It is still July but apart from the routine licensing and planning meetings there are no significant Bexley council assemblies scheduled before October; as a result it may prove to be a quiet couple of months around these parts.
Traditionally the passing of another month is marked by a summary of recent news but for July it is very much ‘business as usual’. Another council meeting, another barrow load of arrogance from council leader Teresa O’Neill. Another display of bad temper by mayor Alan Downing.
Various Freedom of Information requests submitted but no useful answers as yet. Mick Barnbrook’s FOI seeking a copy of Will Tuckley’s business diary for May remains unanswered even though it probably exists in electronic form and could be exported at the click of a mouse. However Nicholas Dowling, another Bexley Council Monitoring Group member, asked the same for June and he is far less patient than Mick. You can be sure the Information Commissioner will be on the receiving end of a complaint as soon as the statutory 20 days have expired.
The County Gate issue arose again and exposed the very worst of Bexley council once more. The absentee councillor Peter Craske threatening residents, all the Conservatives jeering a resident for her membership of the Labour Party and absolutely nothing achieved in their six years in power. Entirely typical.
In Bexley Village deputy leader Colin Campbell’s son continues to annoy many of the locals with his ‘illegal’ cab office. The council’s Planning Office website has today listed the submission of an appeal for 57-59 Bexley High Street but I see no direct reference to the Bexley Cabs office. (Case reference 11/00633/EAPPL.)
In Sidcup there is better news to report about the Grootendorsts’ house. A new contractor has fixed the roof and according to Mrs. G. made more progress in his first week than her rogue builder (Chris McGuiness and MAC Construction) did in two months.
Facebook and Twitter are almost complete mysteries to me, however I have noted Bexley Beat on Facebook which looks at Bexley though spectacles more rose coloured than mine and appears to be a thinly veiled advert for ASDA, but none the worse for that. I look at my MP’s and my ex-councillor’s Twitter feed now and again but probably the most interesting ones are blocked to those like me who are not signed up.
I’m told that councillor Philip Read is a regular commentator on this blog and loves to Tweet his opinion of it. According to those reports I am a BNP supporter and it is flattering to think he sees Bonkers as a thorn in his side and will stoop to any level to discredit it. Well maybe not any level, he never got around to obscene blogging on the Bonkers domain he registered. He left that to one of his mates. For the record the only political party of which I’ve been a member is the Conservatives in the 1980s and early 1990s. David Cameron once commented that “Too many Tweets make a Tw*t”. There can be few better examples than Bexley councillor Philip Read.
Looking to the immediate future Olly Cromwell’s appeal is due in Court next Friday. Councillor Melvin Seymour’s fantasy police statement about dog faeces and letterboxes may yet be exposed as a fabrication but the falsehood has already fooled one judge so any optimism about the outcome may be misplaced. The police had copies of the original Tweets so always knew Seymour statement was wrong but their priority must have been pleasing their masters rather than the truth.
Messages sent via the Bonkers’ Contact Form
arrive as if they have been sent by me to myself; absolutely no identifying information
is included unless the sender decides to include it. It is a mixed blessing and I have just been
painfully reminded of that fact.
All incoming messages are filed under the sender’s name or pseudonym but the totally anonymous get dumped in a single folder labelled ‘Anonymous’. I made an exception last year for a series of significant messages claiming to come from within Bexley council. The first such message that made me believe it was different from the run of the mill anonymous arrived in October 2011 and the last that I thought to be in the same category was very nearly three months ago.
The new Obscene Blog Timeline refers to anonymous messages and it has regrettably upset someone. An anonymous informant has written to say (s)he never ever mentioned the Obscene Blog and may therefore believe my account to be false. The writer is most definitely not happy with any implication that good information was provided initially, instilling confidence, and the later inaccuracies may have been more than simply unfortunate.
The new message has compelled a reassessment of the situation and I am kicking myself for overlooking an alternative scenario; that two (it could be more but I shall discount the possibility) well connected council insiders were messaging me over the same period but only one took an interest in the Obscene Blog.
I filed a total of 53 incoming messages under ‘Council anonymous’ in six months and came to believe them all to be the product of one author. That was wrong, grouping anonymous messages to unnamed individuals can never be an exact science but when writing the Timeline I lost sight of the fact that my message filing was only a best guess. There is little consolation in the complaining informant making the same assumption that (s)he was unique.
