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Bonkers Blog March 2011

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31 March - The chocolate teapot, she can run but she cannot hide

Widow TwankeyThe month has been dominated by mayor Twankey’s incompetence and dishonesty. She started by curtailing questions from the public contrary to her own Standing Orders. She compounded her folly by writing to members of the public about “parsimonious appreciation” and recommending instruction books she didn’t follow herself and she has finished it off by showing off her dictatorial powers and abuse of democracy.

As has been stated many times before, every Bexley resident is allowed to pose two questions at open council meetings. Few bother to do so but an exception is Mr. Elwyn Bryant who always submits a question. For his pains he has been insulted and lied to by councillor Craske and received similar treatment at the hands of Fat Controller O’Neill on 2nd March; but Mr. Bryant does not give up easily. He submitted another question for the council meeting scheduled for 6th April. He did so well before the cut-off date but yesterday noticed that he had not received the usual acknowledgement, so he gave the appropriate department a call. He was told that Twankey herself had decided that Mr. Bryant’s question wouldn’t be accepted. He is just too much of an embarrassment to the council. What is more, he wasn’t told because that way any counter-arguments he could make could be ruled out of time. Cunning eh? Mr. Bryant now knows that questions designed to expose the council’s or Twankey’s shortcomings are not welcome. I’m sure he will remember that in future.

Twankey may look like a cuddly pantomime dame but she is in a powerful position which permits her to readily flout government guidance on running open and transparent meetings, to watch individual attendees at meetings and admonish them by letter for not clapping loudly enough and recommend which books they should read. She is irrational with no respect for residents and puts obstacles in the way of the public exercising their democratic rights. Mayor Val Clarke is a danger to the proper conduct of public affairs in the borough.

Chocolate Teapot : © A senior Conservative party figure.

 

30 March - Councillor Michael Tarrant, Stalinist tyrant - click image to provide evidence of who owns your rubbish

Councillor Michael TarrantCouncillor Tarrant (East Wickham, £9,543) has gone on the record to say he often reports dumped rubbish left lying in the street; if only my own councillors were so conscientious. Not far from where I live, black bags are still the order of the day and come Friday morning the pavements are usually strewn with rubbish. Even closer to home the communal recycling bins are regularly forced open and stuff that should never go in them displaces legitimately recycled items on to the ground. Some of it could be mine though I’m not silly enough to leave identifying marks on any of it as even though I recycle correctly there is no knowing where it might end up. Before my retirement my employer had his paper waste collected daily by a private company and once a small part of it was found in the street and the council got interested, but it could only have fallen or blown from the collector’s truck.

Not so long ago I knocked on a door to ask if I could take some ‘rubbish’ that was lying in someone’s front garden but when I examined the item that had caught my eye I found a vital component had been stripped off and was missing. I was told I might find it in the next street because the one-time owner had distributed all the small items at dead of night into unlocked bins in a couple of nearby streets. There is no telling under the current system of refuse collection where rubbish has come from or gone to.

When councillor Craske, not known for his democratic tendencies, issues fines to motorists he can at least claim to back up his actions with photographic evidence - and if he can’t there is an appeals procedure, but Michael the Moron says it is not akin to “living in a communist state” to issue fines on the basis of a scrap of paper which anyone could have planted. Of course it is disgusting that people dump rubbish on the street but it’s not an excuse to suspend justice. Taking action against the population based on whispers, plants and false accusations is exactly what Communist states did and for Bexley council to issue a fine because it believes a scrap of paper could end up away from home only because its owner put it there is very like the action of a Stalinist dictator. The police couldn’t bring a charge on such flimsy evidence, why does this moron Tarrant think he can?

If you click on councillor Tyrant’s image you can get a sheet of addresses to print (rtf format). Tear them off one at a time and put them in your bags of rubbish. You can incriminate anyone you like; my address is in the phone book. A small slip of paper is a positive ID for whoever is responsible for a rubbish bag; Michael the Moron said so.

 

29 March - It’s not only councillors who lie - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Wilton Road parking suspensionLast January Bexley council suspended all their parking bays in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood because of gas main works (you can just see a yellow prohibition notice behind the red van) but the work only affected the other side of the road - which is in Greenwich. For about three weeks Bexley council ticketed cars parked in the suspended bays even though there was no reason whatsoever for those bays to be suspended. After taking the photos I latched on to the tail end of an argument between one of the local shopkeepers and a member of Craske’s gestapo team. It ended with the parking attendant threatening that he would “get” the shopkeeper.

Fast forward to 8th March. The shop owner, seeing me pass by, left his premises to ask if I remembered the threat made in January and told me that on the previous day he had returned from doing a delivery and parked near his shop and very soon someone alerted him to the gestapo apparently giving him a parking ticket. He rushed outside to speak to the parking attendant but was told (before several witnesses) that no ticket had been issued as the vehicle was not illegally parked. He was nevertheless worried so I suggested he rang the council to see if there was a penalty pending. He was told there was none.

On 27th March a penalty charge notice was received in the post for exceeding the one hour time limit on 7th March. It was cunningly and presumably dishonestly dated 21st March so as to just fall inside the 14 day time limit. So not only do councillors regularly lie at public meetings, so do parking attendants on the street.

 

28 March (Part 2) - Parking charges up by 25% and extended to evenings and Sundays - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Civic Centre parkingBexley council is expecting parking revenue to fall during the next year by about half a million pounds. Their reaction is exactly what you would expect from the meagre intellect that fills the Civic Centre, they are increasing all the charges and extending chargeable hours to Sundays and through the night in Bexleyheath; except at the Cinema car park where the terms of the lease forbid it.

This will result in privately operated car parks costing 50 pence an hour and the council ones which are close by or even adjacent costing twice as much. The current price differential results in council car parks lying half empty while cars queue for the supermarket’s car parks so the situation can only get worse. Last Friday afternoon I photographed all of Bexleyheath’s central car parks within the space of 20 minutes. The result may be seen on a new feature page.

Bexley council claims that the increased charges will produce £208,000 of additional revenue. That is going to depend on how many people decide to vote with their steering wheels.

 

28 March (Part 1) - The NoToMob comes to Bexley

The NoToMob team is keen to hear from anyone who believes they have been unfairly targeted by Bexley’s gestapo wagons especially for very short term stops or essential driving manoeuvres such as reversing out of a tight spot and being penalised for stopping while engaging a forward gear. Typical would be the case reported to me over the weekend; a driver exiting a factory access road stopped at the end to allow a passenger to get out. Video evidence shows him stopped on that access road for 18 seconds. He was given a penalty charge for pavement parking.

A permanent link to NoToMob’s Bexley dedicated email address has been added to the Contact menu above.

 

27 March (Part 2) - Freedom of Information requests (FOI)

As reported a few days ago, Bexley council has been collating information about FOI requests which they are under a legal obligation to answer. Someone who has asked several questions under the FOI procedure (I have made none) has given me some background information on the subject. To me, one of the more important points he makes is that the questions are answered by the council officer who has responsibility for the subject under discussion. Answers do not come from a centralised FOI answering department. My research leads me to believe that council departments spend lots of money…


Chief Executive’s Directorate : £1,437,223.01
Children & Young Peoples Service : £10,938,126.86
Customer Services : £82,078.11
Environment & Regeneration Services : £3,275,118.42
Finance Directorate : £2,663,337.73
Social & Community Services : £5,401,178.11


That adds up to £23,797,062. (†) Where does the figure come from? The list of things that cost over £500 which the council has been forced by government to make available on the web. It doesn’t include staff wages, it’s just what they are spending on goods and services, and in case you think that is for the year let me make it perfectly clear. That is close to £24 million for just one month, last January as it happens. On the council’s own inflated £40 an hour estimate, servicing FOI requests costs £4,000 a month. A drop in the ocean compared to overall expenditure on services and with staff dealing with FOIs as a marginal activity within their own responsibilities there is no scope for staff saving. So what is Bexley council worried about? As ever it is about being found out.

Having looked at some of the answers to FOIs I would say that even the allegedly expensive ones do not shed very much light on the subject. I may look into that more deeply another time.

† My 2011 council tax bill shows 2010/2011 expenditure as averaging £44m. a month so the £4,000 for FOIs becomes even more insignificant.

 

27 March (Part 1) - Welling’s bus lane - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Welling bus laneThis is the scene last Friday afternoon with traffic in a single file queue for the Upper Wickham Lane traffic lights some 500 metres away. Most motorists won’t drive over red tarmac on the grounds that bus lane restrictions are far too variable and there is rarely time to read the signs and glance at a clock to see if it is safe to use them. Far easier to avoid them altogether which is what these drivers are doing. Locals, however, will know that this bus lane was abandoned in 2006. The Conservatives won power in Bexley partly on the back of a promise they would abolish the bus lane after Labour councillor Daniel Francis refused to do anything about it wrecking trade in Welling.

Bexley’s Conservatives seem to be very proud of keeping that electoral promise, it still gets the occasional mention in their publicity material. Scraping their barrel for good news becomes an essential after so many failures but until Welling High Street no longer looks like it is a bus lane it is likely to be treated as a bus lane and traders will continue to suffer to some degree.

 

26 March (Part 3) - The NoToMob comes to Bexley

As you may know, the NoToMob were in Bexley today. Their reports will appear here. Looks like things went well. Thanks to all concerned.

 

26 March (Part 2) - Carole’s battle with TfL and a heartless head teacher - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Gaggle of councillorsCarole has not had too much trouble with the B11 bus this week. On Thursday there were no buggies on board but the front of the bus was crowded and she couldn’t get to the centre exit door. The female driver wasn’t very enthusiastic about being asked to open the front door for exit, but apart from that it was an easy week. TfL has written to Carole again explaining their policy on buggies which we have all heard before. There is no mention of her disability which was the whole point of the enquiry. TfL’s Customer Service Advisor, Duncan Fallon would appear to be one of a growing band of public servants who do not properly read the letters they answer. There has been no further word from councillor John Fuller and given the impact of Criminal Records Bureau checks on self-help groups there is probably not a lot he can do.

Also on Thursday there was a gaggle of councillors standing outside Bedonwell Infants School - no idea why - and in the centre of the group was head teacher Mrs. Brooks.

Following my month on the school run I can hardly believe the red-tape and petty bureaucracy that parents are asked to accept compared to 30 years ago. Teachers fail to think of the consequences of their actions and believe they have a right to micro-manage parents’ lives. Last week I learned that parents had been asked not to threaten children reluctant to go to school with any form of punishment when they got back home as it caused them to worry all day and distract them. This seems fair enough but when Carole’s son did something he shouldn’t have done in the playground on Wednesday he was sent home with a note that he would be punished next day. So a four year old spends the night worrying about what is to happen to him. Is head teacher Brooks a thoughtless bully? Possibly, but on Thursday she sanctioned action that I regard as gross abuse of a four year old. He was forbidden from eating his lunch and went home at the normal time having eaten nothing all day.

Carole would prefer her son to eat school meals but the school refuses to provide him with one because they say he is a fussy eater; so he has to take sandwiches. On Thursday his mother provided him with sandwiches containing a spread. It was banned on the grounds it may contain nuts and there was a possibility he might give the sandwich to a mythical friend who might suffer a fatal anaphylactic shock. Perhaps Mrs. Brooks should ban all sandwiches as a breadcrumb could prove very dangerous to a child suffering coeliac disease which is far more common than a serious peanut allergy. There can be no excuse for starving a four year old; it takes a special sort of cruel monster to do that to a child.

As it happens Carole is a food industry professional; she is licensed by Bexley council to prepare food in her own kitchen and sell it commercially. She has all the necessary food safety certificates and qualifications and when it comes to food she knows her stuff. As such the spread she puts in her son’s sandwiches is guaranteed nut free, not just “recipe contains no nuts but may contain nut traces”. It’s nut free. Carole is particularly aware of the dangers of nuts, she regularly caters for a client with nut allergies. It’s not as though the school has any excuse for making a four year old go hungry, they have been told before that his lunch box is guaranteed nut free, but like TfL they either don’t care or are too stupid to understand. I think Mrs. Brooks’ heartless attitude to a hungry young boy is unforgiveable.

 

26 March (Part 1) - The NoToMob comes to Bexley

NoToMobI am very pleased to be able to report that The NoToMob is coming to Bexley; chosen because it is considered to be amongst the most dishonest councils in London and surrounding counties. I know the planned date but don’t want to forewarn Craske and Co. so will only say there is not long to wait.

NoToMob is a group of motorcyclists who will shadow Craske’s gestapo wagons and warn motorists of their presence. They will be clearly marked themselves and will stay strictly within the law. To help them in that endeavour please do not attempt talk to them or do anything that might cause them to stop illegally. If you wish to welcome them a quick toot on the horn will suffice.

To read more about the NoToMob and their Bexley operation, please visit their website. Their local coordinator goes by the name of Peperami who has asked me to post the following contact details…

 


Bexley NoToMob Coordinator
WWW.NOTOMOB.CO.UK
Join Our Forum http://notomob.co.uk/discussions/index.php?action=register
Bexley Division: http://notomob.co.uk/discussions/index.php/board,25.0.html


 

25 March - Councillor Craske - Defrauding motorists again - click any image for photo gallery (3 images and two diagrams)

Transport Dept. approved signs
Transport Dept. approved signs
Wrong signWrong sign

There was a report in this week’s News Shopper about a Dartford man fighting a parking ticket given to him in Tyrell Avenue, Welling for pavement parking. I didn’t give it any coverage because these things are a commonplace in Bexley where councillor Craske is trying to wring as much money as possible from motorists whether by legal means or not. However the very next day a Welling resident told me (he had not seen the Shopper’s report) how he had suffered an identical fate in Lovell Avenue, Welling. He has a Blue Badge and needed to park near Welling Station. He could have legally parked on a yellow line but encouraged by Bexley’s sign (see upper diagram and photo 1) left his car on the pavement and came back to find it ticketed. His appeal to Bexley council was rejected, now he will have to make an appointment with the Adjudicator to get Bexley council to comply with the law of the land.

If a Bonkers reader reports something I try to look into it. The situation in the two avenues is identical. Some parking bays are marked with a P sign with a car on the pavement and some are marked with the same sign with a red line through it and some bays have no sign at all. What a mess! But it gets worse. The Dept. of Transport’s website shows all the approved signs and is quite clear about the use of each. The signs Bexley has used (see upper diagram and photo 1) permit pavement parking, no ifs or buts, you can park on the pavement. If they want to confine parking to bays a different sign must be used (lower diagram). Nowhere does Bexley use the approved sign, so right across the borough, going back as many years as you can remember, all pavement parking penalties in incorrectly signed roads - which appears to be all of them - are illegal.

According to the Shopper a council spokeswoman said “the council is satisfied that the signs and markings comply with the statutory requirements”. Obviously she is an idiot who cannot read or is another council liar in full flow. Craske must pay up.

 

24 March (Part 3) - Freedom of Information requests (FOI)

Bexley council doesn’t like FOIs. Anything that makes them tell the truth worries them. We have seen councillor Campbell (St. Mary’s, £22,650) planning to pillory people who make FOI requests and councillor Betts (Falconwood & Welling, £13,173) backing him a few months later. Not that Bexley council always tell the truth even with an FOI as the Bexleyheath Chronicle revealed last month.

Last night the council met to discuss the FOI issue. During the five months September 2010 to January 2011 the council received 395 FOI requests costing a total of £20,179 to answer at a calculated staff cost of £10 per 15 minutes. That’s an average of £51 each though in practice most were about £30 each with a few expensive ones pushing up the average. The report compiles the costs associated with anyone who may have made more than four FOI requests but it is not clear what the council plans to do or can do about FOIs. I do have a suggestion though which might help contain costs. Encourage openness and transparency and tell the truth at all times. But as a senior Tory told me the other day “they are never going to do that so keep on blogging!”

If you are surprised at the stated staff cost of £40 per hour you shouldn’t be. On The Guardian jobs page on 8th March there was an advert for a Parking Operations Manager. The salary was said to be £4-£50 per hour. It wasn’t a Bexley advert but I bet the pay rate is typical.

 

24 March (Part 2) - Kevin Fox (Head of Committee Services) ducks the question

I posed the following (indented) question to Bexley council today but they, in the shape of Kevin Fox, Head of Committee Services and Scrutiny, has refused to entertain it. I applaud Mr. Fox’s enthusiasm in protecting his over-generous salary and the anti-democratic agenda behind Bexley council’s defiance of government recommendations; an honest answer might well be extremely embarrassing. The truth of course is that at a meeting on 2nd March someone with a video camera caught mayor Twankey blatantly breaking Standing Orders. Normally this would be denied when referred to the Standards Committee but with the tape evidence an almost plausible lie will be more difficult to manufacture. The council doesn’t like being caught out lying and they will pull any stunt to stop it happening again, regardless of the cost. They really should stop building their empire on lies and dishonesty but they are presumably in it so deep that they cannot stop now.


