were…


• A complaint about the excessive level of traffic calming measures in Bexley. Boris said that humps in particular were “intellectually kaput” and he would have no more of them. Teresa O’Neill blamed the excess in Bexley on the previous administration.
• When asked about the doubling in price of Residents Parking Permits (it triples next month) Teresa O’Neill trotted out the lies previously put about by councillor Peter Craske. She also hinted at some future initiative on CPZs, so watch this space.
• Someone accused the Mayor of lying about the Thames Gateway Bridge when he claimed to have put a stop to it. He said he didn’t claim that, only that he wouldn’t resurrect the idea, thereby condemning those of us with relatives in North East London to a 56 mile round trip or up to four hours on public transport.
• A man claimed that business in Bexley would benefit immeasurably if parking enforcement was less draconian and suggested that the first 15 minutes should be free. I don’t think my ears were deceiving me when I heard Teresa say she would take the idea away. I doubt we will hear about that one again.


Along the way the Mayor emphasised that he would never ever get rid of or restrict the Freedom Pass and he believed the future for the river crossing was an additional Blackwall Tunnel.

On a technical level the meeting was superbly organised. There were eight security guards looking extremely smart in their identical black suits, none of the aggressive riff-raff Bexley employs to threaten camera users with arrest. Filming and photography was encouraged, none of the Stalinist tendency beloved of Bexley council. I was able to sit at the front and photograph whatever took my fancy and Boris’s team were photographing and filming the audience. No one objected and the excuses of Bexley council for banning filming (and permanently excluding anyone who tries) was exposed for the fantasy it always was. Maybe Bexley could get hold of some of the Mayor’s notices and stop lying about their reasons for remaining in the dark ages.

Teresa O’Neill looked uncomfortable when my lens pointed in her direction but then she didn’t know I was trying to get a picture of her smiling as all I had left in my collection are rather less than flattering. As you can see, the best I could manage was a suspicious looking stare.

Whoever was running the subtitles for the hard of hearing was doing a superb job and put BBC News to shame. No doubt it all cost a great deal of money and the cynical will say it was just an electioneering stunt by Boris, but it was undoubtedly well organised and showed the huge disparity between the openness and transparency embraced by a modern and successful politician and the spivs, crooks and charlatans that run local councils behind doors closed as tightly as they can get away with.

Outside the meeting room members of The Bexley Council Monitoring Group were gathering signatures for a petition (news coming soon) and two BBC Radio 4 reporters were taking a keen interest in their activities. They were interviewed and promised a spot on a forthcoming Radio 4 documentary on local politics.

The Mayor’s own report (on the scene four hours later than this one!

 

21 July (Part 2) - Another money making scam? Parents beware!

Barrington Road Primary School Barrington Road Primary SchoolSince Tony Blair and his cronies began their systematic criminalisation of the population in 1997 countless new offences have been created which can land you in jail. One of them is being the parent of a child who secretly bunks off school. It must be difficult to judge how to control some of today’s youngsters and I am thankful my two reached adulthood before schools were brought down by red-tape, political correctness and health and safety. In my own day I was threatened with a visit from The School Board Man if I malingered in bed feigning illness, now his successor might be something akin to a private investigator hired by the school with (so they claim) the power to inflict massive fines.

One such firm of private investigators operating in Bexley is South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service Ltd. (SEAAS) based at 34 North Cray Road, Bexley, DA15 3LZ with three directors, Philip Turner, Denise Percival and Irene McClellan. All list their occupations as Attendance Officer. At least one of Bexley’s schools has signed itself up to the dubious services provided by SEAAS. Headmistress Mrs. Jacqui Keelan from Barrington Road Primary School has circulated parents with a letter saying they will be fined if their child’s attendance record is unsatisfactory. As a result of that contract parents can find themselves summoned to meetings and quizzed by SEASS. When specifically asked the company refused to comment on its Criminal Records Bureau and Data Protection Act status; their business practices seem questionable to say the least.

In summoning parents to meetings they communicate not on headed notepaper delivered by Royal Mail but with an amateurish undated scrap handed to children marked for their parents’ attention and bearing the joke postcode of DA15 0FF. This is made to look like DAYS OFF. Juvenile or what? There is no land line phone number as expected of any reputable company, only a mobile number and the PO. Box number is not one recognised by the Post Office - according to them the fee for it wasn’t paid so it doesn’t exist.

This company is given personal details of parents and children by a Bexley school and the parents are expected to drop everything and turn up to discuss their child’s education and attendance record with a private company. It’s almost incredible except that this is Bexley and unless there is a coincidence with the names there is a direct connection between the directors of SEAAS and Bexley council - or to be more precise, with Bexley council employees. A Denise Percival is coordinator of Bexley’s Fast Track, a Department of Education scheme aimed at prosecuting parents. A Philip Turner is a Court Officer at Bexley council. Presumably someone has spotted a money making opportunity and set up SEAAS to assist schools fine as many parents as possible. A sort of insider dealing operation.

Parents who received one of SEASS’s scrappy summons were placed under the threat that if they failed to co-operate with this private company under contract to headmistress Jacqui Keelan (not contracted by Bexley council) they would be guilty under an Education Act that they didn’t even spell correctly. Probably just an idle threat; can a private company legally attempt to enforce an Education Act? The parents attended anyway but refused to provide medical records to a private company that hasn’t provided evidence of their CRB status and wisely tape recorded the meeting. Philip Turner, SEAAS Director, wasn’t able to answer any of the parents’ questions but did concede that his arithmetic was at fault and the children concerned had not fallen below any attendance threshold which might give concern. He shouldn’t have sent his scrappy note in the first place and the parents have sent him a bill for wasting their time.

It is important to state that apart from the likelihood that SEASS is run by Bexley council employees acting on their own initiative Bexley council itself does not appear to be in any way at fault, indeed it is more likely that they are as concerned by developments as every Bexley parent of school age children should be. They too are puzzled by Mrs. Keelan’s decision to contract a private company to do work traditionally done by the Local Education Authority at no cost. According to Bexley’s education department Barrington Road Primary School is footing the bill out of its own budget. Now isn’t that an odd thing? I can think of a few reasons that might persuade Mrs. Keelan to do that but all of them would be immoral or dishonest, so presumably I am missing something. Maybe something will wriggle out of the woodwork later. In the meantime the parents so far affected suggest that everyone with children at Barrington Road, and any other school that starts talking of fining parents, should be alert for scrappy undated letters from South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service and treat them with the utmost suspicion.

 

21 July (Part 1) - Double trouble

Parking restriction for today Parking restriction for todayThe most likely explanation for the confusing parking restriction signs in Abbey Road yesterday is that they were wrongly dated; for the wrecked car was removed some time after 3 p.m. yesterday. However the restriction remains in place with today’s date on it, Bexley council thereby causing twice the inconvenience to motorists than is necessary. Par for the course you might say.

P.S. The restriction signs were still in place at 6 p.m. today but had gone by 10:30. Whether through incompetence or design, Bexley’s motorists have been threatened with Penalty Notices all day for no reason whatsoever; not as bad as the three weeks of incompetence that ruled In Wilton Road though.

 

20 July (Part 2) - Frizoni Follies

Unnecessary pinch point in Oaklands RoadI spoke to my road safety expert friend yesterday about the ‘ears’ I said had been built at junctions in Oaklands Road and he said they were called ‘Build-outs’ if there was just one and ‘Pinch points’ if there were two or more opposite each other. Pinch points, he said, can reduce traffic speeds if planned carefully which in turn may reduce accidents. The problem is that their mere presence causes accidents because people fail to see them and cyclists in particular are put at risk through being brought closer to passing vehicles. The trick is to put pinch points where accidents are frequent enough to make the installation a positive force for good, not the reverse. If pinch points are installed in a cul-de-sac where there have been no accidents their effect can only be detrimental. I was reminded that the number one rule of road design must be “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If only Bexley council was clever enough to understand that simple rule.