The Timeline has been modified. The changes are few because it will always be true that certain names were anonymously named but there is no longer an assumption that all messages were from a single source.
If anyone is tempted to send an anonymous message in future it would be helpful to allocate themselves a pseudonym and stick to it, thereby much reducing the opportunity for confusion and unintended offence.
you believe what Bexley council told the local press a year ago (News Shopper 27 April 2011) they plan to
webcast their meetings once the new Civic Centre opens. However if you believe
what they told John Watson of the
Bexley Council Monitoring Group they will not. I’m not sure that is bad news.
Recording would catch out the rewriters of history; mayor Alan Downing’s pen-jabbing antics and demands to “sit down” would not so easily be labelled neither dismissive nor arrogant. On the other hand I would probably lazily give up taking notes at meetings and then take twice as long to blog about meetings while rechecking every last detail.
Yesterday’s report in the Daily Telegraph offers what may be a good forecast of how any webcasting would be received here in Bexley. A blog summarising the highlights may make meetings appear to be more exciting than they are and a webcast can never replace the real thing where you can in various ways express your feelings about the charade being played out before you.
If Bexley council has changed its mind about webcasting I’m not going to get too upset by it, it might force them to operate the microphones responsibly but you can be sure any recording would be edited. In any case there are residents who would happily do the job for nothing if only Bexley council would operate within existing government guidelines.
a few days after revealing
the new complaints job
at Bexley council I have been sent a copy of the first fruit of their new found
interest in complaint handling. Adorned with their ever more incongruous slogan,
‘Listening to you, working for you’ comes a lavishly produced booklet for staff
giving guidance on how they might dodge awkward questions. Nothing new on how to answer
questions properly yet, but that’s not the priority.
Councils have a massive armoury of defence weapons against doing anything they don’t want to do. The Information Commissioner (ICO) has no real teeth, it recommended I go to law myself when Bexley council refused its instructions on my Subject Access Request. The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) supports criminal intent, and if all else fails councils can make up their own rules to suit themselves; and change them on a whim when they don’t. When backed into a corner a council has a simple escape route. It simply applies the ‘vexatious’ label and refuses to talk to you, hence the haste in publishing the new booklet on when and how that ruse can be exploited.
It is only right that there is an agreed policy on dealing with complaints. Eleven years ago I was threatened with the council’s ‘vexatious’ nonsense for writing three letters over two years covering seven different subjects. It wasn’t vexatious then and probably wouldn’t be under the new guidance so if it prevents rogue staff making unjustified threats it may have some merit, but was fending off the more vociferous complainants really the highest priority issue requiring attention?
Behaviour that might fall foul of the new rules include “making lengthy phone calls, emails expecting immediate responses, detailed letters or emails every few days”. Other things that may get you ruled vexatious are “Changing the complaint as the matter proceeds” and “Refusing to accept a decision”. When I found myself in the latter position and facing silence I started this website. Maybe Bexley council has yet to learn the lessons of unintended consequences.
Decisions on vexatiousness will in future be made at Deputy Director level and there is no appeal process other than to take the matter to the ICO or LGO.
Once labelled vexatious by Bexley council they may absolutely refuse to talk to you again or limit communication to one method only, email, letter etc. They may prevent you using services such as libraries, or to access any council building. Draconian stuff if you upset a council officer as I did with my three letters in two years.
I am sure some in the borough will be difficult to handle but Bexley has already shown how easily it allows common sense to fly from its window. Both Peter Ellershaw and Will Tuckley wrote to Olly Cromwell banning him from council premises for following the Communities Secretary’s guidance on filming and Tuckley lied to the police in an attempt to stop “criticism of councillors”. Guidance is necessary but is there any senior council manager in Bexley one could trust to make the right decision? Based on what we have seen so far I think the answer must be no.
I find myself disinclined to make complaints to Bexley council
at every opportunity, that appears to be the job of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group
(BCMG). Whereas I find the lack of straight answers to be a disincentive to expending
the necessary time, the BCMG refuses to let anything pass unchallenged. It may be some
sort of ‘cake and eat it’ hypocrisy but I admit to finding Bexley council’s excuses for
abrogating their responsibilities and proclaiming their eternal innocence fascinating in
their inventiveness. Here is the latest to have come my way.