“Until March 2011 the public was able to gain entry to the Civic Centre for the purpose of attending council meetings and be welcomed by reception staff without formality. However that has changed and the council has seen fit to surround themselves with large numbers of policemen and hired security staff. The council’s reception staff have issued various warnings about visitor behaviour and threatened arrest for any digression.

This change could not have been due to any threat from ‘cuts’ protestors as more recent meetings have been similarly policed with no protestors in evidence. Furthermore the council has replied to all those who made informal enquiries about the issue to the effect that the restrictions, which had not been in evidence before March, would be in force at future meetings.

What single event provoked the council into making these new arrangements in defiance of the Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government’s wish to see “greater transparency and openness at your council” and his statement that ”people being ejected from council meetings for filming ... is at odds with the fundamentals of democracy”.


Our local MPs are upset by Bexley council’s attitude. Today in the Commons, Conservative MP, Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what recent representations he has received in respect of filming at council meetings”. Teresa Pearce MP. (Erith & Thamesmead) beat him to it by almost two weeks with a considerably more direct question about Bexley’s malpractice.

 

24 March (Part 1) - Democracy Bexley style

Definitely not a good month so far…


• The mayor’s reaction to a government that wants to make council meetings more accessible to “citizen journalists” was to ban entry to the Civic Centre to anyone with such ambitions and enforce it with bag searches and the threat of arrest by (at one meeting) more police than residents (average age 68 years) attending.
• An invitation to seek individual permissions for photography met with rejection for everyone who sought that permission.
• The mayor further restricted the already limited opportunity for the public to question the council in contravention of her own Standing Orders.
• The mayor singled out three members of the public sitting in the back row of an awards ceremony for “parsimonious appreciation” or in simple language, not clapping enough.
• The mayor singled out one resident for a lecture on chairmanship skills and in doing so highlighted her own failures.
• The mayor refused to correct minutes of a meeting which on her own admission had insufficient time for checking. When it was brought to her attention that this contravened council Standing Orders the reply said“ the ruling of the mayor as to the application of any of Bexley’s Standing Orders, or any proceedings of the council shall not be challenged”.


The common factor as always is an aversion to exposure of council mismanagement and dishonesty coupled with unbelievable arrogance. Fat Controller O’Neill in reply to a questioner at the council meeting on 2nd March reminded members of the public that she had been elected and the questioner had not. True; but she was elected to serve, not to refuse to properly respond to questions and line her own pocket where she can. Yesterday I read a letter from a councillor to a resident who was on the committee of a local organisation with connections to the council and who had written to a local paper criticising the council. The letter said the councillor would ensure that the resident would be removed from his committee position if he did not retract his comments published in the paper. He refused to do so and had to stand down from the committee because of the threat to the committee as a whole. I am not revealing the councillor’s name because it would almost certainly identify the ex-committee member. But I held that letter in my hand last night. Bexley council is riven with malpractice and dishonesty at the highest levels. Who could deny it given the Ian Clement affair and the subsequent attempt to cover it up? The £1,931.95 he claimed has never been recovered.

 

23 March - Press round up

Flackley Ash HotelToday’s Bexleyheath Chronicle reveals that council cabinet members and Moneybags Tuckley spent £2,585 on a pre-Christmas meeting (junket) for themselves at the Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye.

The News Shopper carries the usual collection of parking stories and Bexley council continuing with the same old dirty tricks that have been thrown out by the Parking Adjudicator previously. Yesterday I was with someone who is on first name terms with the Adjudicator for England (which is not the same as the London one). From what I was told all the ‘momentary stop’ offences which Bexley is so keen to capture on video and grab a still from to prove no movement (clever eh?) are routinely thrown out by the Adjudicator for England.

Rather a long time ago I remember reading in The Shopper the story of a driver who dropped off an elderly lady outside her own house and was done for parking across her own dropped kerb. I always thought that was legal if it was done with permission of the owner of the entrance and I have just got around to checking that out. It is true. The Traffic Management Act of 2004 says you can’t generally block pavement crossings but there are exemptions one of which is “where the vehicle is parked outside residential premises by or with the consent of the occupier of the premises”. The exemption does not apply to shared driveways.

There has been a small spate of parking complaints sent to to Bonkers recently and the word used to describe Bexley council and their parking gestapo is “Crooks” and given the recent case where they had cunningly snipped the photo evidence to make their case (slung out by the adjudicator) one can only agree.

 

22 March - Something shameful to hide

Cameras bannedOn 23 February government told all councils that Twitter, YouTube, blogs and the like were all part of a modern democracy and to that end guidance was given that councils should allow public meetings to be recorded. Within a week that enlightened message had panicked Bexley council into printing leaflets and posters banning all forms of recording at meetings. Following the threats of arrest issued to photographers on 9th March council officials let it be known that recording might be authorised on application to the mayor. On various dates from 11th March through to the 15th a number of letters seeking permission to use cameras were sent to the mayor. On the same day one of our MPs wrote to the relevant Under Secretary of State drawing his attention to Bexley council’s blatant disregard of his letter of the 23rd February. Today all but one of the people I know of who applied for permission to use cameras at public meetings were refused permission by the mayor. The exception is myself who has received no response at all.

My interpretation of the mayor’s decision is that cameras may be taken into the Civic Centre but only on condition they aren’t used. Bexley council is going to great lengths to clamp down on transparency and given what they need to hide from public gaze I suppose their reaction is totally understandable.

 

21 March (Part 3) - For night owls

Those who can’t resist sitting at their computers long into the night should note that a router upgrade will put Bonkers off the air for about half an hour around 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning this week.

 

21 March (Part 2) - Thames Innovation Centre (TIC)

My contributors are still digging into the TIC accounts to see if the mess it is in is all Labour’s fault.

The director took home £42,400 and Bexley council has pumped in £221,961, £218,821, £670,381 and £185,515 over the four years, 2010 back to 2007; by being a customer at its own shop! I expect the same will have happened this year so council leader Teresa O’Neill can claim it has made a profit.

What sort of success is pouring in one and a quarter million in purchased services, nearly half a million of interest free loans, rent written off and more generosity too tedious to list? With what result? A loss of another half million (nearly) over the same four years. How is Labour to blame for that? It may be Brownite economics but it is Bexley’s Tories what did it!

 

21 March (Part 1) - Councillor John Waters. Fingers in many pies, and gorging on them - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Councillor John Waters (Danson Park, £12,864) is a busy man eager to ride rough-shod over the population and line his pocket where he can. Back in 2004 he voted for installation of a new mobile telephone mast dismissing local residents’ concerns with the well known fact that “there is more danger of radiation from a domestic vacuum cleaner than there is from a mobile phone mast”.

More recently when the Embassy Court development in Welling was said to not comply with the plans shown to local residents John Waters dismissed complaints with “Residents have to accept it is a large building and that it is all water under the bridge now”. A real man of the people I am sure you will agree.

Apart from his strenuous efforts to do his best for Bexley residents he selflessly serves as director for several companies. The Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) is one and Invest in Thames Gateway London is another, where, as with the TIC, he is joined by councillor Linda Bailey (also Danson Park, £22,141). The Chief Executive of Thames Gateway is Aman Dalvi who until he got a better offer had been Chief Executive of TIC. Mr. Dalvi as far as I know has no other connection with Bexley council.

Further research reveals that councillor Waters is the local authority appointed governor at Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar School. The school is in Hurst Road, Sidcup as parents trying to park nearby will know to their cost. He is also a director of Bexley Manor Nursery School (BMNS), in Penhill Road. Its website says the head teacher is J.M. Waters, but it is not John, it is Jennifer Margaret. Not a coincidence. The website 192.com shows a Mrs. J. Waters living at 147A Knoll Road, the same address as the councillor gives on the council’s website.

Bexley Manor Nursery SchoolSo John and his wife Margaret run a small business, a nursery school and it would seem likely that Mrs. Waters at least draws a salary from it. Companies House reports it to be a limited company with shares owned by Mr. and Mrs. Waters in a 30%/70% ratio.

Is it a flourishing business? All that is known so far is that the total assets fell from £58,000 in 2009 to £52,000 in 2010. So maybe rubbing along just keeping its head above water.

Of what interest is this to Bexley’s taxpayers? Isn’t it just the usual wheeling and dealing and using their contacts for the purpose of self-enrichment rather than spending the time protecting residents from phone masts and planning consents gone wrong? Maybe it is, but the council’s accounts throw a little light on where the Bexley Manor Nursery School gets its income from.

Last year Bexley council doled out £127,721 to BMNS. Some of it was to pay for the Early Years scheme whereby pre-school children can get free nursery education, but not all of it was for that; the council accounts don’t give a breakdown. In the preceding years the sum was £124,626 and £114,710. The Waters household will have benefited by the head teacher’s income.

So what is the morale of this every-day story of tax beneficiaries? It is that if anyone believes that councillors get themselves elected to serve the community and not to serve their own bank balances they should probably think again or go and talk to the fairies at the bottom of their gardens. How is it that their own businesses manage to take a share of the taxpayers’ largess and successfully feed it to their own bank accounts, but the ones they run on our behalf (TIC) haemorrhage cash on the grand scale?

 

20 March - Bexley’s Core Strategy

The main subject of last Wednesday’s meeting, the one where only one member of the public turned up (apart from Bonkers associates) accompanied by ten policemen and hired heavies, was Bexley’s Local Development Core Strategy. This as the name implies is an extremely important long term plan which will affect everyone’s lives. It is far too complex to easily summarise here but I was struck by how little of the consultation process had been reflected in the final report. My associate Nicholas Dowling has gone to the trouble of counting them.

210 points raised by 45 respondents. 147 (70%) dismissed, although in fairness some were merely supporting council proposals. One must wonder why they bothered. 58 (28%) resulted in minor changes to the wording of council proposals, many of them trivial in the extreme.

The remainder added references to tall buildings, marshes, ‘green roofs‘ to existing proposals which appeared to have been missed out by accident. One removed a specific figure that might become out of date over time. At the meeting a cabinet member said something to the effect of how pleased she was with the way the public consultation had gone; I suppose she would be, they didn’t have to change anything of note.

 

19 March (Part 3) - More pain for motorists. More of Craske’s strange accounting

Parking charges are going up almost everywhere. Charged hours are extended to evenings and Sundays. Fines go up £10 and outlying shopping centres get the same higher level of fine as Bexleyheath in future.

Charges are to be introduced for parking at Hall Place and Craske in his contribution to Strategy 2014 (the cuts document) says this is to recoup the million pounds he spent on improving that car park. I’m not sure where he gets that figure from, silly as it is; the cabinet papers for 28th February gives the capital cost as an even sillier £3,605,000, of which £1.27m. was spent this year. It’ll take quite a while at 80 pence an hour to get that extravagance back won’t it?

If the 300 spaces are fully occupied for ten hours a day every day of the year Craske will get our own money back in four years. Over £800k. a year from just one newly chargeable car-park is a big ‘If’. In the same papers it says that all the new parking charges put together are projected to raise only £378,000 over the next four years, so just how long will millions spent on a new car park take to get back? Should we be spending money on renovating car parks anyway with so many of the disabled and the needy being hung out to dry?

It is also revealed that total car parking revenues are expected to drop by half a million a year - the figure varies a little depending on which report you believe. One wonders how that lines up with one of Craske’s official answers to a resident’s question on 2nd March which claimed that parking demand was up by 20%. The answer defused the question but as with the Parsons Brinckerhoff answer last November, it was a pre-planned deception with little or no relationship with truth. How else would you explain Craske’s answers contradicting official council documents all the time?

 

19 March (Part 2) - William Morris Fountain, Bexleyheath

William Morris FountainHow is it that this work of art by William Morris comes (according to the council’s own documentation) under the philistine Craske, a man so steeped in culture and good taste that he cannot even be bothered to wear a tie for his official council photograph?

Isn’t the right place for it under the Arts and Tourism portfolio of councillor Catterall who might be less likely to toss it on to the scrap heap, as Craske has done to save less than half of his own allowance each year?

Reports say the fountain has already been filled with earth.

 

19 March (Part 1) - Update on Carole’s struggle to get her children to school

This week has gone quite well because the B11 bus drivers have been helpful, friendly even on a couple of occasions. One even waited a few seconds when Carole found herself short of the bus stop and unable to run. The word may be spreading.

Councillor Fuller emailed a two line report including that he “had a meeting with the Bexley borough’s representative on the London Assembly and have forwarded your email re the events on the local buses and how TFL have not replied to you”. That’s James Cleverly I presume so that means the problem has now got back to the stage it should have reached more than a month ago when a complaint was misdirected to Greenwich’s representative.

Has there been any attempt to improve things closer to home, like the unhelpful attitude of the school or an approach to councillor Davey the school governor? If there has been nothing has been said. Maybe next time? And maybe that email will address Carole by her real name and not somebody else’s. (There’s a bit of a trap there because by agreement I’m not using her real name either!)

More…

Speaking of updates, Jo, who reported Craske’s ridiculous ticketing operation down at Blackfen five months ago, has told me that she has finally beaten Bexley council into submission and it has agreed she committed no offence. Will they now be going back over their records to refund all the other motorists wrongly penalised?

 

18 March (Part 3) - Thames Innovation Centre. Blame this money pit on Labour; well maybe not

“The encouraging start was followed by the Fat Controller (FC) flinging insults at the Labour opposition”; a quote from the blog of 10 March. Lashing out at Labour has become normal behaviour for Teresa O’Neill, the council leader; she is a political animal with aspirations to climbing the political hierarchy via Boris Johnson’s patronage and Bexley residents are of little interest to her. When questioned this week about the Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) (which would be bankrupt if the council wasn’t both owner and client) she said “If you research the Thames Innovation Centre you will find that we actually inherited it when we took control from the Labour administration in 2006”. True enough but the TIC had only opened four months earlier and whilst I accept that the Conservatives may not have been at all keen on it they have had five years to sort it out but their management skills have deserted them.

When this was put to the Fat Controller she declined to answer.

The TIC lost its high-flying Executive Director in dubious circumstances and its manager to a police cell and all the while poured in our money in a way that would make any private enterprise green with envy - and still it makes a loss.

The allegations of bribery, theft, falsification of papers and general skullduggery which have been leaked in my direction this week defy description and I don’t think I can possibly reveal detail at this stage. I suspect we will see a repeat of the instruction that went out at the end of the Ian Clement affair to the effect of ‘better hide this from the auditor’.

 

18 March (Part 2) - Red Nose Day in Bexley High Street, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It isn’t clear to me if the email I received a couple of days ago was to invite me to the event or ask me to give it publicity so I will play safe by saying there is a Red Nose Day event in Bexley High Street today and you can read all about it here. Most, but not all events take place outside The King’s Head pub. Red Noses aren’t really my scene, I’m more into creating Red Faces, purple in some cases.

 

18 March (Part 1) - Twank is a Twonk - (Google it!)

Yesterday’s Bexley Times was not up to Shopper standards in its report on last week’s council meeting; maybe that is because it didn’t obviously have a reporter there. However on an inside page it reported the use of the T word against a Labour councillor and the fact that it went unchallenged by mayor Twankey. To me the latter was by far the most important story even though it may not be so immediately eye-catching as a rude word. The fact we have a councillor who said something he regrets and has apologised for is one thing, but on the other hand we have a mayor who is clearly not up to the job of chairing anything. Instead of recognising her shortcomings she is so full of herself that she penned a message to a member of the public to tell him to mug up on chairmanship with a book before complaining about her performance again. Unknown to Twankey the complainer is very familiar with the book which Twankey doesn’t seem to have read at all. The mayor is an ass and seems to be intent on proving it beyond doubt.

Unlike the unfortunate councillor who is pilloried by the press for an out of character remark, the chairman mayor encourages bad behaviour by her Conservative cronies through her long term failure to control it. Her presence is driving away any semblance of professionalism in the council chamber.


Question to Craske… “Given that the Borough Parking Control Account has provided a surplus every year since 2006-7, and since that time has provided £2,899,000 of support to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy across the Borough please can the Councillor explain to me why he felt that this analysis of his own accounts [the need for a price rise] was justified.”

Answer… “Strategy 2014 [the cuts document] clearly stated that the Council would now be seeking full cost recovery for all non essential discretionary services and that it would no longer keep such costs artificially low.”

Lord Citrine in Twankey’s bible on chairmanship… “Our Chairman must be on the look-out for gentlemen, who, with their heads full of some subject, however remote, are determined to get it into the discussion”.


If Twankey is as good a chairman as she tells people she is, why wasn’t TLC pulled up on that little diversionary tactic?