The Department of Transport advice on traffic calming stresses how important it is for local authorities to consult widely before installing traffic calming measures. If Bexley did so then it’s odds on it would be a sham consultation, all those I have looked at closely have been a sham, with all advice by residents ignored.

 

20 July (Part 1) - Time travellers?

Parking restriction for tomorrow Parking restriction for tomorrowTen days ago an accident on Abbey Road, Belvedere left a car on the pavement, since when it has been vandalised further. Retrieval is difficult because it is on the pavement behind free parking bays well used from around 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. by commuters to Abbey Wood station. Before 7 a.m. this morning two uniformed parking enforcement officers were busy placing barricades and writing out parking suspension notices. For reasons unknown one arrived in a Bexley council van and the other in a small car.

The strange thing is that although the barricade has taken out four or five parking places from before 7 a.m. this morning the restriction doesn’t apply until tomorrow, which begs several questions…

 

• If someone parks behind the barricade today will they get a ticket?
• Have two people made a mistake with the date?
• Is Bexley council putting commuters to maximum inconvenience just to save them the effort of coming out early tomorrow?

 

19 July (Part 2) - Dirty Cops and Bent Justice

Corrupt cops Alastair Morgan with Kirsteen KnightIt is three months since Bexleyheath police threatened me with arrest for writing this blog. They refuse to discuss the matter and refuse to respond to their own Directorate of Professional Standards’ request to do so. It is two months since I requested information under the Subject Access Request procedures from Bexley council. They have failed to adhere to their legal requirements and I have heard nothing. It is six weeks since I reported the council inspired obscene blog to the police and they accepted it as evidence of a crime. Bexleyheath police appear to have done absolutely nothing. Since then everyone has learned from the news media how the police can be rotten to the core and the Bexleyheath police give every impression of being in the same mould. This morning I sent the following to Commander Stringer via email…

 

Dear Commander Stringer,

It is now six weeks since Mr. Elwyn Bryant and I provided you with evidence of a crime committed against us (a homophobic hate crime in the form of an obscene on-line blog) with strong indications that the perpetrator was someone within Bexley council. So far as can be seen, nothing has been done about our report. All that either Mr. Bryant and I have had from Bexleyheath police is an unsigned letter dated 14th June to say that you will require the services of a “data specialist”. I do not believe this to be the whole truth.

Within hours of the Council Leader Teresa O’Neill and Chief Executive Will Tuckley getting to hear of the blog the content was removed. That is not likely to be coincidence, any competent investigation would include interviewing them to discover what roles they played. Mr. Elwyn’s MP and Minister for Crime Reduction, James Brokenshire, said earlier this month that there must be “no safe havens for cybercriminals”; it would be deeply ironic if you provided one on his own doorstep.

Bexley Council and Bexleyheath police have long enjoyed an unhealthily close relationship. As you will know, your predecessor enjoyed lunch at council tax payers’ expense with the convicted fraudster and ex-council leader Ian Clement and under your stewardship the police still dances to the Council’s tune. In April you issued me with Form 9993 on the say-so of Bexley council with no investigation whatsoever. If you had not reacted blindly you may have realised that the council’s allegations were false. My own MP, Teresa Pearce, managed to extract the information that the council told you I had threatened someone on Bexley Council with “physical violence”. This would be an outrageous lie which you swallowed wholesale.

Since then you have refused to provide me with any details of my alleged offence, even after the Directorate of Professional Services twice pursuing the matter, you have remained silent. This failure on your part has had to be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In recent days the whole world has learned that the Metropolitan Police is corrupt. This is not news to me or my family, closely related as I am to the Morgan family. Daniel Morgan I would expect you to know was killed by an axe through his head almost certainly because he planned to reveal police corruption in 1987. The intervening 25 years have seen police corruption at every stage of the various failed investigations leading to a public apology from the police earlier this year. John Yates, the recently resigned Assistant Commissioner said “This case is one of the most deplorable episodes in the entire history of the Metropolitan Police Service. This family has been treated disgracefully”.

Your apparent failure to investigate crimes that have direct connections to Bexley council may not be in the same league as the police’s involvement in the murder of Daniel Morgan but I sense the same underlying corruption as I did 25 years ago. Then the police were covering up for their own detective, now you give the impression of covering up for your friends in Bexley Council. As a newcomer to Bexleyheath you have the opportunity to clean up the relationships with Bexley’s dishonest Council and I look forward to rapid progress on identifying the criminal who set up the obscene blog in my name and confirmation that you have interviewed the Council Leader and the Chief Executive.

Yours sincerely,


The murder of Daniel Morgan in 1987 has direct links to the current scandal at News International and Scotland Yard. Some of the names that have been in the news recently are the same names as were popping up 25 years ago in connection with Daniel’s murder. The Guardian recently reported that the News of the World employed someone directly implicated in putting an axe through Daniel Morgan’s head to suppress the leaking of damning information about the Metropolitan Police. The Morgan family have believed that to be the case for a very long time. Last night Channel 4 News covered the link between the News of the World and the hacking of the phone of Chief Superintendent Dave Cook who was in charge of the latest investigation into the murder. A police officer implicated in the murder is allowed to resign and take over the murdered private investigator’s company without the police investigating why. People widely thought to be involved in murder are hired by the NotW and forge close links to Scotland Yard. They are caught hacking the investigating officer’s phone but no charges are brought. A whistleblower who exposed people caught up in a murder inquiry is found dead in mysterious circumstances; the list goes on. You just can’t trust any of them and Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police needs to rise above this corruption and investigate all crimes, whether perpetrated by his friends or not.

The photographs are of Daniel Morgan’s brother Alastair at one of his campaigns for justice and an end to police corruption at the very highest level following his brother’s death, and him and my daughter Kirsteen emerging from the Commons after one of many meetings with supportive MPs. ‘Dirty cops, bent justice and racism at Scotland Yard’ was the title of a book published in 2004 in an attempt to expose the police corruption in the Daniel Morgan case and others.

 

19 July (Part 1) - Dustbin men more sensible than council directors

Daily Mail headlineOn Saturday I posted some Before and After pictures taken at North Cray Road illustrating how a spiteful act by Bexley council had deprived some residents of their only on street parking. None of them can park anywhere near their own houses unless they pave over their front garden.

A blog reader passing by yesterday morning snapped this Bexley council refuse lorry collecting bottles and plastics parked in the old layby. It was thoughtful of the driver not to block the entire road in front of the North Cray Road houses. If the driver of a council refuse lorry has the sense to realise that the best place to park without causing anyone a problem is adjacent to the roundabout, how is it that Bexley council’s directors on four times the average national wage don’t possess sufficient brain cells to come to the same conclusion? Probably because their only concern is revenue raising from parking fines.

 

18 July - Wanton waste - click any image for photo gallery (4 images)

Oaklands Road Oaklands RoadNorth Cray Road is not Bexley’s only road to nowhere, Albion Road (which runs parallel with The Broadway in Bexleyheath) is another four lane road for no obvious reason but maybe the work was done when money was not in such short supply.

When the dual carriageway was built, Oaklands Road was sealed off at its northern end making it little more than a useful parking spot for shop workers and others who work in the town centre. Just to emphasise their ability to do whatever they like Bexley council moved the War Memorial to ensure the road remained blocked. Following the alterations the adjacent Townley Road gets twice the traffic it used to; what a pity a councillor wasn’t living in it, probably if recent events are a guide he could have put a stop to it. A resident who has not forgiven Bexley council for making his life a little bit more difficult reports that they are at it again, this time building width restrictors at each of the intersections in Oaklands Road. He wonders why and so do I.