When I showed up for the Audit Committee meeting last month, BCMG members were in the Civic Centre foyer so I lingered awhile and they persuaded me the Standards Committee would be more interesting. As a result we all dashed up the stairs to the Public Gallery with barely a minute to spare.
The Committee wasn’t expecting guests and already seated around their table ready to go. There were no spare chairs. A council officer jumped to attention, gathered her thoughts and said she would fetch some. I went with her to help and BCMG member Michael Barnbrook did the same. The two of us each carried a stack of chairs back to the Public Gallery and placed them very close behind the seated councillors. Probably it was uncomfortably close and we were made to shuffle them backwards.
Mick and Elwyn Bryant weren’t happy because although the Public Gallery has a hearing loop no microphones were provided. Without them their electronic ear trumpets aren’t a lot of good. They muttered their discontent though how loudly I am no longer sure. We all spent the meeting leaning well forward to pick up what we could but it wasn’t easy. Even one councillor at the table, Alan Deadman, said he was having some difficulty hearing everything that was said.
Mr. Barnbrook, as is his way, put in a formal complaint about the lack of facilities for the disabled and got a reply from Head of Committee Services, Kevin Fox; the same man who invented the story that the council’s Standing Order 84 which allows for the public to be excluded from any portion of a meeting that might discuss salaries, could be misinterpreted to prevent any meeting taking place at all. How would he reject a complaint about the council’s failure to make any gesture towards satisfying its responsibilities under Equalities legislation? He lied of course, the alternative was to admit a council failure.
Mr. Fox has said in a letter that when Mr. Barnbrook “arrived the committee officer was in the process of preparing the room”. This is totally false. I walked in alongside Mr. Barnbrook and know exactly what happened. Unlike Mr. Fox I was there. The committee officer was sitting at the committee table with her papers in front of her seconds before the appointed start time. She responded quickly and I have no criticism; the absence of chairs was rectified without delay. Why does Mr. Fox feel compelled to say otherwise? Orders from above perhaps?
“The seating was arranged near to where members of the Committee were sitting” the council’s letter claims, not the most precise of terms. I accept the seating was “near” but it wasn’t near enough. Surely that much was obvious from the position Barnbrook and Bryant chose for their chairs before being made to move them?
Mr. Fox also wrote that members of the public must say if they cannot hear proceedings but the precedents for that set by the pen jabbing mayor Alan Downing are not encouraging. As he demonstrated in an ugly display of bad temper, mayor Downing explodes in fury when anyone says they cannot hear. Having witnessed that, Mr. Barnbrook may have been unwilling to make a big enough fuss to be noticed by the chairman of the Standards Committee.
Fox’s wonderfully verbose conclusion is that in future “members of the public with disabilities will be requested to contact that officer a reasonable time in advance of the meeting to advise they will be attending a particular meeting so that whatever provision is reasonable can be made”. It’s to become a bit like wheelchair users who wish to get a train to London from Erith only worse, at least you can get to London on the down platform at half hourly intervals. If you are deaf and wish to see Bexley council in action and hear them too, you either give them notice or risk an intemperate pen jabbing. Take your pick.
According the the LGO, councils are at liberty to fabricate a story and submit it to the police with a request that they prosecute and their leaders and chief executives do not owe their populations any duty of care to prevent such blatant dishonesty.
It is according to the LGO’s investigator Helen Bingham, up to the police to deal with that sort of abuse of power and the LGO has no role to play. I can see a certain amount of logic in it if police have not been wined and dined at council expense and can be trusted to carry out investigations before referring cases to the Crown Prosecution Service rather than afterwards, but in Bexley none of that applies. I think you will know that story by now and the details do not need to be repeated, suffice to say I think the LGO leans over backwards to support councils however bizarre their behaviour may be.
is 23·38 square miles of South East London where democracy is paid no
more than lip service and governed by a collection of Conservative
politicians with a propensity for lying and putting themselves into financially
beneficial positions. The Maldives is a collection of 1,192 islands spread over
35,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean with a democracy built on coups and
guns and parliamentary brawling. So what is the connection?
The connection is our very own 42 year old from Sidcup, councillor Peter Harold Craske.