 

17 March (Part 2) - Snouts ever deeper in the trough

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has today published its updated ‘Town Hall Rich List’ and I reproduce part of the Bexley section below. Remember these people are not the best; if they were we might not have the spectacle of Tuckley in headless chicken mode over one man with a video camera and we might not have the Innovation Centre leeching money because their business plan was poor and they couldn’t manage themselves out of a paper bag. And don’t forget the needy getting a raw deal all over town. None of our over-paid executives would survive five minutes in a tough commercial environment, that is why such poor specimens gravitate to local authority sinecures.


Will Tuckley, Chief Executive -  £242,363, a 9.3% increase over the year before
Deborah Absalom, Director of Children’s and Young People’s Services - £210,998, a 5.2% increase over the year before
Peter Ellershaw, Director of Environment and Regeneration Services - £210,818, an 11.9% increase over the year before
Mark Charters, Director of Social and Community Services - £170,072, a 3.4% increase over the year before
Paul Moore, Director of Customer Services - £140,629
Mike Ellsmore, Director of Finance - £136,063
Andrew Cresswell, Assistant Chief Executive - £121,761, a 6.6% increase over the year before
Akin Alabi, Deputy Director Legal Services - £105,315, a staggering 27.5% increase over his predecessor in the year before
David Berry, Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Finance & Business Services - £210,296. (No longer with Bexley council)

…and seven more on more than £100,000

About 50% greater expenditure than the cuts being inflicted on disabled children.

 

17 March (Part 1) - Thames Innovation Centre. Keep your bankrupt business afloat the Bexley council way

Have you got an innovative new idea that the council could nourish and support? Bexley council has a duty to help and support new ventures in the borough and offers generous tax payer funded terms.

Is up to £550,000 interest free for 10 years with no monthly repayment schedule an appealing prospect?

On application we can arrange for fixed assets from the council worth over £430,000 to be provided free for twenty years.

The council will arrange rent free premises for four years saving your business up to £40,000.

Think you might need to renovate? Take a £60,000 loan at a very reasonable 0.5% above Public Loan Board 10 year annuity rate.

If your cash flow falters the council will consider spending over £221,000 with your business to save it from failure.

Not sure if you have the resources to make a go of it? No problem, we at Bexley council recognise that there are always unforeseen circumstances that can impact on your business so if your management skills are inadequate or your auditors raise concerns that your business plan may not be viable we will do our level best to arrange a significant extension to any existing generous loan arrangements so that your business can continue while any other would go to the wall.

Bexley Council : Listening to you, working for you, chucking your money down the drain

Figures taken from the Innovation Centre accounts for the year ended 31st March 2010 and point three of the annual accounts from the AGM of 17th March 2009. Money that could be used to maintain care and disability services is being thrown into the TIC pit to keep it and councillors’ egos afloat.

 

16 March (Part 4) - Craske’s gestapo

After last night’s council meeting and the Bonkers inquest that followed I got on the bus home. Usually I sit over the engine at the back for warmth but too many other passengers had the same idea so I took the front seat upstairs and got a very different view of Bexley’s night-life.

As we went along Erith Road, near Barnehurst station (it was 22:28) I spotted the $camera wagon parked outside some take-away shops. I was prepared to give the gestapo the benefit of the doubt (a mistake obviously) and assume he was getting himself a pizza, but by coincidence a long time reader has just sent in a near identical late-night report involving take-aways. This was at a place where pavement parking is permitted but everyone who backed out necessarily hesitated for a second or two on a double yellow before they drove off. Those few seconds earned them a ticket. The bastards. It’s the same technique they employ to trap motorists carrying out essential manoeuvres in Blackfen.

It seems that our motorcycling friends NoToMob who are still planning on visiting Bexley will have to burn some late night oil. If the gestapo had put notices on lamp posts I doubt they would be obvious, black and white signs at night, but then that would be the general idea.

 

16 March (Part 3) - The Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) - and other dens of iniquity

The records of TIC’s Annual General Meetings filed at Companies House make interesting reading. If you look at their website you will find this…


The TIC is wholly-owned by the LB of Bexley, in the heart of the Thames Gateway:

• 1 min from the 180, 401 bus routes
• 10 mins from Belvedere overground train station
• 15 mins from junction 1a of the M25
• 30 mins from London Bridge
• 30 mins from Ebbsfleet International Eurostar Station

It couldn’t be in a better position!


Like so much about Bexley council it is a half-truth or worse. The AGM for 2009/10 says in pushing the case for more car parking spaces that “Green Travel Plans are not favoured because of the poor transport links”. The same AGM records that Derek Harris the Chairman had taken on the role of the Executive Director who had “departed”. This neatly masked the loss of Lesley Anne Rubenstein who had gone following the appointment of Richard Edwards, now awaiting trial at Woolwich Crown Court, as manager. He didn’t get on with his Executive Director and resigned saying it was either she goes or I go. Why Edwards couldn’t be allowed to leave the TIC I have no idea but presumably he had a hold over someone just as he appears to have had when the whistleblower was sacked last autumn and suspicions of paedophilia were aroused. But whatever the reason it was Edwards who was kept on and Lesley Rubenstein who got the elbow. Bexley backed the wrong horse and their choice is about to embarrass them on the grand scale. There must be a reason for so many wrong decisions. Is it sheer incompetence or something more sinister?

Leaks from the TIC seem to be encouraging more leaks. The Adult Education College, another of Bexley’s business ventures, is reported to be another hotbed of funny goings on. Junior staff cut, senior staff promoted and extra ones taken on. Nepotism and greed. Where will it end? More leaks gratefully received.

‘Green Travel Plan’ (from a government website) : Where an employer helps employees to get to and from work, such as by providing petrol or season tickets, free or subsidised work buses, subsidies to public bus services cycles and safety equipment made available for employees.
With acknowledgements to You’ve Been Cromwelled.

 

16 March (Part 2) - The News Shopper

The News ShopperOur local press seems to be doing a pretty good job of ‘Shopping’ Bexley’s dishonest council. Today’s Shopper does a nice job on last Wednesday’s council meeting, the one where the CRIMs inside the building tried unsuccessfully to make criminals of those outside and ride rough-shod through government guidance. The Shopper included all the essentials, the cries of “Rubbish”, the reference to “fag packets” by the imbecile councillor Taylor but not the cry of “Tosser” unjustifiably directed at councillor Malik. The front page didn’t refer to mayor Twankey’s inability to follow her handbook, Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship, but on Page 7 her fiddling of question time was noted. All good stuff for heaping further opprobrium on our numbskull mayor.

On the letters page we have Teresa Pearce MP giving the lie to councillor Philip Read’s false assertions about her. Teresa may find it difficult to get through Read’s thick skull, he’s Northumberland Heath’s village idiot and does stupid things for a hobby; like registering an internet domain indicating the council of which he is a member is ‘Bonkers’. Which it is, as Mrs. Willoughby of Sidcup has found to her cost. (Shopper Page 2.)

I’ve always thought that unsecured refuse bins make any enforcement of the rules and regulations difficult. When I put my bin out on a Thursday evening with almost nothing in it I very often find it full before 7 a.m. next morning. It’s a potential problem for me but what can I do about it? Similarly only half the people living near me are gardeners so those that are use neighbour’s bins that would otherwise be empty. Some of the rubbish even comes from out of the borough; who can check on that or stop it while the bin lids are so easily lifted?

So Mrs. Willoughby’s rubbish was found in Sidcup Place and she lives in Victoria Road. Anyone could have taken it there, it’s quite a distance for a bag to migrate, even if helped by an undernourished fox. Barmy Bexley officials who rummaged through Mrs. W’s black bag jumped to the conclusion that she had tossed it into the street half a mile from her home and dished out a fine of £130. By what right do they accuse her? Until the bins have lockable lids nobody can be sure who did it. My money is on Northumberland Heath’s village idiot. Bonkers Philip Read.

Why not sign up for the News Shopper e-version? Click on the image.

 

16 March (Part 1) - The police state of Bexley

The police were outside the Civic Centre again last night, summoned by a panicky Chief Executive seeing trouble where none exists. Two hundred odd thousand a year for someone whose management style owes more to the headless chicken than the wily old fox. The police wouldn’t tell me how many of them turned out to protect the cabinet from the people and responded in an unfriendly manner when I asked. There may well have been ten.

The warnings about no audio or video recording or photography were in evidence as they were a week ago and the reception area was graced by a bouncer employed to search and deal with anyone that the council didn’t like. I was told there were more at the back door. However the council door staff were back to their jovial selves and had clearly come to their senses far earlier than the top brass. The ‘No photography’ rule was employed literally rather than the ‘No cameras’ of last week. I walked in with a large camera bag stuffed with nothing but a notebook and a pen but no one seriously queried it, not even the bouncer who wasn’t displaying his SIA accreditation. However it was all good natured banter and he happily showed it on request.

The public had turned out for the cabinet meeting in their usual large numbers, there were five of ‘the gang’ closely associated with this website and three more with looser associations. Apart from that the assembled throng consisted of just one woman, so more cops than residents. No press was in evidence as they know that this cabinet meeting was just a ritual to be gone through as quickly as possible with nothing said that wasn’t agreed beforehand and published.

The council leader Teresa O’Neill in the chair doesn’t have much to do; unlike mayor Twankey at the full council meeting where the opposition (of the elected and unelected variety) are allowed in. As such the leader was able to act out her Fat Controller role without difficulty. It’s not a pantomime but it is well rehearsed with the occasional topical joke. Councillor Catterall tried to toss one in by making suggestions after a long presentation on Bexley’s ‘Core Strategy’ but he didn’t get any laughs, indeed the remainder of the cabinet looked on disapprovingly as the councillor made the cardinal sin of mistaking a rubber stamp machine for a debate. It fell to councillor John Waters (Danson Park, £12,864 and TIC Director) to be prat-of-the-night by preaching to his fellow Tory cabinet members that the cause of all the borough’s ills was the last Labour government. Yes John, we know that this cabinet is not from the top drawer but surely even they don’t need another reminder. Then, suddenly it was all over. 38 minutes, ten cops, several bouncers (someone is already lining up the FOI on the cost), nine members of the public, no press and no protests.

 

15 March (Part 5) - The police state of Bexley

Cameras bannedFollowing the disgrace which was last Wednesday’s full council meeting the Chief Executive Will Tuckley let it be known that anyone wishing to take a camera to council meetings had to seek the permission of the mayor. Taking that as a cue, three emails went to the council seeking permission last Friday afternoon. None has been acknowledged. Mine specifically said that I merely wished to carry the camera in its case because it would have been in use on a prior assignment, and not take photographs inside the Civic Centre.

I was going to contact the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government this afternoon about this further two fingers raised in his direction by Bexley council but out of the blue came confirmation that someone with far more clout than me had done so earlier today.

There is a public cabinet meeting at the Cesspit © at 7:30 this evening. It will be interesting to see if the leader is as scared of democracy as is Twankey.

 

15 March (Part 4) - Thames Innovation Centre (TIC)

While perusing the TIC accounts I noticed several more familiar names. Councillor David Robert Hurt, ex-councillor Daniel Francis, councillor Margaret O’Neill, ex-leader Ian Sydney Clement, Bexley’s Director of Finance Michael George Ellsmore and councillor Gareth Andrew Bacon. None of those are currently directors of TIC. My accountant friend who has quickly scanned the accounts made the following comments…


Considering all they do is dole out grants and receive rental income the ratio of staff costs to turnover seems high.
AGM March 2009 noted the business plan was not seen as viable by the auditors and insolvency had loomed. Luckily Bexley council extended a new loan facility - I guess it really helps to have the councillors on the board.
A Chief Executive was got rid of in 08/09 - as per the AGM detail - she probably had a redundancy package to soften the blow.
No councillor as a director appears to have been paid. (Although, they may have received expenses.)


Another blog about the TIC.

 

15 March (Part 3) - Purple Pygmy porkies?

Albert Road, BexleyAmong several other ill-judged comments he made on 17th November 2010 was councillor Craske’s assertion that he would have the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in Albert Road, Bexley removed “tomorrow”; but he didn’t. Nick Dowling asked him why he did nothing. Craske’s fulsome answer was “One of the St. Mary’s Ward Councillors has carried out a survey of Albert Road residents, asking them if they support Mr. Dowling’s campaign to remove the zone”. That’s it; and we pay him £22,650 for intelligent responses like that! For a start, Nick has never campaigned for removal of any CPZ, he has campaigned for Craske to provide plausible figures to justify the price increase. Craske has never got near to doing that, frequently answering questions that haven’t been asked.

Several questions arise from Craske’s dishonest response…

a) Why does the councillor have to be anonymous? Does he really exist?
b) What questions did he ask, if any, when carrying out this survey?
c) Where is the formal report and conclusions following the survey and what did it say?

Those questions and more are now on Craske’s desk.

One of the things that Craske accused Nick of on 17th November was orchestrating the residents of Albert Road into making many separate complaints. That is true, Nick leafleted the entire street and provided a pro-forma complaint. We are asked to believe that following the survey not one resident of Albert Road thought to say “Guess what Nick, the council asked if I wanted to keep the parking zone”. It could be that they are an unfriendly lot and no one could be bothered to tip Nick off, or it could be Craske’s survey is a figment of his fertile imagination. History stacks the odds very firmly in one direction.

 

15 March (Part 2) - Twankey’s toy-boy doesn’t take orders

She just can’t stop herself; here’s another extract from one of Twankey’s love letters to Nicholas Dowling…


Thank you for your email about the resent (sic) Council meeting. Had you listened to my welcome speech you would have heard that it was a Budget Meeting and not an ordinary Council Meeting, that there was no public participation or any facility for questions from the public. There are, indeed standing orders to cover ALL aspects of the procedures at ALL meetings held by the Council. Should you want to spend the time looking up the Council standing orders you may wish to look at S.O.19(3), S.O.25(ii) and S.O.19(3). (sic repetition.)


So Nick stands accused of trying to participate in Twankey’s pantomime from the wrong side of the orchestra pit and sent away with his tail between his legs to read some boring old Standing Orders. Unlike Citrine’s ABC they are not sitting in his book case ready to throw back at the wicked witch. What to do now Nick? In desperation he searches Bexley’s website for salvation.


Standing Order19(3). No discussion shall take place upon the minutes except upon their accuracy and any question upon their accuracy shall be raised by motion pursuant to S.O.25(ii) below. If no such motion is raised, or if raised then as soon as debate thereon has been concluded, the Mayor shall sign the minutes.

An extract from Standing Order 25(ii)…

INFORMAL MOTIONS WHICH MAY BE MOVED WITHOUT NOTICE

The following motions may be moved without notice…

(ii) That the minutes are or are not accurate, in accordance with S.O.19(3) above.


So what do we have here then? It looks like we have a mayor behaving like an idiot again. She shuts Nick up at the meeting when he is trying to be helpful by bringing a mistake in the minutes to attention. She then writes to him referring him to Standing Orders S.O.19(3) and S.O. 25(ii) to back up her decision but it does no such thing. Corrections to minutes are exempted. It looks like Standing Orders can be added to Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship as things Twankey should have read and memorised but hasn’t.

It seems a shame to let these blogs exposing Mayor Twankey as a complete fool drift into the background come April; so I have honoured her with a page of her own where we can keep them all for delectation at any time. With luck a Google search for ‘Mayor Val Clarke’ will soon provide a link to you know what.

 

15 March (Part 1) - Residents’ Parking Permits

All the figures in this item have come from Councillor Craske (TLC) and included in the minutes of the council meeting of 2nd March. According to Craske his doubled (soon to triple) cost of parking a car within a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) has resulted in a flood of extra customers. Between 2009 and 2010 the number of residents’ permits fell from 3871 to 3081 but apparently the price hike was so popular that the number immediately rose by 20% and visitors’ permits by 40%. Nice round figures don’t you think? Craske says that this is due to the big improvement in the country’s economic fortunes; which is not what government figures show but in pygmy-land maybe…

Again according to TLC, his policy of increasing parking charges is very popular and “supported by two thirds of Bexley residents”. Yes he really had that colossal bit of wishful thinking put into the minutes! Did he take a poll or is he lying again?

What could possibly have caused this big increase in demand for CPZ parking spaces? Have people with drives and concreted front gardens suddenly gone all eco-friendly and replaced them with rose beds? Not that I have noticed. Has there been a massive increase in car ownership encouraged by low fuel costs? I’ve not noticed that either. Has the extra pressure on available CPZ space caused intolerable congestion; again, I don’t think so. The discontent reported in the local papers must have been made up by mischievous journalists. So what is the real reason for this very sudden popular stampede of Bexley residents queuing up to pay more money than ever before? Better ask Craske to tell the truth this time. Oh, someone already has. Let’s see what numbers he makes up next.

 

14 March (Part 3) - Thames Innovation Centre

One of my associates has been poking his nose into the affairs of The Thames Innovation Centre, the Bexley council venture with its former manager now awaiting trial at Woolwich Crown Court. The last published accounts (2010) lists among the names of its directors, Teresa Ann Jude O’Neill, Colin Edward Campbell, John Waters and Linda Jacqueline Bailey. Its turnover was £656,219 and It made a loss of £16,594. You may recognise the names, they are all Bexley councillors. The TIC employed six people at a cost of £168,950 per annum and the directors pocketed £42,400.