If this were a busy road with a lot of traffic, making it a potential danger to pedestrians, one might just be able to see a reason but it is basically a cul-de-sac with very little traffic. You could be forgiven for thinking that it is another of Frizoni’s (Deputy Director, Public Realm Management) ego trips or maybe a way of keeping F.M. Conway happy. Why is it, by the way, that Conway gets all of Bexley’s road contracts?

When Bexley council put in similar obstacles in Brampton Road, they caused accidents and removed them. My correspondent asks if I know why Bexley council keeps building obstacles in the road and I don’t apart from because they are “either malicious or incompetent” which was what my road safety consultant friend said after looking around Sidcup. So I rang his office to get an expert’s opinion. Unfortunately he is away chairing some EU meeting on the subject, but I hope he will get back to me on his return. If he can think of a good reason why any sane person would want to build little outcrops from the pavement in a minor residential road, I will let you know. In the meantime I shall assume it is because councillor Craske is keen to be able to claim again that he is spending just as much money on roads this year as he did last. That may be a laudable achievement if he wasn’t wasting so much of it. Doesn’t he know that money is short? Last year he failed to salt the borough’s roads and pavements, the little that was done was done by neighbouring boroughs paid to do it. Salting a few pavements may have saved more injuries than a few Frizoni Follies in Oaklands Road.

 

17 July - Residents blacklisted by councils

Daily Mail headlineYesterday’s Daily Mail had an article on how power crazy councils blacklist residents. Bexley is not specifically mentioned but it undoubtedly picks on individuals for no valid reason. Remember the mentally unstable man who they waged war on who was driven to set fire to his house in protest? And then there are the Harassment letters and bans from attending meetings for people who want to do no more than follow the government minister’s advice and take a camera into the council chamber.

Doncaster council gets pride of place in the Mail’s article. Jane Clift reported a tramp vandalising a park and was labelled a potentially violent resident. The council then told her doctor, dentist, optician and more that she was a risk to all of them. Don’t laugh, the same mindset pervades Bexley council. I have seen an email that says the police threatened me with arrest because I had threatened Bexley council with physical violence. This may of course be the police’s excuse for paying far too much attention to a thoroughly disreputable council - or it may be another Bexley council lie. It is not only Doncaster council which will stop at nothing in their quest for absolute power.

In theory you can find out if you have been blacklisted by Bexley council by serving them with a Subject Access Request but my experience so far as thay they are not keen to fulfil that legal obligation.

I’m going to write to the police again tomorrow to ask why they have still done absolutely nothing about the obscene blog which Bexley council obviously knew about. It doesn’t take a “data specialist” to walk in to the Civic Centre and ask council leader Teresa O’Neil and Chief Executive Will Tuckley how they managed to get their obscene blog removed within hours of Elwyn Bryant and me reporting it to them. I don’t suggest they knew of it beforehand but it certainly looks like they knew how to find out who did it pretty damn quick. Honest people would have volunteered the information to the police already.

 

16 July - Before and After - a vindictive, spiteful, secretive, dishonest council got to work
16 July -
Click any image for photo gallery (6 images)

I expect almost everyone who lives in the borough is familiar with the North Cray Road, Bexley’s dual carriageway to nowhere. It was built at least 25 years ago, I know that because I have lived in the borough 25 years and a local friend drove me around before moving in, including a trip along the then 60 m.p.h. road, and still it ends at the approach to Bexley village with no sign of a bypass on the plans. After the roundabout the road degenerates into little more than a narrow lane, scene of much congestion. If you go that way, spare a thought for the people living on your left, they can park on their front gardens but if they have more than one guest there is nowhere to leave an extra car.

It wasn’t always like that. Until a vindictive and spiteful Bexley council decided to take another of their regular steps aimed at reducing the quality of life for residents, there were two or three parking spaces near the roundabout. For a quarter of a century a small layby adjacent to the roundabout had provided a welcome space for a couple of small cars and never caused any problem. If necessary a road leading to a private estate could be pressed into service, but now it is all double yellow lines.

The residents have written complaints to the council but are fobbed off with comments along the lines of “it’s done now and we aren’t going to undo it”. I suppose Mike Frizoni (Deputy Director, Public Realm Management) and his band of cretins must tour the borough on a regular basis looking for places to install more revenue raising yellow lines.

 

15 July - Library censorship

On the 11th April a Bexley councillor told me he could no longer access this site via the council web servers, the very same day that I received the Harassment letter. I doubt that was a coincidence and if not must surely mean that police were leaned on by the council officially rather than by a rogue individual. If the latter he probably wouldn’t have been able to put a filter in the IT system. I assumed the block would apply to libraries too but was soon assured that was not the case, however from what I hear it may be now. The libraries net facilities appear to be separate from the Civic Offices and if so some council censor must have thought that sending someone to adjust each library’s firewall was good use of council tax payers’ money. Does Bexley council censor books as well as on-line sources of information? Maybe a suitable question for cabinet member Catterall at the next council meeting?

Among far too many indications that Bexley council is desperate to keep the truth about its activities from the public at large is the failure to answer the Freedom of Information Requests (FOI 11/337 and 11/328) about access to this site and the Harassment letter. They are now two months overdue - definitely illegal activity by Bexley council. I have been asking the FOI requester for a long time to report Bexley council to the Information Commissioner (ICO) and he has been pleading computer problems. I spent the afternoon working on his computer (which is why there is not much of a blog today) and now he has no excuse, except perhaps that his Sky broadband connection struggled to get above dial-up speed. But at least his printer now works and he has promised to send his papers to the ICO within a day or two. My Subject Access Request on the same subject is due right now. The ICO will soon be very busy with Bexley council’s illegal delaying tactics.

Two little news items. You have probably already heard that the motorist involved in the Bexley village punch-up has been arrested and Mrs. Joan McCarthy has been inundated by sympathetic email since news of her abuse by Bexley councillors spread around the borough, from her MP too who may well have read about it here. The more people who know what an obnoxious shower we have for a council the better it is.

 

14 July (Part 2) - Bexley council. Paranoid and poisonous - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

County Gate County GateAt a few minutes before 7 o’clock there were four people outside the Civic Centre carrying a banner about County Gate - see immediately below. Just a couple of minutes later a police car drew up and out jumped three officers. They were friendly enough and when asked said they were there because Bexley council had advised them of “hard core protestors”. You could almost see the disappointment in their faces. In the half hour before the meeting started they engaged in pleasant conversation and became well acquainted with bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk. They said they would be telling their boss about it but my guess is that he or she already knows. Inside the building were two hired security staff who kept well away from things. Easy money for them.

When the mayor walked into the council chamber he had forsaken his predecessor’s pantomime outfit in favour of a smart dark suit adorned with his chain of office. But not much else had changed, his opening remarks included the standard diatribe about recording not being allowed to protect the public when everyone knows by now that the ban is in place solely to stop the population at large realising what disreputable characters certain councillors are. Mayor Sams also trotted out the lie that residents could seek permission to film, neatly side-stepping the fact that no one who has asked has ever been granted permission and the only resident who did film a meeting is banned from attending any more. Does that make Sams a liar or just naive? Compared to Widow Twankey he was boring, which may be a good thing. At least he knew how to count to 15 accurately.

Incidentally, Westminster council has just announced its policy on recording meetings. You may read what a more democratic council has to say on the matter by clicking here or simply accepting the summary. “Transparency and openness should be the underlying principle behind everything councils do”. Can you imagine Bexley council ever saying anything like that? The BNP proposed freedom to film and record council meetings when contesting Barking & Dagenham last year. Which is most like Adolph? Bexley or the BNP?

There were two deputations to the council, one presented by Mr. James Rayfield, a businessman from the Darenth Industrial Estate who painted a graphic picture of how best part of a thousand people were likely to lose their jobs because the road to the estate has broken up to the extent it is in danger of subsiding into the adjacent creek. After councillors heard the story, only some of them managing to stifle their yawns, they said the situation would be referred to the appropriate cabinet member. I think that is Craske so Mr. Rayfield should not be getting his hopes up. When I can I’ll take my camera along to the industrial estate to see just how bad it is.