The Maldivian government has been trying to improve its international relationships with the aid of lobbying companies since 2009 and it engaged The Campaign Company (TCC) to rebuild its reputation in the UK. A company co-founder (who left at the beginning of 2012) allegedly went to the Maldives to tout for the business and TCC would appear to have been well placed to lobby the Labour government. Another co-founder is described as ‘ultra-Blairite’ and the company had already established links with and done work for several high profile Labour personalities. It was however comparatively weak where the Conservatives were concerned and engaged Peter Craske for his claimed ability to exploit equally high profile Conservative contacts - still in opposition at the time. I can imagine this is a contract that would have been in safer hands with fellow Blackfen & Lamorbey councillor, Katie Perrior’s and her PR company, In-house, but maybe she was still tied up with Boris Johnson’s 2008 election campaign.
Maldivian politics is nothing if not complicated with several parties and many sets of initials. Peter Craske managed to muddle those initials and claim alliances where none exist. The repercussions are still rumbling on in Maldivian circles. The British group ‘Left Futures’ has summarised the situation (below left) and The Minivan News (a Maldivian web based newspaper) has not yet stopped reporting it (below right).
On the left is councillor Peter Craske’s email (to his Conservative contacts presumably), expressing his concern for arrested politicians and pleading their case. He did not cover himself with glory with his claim of an imagined alliance and he eventually had to apologise for his error.
An incompetent Bexley Conservative councillor doing a bit on the side for a left leaning pressure group, exploiting his political contacts and provoking an international incident in 2009/10 is probably just par for the Bexley course but bearing in mind how ready he has been to lambast Labour councillors for their views it does shed some light on how deep his convictions really are. Not as deep as a trough of cash presumably. One must wonder if council leader Teresa O’Neill knew what he was up to and approved.
I would guess she did because in November 2009 she was happy to put council business in the hands of Craske’s unlikely employers. In Teresa O’Neill’s ‘Report of the Leader of the Council’ dated 4th November 2009 she announced…
One can only guess whether Craske was on commission for introducing new business to The Campaign Company but people like him don’t usually do anything for nothing.
The Campaign Company’s website has at least two references to doing work for Bexley council. As has been said so many times before, how is it that Bexley council contracts so often go to organisations run by or otherwise associated with Bexley councillors?
Click on any of the five document extracts to view the originals.
these two Bexley councillors invented their story about “dog faeces” and “letter
boxes” and persuaded their police servants to swallow the lie, it took just two days
for a Bexley resident to be arrested and charged. Ultimately it led to a criminal record
and this blog and others found itself unprepared for the media interest. It took several
days to cobble together a
chronology of events and meanwhile quite a lot of misinformation was disseminated.
With the possibility of more media interest in the months to come I don’t intend to be caught unprepared again. The issue, as you will have guessed, being that of Bexley council’s obscene blog.
Unlike when Bexley councillors spin a story to the police there has been no instant flurry of activity. Bexley council’s crime was committed 14 months ago and still the matter is unresolved, although it has advanced somewhat since the former Borough Commander said that “all enquiries have been exhausted” together with an assurance that the blog was “not generated from a Bexley council computer”. Without pressure from two MPs, there the case may have rested. Thanks to them we now have “an individual arrested” but not yet named or charged.
It has been a long road, there have been false trails laid, inaccurate accusations and lots of letters. For their dilatory approach and statements last year, some former Bexleyheath police officers now find themselves accused at the highest level of neglect of duty and bias towards Bexley council. The police whitewash machine has already been readied for action but a counter attack has been launched against it. The details of that must remain under wraps for a while but there is no longer any reason why most of the story cannot be provided in a media friendly fashion. Later today a new Home page providing a ‘day by day’ account of the blog investigation will go on line and advised via the RSS feed.
It wouldn’t be true to say it contains nothing that hasn’t already been revealed in this blog, because it does. There have been times when blogs have been vague about dates for a variety of reasons which are no longer valid, so the new ‘diary’ can be precise. There is more new than that but what you will not learn is the name of Bexley’s obscene blogger. Until the police provide a name and say it is OK to publish it that is the way things must stay and so far they have done neither. As you will learn from the ‘diary’, circumstantial evidence has led me well and truly up the garden path in the past but I am hoping my antennae are more finely tuned this time around.
I think what puzzles me most about the culprit is that (s)he left the blog on line for more than two weeks before pulling it. Surely if one does something that stupid, under the influence of alcohol or a mind altering drug perhaps, then next day, having sobered up, you’d realise just how stupid you have been and wipe it all away as soon as you can? Did the culprit not have a moment of sanity in the whole of those two weeks?