I am no accountant and I am having this checked out but it looks to me as though the TIC which is supposed to be some sort of Bexley council flagship enterprise and signposted from most main roads is a drain on us council tax payers but is a nice little earner for the Fat Controller and her cronies. No money for disabled kids but enough to fill their own pockets. The more you find out about them the more dishonourable they look.

 

14 March (Part 2) - ‘Citrine’ is a book, the mayor is a lemon

Citrine's bookSo what was it I found so damned funny about the thought of Nick reading Twankey’s condescending suggestion that he should swat up on Citrine’s book on chairmanship? It was the mental picture of him putting his laptop to one side, getting out of his armchair, taking a few steps to his bookcase and taking his copy of Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship from the shelf. Yes I know small minds are easily amused and all that but the consequences will be enormous; the mayor has in effect invited Nick to take the book to the next council meeting and pick Twankey up on each and every mistake. Let me run through some she made recently…

Paragraph 352 : ‘Questions would not be intelligible unless a few brief introductory sentences were allowed.’
Now that is a particularly nice one as council Standing Orders are in direct conflict with it. It is exactly what Phil was complaining about a week ago. He couldn’t understand any answers because the question wasn’t allowed to be heard. Citrine 1 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 403 : ‘All speeches must be relevant to the subject, and the speaker must not stray from the point.’
So she allows Craske (TLC) to carry out a filibuster, distort the truth on the Brinckerhoff contract and insult a Bexley resident without intervention and then have the gall to defend herself in writing afterwards. Not to mention the dishonest Standards Board supporting her too. Citrine 2 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 430 : ‘If … there is an error in, or an omission from the minutes [you] should insist on the error being rectified.’
Last week she rudely tried to shut Nick Dowling up when he with the good of residents in mind brought an error to Twankey’s attention. Citrine 3 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 442 : ‘You will never achieve success unless you are absolutely impartial.’
Lets Conservatives ramble and cuts Labour councillors’ speeches short. Citrine 4 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 444 : ‘See that speakers do not exceed their time limit.’
Public cut short by four minutes. Councillors allowed an extra five minutes. Citrine 5 : Twankey nil.

Paragraph 456 : ‘It is really no compliment to an audience for a speaker … to get up and spout. They expect something better than mere generalities.’
We are back to O’Neill, Campbell and Craske’s waffling and insults again. Citrine 6 : Twankey nil.

This is déjà vu all over again! It is so like when Andrew Bashford of the road planning department tried to shut me up by referring to some obscure Transport Research Laboratory report on road design, saying he had followed its advice so I must be wrong with my criticisms. Hard luck on Bashford that the head of the TRL department that issued the report is a personal friend and so I got a free copy of the report and a free road inspection. When will these over-paid public servants stop treating us as fools? Bashford hadn’t read the report and Twankey hasn’t read the book, or if she did she has forgotten every last vestige of Citrine’s advice. She has opened a can of worms for herself, I shall be having fun with her mistakes for weeks to come. No, much longer than that!

Clicking the image reveals extracts from the book. Feel free to read it Twankey. Ask nicely and Nick might lend you his copy.

 

14 March (Part 1) - Mayor approves disrespect to residents by councillors. It’s official policy

The following formal question was sent to the council for their next meeting by a resident…


“At the last two full Council Meetings I have noticed that a number of Councillors have turned up for the meeting in a slovenly and unkempt manner. The general demeanour of some Members towards members of the public asking questions is also disrespectful. Can the Leader therefore introduce a dress code for all Members befitting the importance of a full Council Meeting and also remind all Members of the Council that they are Public Servants, paid from the public purse and therefore have a public duty to act with decorum and professionalism when engaged on public duties.”


Given the mayor’s irrational behaviour to the public recently, choosing to write to them at home for “parsimonious appreciation” and the like the reply was not unexpected… “The Mayor has ruled this question out of order as vexatious and it will therefore not go forward to the next Council meeting.”

So it’s official then. Councillors are encouraged to not answer questions posed by members of the public, laugh at them, ridicule them, cut their question time short and offend their ears with the cry of “tosser”. We should have expected nothing less from a mayor so disrespectful of residents and council procedures. Labelling something vexatious is the last refuge of a council scoundrel - with apologies to Samuel Johnson.

 

13 March (Part 2) - The chocolate fireguard - will it stand the heat?

Citrine's bookThis is going to have to be strung out for one more day as it needs to be savoured; by me at least. I keep imagining the mayor sitting in her parlour in the pantomime dame’s outfit thinking how clever she is to recommend that Nicholas Dowling goes and reads a book on chairmanship; then I think of what Nick did when he read her email. Maybe I am easily amused but this one is going to run and run, all because Twankey thinks she can out-smart Nick.

Maybe I should introduce him properly. Nick is a young man (by my standards) with a BSc (Hons) degree in Public & Social Administration. Public Administration? Nice one Nick, maybe you should be Mayor. He also has a small string of mathematic qualifications which is why he is able to count to 15 without getting stuck at eleven.

Perhaps I should introduce the rest of the people behind Bonkers too. Other than Nick, there is a Legal Executive, a retired Police Inspector, someone who managed a factory employing 1,300 people, a Trade Union official (by coincidence in the same industry as the factory manager) and someone who spent a lifetime sitting at a steering wheel with 40 tons behind him. He is sometimes a little reticent about his lack of academic qualifications, but as we keep telling him, he had far more responsibility and skill than someone who sits in the passenger seat of a small car all day long. (Click on ‘passenger seat’ for explanation.)

Chairmanship is not a completely foreign territory to four of the six but maybe we should bow to Twankey’s superior knowledge of such things; she claims to have read Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship which whilst it may now be out of print is still widely considered to be the chairman’s bible. If she knows that book inside out as she implies, she is never going to make any mistakes is she and all that has been reported before must be malicious tittle-tattle?

So what did young Nick do when he read that email from Twankey… You may have guessed already but I’m not going to tell you until tomorrow; which may be seen as a cruel suspense for Twankey but after seeing the tearful eyes of all the young mums of disabled children streaming from last Wednesday’s meeting I simply do not care. If Twankey can withdraw support on the grand scale from such deserving people while being part of a gang that refuses to reduce their allowances which are almost exactly half what they spend on the disabled, why should she think she shouldn’t be subjected to daily criticism and ridicule?

 

13 March (Part 1) - Councillors powerless - and a school lays obstacles in front of a disabled mother

Bedonwell SchoolIt is about time I gave an update on the plight of the disabled lady I have been escorting to school for the last two weeks. Nothing useful has happened since I gave her the names of her three local councillors and she phoned councillor John Fuller (Lesnes Abbey, £9,543). Councillor Fuller emailed back a week ago (a caring person would have returned the phone call don’t you think?) to say there was nothing to be done at present and left the impression he would be back with something more constructive. I assumed he was going to have a word with Bedonwell School governor and fellow ward councillor John Davey, (Lesnes Abbey, £9,543 + £7,782 from the Bexley Care Trust) but apparently not. But Davey in my experience is pretty useless as a councillor, he is the reason why this website exists. I bet his fellow councillors love him for that.

Is there any good news? Well possibly. It seems that bus drivers are as frightened of cameras as Moneybags, Twankey and the Fat Controller are, except that bus drivers getting over-zealous about a buggy on a one stop ride immediately change their minds whereas the Fat Controller is going to need a ton of bricks dropped on her from Whitehall and Westminster before she and her police minders accept that, in the words of an email from Westminster, “Bexley is dragged into the 21st century”. That man has spoken, will he act?

If you click on the picture you may read the disabled lady’s story. For a more permanent link the page is available from the site’s main pages via the Services menu - ‘Disabilities issues’.

 

12 March (Part 3) - Germany calling

I had an email from Germany this morning with a politely worded complaint about the text size on this blog. I now have an image in my mind of a monocled man in a long dirty raincoat and a Homburg hat squinting through the smoke curling from the end of his cigarette holder sniggering Haw Haw at Twankey and the Fat Controller’s pathetic attempt to Lord it over Bexley. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour? Perhaps that is a cue to remind readers of the Configure option on the menu above. I spent a whole day getting that to work and now I find it is too complicated for even a German to understand. I don’t know how to make it simpler.

The German pointed out a spelling error on this page. He must have gone to grammar school unlike the poor kids of Thamesmead who passed the exam and find a heartless council saying they live too far away to go. When I went to grammar school I travelled ten miles on two buses to get there each morning.

 

12 March (Part 2) - The police state of Bexley

It has been confirmed that by some miracle my count of 27 policeman bent on assisting Bexley council defy government policy last Wednesday was correct. In addition there was a large number of bouncers that the council had spent your money on. The cost of that operation will presumably find its way into the list of expenditure over £500 that the government has forced Bexley to publish, albeit a couple of months after the event. In an effort to save you the wait, one my followers, acting independently, Olly of Crayford has submitted the following Freedom of Information request…

On the 9th March 2011 the council employed the services of a security company for the duration of the budget meeting.


a) What was the name of the security company who was employed by the council?
b) Did the council put a tender out for these services?
c) How much did the council spend on bringing in additional security staff?
d) Were all security staff SIA registered as required by law?
e) What measures did the council take to ensure that employees of said security company were indeed SIA registered?
f) Who authorised this expenditure? Please also provide invoices to substantiate.
g) Do any council employees have any vested interests in this company?


Thank you Olly, I can’t do everything myself.

 

12 March (Part 1) - The chocolate teapot - it spouts and drips but it has no handle

Widow TwankeyHis success in exposing the false accounting councillor Craske (TLC) used to excuse his tripling of the price of Residents’ Parking Permits does not make Nicholas Dowling a popular man in council circles. His questions at meetings have provoked the mayor into losing her cool several times, last week she even lost her wrist watch, and she just doesn’t understand Dennis Healey’s old adage, ‘When in a hole stop digging’ or in teapot terminology, ‘keep your lid on’.

To prove the point Twankey wrote Nick a letter complaining that he didn’t clap loudly enough when he found himself part of an audience at an awards ceremony. He wasn’t even supposed to be there, the council had messed up its published schedule of meetings. What the hell is a mayor doing picking out individual members of the public and taking the trouble to write to them saying their “appreciation had been parsimonious”? But all credit to Nick; of all the people in the council chamber, the mayor couldn’t keep her eyes off him. Watch it Twankey, you are old enough to be his mother!

Last Wednesday Nick attempted to draw Twankey’s attention to an error in the minutes that had become available only a few minutes earlier. Minutes which Twankey had already acknowledged no one had had time to read. Nick got a put down and the unread minutes got signed off, mistake and all. As I said, the mayor is no Dennis Healey so she piled in with an email to Nick. It said…


It is because I am “a Chairwoman with so many years of self-acknowledged experience” that I adhere strictly to standing orders, protocols and laid down procedures. If residents have concerns that they want to express, there are many ways for them to do so and I advise them to take advantage of these facilities. There is accountability and openness at every stage of the Councils committee process, which are open for residents to participate in. To try to engage in that process at the ratifying stage is not particularly helpful to either party.

The Council does not produce verbatim minutes. Verbatim responses to questions from both the public and Members are produced, along with written replies to question that were not reached. These are produced approximately a week later. You can find everything that you wish to know on the Council’s web site. I (sic) appears, from your questions, that you are not particularly aware of how formal meetings are structured. May I suggest that you study Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship, edited by Michael Cannell and Norman Citrine? It is a very useful book for people wishing to understand more about formal procedures, processes and associated matters to do with official meetings.

I hope that my email helps you in understanding Bexley Council a bit more but please do not hesitate to look anything up on the web site, that you are still not sure about.


Condescending eh? I suppose you want to know what happened next? I’m sorry it’s going to have to wait, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and rolling around with mirth at what is coming next from Nick. No I’m sorry I can’t go on, this is just too hilarious.

Before I go I should explain my use of the teapot joke. It came to me from one of Twankey’s own lieutenants. He said she is an embarrassment and as much use as a chocolate teapot. No I am not making that up, he really said it and not anonymously either. Why would I make something up and risk being caught out for that when there are so many other provable events to draw on? The phrase “a Chairwoman with so many years of self-acknowledged experience” is drawn from one of Nick’s emails to the mayor and I believe a reference to the ‘God’s gift’ to chairmanship letter she sent to me.

 

11 March (Part 6) - “Unaccountable, Undemocratic and Unfit for Office”

Another on-line comment about Bexley council’s two-fingered salute to government policy. He nicked my photos, I’m gonna sue!

 

11 March (Part 5) - Some lighter stuff

Let’s get away from Bexley’s mad scramble to restrict civic rights for a moment and take a look at something I regard as just an oversight; I hope I am not being too generous. It concerns the Arts Council website which councillor John Davey has done quite a nice job on and paid for it too. He had a silly run-in with the Bexleyheath Chronicle’s letter pages after putting political links on its front page which you can read about here if you feel the need; but he apparently came to his senses and quietly removed the political links only a day or two after they were defended at last week’s council meeting.

If you take a look at his site (Google Arts Council of Bexley - I’m not going to give him a link and further boost his search engine ratings - and then add ETCA/councilelections.html behind the final .org.uk/ of the web address you will discover all sorts of political stuff remains on the Arts Council website. I can’t find a link to it from the main pages and as Mr. Davey pays to store those pages there I can’t see any harm in it. From what I have read it is all hopelessly out of date electoral statistics and it bears last year’s copyright date. Compared to the threat of arrest for trying to follow government guidelines it’s pretty small beer. Fun and games coming with Twankey though, that will be more fun.

Since I do not feel well disposed to the police today I shall in an act of pure self indulgence refer you to www.justice4daniel.org. You may recognise the style of the website. Daniel Morgan was part of my extended family and until recent years the Metropolitan Police were as bent as you could possibly imagine about the investigation of his murder. It is pretty much certain that one of their officers was very closely involved.

 

11 March (Part 4) - The police state of Bexley

This has been a rather mundane day for blogs. This morning and this afternoon I have requested some accommodation for myself who regularly a carries a camera around town and may end up at a council meeting with no interest in taking photos of it. I am hopeful of getting a resolution to that rather small ambition. Anything greater such as the videoing of a complete meeting as another of my associates was allowed to do at Westminster earlier this week will probably have to wait until the Parliamentary Under Secretary exerts more pressure or the mayor and leader come to their senses. Of the former I am not hopeful. She has again been stupid enough to send a condescending letter to a resident that is going to rebound on her big time. I can hardly wait; hoist with her own petard. I think I will let her stew a while. What do you reckon, 24 hours or 48?

 

11 March (Part 3) - Fishing trips

I don’t know why they bother, my name and phone number is on the site, I’m almost the last person that remains in an ever thinner phone book and if that doesn’t work those who are even slightly net savvy can find my address on WHOIS. I don’t make much of an attempt to hide myself. Very occasionally a councillor emails me and we have a civilised exchange of information - never views for some odd reason. So why do they try thinly disguised fishing trips?

I had one yesterday which suggested I was a journalist by profession. Is that a compliment? I told him I worked for BT until retirement and scraped an O Level GCE English pass in 1959. We swapped a few innocuous emails and then I quoted from an ex-councillor’s communication which said some councillors were ‘scared shitless’ and let him know I knew who he was. Didn’t hear a thing after that. I think I can use the phrase ‘scared shitless’ now that mayor Twankey has approved the use of the word “tosser” in the council chamber can’t I?

 

11 March (Part 2) - The police state of Bexley

Dear Mr Neill,

I refer to your letter dated 23 Feb to all council leaders about transparency at meetings.

Until last week I was always free to go into open council meetings with a camera. I don’t use it there, I simply carry one with me most of the time.

However in response to your letter Bexley council went to the expense of printing a new leaflet banning all cameras and other recording devices from their public meetings. This is typical of their perverse disregard for both guidance and the law.

I have been informed by Bexley police (the council rarely responds to any communication from me) that if I attempt to enter next Tuesday’s public meeting with a camera, to use or not, and a council official asks me not to I will be arrested.

This two fingered salute in your direction needs to be tackled vigorously and I trust you will be the man to do it.

This is necessarily a very abbreviated account of recent events but it is an accurate one. Full details are available on my blog www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk

Thank you for attempting to introduce transparency to local government but clearly you have a way to go yet.

yours sincerely,

Malcolm Knight

Mr. Neill is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government and MP for Bromley and Chislehurst.

 

11 March (Part 1) - The police state of Bexley

Today has been one for letters and telephone calls. The police have advised me that I will be arrested if I attempt to take a camera into the Civic Offices if a council official says I mustn’t. I have spoken to the Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and he is most concerned that Bexley council received government advice and then spent money on doing the opposite. He wants full details as soon as possible.