A second deputation and petition was made on behalf of the Friends of Riverside Gardens, Erith (FORGE). Mrs. Joan McCarthy made a speech which clearly explained the concerns including the fact that the land had been presented to the people of Erith by Wm. Cory and Son, a major haulage and coal company in days gone by, and the gift conditions did not allow Bexley council to grab control. The councillors were obviously bored by everything and during the later questions laughed at Mrs. McCarthy who asked if councillors were always that rude. Yes, Mrs. McCarthy I am afraid they often are; I’ve seen rude comments, rude gestures and not a few outright lies in the year I have been attending council meetings.

Councillor Bailey took an aggressive stance against the FORGE speaker and told her to remove all references to 25% of the available land being grabbed by Bexley council from her leaflets and substitute 11%. This turned out to be a dispute over whether just the building area should be stated, 11%, or whether the approach roads, walkways and car parking area should be included. Another 14%. Whichever figure you use, only 75% is to remain unspoiled. To adapt Martin Peaple’s phrase, Linda Bailey is one rude woman. (Mr. Peaple was present hoping to hear the answer to councillor Brenda Langstead’s question about parking revenue but with insufficient time allocated to questions that one was not asked.)

Councillor Philip Read lived up to his reputation of being the village idiot by giving a brief history of the borough blaming the Labour party for various mistakes in the past and seemed to think they excused another mistake. It was all irrelevant but he managed to waste several minutes of the 15 allocated to the deputation. It’s what Bexley council would call a success. Councillor John Waters asked a reasonable question of the FORGE lady and got a straight and clear answer, but apart from that the ten minutes discussion time was squandered by the obviously bored councillors. The petition and deputation was then sent to the cabinet member for consideration. I think Linda Bailey has already made her position clear.

If Bailey conducted a survey of what residents thought about Bexley council she may not be so keen to annoy so many of them, there’s another election due in less than three years. Over 90% of residents when asked express 100% negative views of council leader Teresa O’Neill and her cronies. Not a figure I have just made up, but from a real survey. Details coming soon.

Councillor Catterral was asked about some of the borough’s heritage sites. Erith Library (Carnegie Building) : he doesn’t know what can be done with it. Honest I suppose. Lesnes Abbey : He had requested a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) who suggested he ask for even more money. He did so and the application was rejected for asking for too much. Frustrating.

Mr. Barnbrook (picture above left) asked the chairman of the Planning Committee (councillor Reader) if he knew of any plans to build on the Queen Mary’s Hospital site and he replied “None that I know of” which is a nice non-committal phrase.

Mr. Elwyn Bryant (subject of the council inspired lewd blog) asked deputy leader Colin Campbell about the trip to the “exclusive” Flackley Ash Hotel last December. Councillor Campbell said there had been no visit to the Flackley Ash last December, reminiscent of councillor Craske’s claim that Bexley council has no £4 million contract with the transport consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff. As I said a few days ago there has never been any firm evidence that the council took themselves off on a Christmas jolly (it may have been at another time) but they let people believe they did and neither Teresa O’Neill or the impoverished Katie Perrior denied it while justifying it and their expenses in  letters to the Bexleyheath Chronicle.

Why do they lie and obfuscate at every opportunity? When the council’s Procurement Officer, Trevor Mogg received a written enquiry including, “I have been led to believe that ten councillors each paid £90 for their overnight accommodation and food at the Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye last December and that this money was received into the council’s accounts via the cash office at Erith town hall” he replied “This is correct”. He couldn’t have meant the councillors paid their contribution in December because it was later revealed they paid in September. Bexley council gives every impression of being institutionally dishonest. The Payments Manager said several months ago that the cost to the council was £1,685. Last night it was only £1,435 according to deputy leader Campbell.

Councillor Campbell was sporting a complexion every bit as purple as Craske’s and it wasn’t the only thing the pair have in common. Craske makes it his business to humiliate Mr. Bryant when he can and Campbell took a leaf out of the same book.

“I have been in exclusive hotels all across the world, some paid for by my employer, some not and the Flackley Ash is definitely not exclusive. My bed had a candlewick bedspread on it. You should get out more.” Leader Teresa O’Neill thought Campbell’s response was very funny.

“Will you be going there again” asked Mr. Bryant and got no answer. ”Why did you have to go to Rye for a meeting?” “Oh, go away” came the reply. Mr. Bryant dutifully went away. I will concede that the exchange was made in a light-hearted way by all concerned but it shows again the council’s reluctance to answer questions. How difficult would it have been to give a sensible answer? On second thoughts maybe it would be very difficult to give an honest answer.

Mr. Bryant probably would get out more if he was on a £27,000 a year allowance but he gets by on a state pension. He is considering an email to the hotel to let them know that it is not up to Colin Campbell’s high standards and he announced the fact to more than 100 people.

During councillors’ question time the shallow councillor John Davey (Lesnes Abbey) seemed more concerned at delivering swipes at the Labour party than discussing the Neater Neighbourhoods Scheme and councillor Philip Read got his answer to the number of hits on the council’s website. 7·1 million October 2010 to March 2011 and 4·9 million the same period a year before. As councillor Campbell correctly pointed out, hits are not a very useful measure and ‘unique visitors’ may be a better indicator. 1·9m in 2009/10 and 4·9million 2010/11 which is very good news because even if only a small proportion Google for Bexley council a huge number will see Bexley is Bonkers next to it on the search engine list.

 

14 July (Part 1) - Craskegate - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

County Gate County GateCouncillor Craske seems to have started a small war with his comment at a recent Public Realm meeting that Greenwich council was blocking improvements to County Gate to prevent rat running on to the A20 because one of their councillors might be adversely affected by it. The story has featured in the News Shopper for three consecutive weeks with Greenwich council now accusing Bexley of the same corrupt practices that Craske called “disgraceful”. It is of course he who is the disgrace for letting this problem exist for five years. So much for “Listening to you. Working for you”.

The residents of County Gate have been making the most of the publicity and were outside the Civic Centre last night with their banner and photographs of the problems they suffer daily. Councillor Munir Malik who had championed their cause at the Public Realm meeting when he was refused permission to let a resident (the lady on the far left of the photograph) explain the problem to the Committee, joined the County Gate residents and began to discuss this website with them. He said he had been mentioned here and not always favourably. Without revealing my identity I chipped in that my recollection was that he came over as one of the few decent guys but I’m not sure he believed me, so for councillor Malik’s benefit I shall provide him with what I hope is useful information.

The name Malik occurs 19 times on this website, excluding today’s entries. Of those, five are duplicates where a blog is repeated as an individual ‘photo feature’ and one is his entry in the Rogues Gallery where he attracts no adverse comment. The 13 remaining occurrences are confined to six blogs…


10th March 2011 when it was noted that councillor Malik spoke “passionately about the plight of the poor he represented” and councillor Catterall called him a tosser for no good reason. (2 mentions of his name)
16th March 2011 when there was a backward reference to the tosser incident. (1 mention)
29th April 2011 when his support of a Conservative councillor at a planning meeting was reported as “a refreshing change”. (1 mention)
12th June 2011 when a standards board investigation into councillor Malik was reported, favourably in my view. (3 mentions)
23rd June 2011 when he was listed as one of the councillors against whom a complaint had been registered in the last two years - he was absolved of wrong doing. (1 mention)
24th June 2011 when councillor Malik was named as “the star of the show”. (5 mentions)


If councillor Malik counts that as any form of criticism it may explain why certain others like Craske and Read perhaps think the reporting of their misdeeds is a matter for my arrest by their friends in the Met.

N.B. There are two references to the name Munir alone but they do not add to the list above.