Note 17th August 2012. At an appeal hearing where both Seymour and Bauer were called as witnesses and cross examined it became clear that it was Seymour who had dishonestly exaggerated the content of the Tweet in order to attempt a miscarriage of justice and Bauer had merely sent him a copy and took no part in its embellishment.
Pickles the Communities Secretary labours under a quaint misapprehension that
councils have the best interests of their populations at heart and given the
choice between honest transparency and secrecy and deception they will choose
the former. In Bexley that is never true.
The prime example was the way Bexley council changed its Constitution for no other reason than to thwart Eric’s guidance on handling “armchair auditors” and “citizen journalists”. And they are still at it.
Mr. Pickles put out a ‘Recommended practice for local authorities on data transparency’ for consultation. The item that grabbed the headlines was to list the names of local government employees who earn more than £58,200 a year. Talking about their over-inflated salaries, Bexley has the sixth highest in the country, is anathema to Bexley council, they even deliberately misapplied inappropriate rules to suppress discussion on the subject after 2,219 residents asked for a debate.
Bexley council is campaigning that Pickles shouldn’t be allowed to get away with his ideas for opening the books to public scrutiny. It has asked him to exempt from publication any sums handed out to voluntary organisations that are £10,000 and under. Please keep them secret they plead. Are they handing out money to organisations that are a little too close to home perhaps?
“Bexley believes that £58,200 for the disclosure of senior salary levels is set at too low a threshold. We feel that only the salaries of Chief Officers should be published.” So there they go again. Bexley wants absolutely nothing to do with openness and transparency and is fighting a rear-guard action against their own government. Everywhere you look they don’t want you to. There must be a reason for it and it’s not going to be an honest one.
Link to pdf file.
year, after one too many reprimands from the Information Commissioner and
Local Government Ombudsman,
Bexley council decided that it was time they appointed someone to help get them
out of trouble. Adrian Barber was appointed Temporary Complaints manager and
now it looks as though the position is to be made permanent.
The salary on offer is a generous thirty odd thousand pounds and if you think that is more than enough to spend on keeping the complaints service on track then you presumably haven’t noticed that the post reports to a Complaints Policy and Performance Manager. And then there will be a Deputy Director and a Director above that. It may have been more effective to look into why Bexley council gets so much criticism from the LGO and ICO. But this way there is more money to be made.
The link to that particular job will no doubt soon expire.
tradition established in Nazi Germany in 1936 is to be played out in Bexley
today and not unnaturally passes by the borough’s very own Gestapo Headquarters.
Bonkers is and will remain an Olympic free zone; nice to see the sun shining on
those who wish to see how
Bexley council has spent our £271,000
but apart from the considerable drain on my pocket it isn’t something that I care about at all.
The sooner it is all over the better. However a very different flame was marched
through Barnet yesterday, much more worthy of space here.
Barnet is another of those Big Bad Mad Conservative boroughs that regards residents with total disdain. In some ways Barnet is worse than Bexley but unlike the crooks and charlatans we have elected, the Barnet crew have only just woken up to the possibilities of calling in favours from the police and encouraging them to take a leading role in suppressing Barnet residents and its many critics.
Bexley has outsourced nearly all its services to the point that one must wonder what the Chief Executive is left to do. Nothing at all if the Freedom of Information request for a copy of his business appointments for May 2012 is any indication. They still can’t find an answer. Barnet has embarked on the same course. Another similarity is their attitude to motorists. Here the megalomaniac Peter Craske introduced phone only parking and increased parking charges, tripling some, yet managed to reduce parking revenue all at the same time. That takes a special sort of skill.
Our friends up north have had their own Peter Craske to do much the same thing. His name is Brian Coleman and he achieved the same 40% reduction in shop takings that were reported in Bexleyheath. Funnily enough both these men have lost their cabinet positions, although for very different reasons.
The protests in Barnet have been much better organised than in Bexley. Here the council bends its own rules to reject petitions and may well have had its reputation comprehensively trashed, but except for those who might be fearful of the next loud knock on their doors, they have tended to get away with their dishonesty and law breaking pretty much scot free. In Barnet they do things differently, they take to the streets. The final spark was Barnet council calling for police assistance when they began to lose the democratic argument over parking.