The policeman you see immediately below advertised in this week’s News Shopper to introduce himself to residents of the borough saying he wanted “to gain the confidence of all residents”. He will need to do a lot better than he has done so far.

 

10 March (Part 4) - The pub round up

We hadn’t been in the pub long when another group arrived and sat close by. They too had been for a night at the cesspit © and were, err, a bit loud shall I say; which was good because we could ear-wig them. They seemed to be well informed so I went across and asked where they got their info from. “Off the web” they said so I asked the obvious question. “Bonkers” they said which was my cue to introduce myself more formally. The start of a new relationship possibly? As you might expect, those attending council meetings for longer than me had a few more stories to reveal and contacts to draw on. The name Philip Read (Northumberland Heath, £9,543) cropped up so I took the opportunity to ask if they had any idea why he had registered bexley-is-bonkers.com and what he planned to do with it. They didn’t know Read that well but said he would have registered it because he is a complete idiot. I suspected as much.

One was some sort of accountant with a schools connection. He was highly amused by what he said was fact. There was no way Bexley could charge an academy school £68,000, I think he said, for refuse services because the school had already done a deal with Bromley to collect their rubbish for a lot less.

Today has been interesting too. There have been at least two complaints to MPs about Bexley’s blatant breaking of government guidelines on openness. Another to Tuckley on the same matter with some intriguing extras which I know little of as yet, and a complaint direct to mayor Twankey about her lack of chairmanship skills. Perhaps someone could set up a macro to generate one of those after every council meeting. Maybe a form on this website to auto-generate complaints? I’ll have to think about it.


Commander Dave StringerThe fuzz have advised that Glyn Jones is no longer their Commander in Bexley - well they should keep their website up to date then! The new man is Dave Stringer and he is said to be keen to “gain the confidence of all Bexley residents by listening and responding to their concerns”. Going along with councils that threaten the arrest of photographers operating in accordance with government guidelines is a very odd way of going about gaining that respect. I’ll let you know if I get an apology.

Tomorrow as on all recent days I shall be up and about early to help a mother use the B11 to get up a hill. We are still waiting for councillor Fuller to do something but I doubt he can due to an excess of red tape. But the good news is that ‘man with big camera’ seems to work like a charm on bus drivers. This morning we broke the two buggy only rule and the driver didn’t bat an eye-lid. Good job the Fat Controller didn’t have it confiscated last night and councillor Ball saved me from being deposited in a police cell. Democracy eh? What would we do without it?

 

10 March (Part 3) - Sense and sensibilities with a whole lot of nonsense mixed in

There were never going to be any pictures in this section but the threat of arrest for the crime of carrying a Pentax with intent to leave it in its bag made it a certainty. I’m not sure I can be bothered writing another long blog so I will just say that some Conservative cabinet members blew their own trumpets, the Labour people put forward an alternative strategy to cat-calls and jeering by the Tories while the chairman looked bored (she really did!), there was no debate, the chairman forbade it, they took a vote which was a foregone conclusion and 85 minutes after the meeting started I was off down the pub with a couple of friends. That’s it, no idea why they did it really, a total waste of time unless you were a tattooed bouncer on a nice little earner. But I’m not being fair, a couple of councillors put in a good performance, I almost said impressive but I didn’t, but nevertheless they shouldn’t all be tarred with the same brush so I had better do the decent thing.

Twankey kicked off by saying she was going to kick out any resident in the public gallery who might be sufficiently naive as to believe government policy carried any weight in Bexley and proceeded to ride rough-shod over a resident who gave her the good advice that the minutes she was about to sign were false. This after she acknowledged that there had been no time for anyone to read the minutes in advance, but she signed them anyway. Did I say she was an utter twit yesterday? I did? Good; saves me doing it again.

The encouraging start (the day they do things right I am out of a job) was followed by the Fat Controller (FC) flinging insults at the Labour opposition and blowing her own trumpet loudly - well more of a fog-horn than a trumpet really. The Labour councillors took it all in their stride, they must be used to it by now. FC was followed by her deputy Simon Windle (Barnehurst, £27,048) which was a welcome relief. He spoke calmly and eloquently with a degree of dignity that FC is incapable of showing. Not once did he insult the opposition and got his message across clearly and quickly. Maybe when O’Neill is safely ensconced in the arms of Boris (see below) and we no longer have to pay the parasite for swanning around London we can ask Simon to take her place. We don’t want to hear the Fat Controller saying she has consulted residents because she spoke to a whole “three people” in a library nor do we want to hear her say again she is “smart” and imply the opposition isn’t.

When the Labour opposition was allowed to put forward its alternative budget strategy the mood of the meeting instantly changed; from out of nowhere a baying mob appeared jeering and thumping their desks. It was the Conservative councillors in full unruly flow. While councillor Malik (Thamesmead East, £9,543) was struggling to make himself heard the cry of “tosser” rang out from the Conservative benches. The God’s gift to chairmanship mayor let it go unchallenged and needs a serious talking to by someone; but who? My after meeting enquiries confirmed I wasn’t hallucinating and a number of fingers were pointed in councillor Catterrall’s direction (Falconwood & Welling, £22,650). I was at the back of the chamber so cannot myself be sure, perhaps if I am wrong the councillor will let me know so that I can edit a few words.

Against the hubbub I detected that councillor Malik spoke passionately about the plight of the poor he represented and called the Conservatives a ‘stealth tax party’. As a Labour man he should know one when he sees one.

Brenda Langstead (North End, £12,114) said the budget consultation process was not user-friendly. Anyone who attempted to visit the BexleyTalks website would know exactly what she meant. She explained why the Roadshows were a disaster; no Brenda they were a fraud. As you indicated, the schedule was kept a state secret and Moneybags and the Fat Controller went out of their way to dodge the Roadshows. Ask for a schedule and it didn’t exist.

Leader of the opposition, councillor Chris Ball (Erith, £22,750) was met with jeers as soon as he stood up. He struck a chord with me by saying he was comfortably off with a good income, lived in a relatively crime-free neighbourhood, had no children to support and the cuts were going to pass him by while he benefitted from the tax freeze. Ouch Chris, have a heart, this old Tory is still thinking about that.

Gareth Bacon (Longlands, £22,650) spoke in opposition to the Labour amendment and went through the reasons why this country is in the financial hell hole it is. He mentioned £120 million a day interest on our debts to cries of “what a load of rubbish” from the audience and explained that value for money didn’t mean spending an extra £300,000 for a miserly extra 5% of recycling. Not financially justified. I have a personal problem in commenting on councillor Bacon’s speech. If I had been in his position I would have been proud to have said exactly the same. So now I am agreeing with Chris Ball and Gareth Bacon; does that make me a bloody Liberal? But I have an idea. Make up a council of Simon, Gareth and Chris, double their allowances and give the brainless amateurs the elbow starting with Twankey.

Councillor Chris TaylorSpeaking of amateurs, councillor Chris Taylor stood up to make his maiden speech. Crikey! How long is it since he was elected? Long enough to dream up an absolute beauty of an insult to the Labour opposition; it’s so original that I shall savour it for minutes to come. He accused Chris Ball of cobbling together his budget plans “;on the back of a fag packet”. Yeah I reckon little Chris really hurt poor old big Chris don’t you? After that Taylor’s speech sort of withered and died, I didn’t notice him sit down and I doubt anyone else did either. Do us a favour Chris, go back home and get your mother to stuff a dummy in your mouth again until you grow up.

Councillor Deadman (Labour, North End, £12,114) came up with something very weird and I’m beginning to expect it from him. I’m pretty sure I heard him against the din speaking up for high levels of top official’s pay. Don’t tell me he has taken a fancy to the Fat Controller too. Watch out Boris.

And that was pretty much it. Not so much a council meeting but a convention of rubber-stamp merchants. Pub blog coming later, that’s where all the real sense is spoken.

 

10 March (Part 2) - The Guilty and the Gullible - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

O'Neill and Boris Johnson. Birds of a feather Conditions of entry Council lackey with megaphoneAt every council meeting I have been to in the past you walk in with brief case, shopping bag or whatever and sit down more or less where you like. Last night was different; Will Tuckley (CEO) had sprung into action for maybe the first time in his career, probably at the behest of Fat Controller O’Neill and her Monitoring Officer. Someone had let it be known that they planned to exercise their government encouraged right to video a council meeting and suddenly young mums with disabled children in tow and harmless elderly gentlemen of Indian descent together with their ladies are transformed into would-be terrorists.


Commander Glyn Jones In the space of three days bent Bexley’s bureaucrats had also gone into over-drive and hired the services of a security company (I asked two who employed them) and convinced a gullible police commander that they were under threat from a video camera wielding maniac - in fact a local resident with a passion for open government. It wasn’t even an HD model so wrinkly Twankey was under no threat at all - unless perhaps she planned on being stupid again. Perhaps someone should tell Commander Glyn Jones (see blog part 4 above) that his writ extends to protecting citizen’s rights and that government policy should take precedence over the wishes of a motley crew intent on hiding their failures from an inquisitive public - but then we know from correspondence with the Crown Prosecution Service that shielding Bexley councillors from the consequences of their sins is something Bexley’s police happily do.

As well as hiring in a couple of dozen bouncers to intimidate the public, Tuckley and his merry men had produced flyers to stick on windows telling residents what they could and could not do at a public meeting. Never before have protestors been banned from carrying placards and apart from the No Smoking instruction everything on the list of banned activities was specifically encouraged by central government. O’Neill and her band of guidance ignorers went further, they spent your money on a little leaflet to reinforce their anti-democratic views. The leaflet is dated March 2011 and quite likely all council activity stopped in an effort to get it produced in time. The council officer forced to do this was Chris Loynes, it says so on the leaflet. Someone pointed him out to me standing alongside a couple of tattooed thugs. My unkind colleague said his name was “Liar Loynes” and I at first assumed I’d misheard Lyle or some such name. But it is none of these things, he is Chris Loynes and he has deliberately disregarded the Minister’s letter.

Before the doors were unlocked we were treated to a council lackey with a megaphone telling us under what conditions we were going to be allowed in, specifically “no photography” which I assumed meant ‘no photography’. In fact he meant no cameras which should have excluded almost everyone with a mobile phone. When I went through the door with my large camera in its case deep inside an old shopping bag I was herded to one side by one of the heavy mob to be searched by another member of the heavy mob. I was told I couldn’t come in despite the camera being so obvious compared to a mobile there’s no way it could be used without someone noticing. I’d taken the camera equipped with one non-zooming lens capable of getting a picture of a banner from a couple of feet away (see below); it was not the right gear for snapping away at a chain wearing dominatrix 100 feet away. My account of my exchanges with the grossly over-weight bouncer is contained in my complaint to my MP so I won’t repeat it here except to say that councillor Ball quickly realised how stupid Loynes’ instructions were and saved me from the threat of arrest that had been made. He graciously took me to his private office when the meeting ended and returned my camera after I had been initially shoved away from him by a council heavy.

Incidentally, one of my associates asked one of Loynes’ men where the bouncers had come from and was told they were council staff helping out on a busy evening. So it’s not only Loynes who should be nick-named liar, they are all at it. Everyone could see what these large men and women were and me asking them where they were from and getting the real answer wasn’t really necessary.

 

10 March (Part 1) - War & Peace - click any image for photo gallery (6 images)

Bus stop coppers Protest group Protest groupI jumped off the 229 bus outside the Civic Centre at 6:45 last night into the arms of two policemen, well very nearly, and then spotted two more at the bus stop opposite. After explaining to a couple pushing a buggie that there was no impending royal visit, I arrived at the entrance to the cesspit of local government, Bexley’s Civic Centre. The doors were closed and I counted 12 policemen at the entrance. All this because one man had said he wanted to exercise his democratic right and video the proceedings. The government says he should be welcomed (read their letter to the Fat Controller (FC)) but in Bexley because deep corruption needs to be covered up they think otherwise. The council had even gone to the trouble of having a new leaflet printed at your expense which says you can’t record Widow Twankey and her Forty Thieves at a public meeting, contrary to guidance.


Resident excludedAs well as the police presence (I later counted 18 at the front, three inside and six in the car park but not all at the same time so the total number may be lower than 27) there were a dozen or more hired-in heavily tattooed skin-heads and several female versions thereof (who had spent too much of their spare time in McDonalds) with instructions to restrict movement. I was prevented from addressing a councillor by one of them on my way out. It was the most disgraceful sight I have ever seen, all because the top brass among our councillors are scared witless that their long history of abuse of the local population is, thanks to technology and a government with a more liberal approach to democracy than the last one, being ruthlessly exposed. I am beginning to realise now why this government called a conference of site owners who had councils in their sights last September. Obviously they are aware that local councils include far too many ne’er do wells, incompetents and half-wits who don’t know when it is inappropriate for them to keep their silly mouths shut.

This was the night that Bexley council declared war on its citizens. So far today I have heard of two letters of complaint to Under Secretary of State, Bob Neill and one move to pursue a libel case against Twankey. I know no details of the latter but if there are developments you know where they will appear first.

The peaceful protests pictured were by parents concerned at the withdrawal of various care facilities for their disabled children and by the Bexley Council for Equality and Diversity which was awarded an honour at last week’s chaotic awards ceremony.

Those new to terms such as FC and Twankey should note that an explanation is generally available when placing the mouse pointer over the appropriate word. Click on it if it fails to show immediately.

 

9 March (Part 5) - “At odds with the fundamentals of democracy”

Pantomime, farce, disgrace, shameful; however you describe it, this evening’s council meeting will take quite some time to turn into a comprehensive blog; it may well take most of tomorrow and is likely to appear in three parts. Until then I leave you with these words written by Bob Neill, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government which he sent to our Fat Controller only two weeks ago.

“Council meetings have long been open to interested members of the public and recognised journalists, and with the growth of online film, social media and hyper-local online news they should equally be open to ‘Citizen Journalists’ and filming by mainstream media. Bloggers, tweeters, residents with their own websites and users of Facebook and Youtube are increasingly a part of the modern world, blurring the lines between professional journalists and the public.

There are recent stories about people being ejected from council meetings for blogging, tweeting or filming. This potentially is at odds with the fundamentals of democracy and I want to encourage all councils to take a welcoming approach to those who want to bring local news stories to a wider audience.’

Pretty plain speaking eh? Direct and to the point. So what did Mr. Moneybags, Twankey and the Fat Controller do in Bexley tonight? Assembled 18 police in front of the Civic Centre with more behind plus a hired-in collection of tattooed skin-headed heavies and banned anyone with a camera from entering. It was a magnificently staged show of Bexley’s Stalinist approach to democracy and I am deeply grateful to them for providing so much material to assist in bringing their own downfall closer. I’ve heard about people shooting themselves in the foot but never before of it being done with heavy artillery, but when headless chickens are in full panic mode over the truth about the ruling elite being drip-fed daily, it is perhaps a natural, if idiotic, reaction.

 

9 March (Part 4) - They don’t like it up ‘em

If you thought yourself to be God’s gift to chairmanship and found yourself demonstrating the contrary to a public gathering most people might begin to kick themself for it. But maybe if you were sufficiently lacking in intellect to not know when to stop digging you would try to kick the gathering instead. Which is what mayor Val Clark did last Wednesday. She threw her weight around by trashing council Standing Orders and curtailed public question time.

In days gone by a corrupt council may have got away with that and relied on a straight denial to shield wrong-doing from a wider audience but video-man has seen an end to that sort of dishonesty; so where to next? First call plod to subsequent meetings in case there is an attempt to expose the pantomime dame’s dishonesty again; then lash out at those who tried to bring her to account.

This morning’s post delivered a letter from Twankey to those who asked questions at last Wednesday’s meeting about their “persistent disregard of my request” to cease their address to council. If it happens again “I will not hesitate to exercise my discretion in limiting your participation in the meeting”. The sheer effrontery of the woman who had just trashed democracy and thinks it is right to send letters to tell concerned residents that if they persist in bringing her ‘error’ to public attention she will have them barred is beyond parody. I am inclined to think that it is proof of her stupidity that she didn’t think her letter would appear here within hours of its delivery. Is she totally brain-dead?

But that isn’t all…

Twankey’s letter goes on to say “I wish to place on record my profound disappointment of your behaviour during the Civic Reception Awards. At best, your appreciation towards the recipients of the awards was parsimonious in contrast to other persons present in the Council Chamber, in my opinion this behaviour was disrespectful to those who contributed significantly to the community”. This really takes the biscuit. Let’s examine a few facts…

The council’s website said a council meeting would start at 19:30. Normally access is granted from before 19:00. This time a large number of mainly elderly people were kept outside in the cold until 19:20. When we got inside we found attendees of the council meeting were herded to the back of the chamber while an unannounced awards ceremony took place. If the mayor had any respect for the long serving award winners she would have provided them with their own event away from placard waving protestors and provided an official photographer. Twankey has no respect for any citizen worthy or not.