 

13 July - Another night of fun and farce at the Civic Centre

The Bonkers’ post-council meeting discussion kept me away from the computer until 11 p.m.; far too late for blogging a full council meeting but an unsolicited email from someone (who I have not met) who had gone straight home to his keyboard provides an alternative view of some of this evening’s events.


Police car parked illegallyWhen I turned up at the Civic buildings there was a car parked directly outside, next to a sign that said, ‘No parking at any time’, on double yellow lines, with chevrons on the kerb, blocking a lowered section of said kerb. It was a police car and it was not on an emergency call. One law for them etc. Councillor Alan Deadman, what a dickhead, abusing a member of the public nervously flustered under questioning. Mayor Sams, in the immortal words of the ‘Two Ronnies’, just a stuttering bum.

‘Biffa’ Bailey, what can you say? Demanding the quoted 25% figure for land affected by the proposed building on Riverside Gardens, Erith be changed to 11%. I was at one of the re-generation meetings and witnessed councillors dishing up **** and pretending it was sugar. They were trying to promote the idea that their plan would be beneficial to the locals because there would be more space available after they had built the multi-story buildings and, wait for it, “an outdoor volleyball court”. Don’t they know this is Erith, not Australia? The extra space they were claiming was comprised of walkways, nothing more nothing less. No open spaces and In other words, total bull****.


As the above indicates, Bexley council again decided they needed police and a couple of hired security men to protect them from a few mainly elderly residents.

 

12 July - Read who’s the idiot now

It’s been a very quiet week for Bexley council related news and the situation isn’t helped by the fact there has not been a proper council meeting with questions from the public since 26th April. Tomorrow there will be another one, complete with questions from the public, though reduced to about half the usual number, probably as a result of the council’s attempt to restrict them to areas of policy only. Most questions will allow cabinet members to blow their own trumpets or give simple yes/no answers. You can guess which of those two words will be used when council leader Teresa O’Neill answers Derek Steedman’s question “Does the leader of the council think that the cabinet provides good value for money?” Presumably that is the same Derek Steedman who was an unelected Labour candidate in the 2010 council election.

There is a couple of more difficult questions. Councillor Colin Campbell is to be asked why it was necessary to hold a strategy meeting in the exclusive Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye rather than locally. Let’s hope he answers more accurately than when questioned in Court about the cafe at the Thames Innovation Centre. Councillor Peter Craske is to be asked why absolutely nothing has been done about the appalling traffic conditions that exist in County Gate. I expect we will get the same answer as he provided on 23 June but without such direct criticism of Greenwich council for blocking the remedies Craske had proposed five years ago. Criticism for which councillor Craske found himself front page news in the News Shopper with a follow up from Greenwich council in the letters column a week later.

Councillors are not subject to the same questioning rules as the peasants they wish to suppress. For example “will the cabinet member please tell us how many hits there were on the council website in the six months from October 2010 to March 2011 inclusive, and how that compares to the equivalent period in the previous year?” wouldn’t be allowed by a member of the public. He would be directed, not entirely unreasonably, to the appropriate council official. Somewhat ironically it would be the wife of the councillor who wants to know about website hits who would do that redirection, for this simple question is the best that councillor Philip Read can muster.


Tweet by idiot councillor Philip ReadPretty much the same question was posed via Freedom of Information request (FOI 11/277) as recently as last April and answered only three weeks late on 31 May. The answer was 7,551,100 hits in 2009/10 and 11,137,843 in 2010/11. What is councillor Read doing “wasting time and money” by asking cabinet member Colin Campbell such a question? Maybe he should take note of the advice he dished out to residents in his own Twitter post. Read seems to be more than usually interested in web related things. It was Read who registered the internet domain name bexley-is-bonkers.com and it was Read who ran amok on Twitter accusing Teresa Pearce MP of doing ‘bad’ things she hadn’t done. He even wrote a mischievous and untruthful letter about her to the News Shopper.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be chaired by new mayor Ray Sams who probably won’t provide the same non-stop entertainment as his predecessor Val Clark. I’m hoping he will play fair to public and opposition members, something that was sadly absent under the previous regime, but with one resident already banned from attending since Sams’ appointment, I fear the worst.

 

11 July - Thank you but no Goodbye

Gestapo wagon blocks bus stop I spotted ‘Spica’ from Notomob keeping an eye on a $camera car in Gayton Road, Abbey Wood on Saturday morning. The car was occupying one of only six parking bays while training its lens on a bus stop. In the few minutes I was there a second Gestapo wagon showed up but didn’t stay long. Elsewhere in the borough ten more Notomob members were out helping motorists to avoid fines by ensuring that they park legally.

Notomob are especially pleased with the response from the residents of Bexley who have been so supportive and wish to pass on their thanks. They have provided the locations of ‘lost’ cars and fed and watered the men and women in masks as well as hoot and wave their welcome. The people of Nuxley Road, Belvedere and Colyers Lane, Erith get a special mention. Highlights of the day included help and support from the police and a Transport for London official who complained to a camera car driver that it was him and his colleagues who did most to block bus stops.

The encouragement by the local population provides Notomob members with an enjoyable day out and ensures that they will be back regularly.

The video (click to play) will take you on a short motorbike ride around Bexley. Next time Notomob may set the date on the camera correctly. The video was taken on 9th July.

 

10 July - Listening to nobody. Reaping the rewards - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Abbey Road accident Abbey Road accidentWhen Bexley council took the decision to make this section of Abbey Road, Belvedere too narrow for two buses to pass each other they admitted that the road had not previously been a safety hazard. Expert opinion said what they were doing was a recipe for head on collisions, and so it has proved. It is hard to see what happened in yesterday’s collision but there is glass and bits of car strewn over around 40 yards of road and pavement. It would appear that a vehicle mounted the kerb either before or after hitting another. The blue Polo was possibly rammed at very high speed for it is damaged at both ends and is quite a long way from the likely point of impact, though the camera lens makes it looks further than it is, the actual distance is approximately 25 yards.

Bexley council said that making the road dangerously narrow would slow traffic. A government funded consultant of my acquaintance said Bexley’s design would have no effect on traffic speeds but the reduction in recovery space would cause accidents. Bexley’s plan has been an abject failure. It was approved by councillor Craske.

 

9 July - Public Service Announcement

Road rage in Bexley Village Road rage in Bexley Village

We are told Bexley is a low crime borough but if that is the case its reputation has taken a dive in recent days. Not in any way comparable to events in Welling but the video shows that Bexley village is not always peace and tranquility. An extended description of the events may be read on one of the cycling forums. There is also comment from the forum’s editorial team. The failure of Bexleyheath’s police to take the crime seriously is criticised. It sounds all too familiar.


“A car tried to overtake whist we were going past a traffic island. We remonstrated with the driver. The car stopped and the driver and passenger got out and started using very threatening language. They saw me reading the number plate and said “we see you have our number, now we’re effing gonna run you over”. They got back in the car and drove off with wheels spinning and clipped my right hand with a wing mirror which made a loud noise, and they stopped again. The driver came over and punched me to the ground.

The police were called and eventually came. You’d think that it would be easy to locate and prosecute. It turns out that the registered keeper of the car was not using the car that day (he/she was not on the video).”


The precise date of the incident is unknown but is likely to have been around the 1st of June. The police have been unable to trace the assailant. The car registration number is KJ56 HGF and appears to be a 4-door Peugeot 4 series.

 

8 July - Bent cops. Bent hacks. Bent council?

Dirty cops, bent justice and racism in Scotland Yard It’s a pity this book is now out of print for it contains amazing details of how the police can be bent. The two Guardian journalists who wrote it were never sued for libel even though it names many high ranking police officers, drug dealers and corrupt private eyes, some of whom you have been hearing about on TV and radio today because of the News of the World phone hacking scandal. The book details how some of the people now in the news were involved in crimes including murder up to nearly 25 years ago. A policeman in charge of the original phone hacking investigation, the one that made little progress, left the police force over allegedly false expense claims and inappropriate behaviour with female staff. He promptly got a new job with News International.