One of the traders pushed to the brink of insolvency by Barnet's parking policies put up a protest notice in the window of her Cafe Buzz window with a few copies in other nearby windows. For that crime (†) the cafe owner, Helen Michael was arrested and interviewed by officers from Scotland Yard. If Scotland Yard seems a bit over the top to you, it gets worse. The officers were from SO15 and if that sounds like a familiar code it will be because it’s the anti-terrorist outfit. That’s right, for exhibiting a poster protesting about parking charges, Barnet council has had Helen Michael accused of plotting to bring down the entire nation.
I cannot possibly tell you the whole story here but a perusal of the barnet-eye and brokenbarnet blogs will fill in the details. Almost needless to say, Barnet council in true Nazi style banned the protest flame from entering their Victoria Park just a matter of hours before the event.
The links to the Barnet blogs are sample pages from many on the same subject. Follow their internal links for the full horrific story of yet another Tory council running amok. But not even Barnet council dares to defy Eric Pickles’ guidance on openness and transparency. That is an affront to democracy almost unique to Bexley’s criminal ridden council.
† The notice in her cafe window did not bear Helen Michael’s name and address and remained in place for a day or two at the beginning of the May election period. That was deemed to be an offence under election law by Barnet council. But a terrorist offence? How can that possibly be justified? By the same logic that puts a man in court for using a metaphor about flaming torches and pitchforks I suppose, except that in the latter case the man concerned hadn’t mentioned the fateful words. Not that that bothered the lying Teresa O’Neill and Will Tuckley.
PS. OK, I’ll admit it. My sister alerted me to to www.bbc.co.uk/torchrelay and I did find myself glued to the procession through the streets we know so well. I think that was the main attraction, that and seeing living proof that Bexley’s pinch points by design are barely wide enough for a large modern coach to squeeze through.
A magnificent technical achievement by the BBC if I may say so. If you missed the live broadcast you can still see it via the link above, fast forward to the bit that interests you most if necessary. Hall Place 18:00. Police Station 18:22.
undertaker’s premises provoked a few comments, none favourable. A lady from
Beckenham said she had employed Uden’s a few years ago when her mother died but
there is no way she would have done if their premises there had been festooned
with notices and traffic cones. In her opinion it looks as though an old family
business has been taken over by a glitzy American outfit.
Ordinarily that would be nothing to do with me but that ‘Working with Bexley council’ logo is intriguing. What is that all about? Are they employed to bury Bexley council’s dirty secrets perhaps?
Another reader sent me the rather startllng photograph. Maybe one receptacle could be labelled Cremations and the other Burials and Uden & Sons could provide the first 24/7 DIY body disposal service.
The feature on dropped kerbs provoked comment too, a bit along the lines of ‘what is newsworthy about that? Bexley council does that sort of thing every day’. My own driveway is at the end of a cul-de-sac so I drive straight into it, the only problem being it is steep enough to scrape the underside of a car if approached at more than a snail’s pace. I don’t have to think about turning sharply on a possibly busy road.
It has been claimed that Bexley council is reluctant to allow dropped kerbs wider than the drive entrance and that they are oblivious to the fact that the rear wheels will describe a different arc to the front and therefore tend to hit the full height kerb. Actually I’m not sure that Bexley council’s ignorance of steering geometry is news either. Isn’t it a fact that within the past two years they have designed and built two roundabouts that weren’t negotiable by buses and lorries? Who can forget the Ruxley Corner and Wickham Lane Peter Craske authorised fiascos?
We have known for a long time that Bexley council has achieved nothing for County Gate residents in the six years the Conservatives have been ruling the roost. We learned only last Wednesday that councillor Peter Craske threatened to throw his toys out of his perambulator if the beleaguered residents dared to criticise him. We have also seen that the only people prepared to speak up for County Gate have been Munir Malik and Seán Newman, both Labour councillors from the other extremity of the borough and we know from last year’s News Shopper report and Mrs. Dakshy’s revelations that Craske is totally unable to get along with anyone who isn’t an extreme right wing Conservative.
Seán Newman expressed the hope that Craske’s replacement, Gareth Bacon, might prove more effective but unfortunately both he and is wife Cheryl were absent from last Wednesday’s council meeting. Well if you take on nine or ten jobs across the metropolis you are going to need a holiday sooner or later and so we were prevented from hearing Gareth’s views on Craske’s sorry saga. So what does he have to say on his ward website? Oh dear. It’s all Labour’s fault!