Those awaiting the council meeting did not expect to find themselves sitting through an awards ceremony because none was scheduled. Twankey showed disrespect to them too. If they were not as enthusiastic about the awards as the friends and family of those taking part, what else does she expect? They probably wouldn’t have even been there apart from the total cock-up the mayor made of scheduling. I was sitting next to two of the people who have received these rude and unthinking letters from the mayor and saw them clapping. I noted it because I had my head in the evening’s agenda and wasn’t and felt I had to join in. What were we supposed to do apart from clap, jump up and down and sing ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’? The mayor is a complete and utter twit, just what does she think she is playing at complaining about someone not clapping loud enough at an event where they shouldn’t have been present anyway? Twit doesn’t really sum her up does it? It’s beyond belief but at least it proves she knows who to watch in the audience and that such people must be making an impression. They were half hidden in the back row!

Maybe she is a desperate woman frightened about what may be revealed next. My phone line has been quite hot with scandal today; I’ve not seen the evidence of one report yet but I have been promised a sight of it soon. It concerns someone who made a persistent complaint and was sent veiled written threats from the council’s legal department as to what would happen if he continued. Eventually the complainer secured a meeting with council officials. On his way in an employee who had remembered who was paying him drew him to one side. “Be careful, they are out to get you” and “for goodness sake remember your wife’s wellbeing too”. What is this borough like? How far will they go with their cover-ups? How long before plod changes sides?

 

9 March (Part 3) - Go compare 3

I was in Newham yesterday and had the opportunity to read their local newspapers and the council’s fortnightly magazine. I am always on the lookout for things that Bexley does better than their counterparts across the river and I found something! Newham has just introduced a single wheelie-bin for plastic and tins; a far better arrangement than Bexley’s flimsy boxes which crack in cold weather. However Newham suffered a serious breakdown of good taste; their new bins are green with luminous orange lids. These things are intrinsically ugly but why make them glow brighter than the purple pygmy? One up to Bexley!

On the negative side there is yet more evidence of Bexley’s wanton inefficiency. You will know that TLC is pushing up the cost of a Residents’ Parking Permit to £100 and a visitor’s ticket to £1.50 because the liar says Bexley’s Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) run at a loss. Across the river, as part of their cuts package they have confirmed that residents won’t have to pay to park in a CPZ because the scheme is self-financing. They have looked at the 30 pence they charge for a visitor’s ticket and have decided that it isn’t fair for car owner to get free parking while a household with no car has to stump up 30 pence for a visitor; so from April non-car households will be given 30 free visitor’s tickets. How about that then? A council does not have to be comprised of cheap crooks after all.

I suspect that will involve serious IT systems to regulate properly, Bexley’s system can’t cope with keeping track of paid tickets let alone a ration of free ones.

Another thing that demonstrates how Bexley must be leeching cash down a black-hole somewhere is that every Newham child of primary and infant school age becomes entitled to free school dinners. Whether that is good or bad is not for me with no children to say, but I would love to know what Bexley is doing on the financial side that leads to nothing but grief for residents.

Another thing their fortnightly magazine claimed is that to prepare, print and issue 26 copies a year to every household costs £500,000. I suspect a Freedom of Information request will soon discover how much Bexley manages to spend on propaganda here.

 

9 March (Part 2) - Death of democracy

I understand that after I left last week’s meeting and the powers-that-be realised that Twankey’s rule breaking and the ridiculing of and gesturing at the public had gone down on tape - not to mention TLC’s neon glow, there was a bit of a commotion when they tried to get hold of it. This week I believe that our secretive council doesn’t want to risk their antics becoming more public than they have to so they have summoned plod. I had guessed they might involve their friends. Friends so close that they couldn’t bring themselves to tell them about Ian Clement’s not-so-little financial fiddles. The council website still says they haven’t got all the money back yet. But I digress…

My information is that the police are going to be at the Civic Centre tonight (19:30) and plod will hide from protesters in the car park. Another inside story is that councillors have been advised to remove name badges and parking permits so as to not be singled out for attention. Not sure I believe that last bit, I’ve never seen a name badge on a councillor yet and I don’t know who is planning a protest. All we have had by way of protestors so far is disability campaigners, the Equality and Diversity people and one of two book-worms worried about libraries. Not what I would call a threat. But if our councillors think a man with a video camera at a public meeting is a threat then perhaps you can get some idea of the depth of corruption they are trying to cover up.

May I ask that anyone thinking of attending this evening’s meeting does not play the council’s game? The best way of bringing down the charlatans who run Bexley council is to ruthlessly expose them at every opportunity, through questioning, complaints and publicity. Don’t give these grinning apes the satisfaction of seeing someone taken away by the thugs in blue.

 

9 March (Part 1) - Go compare 2

At last Wednesday’s public council meeting one gentleman who I hadn’t seen before videod the disgraceful spectacle and I had a word with him at the interval to ensure he kept the tape as it will be vital evidence when Bexley’s Standards Board which has a track record for dishonesty absolves Twankey of breaking the Standing Orders, the relevant part of which she read out before the meeting started. I understand this gentleman was later told he must turn his camera off.

There is another council meeting tonight and the video-man has written to the council about his filming activities. He has made a major breakthrough for accountability in Bexley; he not only got a reply but it came from Mr. Moneybags himself. Never before have I known Will Tuckley reply to anything, nor has anyone else I know of, but apparently making a record of a public meeting justifies a quarter million pounds’ worth of executive muscle to swing into play. Moneybags’ letter says…

“The Council, consisting of the democratically elected representatives of the borough, has a Protocol governing the way meetings are conducted. This states that permission from the Mayor, the Chairman of the meeting, is required for “any video or audio visual recording of proceedings”. You do not have that permission. Consequently you will not be able to film the meeting.”

Democratic eh? But you can understand why. Youtube would be a perfect place to show a smirking Twankey and her gang laughing at members of the public and breaking their own rules. Then everyone could see what a despicable lot they are. In any case Tuckley is almost certainly lying, he will have made that rule up yesterday and possibly written a note in his protocol’s margin as tin-pot dictators will.

So the compare…  One of my regular contacts attended a meeting of Westminster City Council yesterday and took his video camera with him. He asked if it was OK to use it and they said “yes, OK, go ahead”. Bexley as usual (and understandably) wants to hide their dishonesty as much as possible. These greedy and largely useless individuals have got away with it for far too long.

 

8 March (Part 2) - Bureaucracy gone mad

Teresa Pearce MP Councillor John FullerLast week and this I have been escorting a lady on the school run. She is disabled with a boy aged 4¾ and another just six months. She wasn’t getting any help and she still isn’t except that I have tried to be not far away in case of trouble. There seems to be help available for disabled adults, especially if a wheel chair is involved, and even more if one’s children are disabled but a disabled mother with a fit four year old and a baby in a buggy gets pretty much nothing. This mum cannot walk far, fast or uphill without getting into a situation that involves an ambulance and a day in A&E but no one seems to make allowances for her plight. I have been shocked to hear of the reaction of bus drivers and passengers alike to a mother physically unable to fold her buggy and I’ve seen signs of it myself.

Teresa Pearce, her MP has pointed her in all the right directions and councillor John Fuller has recently been looking for a solution, but as yet there is none. Ironically the impediments are in part caused by legislation passed by Teresa’s party when it was last in government and petty rules imposed by Bexley council that no one can now get around. The school itself doesn’t exactly help either.

I shall make a full report on this sad reflection on our society by the weekend and report on further progress, if any, weekly.

 

8 March (Part 1) - Thames Innovation Centre

Someone asked if I thought it would eventually transpire that councillor Campbell was intimately mixed up in the seedier side of the goings on at The Thames Innovation Centre. A resounding “No” was my answer and it is something I have never even considered. Read it again!

 

7 March (Part 5) - Craske’s department. Wickedness and waste

When I launched this site I had in mind producing a permanent record of Bexley council’s worst excesses, stupidity, spite and corruption. To this end I regularly extracted stories from newspapers and published web pages based on them which unlike the papers weren’t going to be thrown in the recycling bin at the end of the week. A catalogue of shame. There are many such pages littered across this site linked from the menus above but with so much material now flowing in that is not such a practical proposition as it takes too long and is arguably not the best way to ensure everything is seen. The Miscellany menu includes a link to Latest additions but I get the impression it is not much used, hence the increasing use of the blog. However today I have added a new page, it is listed elsewhere under ‘Parking harassment’ and it may help to illustrate why TLC’s parking department is so heavily overstaffed compared to the lean one in Newham that manages to run its CPZs at no direct cost to residents. The new report, though not of a recent incident, displays not only the sheer wickedness of people like Craske and Tina Brooks (parking manager) but also their willingness to pour our money down the drain in pursuit of petty vendettas. Not unlike the one I reported last Saturday.

 

7 March (Part 4) - Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich

“Personally I think we need to descend on Councillor Teresa O’Neill with flaming torches and pitchforks, as it would seem that she and her scheming cohorts are impervious to reasoned argument.”

I always take a few minutes off on a Sunday evening to see what Neil has to say on his bl og.It has always had a link from this site and for the past six months vice-versa. Hello Neil, I couldn’t agree more with what you say about Fat Controller O’Neill. Last weekend I had a call from someone who wanted to go to the last council meeting with a petrol bomb; seriously I did but persuaded him otherwise.

Note: It’s an illustration of how annoyed and disappointed the people of Bexley are with their council but said caller is obviously heavily into metaphor.

 

7 March (Part 3) - Better than watching TV

I and my habitual colleagues had resolved not to let the corruption and deceit of councillors visibly annoy us come next Wednesday night (Civic Centre 19:30) and give Mr. Easton a less stressful evening but it seems the younger element may have other ideas after witnessing last Wednesday’s democratic farce. It is so good to see residents of the pre-Freedom Pass generation getting interested in the crooked goings on at Bexley council. Here is a flavour of what may be in store. Looks like a night not to be missed.

 

7 March (Part 2) - Admiring glances

Do you know why Boris Johnson chose Teresa O’Neill to be his Advisor on Outer Borough Relations? No? Neither does Boris really, he just has this feeling of “admiration for councillor O’Neill’s experience, common sense and judgment when it comes to matters affecting outer London”. Is he serious? Did he compare her performance with other councillors and leaders scattered around the capital and how they must feel about being passed over? Do you wonder how our Fat Controller (FC) managed to triumph over all the rival candidates? Then wonder no more. Boris didn’t hold any sort of interview or selection process when he chose the FC. He just admired her. Maybe he needs to keep her on side because of the Ian Clement affair, the FC managed to avoid doing the decent thing about his little fiddles in Bexley and got away with it but Boris got caught out. Hers is a skill worth its weight in gold to a politician. Boris has something of a track record for casting admiring glances at females who come within his grasp. How do you rate his chances with this one? I reckon he has taken on more than he could chew.

Quotations and facts taken from the reply to a Freedom of Information request to the Mayor’s Office.

 

7 March (Part 1) - Street clutter - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Bus diversion sign New road layout ahead New road layout aheadI lost an old friend last week, we were only on nodding terms as we passed in the street but he provided a small diversion on the way to the station each morning. And now he is gone. I took his photo only a week ago but by Thursday he had disappeared leaving nothing but a cable tie around a lamp post. He’d had a good life for a bus diversionary notice, it’s more than two years since Thames Water’s activities occasioned his arrival. I expect a vandal had him or maybe a resident who got fed up with his eternal presence flapping in the breeze.

I doubt the council had anything to do with it despite a couple of councillors passing by fairly often; otherwise more than one nearby redundant notice may have got the chop. Why can’t they take as much pride in their surroundings as they do their personal bank accounts?

Did you know the council has a budget for ‘Street clutter’? Neither did I but it gets a mention in the cabinet agenda for last Monday’s meeting. Unfortunately it doesn’t say whether the £54,000 spent last year (£50k. next) is for installing clutter or removing it. I doubt it is removing it or these two signs would surely have gone long ago. For how long does a road junction remain new anyway? Why does anyone need to be told for more than a few months? Locals find out very quickly, they’ve been held up by the preceding road works so don’t need to be told. Strangers to town don’t need telling because everything is new to them. It’s probably ridiculous to put the signs up in the first place. It’s definitely ridiculous to have them there for three years or more like these two.

 

6 March (Part 4) - Go compare

I came to Bexley almost a quarter of a century ago to escape the clutches of a loony left council intent on jacking up the rates as fast as they could and handing out the money to one-legged immigrant lesbian societies and the like. You remember the sort of thing; madness. I decided that I’d move to where the councils appeared to be the least spendthrift and at the bottom of the rates tables at the time were Bexley, Bromley and Wandsworth. I couldn’t afford to buy a house in Wandsworth even if I had wanted to so it became a toss-up between a semi-detached house in Bromley or a detached one in Bexley. At the time I tended to play music too loud so it is obvious which was more appealing - I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it were otherwise. What has gone wrong since? Bexley has climbed from close to bottom of the rates table to almost top of the council tax table.

The rot seems to have set in about the time councillors decided they needed to take money, loadsa money, for what used to be a labour of love. It attracted a different sort of councillor and it has gradually degenerated to the point where we now have a council of professional trough snufflers. Councillor Ball (Erith, £22,750, Labour) didn’t do us any favours when he was in charge and running amok with his avowed intention of whacking up council tax as fast as he could and be proud of it - he told me so personally - but the Tories are complacent and not really any better. After they got in they bragged about the lower tax increases but they were still the highest in London; even this year when there will be a freeze Bexley is the last council to announce it. It doesn’t formally happen until next Wednesday when the full council meets to rubber-stamp the cabinet decision of last Monday night. So I have begun to wonder what has happened to all the extra money they have been collecting for so long. It can’t all get lost via personal credit card fiddles surely?

Band D council tax in Bexley is £1,427. In Bromley it is £1,289 and in Newham, which I know quite well, it is £1,255. In Wandsworth it is £681. (Source : UpMyStreet.com). So presumably Bexley has far better services or it has accumulated a heap of money in the bank. Err… no. Bromley has £50 million in the bank and thinks its getting dangerously low and Bexley is down to its last £10m. Can’t be that then.

Cheap services maybe? Err… no again. Bexley has just announced the cost of removing a large item of junk is to rise to £28. Across the river it is to remain free.

Parking charges then? ‘fraid not. In Bexley a residents’ permit is soon to hit £100, more in some places. Bromley charges variable rates between £35 and £75. Across the river they have just announced it will stay free because it is self-financing. When the Fat Controller (FC) goes flouncing into Sir Robin Wales’ office (Mayor of Newham) to tell him how to organise his affairs perhaps he will do us a favour and tell her where she is going wrong. Then if she deigns to do something for the people who pay her she can pass on the news to TLC (The Liar Craske) who is so damned efficient that he claims our Controlled Parking Zones run at a thundering great loss. Just for the record a visitor’s permit in Newham costs 30 pence - I know I use one every week - and here in super efficient, honest as the day is long Bexley it is £1.50.

Newham has sufficient spare cash to distribute its magazine to every household every two weeks. It’s practically identical to the Bexley magazine, same size, same style, same glossy paper and it never carries more than three quarters of a page of paid private advertising. I doubt anyone here would advocate that but it is another illustration of how Bexley does so much less for so much more than other boroughs.

So where is all the money going? It can’t be down to inefficiency and poor management because the FC says her chief executive is “good value for money”. Not as good value as in Bromley evidently because there the impoverished CE struggles along with a mere £188k. Some of Bexley’s directors of departments get almost that much; within £10k. of it. And why does our CE, a civil servant by any other name, need private health insurance, an allowance for a ‘company’ car and 32 days paid leave a year on top of a pay cheque in excess of £200k? Even top civil servants with half a life time of service under their belt only get 30 days. Tuckley has only been here a couple of years. (Source : News Shopper).

I’d love to know what it is that Bexley does better than Newham, Bromley and Wandsworth; maybe one of our councillor readers will give me something for publication. Laughing at residents who make representations at public meetings and attempting to ridicule them with letters to newspapers doesn’t count.

 

6 March (Part 3) - Erith river front development. D.E.A.T.H. to Bexley council

I have been asked to give publicity to the Defend Erith Against The Highrises Facebook campaign against Bexley council’s plan to blight the best river view in Erith. I confess to not understanding Facebook but if any DEATH supporter would like to write a page to be included here they will be most welcome. The council’s page on the subject is here.

 

6 March (Part 2) - Why would anyone risk being seen as a paedophile’s friend?

Councillor Colin CampbellToday’s newspapers are full of criticism of Prince Andrew for having a convicted sex offender for a friend. Obviously he is now going to run fast in the opposite direction; very wise too. Did you know we may have a similar situation here in Bexley? No one is convicted yet but there has been an arrest and charge.