The book reveals that when the so called Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was set up after the murder of Stephen Lawrence it was stuffed full of ex-policemen. Only 16% of its staff were genuinely independent, the remainder came from the police plus a few from the investigation departments of HM Customs etc. The boss of the IPCC was from the Met and was mentioned on 87 pages of the 500 page book on police corruption - and no he wasn’t the ‘good cop’ and as I said, the two authors didn’t find themselves in court for libel.

This is a long-winded and perhaps self-indulgent explanation of why I have no great faith in the IPCC but it is all there is and today I have written to them about Bexleyheath police’s total failure to respond to my enquiries following their issuing of a Harassment Letter last April. They seem to think it is acceptable to threaten me with arrest for writing about Bexley council and refusing to tell me what I have done wrong or revealing who I am supposed to have harassed. A leak from an insider said it was because I was threatening physical violence which if the leaker was well informed is a complete lie.

The Met’s Directorate of Professional Services told me in writing on 14th May 2011 that I would be contacted by Bexleyheath police “shortly” but nothing happened so I phoned the DPS on 14th June (I was referred to their South East Division, which is in Croydon if the phone number is anything to go by) and it was confirmed that Bexleyheath police had not done anything and I was told they would send an email asking what was going on. I rang again today to say there had been no progress and the SE DPS told me that Bexleyheath police had not responded to their email either. Hence my letter to the IPCC, the DPS appears to be polite but toothless.

While catching up with my correspondence I noticed that my Subject Access Request (SAR) to Bexley council which should reveal something about the Harassment Letter and the obscene blog should be answered very soon. As Freedom of Information (FOI) requests designed to shed light on the Harassment Letter have been unlawfully left unanswered two months past their due dates I thought I should warn the unfortunate individual who has the unenviable job of answering for Bexley council’s many sins…


“As it is now approaching 40 days since I made my Subject Access Request I have been wondering if you are now close to completing it. I am concerned that the two Freedom of Information requests submitted by Mr. Barnbrook on related subjects (11/337 and 11/338) are now close to two months overdue which looks as though Bexley council is yet again contemptuous of the law and of residents. I do not wish my Request to take a similar path.

Mr. Barnbrook has shown remarkable patience in not reporting Bexley council’s failure to comply with the law to the Information Commissioner but I feel I should formally let you know that I do not possess all his fine qualities. Once the 40 days has expired, if I feel that Bexley council is breaking the law again without good reason, I shall make a full report to the Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,”

 

7 July (Part 2) - Listening to nobody. Working for themselves - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Fossington Road closed Fossington Road closedAs this website began life by examining Bexley council’s road design disasters - the name ‘Bonkers’ came from councillor John Davey’s description of local road planning while he was vice-chairman of the now defunct Traffic Scrutiny Sub-Committee - I like to return to its roots by looking at road schemes now and again. Incompetence comes as light relief from dishonesty and corruption.

If you look closely at the notice in the photo, it is just about readable on the larger version, you will see that Mike Frizoni has given Thames Water permission to close Fossington Road, Belvedere for up to 18 months. Not many people live in Fossington Road but it leads to the much more populous Fendyke Road which backs on to the railway. Fendyke Road includes an old peoples’ home outside which ambulances may often be seen. Fossington Road provides the only access to Fendyke Road without crossing the borough boundary and fighting one’s way past delivery vehicles and parked buses in Wilton Road, the approach to Abbey Wood station. The yellow diversion sign pictured will take you on a 4½ mile detour into Thamesmead. I doubt any local would fall for that but strangers will expect it to provide an easy alternative route, but there isn’t one. The railway sees to that.

Why is it that Bexley council is so lazy and unconcerned with the needs of residents? It’s far from being the only recent case of total road closure instead of retaining restricted access. This road has been shut all week and all we have to show for it is a hole on one side of the road and a workers’ toilet parked on the other side. There isn’t enough traffic for traffic lights, a simple give priority sign would be enough. Thames Water will no doubt be grateful for being allowed to spread themselves all over the road but to residents of Fendyke Road Frizoni is a waste of space. As you can see, nothing is progressing today.

Probably I should expect nothing else but an anti-resident, anti-motorist stance from Frizoni. He is the council’s deputy director who when criticized by the parking appeals adjudicator decided to waste tax payers’ money on pursuing an ego inflating argument with him.

 

7 July (Part 1) - Fat cat’s salary leads to lost seats

The following comments on the BBC’s website caught my eye because the situation is so similar to what is going on in Bexley - except that Bexley council refuses to recognise it has a problem.


“How could we tell people that councils had to tighten their belts when we had a chief executive on £218,000 refusing to take a pay cut,” said one Suffolk MP.
“During the local elections in May every door I knocked on wanted to talk about Andrea Hill and executive salaries. There was real anger and fury on the doorsteps.”
Another Suffolk MP has told us that he believes Andrea Hill cost the Conservative party three local elections in Suffolk.


One difference is that Andrea Hill was Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council, not an individual borough like Bexley. Despite that larger responsibility, Bexley council pays its Chief Executive pretty much the same salary. Another difference is that in Suffolk the councillors (and MPs) retained some sense of decency and signs of integrity in hard economic times, they got rid of the overpaid CEO because she refused to take a pay cut as recommended by Eric Pickles, the Communities Minister. In Bexley the council leader Teresa O’Neill is absolutely against lower salaries for the highest earners and made several comments indicating her contempt for residents’ opinions.

The “anger and fury” is unlikely to be confined to Suffolk, I suspect if Teresa O’Neill could be bothered to ask her neighbours in Church Road what they think, it might open her eyes to how people in her ward might vote next time around.

 

6 July (Part 2) - Long Service Awards revisited - TIC too

More information came in about this morning’s unfair dismissal blog after it went on line so if you read it before the picture of its manager Richard Edwards was added it might be worth reading it again. It has become apparent that the News Shopper reporter, Sophie Maden, not only didn’t hear Miss Caroline Queen’s cross-examination or the Judgement, she didn’t properly interview Miss Queen either. She had promised to go to Caroline’s home on Sunday 5th July but it never happened. I have a horrible feeling everything in the News Shopper came from Bexley council; there is no other obvious place such a one dimensional story could have come from.

I received a very slightly critical response to my 3rd July comment on Long Service Awards from ‘an old friend’ within Bexley council. Maybe it wasn’t that critical and I may have read too much into it but the point being made was that for some council staff the sums involved are large, more than a week’s pay. I don’t think anyone would argue that council staff shouldn’t be taking the gifts on offer, I wished only to point out that I haven’t found expensive gifts to be the norm elsewhere, but maybe I am out of date, it’s quite a long time since I was closely involved with anything remotely like Long Service Awards and the mementoes I saw had little monetary value. What I wished to highlight is that Bexley council is too free with tax payers cash when it comes to wining and dining themselves, whether that be trips to posh hotels, lavishing fancy food on the mayor or celebrating cycle paths and that when anything is cut it is not councillors’ perks.

Another issue reported was that staff find it hard to reach 20 years service because there is a high risk that their job will have been contracted out before reaching that milestone. I’ve seen that happen to friends and relations who have been in the Civil Service or nationalised industries that were privatized. Not one of them had their conditions of service worsened and that must surely be the hallmark of a decent employer. Maybe that excludes Bexley council.

 

6 July (Part 1) - News Shopper gets it wrong

Richard EdwardsThis morning’s News Shopper has a headline on Page 3 stating “Dismissal ruled fair”. The article by Sophie Maden who was not at Court to hear the judgement goes on to say that “the Ashford Tribunal Court found Miss Queen had not been unfairly dismissed and she also lost on a second count of public disclosure”. There are arguably three errors in that short sentence. There is no such thing as public disclosure, the legal term is protected disclosure. It was not the “second count” it was the only count. It is not permissible to bring a claim for unfair dismissal if employed for fewer than twelve months. Under twelve months one can only bring a claim under rules of ‘protected disclosure’ which require the plaintiff to prove a direct link between whistleblowing over illegal activities and any subsequent dismissal. That claim failed as I reported at length a few days ago. And the third error is to omit the vital point that the Judge said that the dismissal was unfair. Where did the Shopper’s headline come from?

The Ashford Employment Tribunal, led by Judge Wallis, a solicitor who used to be employed by Bexley council, the Respondent in the proceedings, held that:


1. Miss Queen had been unfairly dismissed. (Councillor Campbell was on record in an internal email as being in agreement.)

2. Miss Queen had satisfied the first criteria (the protected disclosure) in order to make a claim for compensation as a whistleblower. (The concerns she expressed about theft of post and the presence of Richard Edwards in the building after he had been arrested by police, taken away in handcuffs and his computer with downloaded and viewed child pornography was removed from the Thames Innovation Centre).

3. Miss Queen had not been sacked by convicted paedophile Richard Edwards and therefore Miss Queen’s claim for £18,000 compensation was dismissed.


However the evidence before Judge Wallis, and the Tribunal members was that Richard Edwards was the manager of TIC; that he was Miss Queen’s manager; that he had called her into his office to tell her she was sacked; that he handed her a letter dated 23rd September 2010 informing Miss Queen she was sacked; and the letter was signed by him as the manager of TIC. No wonder Miss Queen is planning an appeal.

The News Shopper’s report is careless in the extreme and factually incorrect on a number of points. The journalist responsible did not hear the judgement nor did she fulfil her promise to visit Miss Queen at home to interview her. The Tribunal‘s written judgement is not yet available so where Ms. Maden obtained her information from is unclear. If it came only from Bexley council it will of course be incomplete. The reporter has misled her readers by filing a woefully incomplete story. Two members of the Bonkers team (one with 40 years of legal experience) were present throughout and both with full access to all relevant papers. According to her own web profile Ms. Madden is employed by The News of the World as well as News Shopper. On today of all days, need one say more?

Miss Queen’s is the second unfair dismissal case brought to my attention in which the judge was found to have a connection with Bexley council.

 

5 July - Flackley Ash Hotel - so good they went there twice

Flackley Ash HotelIn its April issue The Bexleyheath Chronicle revealed that Bexley’s cabinet of ten spent £2,585 on an overnight stay for themselves and nine staff at the Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye just before Christmas 2010. Later council leader Teresa O’Neill said that cabinet members paid for themselves but the explanation was never clear because the sums of money mentioned never quite added up. Cabinet members, she said, paid in advance, £900 in total according to the Payments Manager but given the size of the total bill, £90 each didn’t look enough. That sum was close to being a cabinet member’s subsistence allowance for a night away, it wasn’t an exact match, but the thought remained that they may have not made a subsistence claim.

It would be easy if councillors provided a simple explanation of exactly how they came to have their Christmastime ‘awayday’ and how it was funded but you can forget transparency in Bexley. Nothing is explained, nothing is simple and very little looks honest, so behind the scenes some people kept plugging away looking for an answer.

One question asked was about the payments councillors were said to have made either directly to the hotel or into council funds to offset the hotel’s bill. Information proved hard to come by as questions were dodged with evasive answers but in recent days I have been shown a type written list of the ten cabinet members’ names with the sum of £90 against each one. This is said to be a letter from the Chief Executive’s office to the Cashiers in Erith requesting that ten cheques be paid into the council’s coffers. Associated with it is the accounts office paying in slip dated the following day. Neither say what the money was for but the documents were provided as ‘proof’ that the ten cabinet members made a contribution - even if it may have been offset by a subsistence claim - towards the cost of their Christmas trip to Rye. So they are in the clear, right? Well I am not so sure. The date on the letter to the cashier is 16 September 2010. Given it would take a little while to get ten cheques from ten councillors it looks like the Flackley Ash meeting must have been known about in August. Would a meeting be scheduled that far ahead? Possible I suppose, but would everyone be so keen to get their cheques in three months early? Seems unlikely especially as we know from the council’s own accounts that the hotel didn’t have to be paid until December. Once again nothing about Bexley council is straight forward. Nothing quite makes sense. No rational explanation is ever forthcoming. But while reading through council documents on the council’s website this came to light…

Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee

That comes from the published minutes of the Crime and Disorder Overview Scrutiny Committee minutes dated 2nd February 2011. So they went to the Flackley Ash Hotel at least twice and it looks likely that cabinet members may have paid something towards the October ‘awayday’. We are probably no further forward in discovering what happened at Christmas. While Bexley council makes it so difficult to uncover the truth the feeling remains they are always trying to hide something. I have considered that there may never have been a Christmas meeting, just the October one, as the precise date was not mentioned here and the Chronicle has removed its archive of old issues from the web making research difficult, but if I remember the Chronicle’s letters page correctly neither Teresa O’Neill or Katie Perrior in her notorious excuse for needing to bleed the tax payer for as much as she could, disputed the paper’s report that they had gone on the Christmas junket at a time the Marriott next door had spare accommodation.

 

4 July (Part 2) - Bexley council in the national press - slide scrollbar or click image for full story

Daily Mail letter

On 12th June the Blog reported how Bexley council had deducted the maximum permissible amount from the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant rather than the standard 15% thereby keeping £150,000 to itself rather than £101,000. £49,000 that was intended for disadvantaged children didn’t get to them. Now a letter in the Daily Mail makes the same point.

 

4 July (Part 1) - The rat runs

Martin Peaple warns motoristsBexley council took a photo of this man and his placard and passed it to the police with an instruction that their friends in the Met put the frighteners on him. No legal basis for it (confirmed by reply to Freedom of Information request) but that is the “I can do what I like” Bexley council for you. Yesterday the tables were partially turned. The not easily frightened Martin Peaple was at the Danson Park Festival and spotted a council stall inviting residents to ask a question and get an answer within five days - and who should be manning it but the man in charge of the cameras that took Martin’s picture and presumably the man who cocked a snook at the Data Protection Act by not using his cameras in the designated manner. Councillor Craske no less, the man given to lying (for example, it costs more to answer FOIs than we collect in parking fines) at public meetings. Who better to man a council stall? No good asking leader Teresa O’Neill to do it, she has a track record for failing to show at such events.

Having spotted his glowing visage Martin knew exactly what questions had to be asked, “Who took my photo and who decided to send it to the police?”. In Martin’s words, “Craske is one rude bloke” who claimed he “hasn’t got a clue”. Can you believe that? The cabinet member in charge of parking enforcement sees his department splashed across the front page of the News Shopper, and if he wasn’t behind it he wasn’t sufficiently interested to ask what was going on? Looks like Craske is up to his usual tricks or it’s yet more proof he is unfit to be a cabinet member.

Martin also asked why the public can’t film or photograph public meetings. At that point Craske noticed that Martin was recording his questions on a mobile phone and promptly ran away. Priceless. Craske gets his cameras to film residents going about their lawful business and pokes his lenses into people’s bedrooms but ask him a question about it and he knows nothing and scarpers.

Martin reports that another councillor who he believes (having looked at their mugshots) was Peter Reader was present who was much more helpful and said he would do his utmost to get an answer to his first question within five days. We await the answer with the utmost interest. Will we learn anything of why Bexley council thinks it is above the law, usually there is no answer? Nigel Wise, who forced Richmond council to obey the law, is still waiting for a proper answer to the question he posed on 5th May.