It all came to light down at Bexley council’s Thames Innovation Centre which is part of councillor Colin Campbell’s (St. Mary’s, £22,650) domain. Well not to light exactly it wasn’t broadcast from the rooftops. The story is that a female council employee whispered her concerns to her line manager who unfortunately for her was up to no good himself. The report escalated to Campbell who said all was well and sacked the whistleblower just to be on the safe side. He subsequently heard her appeal and threw that out too; no surprise there, judge, jury and executioner all wrapped up in one is how democracy works in Bexley.

Before the sacking however the Innovation Centre manager was arrested for child pornography offences so it’s not as though Campbell didn’t know the whistleblower had a point but as we have seen he went ahead with her sacking and for good measure kept on the manager who the police evidently thought was a bad ‘un. Not even a suspension on full pay. Unlike the Prince who has the sense to run away fast, Campbell gave support to the accused. Is Campbell totally witless or is he in hock to wrong-doers who have a hold over him?

Things have now moved on, Campbell’s right hand man is awaiting committal for trial at Woolwich Crown Court while the whistleblower languishes jobless trying to pick up the pieces of her life.

A council insider phoned me last week to say that Campbell is “one of the protected”. It was explained that he has been a councillor for so long that he knows all the dirty dealings of fellow councillors and vice-versa. They are all in it as deeply as each other and there is no hope left for honesty. I don’t know about that but I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe the court will shed a little light on things and whatever else is yet to befall councillor Colin Campbell.

 

6 March (Part 1) - Incompetent or undemocratic?

The full council meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday did not start until 8. However a party I had arranged to meet there did not arrive until 8:10 and found the doors barred and no one on reception to attract their attention. After waiting ten minutes in the freezing cold they had to go home. A very different aspect of the failure of democracy in Bexley to our idiotic mayor’s casting aside of Standing Orders but a failure just the same. The councillors were being inflammatory by laughing at members of the public asking questions; good job they didn’t actually start a fire while the public was locked in. Something that will have to be checked at next Wednesday’s meeting.

 

5 March (Part 3) - The Barmy Bexley Borough Blog

If you think Phil and I let mayor Val Clark and her mates off a bit lightly then I recommend to you a third on-line description of last Wednesday’s events. In it the author confirms he has a video tape of the whole sad event, well I did see him with a camera! So the mayor is going to have one helluver job wriggling away from her blatant disregard for the Standing Orders she spouted out for all to hear only minutes before trampling all over them. Beware, the site is not for the faint hearted.

 

5 March (Part 2) - Dishonest, incompetent, vindictive

One of many contacts made through this blog is John Watson who has been tangling with Bexley council for 35 years. He gets the occasional mention in the local newspapers, he runs the BCMG website and gets widely criticized by councillors for asking too many probing questions.

Some while ago he told me that he had received a ticket while parked in a Bexley Pay & Display and he couldn’t see any good reason for it. Then last week he showed me the correspondence file on the subject; it was more than an inch thick! Flicking through the papers I noted that the photographs purporting to show there was no payment ticket on display were a very strange aspect ratio, unlike any camera I had ever seen. It looked as though they had been specially trimmed to exclude the car’s windscreen shelf area presumably in an attempt to pervert the course of justice. One however showed just a blurry glimpse of the displayed ticket.

Yesterday John took his file to The Parking Adjudicator. The Adjudicator was not a happy man presumably fed up with councils wasting his time and bundled John out of his room in pretty short time saying ‘They haven’t even managed to demonstrate that any offence ever took place.’

I don’t know how much the stupidity if not vindictiveness of Tina Brooks the parking manager has cost Bexley taxpayers but it probably compares unfavourably with John’s Freedom of Information requests. How is it that a manager can be paid a fat salary but is so hopelessly incompetent at her job that an adjudicator dismisses her case file within a minute or two stating that it hasn’t even reached the most basic requirement, i.e. showing that an offence has been committed?

 

5 March (Part 1) - Open government Bexley council style - Part 2 - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Council chamber My new friend Phil from Welling has evidently become addicted to attending council meeting as he has followed up his first report on a council meeting with another on last Wednesday’s fiasco. Thank you Phil, alternative views are always welcome, although I seem to detect a similar theme running through yours as in my own account.

Following a visit to the council cabinet meeting on Monday evening which for a first timer was largely incomprehensible I thought I would try again with a full council meeting on Wednesday evening.

One has to wonder what is the purpose of these meetings being open to the public. Is it to show the public what a wonderful job the council are doing supposedly on our behalf? If so I have grave doubts about some aspects of their actions and even more so about how they demonstrate their competence to the public who take enough interest to attend the meetings.

After Monday’s meeting with its many references to documents I had not seen, on Wednesday evening I particularly looked around for any available copies of an agenda or other relevant documents - but found none. Presumably they were available if you know how to go about obtaining one but should not a few be available for the public actually at the meeting? As a consequence, for much of the meeting, I (and many other members of the public) did not have a clue what was going on. Perhaps this was deliberate. It did not help that the mayor/chair of the meeting was at times almost inaudible to the public. Either her microphone was not switched on or it was not being used correctly.

There was a petition submitted - something about parking in Alma Road, Sidcup but no other details gleaned as the meeting was rapidly moved on to the next item. This was a deputation re possible closure of Belvedere library on which a spokesman was allowed to speak for five minutes whilst the councillors were then allowed 15. (Seems very unfair.)

Then followed questions submitted in advance by the public. An ultra strict 15 minutes was all that the council allowed for this and presumably they chose the order of the questions thereby ensuring awkward ones stood no chance of being aired. To save time the questions were not read out but without any documentation most of the public could only guess their content from the waffled answers.

Fifteen minutes were then allowed for questions from councillors which followed the same pattern - a bit like only hearing one side of a telephone conversation. The difference for this section though was that the chair allowed councillors to run over their allotted time. (Not very even handed!)

Those in the know knew this was the end of anything of interest and took their leave. I wasted the whole of my evening staying to the bitter end.

For an interlude debate 30 minutes was allocated to discussing whether the council should promote Fair Trade. Worthy as this scheme may be its relevance to council services was hard to see. Fortunately a large majority of councillors agreed and the motion was defeated.

Next up was Report from Leader of the Council. She merely referred to some written report of which, of course, most of the public attending the meeting had not seen. Councillors were invited to ask questions about the report which they did by reference to paragraph so and so which without the report the public could not follow. Several of the questions were clearly planted merely in order to give the leader or the responsible cabinet member an opportunity to blow their own trumpets.

Then followed a cross party mutual admiration session between the cabinet member responsible for regeneration of Slade Green and a Labour councillor. No doubt details of the proposals are available somewhere but if it was on the agenda then a reference copy or two for use by the public at the meeting would have been something.

Reference was made to an item 11 on the (unseen) agenda - Reports possibly? - but there did not seem to be any and the meeting was rapidly closed. Here endeth a wasted evening.

Presumably Bexley Council are obliged to admit the public to certain meetings but clearly they do not encourage attendance. Indeed as much as possible seems to be done to ensure proceedings cannot be followed or understood by the public. It is not surprising therefore that only a few stalwarts regularly choose to come out on cold nights to hold the council to account in whatever way they can. The Bexley is Bonkers blog is to be congratulated.

Dear Phil, As you will recognise, apart from running two short paragraphs together your report appears unedited, if it had been I may have slightly amended a couple of things. To obtain a written copy of the agenda, seek out Mr. Dave Easton who appears in the foreground of the picture above. He is an affable sort of fellow doing a difficult job with critics such as you and me to contend with. I am sure he will help you find an agenda. Having said that even those of us with the written agenda couldn’t follow the councillors’ question time because they made up extra ones, left some out and generally messed with the laid down sequence. One rule for us and another for them and the appallingly poor chairmanship allowed this to carry on without comment.

Another thing I would have covered in the cause of total accuracy is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the council re-orders questions to give themselves an easy ride and giving them ideas is tempting fate. The questions are accepted or not to a formula dictated by the council’s Standing Orders by a Ms. Green who carries out her instructions, unreasonable as they may be, meticulously as far as I can tell. Everyone is aware that the chairman Mrs. V. Clark plays fast and loose with Standing Orders but this one she has left unsullied so far. Thank you for your kind words about the blog but remember it is the council that provides the material. Maybe you should be sending them your thanks for their sterling efforts in the twin fields of dishonesty and corruption.

 

4 March (Part 4) - Better late than never

Councillor John DaveyMay I be the first to congratulate councillor John Davey for coming to his senses? He has removed the links to the Tory party that he had placed on the Arts Council of Bexley website, a publicly funded body. It was always an unwise and amoral thing to do and one must wonder if the councillor will now write to The Chronicle to withdraw the ridiculous letter he had published there boasting of his generosity in paying the site hosting fee and belittling the lady who first brought the concerns to public attention.

One must also wonder what ever persuaded councillor Catterall to spout so much total nonsense two days ago when he advocated more councillors getting up to similar mischief.

I would also like to congratulate councillor Davey for producing such an attractive looking site for the Arts Council and thank him for inspiring me to start this one by ignoring my complaint for so long.

 

4 March (Part 3) - Mayor no longer fit to be in the driving seat

“I regularly keep updated on the rules governing the conduct of business at the council meeting.” So claimed our illustrious mayor in her reply to an informal complaint about the total lack of chairmanship skills she displayed at the council meeting of 17th November 2010. Hmm, well if she does keep herself updated she has a very short memory, about eleven minutes long to be precise. After saying that the entire population of the borough is allowed 15 minutes to question cabinet members and councillors are given the same time so everything is fair she forgot what she said almost immediately at Wednesday’s meeting. Despite protests on both counts she restricted public questions to eleven minutes and extended councillor questions to 20.

I appreciate that it may be cruel to pillory someone with such advanced memory loss but on the other hand it would be kind to relieve her of her position. The following formal complaint has therefore gone to the council’s Standards Committee. I suspect others present at that disgrace to democracy last Wednesday evening will be doing the same.

Dear Mr. Loynes,

I was one of a small number of residents who had posed questions for the council meeting on 2nd March. I am sure I heard the chairman and mayor explain to everyone present that correct procedure is that questions will be taken as read and merely answered by the appropriate cabinet member and that 15 minutes would be allowed for all questions and that was fair because the same time would be afforded to councillors. This I understand but I appreciate that the standing orders must be repeated at each meeting for the benefit of newcomers.

You may therefore imagine my surprise when the chairman, Mrs V. Clark, brought public questions to an end only 11 minutes after she made her announcement. It was a gross abuse of her position but she persisted with going against standing orders even when advised of the ‘timing error’.

Her abuse of residents awaiting their turn and disrespect for the entire population of the borough whose ability to pose questions is compromised, was compounded by her decision to extend councillors question time to 20 minutes, some three minutes beyond the point at which the previous reply came to its natural conclusion. The overrun was brought to the chairman‘s attention at the 17 minute point but she chose to deliberately flout standing orders. She knew what she was doing but continued with the malpractice anyway.

I am therefore making a formal complaint that the chairman breached standing orders and should be suitably admonished and made to apologise to the public present at another meeting in the near future.

yours faithfully,

 

4 March (Part 2) - V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta. The NoToMob Diverted traffic Gestapo carAfter yesterday’s marathon report on the Civic Centre pantomime (another one coming tomorrow) today is a day for more easily digested matters. Over in Crooked Camden they have been busy scamming motorists too. Their party trick was to put up diversionary route signs and park a gestapo wagon near to it; crafty, because the diversion signs sent drivers right at a no right turn junction. 1,500 drivers were unjustly ticketed and some motorcycling heroes took on the council on their behalf. As a result Camden council is refunding motorists who claim their money back. They are not going through their records to volunteer refunds, oh no, that would require them to be honest. No doubt Camden council harbours crooks just as councillor Campbell has been so keen to shelter an alleged paedophile.

So what has this got to do with Bexley? Ahem, well between you and me Bonkers and the hero motorcyclists are working together to ensure that Bexley council is next on their list for some welcome attention. If you know areas that you feel should be primary targets then my Contact page is not far away. The motorcyclists call themselves NoToMob and you can visit their website to read about their successes. If you see them in Bexley give them a wave.

 

4 March (Part 1) - Has-PhilipRead-gone-Bonkers.com

I should have explained what the item below is all about and saved a few enquiring emails. It is information cut and pasted from a web page discovered by a Google search for Bexley is Bonkers. It shows that someone called Philip Read from Erith paid a company called Fasthosts £9.49 plus VAT last week to register for him a so-called Top Level Domain, a dot com in this case. A Top Level Domain is considered more prestigious than a mere co dot uk but carries with it extra liabilities. One of these is that every detail relating to the registrant must be displayed on-line. Inevitably search engines will soon pick it up, hence the address details displayed below.

In my opinion it is the height of folly to register any domain using an email address of any value as its appearance on a website is a guaranteed way to attract spam, but the cat is out of the bag and it’s now available in a variety of places. I have slightly mangled it here as I would not want to make the problem worse but its inclusion does imply a certain degree of naivety in such matters.

At the present time there is no indication that any email address or web page is associated with bexley-is-bonkers.com but presumably that will come, otherwise what is the point? Neither do I have any idea why councillor Philip Read has made this move; all I can say about it is that I am delighted by the fact that Philip has joined the growing band of councillors who have acknowledged this site in one way or another.

 

3 March (Part 3) - Councillor Philip Read says Bexley is Bonkers too

Registrant:Councillor Philip Read
Philip Read
53 Myrtle Close
Erith, Kent DA8 3PT
GB

Domain name: BEXLEY-IS-BONKERS.COM

Administrative Contact:
Read, Philip p d read @ hot mail co uk
53 Myrtle Close
Erith, Kent DA8 3PT
GB
+44.01322355767
Technical Contact:
Read, Philip p d read @ hotmail.co.uk
53 Myrtle Close
Erith, Kent DA8 3PT
GB
+44.01322355767

Registration Service Provider:
Fasthosts Internet Limited, domains@fasthosts.co.uk
+44.8708883600
+44.8708883760 (fax)
http://www.Fasthosts.co.uk

Registrar of Record: TUCOWS, INC.
Record last updated on 26-Feb-2011.
Record expires on 26-Feb-2012.
Record created on 26-Feb-2011.

Registrar Domain Name Help Center:
http://tucowsdomains.com

Domain servers in listed order:
NS2.LIVEDNS.CO.UK
NS3.LIVEDNS.CO.UK
NS1.LIVEDNS.CO.UK

Domain status: clientTransferProhibited
clientUpdateProhibited

 

3 March (Part 2) - Pantomime at the Civic Centre - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

BCRE protest groupThe council meeting was preceded by the 2011 Civic Recognition Awards which deferred the start time to 8 p.m. That fact should have been posted on the council website. We were told that the people honoured had in some cases devoted their lives to working for community projects so shouldn’t such worthy people have been given a ceremony of their own away from placard waving protestors? Why did the council not arrange a photographer to record a memento of their great day? You know the answer, their claimed sincerity is a sham and it would have caused our over-paid councillors to be dragged away from the telly for one more evening. Any enthusiasm for ‘The Big Society’ is lukewarm at best, The Big Paycheque perhaps but Cameron’s idea stands little chance hereabouts.

Ironically one of the award winners was a protestor. Gurdial Singh Shergill has been Executive Committee member of Bexley Council for Racial Equality (BCRE) for over 34 years. For his pains he was announced as leader of the Boy’s Brigade much to the annoyance of some of his supporters. According to a leaflet thrust into my hand by the BCRE his real reward is not a badly organised presentation at the Civic Centre but a 100% cut in the grant made to his organisation. You have to hand it to Bexley council, their respect to civic societies knows no bounds.

When the council meeting did begin a gentleman representing the users of Belvedere library was told he had five minutes to make his case against possible closure or a downgrading to voluntary status. He spoke passionately to much applause and in the process proved the council wrong in several respects, among them that their data on libraries across the capital was flawed and didn’t even count the number of boroughs correctly. Bexley’s response was that the borough was just as well provided with libraries as those paragons of literary excellence Lambeth, Haringey and Newham which didn’t go down too well. Councillor Seymour (Crayford, £9,543) tried to lower the tone with an injection of party politics but the gentleman from Belvedere was having none of it. Then, mid-flow in his dissection of the council’s case, the mayor and chairman told him to wrap it up. To his credit Belvedere’s library dissident carried on until he had finished what he had to say thereby unwittingly setting the tone for the whole evening.

As someone who had asked a formal question to the council under their Standing Orders I was provided with a reserved seat next to all the other people who had done likewise. Thus I found myself sitting next to long-time thorns in the council’s side, Michael Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant, the man who Craske attempted to ridicule three months ago, and Nick Dowling who has done so much to expose Craske’s false accounting. Mick Barnbrook’s formal question was to ask for the 15 minutes allocated to public questions to be extended. After all, an hour a year for 200 thousand odd residents is not a lot of time for a Listening Council to listen.

Mr. Barnbrook had planned to put his question informally to individual councillors before the meeting began but the unannounced revision to the timetable scuppered that idea, he managed to put it only to councillor Campbell (St. Mary’s, £22,650). Campbell said a better approach was to allow fewer questions. Do you notice a pattern here? It is Campbell who wants to put restrictions on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, it is Campbell who sacked a whistleblower who embarrassed him and his manager now on a paedophilia charge and it is Campbell who would prefer fewer questions. Something to hide no doubt. When Mick formally put his question to council leader Teresa O’Neill (Brampton, £35,844) she was in a belligerent mood, maybe not surprising given that his letter reminding us of the rôle played by the Fat Controller (FC) in the cover-up following the Ian Clement fraud scandal had been in that morning’s Shopper. As was to be expected the FC didn’t want to discuss the question and Mike was cut short by the mayor though not without offering a spirited resistance.

He was followed by Mr. Nicholas Dowling asking about the number of Residents’ Parking Permits issued because the number he had obtained via FOI didn’t match the number bandied about by Craske in emails to residents. Craske said neither figure was right and came up with another. I’m not going to waste space re-inventing the wheel, Craske has proved himself a liar in the past, who believes him now? Like Mr. Barnbrook before him, Nicholas was cut short by the silly mayor but carried on nevertheless to cheers from various sections of the public gallery.

Next to participate in the pantomime was Mr. Elwyn Bryant also with a question for Teresa O’Neill the council leader. It reminded her that it is four months since she said she would consider reducing the number of councillors per ward and that we had heard nothing yet. The FC waffled to explain the lack of an answer and then launched into an astonishing bit of arrogance to the effect that as she had been elected to her post and that Mr. Bryant was a mere resident her view carried far more weight. That is obviously true as anyone who saw the slightly built Mr. Bryant standing next to mistress O’Neill could testify. The exchange was reminiscent of that last year when the same resident was made to suffer put-downs at the hands of councillor Craske.

Mr. Dowling then approached the lectern for his second scheduled question to TLC (The Liar Craske) but was turned back by the Widow Twankey on the top bench. The 15 minutes were up she said. Funny that; five of us had set our watches and barely eleven minutes had passed. Mr. Barnbrook pointed out that Standing Orders had been breached and that Twankey should expect a formal complaint. She will deny everything of course but can she deny a tape? Mr. Barnbrook is not someone to let such malpractice go as a whole host of MPs know to their cost. The fact that it was Mr. Dowling who was stopped in his tracks by Twankey is probably not coincidence, his question was designed to expose the dishonesty of one of Craske’s rants at the previous meeting.

The next session was for councillors to ask questions, that is allocated 15 minutes too so we reset our stop watches. In this session you tend to get the time wasters like Taylor craving attention from the big boys (err… no, it was the pygmy wasn’t it?) but not everyone is that juvenile.

Councillor Borella (North End, £9,543) was concerned about councillor Davey (Lesnes Abbey, £9,543 + £7,782 from the Bexley Care Trust) politicising the Bexley Arts Council website. Davey’s argument has been reported here already and it is illogical balderdash. Councillor Catterall (Falconwood & Welling, £22,650) from whom I would have expected better came out with the same load of old tosh that Davey had written to The Chronicle. Councillor Campbell was then called upon to answer another question and his self-proclaimed saintliness was in stark contrast to his decision to retain on council premises an employee who was in such deep doo-dah with the police they had arrested him for paedophilia. Someone in the audience called out to remind him and then suddenly the 15 minutes was up. However unlike Twankey those in the gallery didn’t think it polite to tell Campbell to wrap up quick, they remained silent until he finished two minutes later. In true dictatorial fashion Twankey, the mayor and chairman, called for another question. There were protests from the floor that time was up but she indicated that breaking Standing Orders for the second time was perfectly OK. I suppose if you are mayor of a corrupt council then it is. Councillor Deadman (North End, £12,114) was called upon to ask a question; he addressed the public and said his question was more important than theirs and so we had to endure Deadman talking. He went on for three more minutes.

At that point it seemed a good time to leave and the group of questioners of which I was one departed, waving to the bunch of grinning parasites as we went. A fair number waved back and some gave the thumbs up sign. Make of that what you will.

On the stairs we passed councillor Tandy (St. Mary’s £18,265) and asked what he thought about the mayor twice breaking Standing Orders. He ran off without replying. It’s the Listening Council in action.

So how do you sum up that lot? Campbell thinks we should have fewer questions. The mayor curtails them by breaking the rules. The FC waffles around her question and the purple pygmy revisits his old routine of saying that honestly set parking charges would mean bigger cuts elsewhere. That’s very likely but not the point. The point is that his figures were imaginary, the FOIs showed that and to cover up his deception he has had to produce a flurry of obfuscation, or lies to you and me. That is what the issue is. We have a liar for a councillor.

I don’t think this council ‘gets it’. When the Fat Controller tries to avoid questions by berating the questioner with nonsense about him being a lower form of life than her because he wasn’t elected and she was, she preaches to a couple of dozen members of the public none of whom is likely to believe her; it’s certainly not a fan club that turns up to meetings. But when her antics are reported here the message goes out to thousands few of whom will believe her. She should get her mind around the fact that traditional paper headlines are here today and soon forgotten but web pages stick around for ever and are regularly brought back to life via the system of links. It’s something she will have to get used to. Her critics are not going away and the only way she and her cronies can kill them off is by going straight. Some hope.

 

3 March (Part 1) - The pig-pen

On the 23rd February there was a report here on the activities of motorcyclists who make it their business to shadow camera cars to make sure they stick to the rules. They asked for information on where Bexley’s cars were garaged. Whilst in Bexleyheath at lunchtime I photographed a car in what the motorcyclists call a pig-pen. I have belatedly added a photo for the entry of 23rd February. The pen is on the lower floor of the Bowling Alley car park in Albion Road.

 

2 March (Part 3) - Taylor and Craske. Thick as thieves

In the final paragraph of the blog of 26 January I mentioned that the purple pygmy had opposed a London-wide increase of £10 in the cost of parking fines and wondered how that fitted in with his policies locally. Several people said I was being naive and had swallowed his dishonest posturing whole. They said that with a Labour majority in London as a whole there was no chance Craske’s vote could do anything so he could, so to speak, have his cake and eat it. I supposed they were right. It was good headlines coupled with more profit for his parking scams.

Now I feel even more stupid. Buried away in the cabinet proposals document I obtained last Monday evening is the following statement. “Review penalty charge notice (PCN) banding to include other town centres as Band A, not just Bexleyheath. Currently other town centres (Welling, Sidcup, Bexley) are at the lower band and the PCN fees are also therefore lower.” What more proof could there be that Craske is a two-faced devious liar? He voted to keep fines down where he knew he could have no effect but is proposing they be increased locally. I’ll say it again, Craske is a two-faced liar and the most obnoxious example of humanity I have ever come across.

I’ve not finished yet…

In the documentation for this evening’s full council meeting is the following question from “Councillor Chris Taylor to Councillor Peter Craske, Cabinet Member for Transport: Could the Cabinet Member confirm how he voted at the London Councils Transport and Environment Committee on 9th December in relation to the proposals put forward by the Labour Party to increase parking fines by £10 and to set a £200 fine for the Olympic Route Network?”

Is councillor Chris Taylor(Colyers ward, £9.543) so utterly stupid that he thinks his ridiculous bit of arse-crawling won’t be exposed?. Chris; just because you look like a junior member of the Young Conservatives Club doesn’t mean you have to act like a schoolboy creeping up to his teacher with a highly polished apple. Treating the electors as fools is sheer stupidity in the age of the internet. You can’t confine your idiocies to the council chamber now.

 

2 March (Part 2) - Crippling chicanery

I received this report from an ambulance driver; of the charity variety I believe. I don’t know Crayford well and I’m unfamiliar with its roads and humps and with so much material coming in I’ve had to research it via Google Street View to save time. It’s easy to see why an ambulance driver would be annoyed and his patient would be harbouring dark thoughts about Bexley council. So here it is with only very minor editing…

“You have previously referred to various schemes involving humps, width restrictions, chicanes etc. inflicted on residents by Bexley council. Have you though covered the proliferation of these in the Crayford area?

Not so long ago I was regularly engaged on transporting a disabled person between Bexleyheath and Crayford and was unable to find a sensible route avoiding Bexley council’s deliberate obstructions. The vehicle would just about, with extreme care, squeeze through a seven foot width restriction but it would only take a minor misjudgment (as witnessed by the scrapes on the width posts) to cause major damage. In any event the patient really did not appreciate being jolted about over humps however slowly they were taken.

The quickest/most direct route was via Halcot Road (humps), Old Road (width restriction and humps) and Iron Mill Lane (width restriction, humps and a chicane). An alternative using mainer roads involved queuing through two sets of lights - Albion Road into Gravel Hill then right turn into Watling Street. (N.B. These lights are carefully phased by Bexley council such that whatever the traffic conditions it is never ever possible to get through both sets at one go!) On reaching Crayford more queuing was necessary through two more sets of lights on the Crayford one way system. (Again I cannot recall ever getting through both sets of lights in one go.) Then there is still the width restriction in Crayford Way to be negotiated (or sneak through the bus lane and hope nobody is watching) then the humps and chicane and yet more humps in Maiden Lane.

Bexley Council were asked for a suggested route which did not have width restrictions or humps but their response was that it was not their concern. So now you know. They do not care how residents get around the borough - they are only interested in making life as difficult as possible for motorists/residents. Goodness only knows how Crayford residents arrange for large furniture removal type vehicles to reach their homes when necessary.”

Sad to say I don’t suppose that story comes a surprise to anyone, but worth repeating. A disabled resident in need of a bit of TLC (Tender Loving Care) gets a taste of TLC (The Liar Craske). I shall have my own story about how Bexley council doesn’t care about the disabled coming up soon.

 

2 March (Part 1) - Crass Cretinous Cock-up. (No name needed) - click any image for photo gallery (7 images)

Ruxley corner queueAmbulance held upRoad dug up - again!“Craske is therefore at liberty to go on spending vast sums on crazy schemes like those at Ruxley Corner and Wickham Lane and return soon afterwards to pour money into putting his mistakes right.”

No sooner had those words gone on-line yesterday than an email alerted me to a current example. Ruxley roundabout which caused havoc while it was altered last year and hindered lorries and buses ever since is being Craskied again. More traffic hold ups because of the incompetence of one man and his department. Where is Parsons Brinckerhoff when you need them? No competent person would design a roundabout that traffic cannot negotiate safely, it should have been checked out on an inexpensive (by business standards) computer program. But Craske has screwed-up big-time yet again.

The traffic is being held up, an ambulance with lights and siren blaring is stuck and someone’s life is put in jeopardy because of the Bexley buffoon.

It doesn’t look as though his remedy will even be an effective fix. If you look in the photo gallery you will see that the wheel ruts photographed last week appear to be rather further from the road boundary than the new kerb. And are they really going to be double height so that Craske can snigger at the number of suspension systems he has managed to break? Time will tell.

Reports are coming in that traffic queues are currently extending almost to Bexley village, and in the other direction, past Crittall’s Corner and up the slip-road to the A20. Craske; you really are the crimson cretin.

Photographs taken 3pm Tuesday 1st March.

 

1 March (Part 2) - Open government Bexley council style - impressions of attending a first public cabinet meeting

At the weekend I put up a notice about last night’s cabinet meeting and at least a couple of extra people showed up. I did not however expect to receive a completely unsolicited report on proceedings, so this second blog of the day comes from Phil of Welling; an alternative view entirely unedited…

protest_placardHeard there was to be a council meeting concerning the borough’s finances last Monday evening - open to the public - so thought I would go along. Meeting scheduled to start 7:30 pm. Arrived 7:10 and was shut out in the cold until 7:20. Several members of the public had turned up prepared with placards. (Example left.)

On being admitted to the council chamber there were several people seated at a U shaped table in the well of the chamber. These apparently were the councillor cabinet members. On either side behind the cabinet members in higher level galleries were many more people. These I learnt were other councillors but who were not cabinet members although it was noticed that some other councillors chose to sit with the public rather than with their peers. The public were directed to (very uncomfortable) benches at the far end of the chamber.

The chair/leader of the council/councillor Teresa O’Neill seated at the apex of the U opened the meeting by saying that it was a cabinet meeting and as such non-members of the cabinet would not be allowed to speak. With that several members of the public realised they were wasting their time and left. The non-cabinet councillors presumably already knew they were wasting their time but had to stay feigning interest in order to claim their expenses.

After the formalities of absence apologies etc. a Mike Ellsmore (whoever he is) was invited to speak. This he did at length about the council’s finances making several references to documents of which I and most others in the public gallery did not have and the comments were meaningless. The only bits I could understand were that council tax was to be frozen at last year’s level and that the council did not intend to dip into their reserves of £10 million.

Then followed a succession of cabinet members each making speeches praising themselves and extolling how financially brilliant was the management of their respective areas of responsibility. There was no discussion or debate about anything – presumably this had all been done in advance in secret.

The meeting was then closed leaving several significant thoughts hanging in the air e.g. what precisely had been the point of the meeting and what had been achieved by holding the meeting. The answer to both questions was seemingly ‘Not a lot’. No discussion had been held. No questioning of anything was allowed. No decisions had been taken. No significant information was imparted which was not apparently already in (unseen) documents. It was merely a meaningless charade which no doubt cost Bexley residents a fortune in councillor expenses.

Note : Mike Ellsmore, Director of Finance.

 

1 March (Part 1) - A cabinet of woodentops

If you attended Bexley council’s cabinet meeting expecting to see a low-grade version of a debate between Liam Fox asking for defence equipment and George Osborne digging his heels in you would be sorely disappointed. It may be low-grade but there is absolutely no debate. What you get is councillors quoting chunks of a fat document freely available at this meeting of the Bexley branch of the Mutual Admiration Society. I lost count of the number of times I heard one say “I agree with councillor…” or something very like it. Everything had been cobbled together some while ago and yesterday was just a charade to be played through because there is a legal requirement to hold a cabinet meeting in public. It was all over in fewer than 40 minutes. Of interest to those who foot the bills is that Teresa O’Neill announced that council tax would not rise next year bringing Bexley into line with all the other London councils which made their ‘freeze’ announcement several weeks ago and retaining our position among London’s top taxing councils. Their self-congratulation is undeserved. Bexley still compares badly with the rest of London in the value for money stakes

Among other announcements was that the price of petrol was high (really?) and that expenditure on highways would be maintained at current levels. Craske is therefore at liberty to go on spending vast sums on crazy schemes like those at Ruxley Corner and Wickham Lane and return soon afterwards to pour money into putting his mistakes right. Queen Mary’s Hospital is to be managed in future by local GPs. Today I failed in my doctor’s lottery to get an appointment for the third day on the trot. He couldn’t organise a drug-fuelled party in a pharmacy. Run a hospital? I don’t think so.

The documentation is far more interesting than the meeting. It reveals sweeping increases in charges, some doubling, many rising between 20 and 25%. If you have an annual season ticket for a car park get ready for an increase of more than £100. A comment from whoever looks after such issues (sorry I had my head in the book at the time and missed it) said that parking revenues are down in the current year but it’s a blip as a result of December’s snow. Presumably whoever it was has forgotten that we had a similar snowy period in the previous December (and January). Did he not consider the downturn might be caused by resistance to the constant hiking of charges? The supplied documentation says otherwise and anticipates another ‘blip’ in the coming year.

The public consultation was as everyone knew it would be something of a disaster partly brought on by apathy. 829 people sent in suggestions which the council boiled down to about 160 different ones. At the meeting last November councillor Ball was concerned that residents would make suggestions that favoured themselves and they would have to be disregarded - did he really expect residents to do otherwise? However he needn’t have worried, all but one of the 160 suggestions were dismissed out of hand. True there were a few that were less than intelligent and a fair number suggested things that are already happening but the vast majority were tossed aside. The glaring exception was that libraries should close on an extra day per week. Naturally that suggestion will be “taken into account and considered”. I shall probably be torn apart for this but it seems to me to be a pretty good idea. Libraries could be on a rota for their day off and it should reduce staff costs a bit. Part of my old job was developing staff rotas and I think it must save money if flexibly implemented. So that’s it, all that effort and just one suggestion makes it through the net. It was entirely predictable but it helped the council with another of their charades.

You may well have been disappointed if you attended expecting a debate but if you were there only to take up my suggestion of seeing the glowing gnome you will not have wasted your time. More a traffic light than cabinet member for traffic he was the colour of tomato juice. Is he blushing with embarrassment or in a rage knowing his mistakes are all so very public? Maybe something similar affects councillor Campbell too for he often looked like Craske’s twin. I expect the thought of a trial coming up for the alleged paedophile manager of the Thames Innovation Centre who Campbell supported and maintained in a job after sacking the whistleblower. I know these people are well versed in under-hand tactics but having his dirty washing hung out for public view is going to be an unedifying experience.

 

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