The above information has been provided by Notomob - Martin is an active member - and continuing the theme of sponging off the efforts of others may I recommend you take a look at Arthur Pewty’s maggot sandwich which this week gives news of developments in Erith. The infamous Cross Keys pub, the new Pound Shop and Bexley council’s early foray into the world of computers - though they failed to exploit them beyond use as glorified typewriters. Look out for Notomob in Bexley next Saturday.

 

3 July - About time

Long Service MedalThe obscene blogger was right about one thing, it sometimes takes more time than I would like to keep this site going. It was exceptional last week because of the Employment Tribunal but it amounted to more than 50 hours over four days and so I am currently taking it easy and will today nick something from Olly’s website so that I can catch up with domestic chores - well he never asks me when he quotes Bonkers so it’s only fair…

Olly is a nosey blighter who likes to look at what Bexley council has been blowing our money on and he was intrigued by the amount that has been going to a gift supplier in Leicestershire. It turns out that Bexley council has been buying its staff Long Service Awards. I thought that practice had died out years ago. I was a Civil Servant for five or six years after first starting work and if I had stayed there all my life I might have got a Long Service Award. A lady who had worked in the same department since 1937 and left in 1977 (†) was given a Long Service Award and she invited me back to the ceremony. As she was my Aunt I remember it well. She was given a document signed by the head of the department and I think she may have been given a small medal on a ribbon, a bit like one of those chocolate coins you might hang on a Christmas tree and worth not a lot more in monetary terms. Such documents were routinely pinned on lavatory walls, the one at the end of her garden in my Aunt’s case.

When I retired after more than 30 years with a major multi-national company it never occurred to me that a decent level of pay and a reasonable - but not as good as a local authority - pension was not sufficient reward, but apparently it wouldn’t be if you worked for Bexley council. If you manage to do 20 years there without being unfairly dismissed on a trumped up charge or leaving because you can’t stand the dishonesty any more, you are entitled to a present worth £230. If you get to 30 years you get another £330 and after 40 you get another £460 bunged in your direction. As if a (almost unique to public servants) two thirds final salary based pension is not enough in itself. That is why money has been going to the gift company every month.

When I attended my Aunt’s award ceremony back in 1977, it was all over in 15 minutes and we were shuffled out of the boss’s office after quickly downing a cup of tea and a Civil Service biscuit. Not good enough for Bexley council of course. They hired caterers and photographers at more than £1,000 each during May this year with more than £7,000 going on the presents. I think I read somewhere in the Strategy 2014 document that this largesse is due to be cut back or even stopped - and about time too - but note once again how it is not the councillors who are suffering the cuts, it’s the staff. Councillors’ perks, as always, remain untouched.

† The aforesaid lady is doing alright with her Civil Service pension. She is still drawing it and it has inflated to much more than she was earning when she left work 34 years ago.

 

1 July - Ashford Employment Tribunal finds Bexley council guilty of unfair dismissal
1 July -
Click any image for a more comprehensive Court report

Thames Innovation CentreThe former receptionist at Bexley council‘s Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) made a claim for unfair dismissal at Ashford Employment Tribunal on 28th and 29th June and the three judges unanimously held that Bexley council had unfairly dismissed Miss Caroline Queen from her job at TIC. While at the TIC she witnessed the police arrest and handcuff its manager Richard Edwards and seize his computer and the company’s servers. The charge was one of downloading and storing images of child pornography. Nearly a year later he stood trial and was imprisoned for that offence. However Richard Edwards returned to work immediately after his arrest with the support of Bexley council‘s HR director who refused to suspend him. Further support was given to Edwards at Miss Queen’s appeal heard by council leader Colin Campbell and continued until his eventual resignation with a job reference some seven months later.

The TIC was not unused to sexual offences; “bum squeezing” and love triangles were both revealed by cross-examination at the Tribunal. On the surface Bexley council’s Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) is just a money pit that swallows hundreds of thousands of our cash each year but beneath the surface and on the admission of its own directors it was a hotbed of gossip and intrigue with an unenviably poor atmosphere in which staff and tenants were expected to co-exist. The TIC is not only built on an unsound financial basis requiring huge underwriting by Bexley council’s tax payers but the whole edifice appears to be built on lies. Its website claims TIC to have good transport links when the minutes of its board meetings reveal that one of the reasons for its poor performance is inadequate transport links. 30 minutes from London Bridge it proudly proclaims, neatly ignoring the five minute walk to the Belvedere station bus stop and the four bus an hour service.

Public Coffee ShopBexley council leader and TIC director Colin Campbell told the Tribunal under oath that TIC had no publicly accessible Coffee Shop, a version of events which suited the council’s defence. The Coffee Shop has an advertisement out on the public road to try to attract additional custom and carries the same message on its website. The evidence provided was simply untrue. Miss Queen believes that was not the only thing said on oath that was untrue.

A member of staff who was acknowledged by at least one TIC director to have been ‘screwing around’ with both a company client and possibly the TIC manager too, was never advised that her activities might be harming the TIC’s reputation, on the contrary it was officially announced and by implication condoned at a staff meeting. By contrast the receptionist was criticised for allegedly gossiping with clients and eventually dismissed for failures that Bexley council had not brought to her attention.

Bexley council’s defence at the Tribunal was conducted by their solicitor Guy Atkins who produced three witnesses. Each was allowed to hear the evidence of the other witnesses allowing them to ‘correct’ any errors made by earlier witnesses. Not a procedure that encourages justice.

Council deputy leader Colin Campbell Richard EdwardsMs. Queen was unhappy about Richard Edwards’ daily presence and said so, one of her fears being that there was a foetal scanning facility within TIC and pregnant mothers were coming in with toddlers and older children on a regular basis. They were at risk, as were members of the public who popped in to use the Coffee Shop.

I particularly enjoyed the morning session on the second day when Bexley’s solicitor Guy Atkins spent two hours grilling the plaintiff and former receptionist about every aspect of the case that he thought might discredit her and a young woman with no legal training was able to rebuff every criticism with an explanation of why his accusations must be unfounded. The reason for her ease was that she merely had to come out with the truth and the council’s case against her was undone.

Unfortunately no employee with less than 12 months service has any employment rights at all. Such staff can be sacked on any pretext whatever. The only exception is if the sacking is linked to the employer’s dishonesty or other crime. In this case the alleged theft of post by the lover of a man who it was believed had committed fraud against his company. Miss Queen. therefore had to prove that she had been sacked because she reported that theft to Richard Edwards and because of her oft stated belief he should not be there at all, he was caused to decide that reasons had to be found to enable her dismissal. Bexley council maintained that Mr. Edwards had nothing to do with her sacking despite the dismissal letter being signed by him. According to the council she was sacked by a committee including TIC chairman Derek Harris and councillor Campbell, the same men who went on to dismiss her appeal. In law that doesn’t matter, Bexley could sack her on any trumped up charge and probably did. With Richard Edwards stuck in jail it was near impossible to link him directly to the dismissal when Bexley council insisted he had nothing to do with it. Evidence before the Court showed he had signed the letter of dismissal and who but him could have persuaded the committee that a receptionist they admitted to barely knowing deserved to lose her job?

Richard Edwards never was suspended by Bexley council from his position as manager of TIC but continued to work there without a computer and little to do until a few days after he was charged with paedophilia. He was allowed to resign with a reference and according to reports walked into a similar job before the law finally caught up with him. Miss Queen has nothing, no reference, no job and no compensation because with Edwards beyond cross examination the onus of proof that he sacked her and not a committee who admitted to knowing nothing of her proved impossible to the Court’s satisfaction.

Miss Queen is grateful to the Court for stating so positively that she was unfairly sacked by Bexley council. Given the wealth of evidence against them they must rank as one of the country’s worst public service employers.

The full story is rather more complex than this brief summary can reveal and a much expanded account may be found via the main site’s News menu. Read it and judge whether Bexley council is an employer with zero management skills or any knowledge whatever of good employment practice.

 

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