I’m not sure that Gareth should be instantly labelled a liar because I have never before come across circumstances in which that would be justified. The footnote is probably a clue. A footnote by someone not averse to sweeping criminality under the carpet and who we know usually sanctions Bexley council‘s lies. The same person who assured us on another website that Seán Newman was unaware that the railway line to Dartford went through Bexleyheath. The lies are so poor they would be ridiculed in an infant school playground, a sure case of a mouth opening and a belly rumbling.
We have got to know an awful lot about councillor Peter Craske in the last year or so. Throwing toys and insults from his pram has proved to be his normal mode of operation and Mrs. Dakshy can be thankful that he didn’t report her to the police for “criticising councillors at a personal level”.
Over recent weeks it has become all but certain that Peter Craske was part of the contingent that reported me to former Borough Commander Stringer for that very ‘offence’. CS Stringer told me nearly six months ago that he couldn’t properly explain or apologise for his force’s mistakes over the harassment issue because to do so would reveal too much about his investigation into Bexley council’s obscene blog as the two were “inextricably linked”. His comment made absolutely no sense to me at the time but I think it does now. It would be nice to think that councillor leader Teresa O’Neill and chief executive Will Tuckley will eventually be done for attempting to pervert the course of justice but I doubt they will however guilty they may be.
you Google ‘Camden Oak Bexley’ the first item that pops up is ‘Councillor
Details - PublicAccess Bexley Council’ and it goes on to give the address of
deputy leader Colin Campbell: Camden Oak, 25 Camden Road, Bexley, DA5 3NS. The same
address as sometimes given by his son, the owner of
It looks to be a nice house but possibly not nice enough because if you wander past Village Estates in Bexley Village you may notice an advert for a very similar house.
Not just similar, if you examine the original photographs closely, identical in every last detail. So have our two favourite businessmen made another killing somewhere and off to pastures new?
I would have thought that a nice country pub would suit a pair like that, if they could find one cheap. Preferably a Free House. That would be very Enterprise Inn don’t you think? Plough Inn a new furrow might make a nice change. Or have they already Bean there, done that? Or someone.
We seem to have lost Peter Craske and good riddance. If only we could be sure the whole rotten ship was sinking.
Apologies for extreme obscurity. Usual legal restrictions apply.
Following the Public and Planted Questions allowed at a council meeting, councillors are
allowed to assuage their own curiosity. Councillor Brenda Langstead asked “How is
the council helping young people in need of housing?“ That's an easy one to
start off with. Bexley council offers no special help to young people.
Councillor Margaret O’Neill asked cabinet member Biffa Bailey to “confirm the current number of empty residential properties in Bexley” and was promptly reprimanded by Biffa for asking the same question at the last council meeting. No she didn’t Biffa, or don’t you understand the meaning of the word current? The number was said to be 754 - currently.
Councillor June Slaughter asked the first question likely to be of any interest to the general population. “What interest has been shown by local residents and groups in being involved in the Olympic torch relay?” The responsible Cabinet Member, councillor Don Massey who is not in the least bit interested in democracy pretended he was a man of the people. “Enormous”. “Overwhelming”. “Amazing”, which is not the sort of evidence that you would expect a magistrate to regard as acceptable.
Well who exactly, which organisations, councillor Slaughter wanted to know. Massey fumbled with his papers and produced his list and proceeded to read it out. Following his recitation of eight names I had never heard of - just who or what is the Bexleyheath Scrap Metal Band? - Massey came to a stumbling halt. That was it. How much would that lot cost to support was the next and pertinent question. £271,000 came the reply. I’ll wait while you get back off the floor and get your breath back…
Well if it helps you swallow your disbelief, let me tell you that Bexley council hopes to get as much as 60% of that back from another tax raising body but failing that, and the little matter of the 40%, it will be paid by Bexley. i.e. you and me. Someone threw an unwarranted jibe at councillor Slaughter reminding us she was against the £20 a year Olympic levy. Well good for her, not all of us can afford to live in £875,000 houses.
The two cabinet members for Children’s and Adult’s Services, Katie Perrior and Chris Taylor respectively were asked questions about their portfolios and both gave a good account of themselves which I have no reason to doubt.
The Clown Prince in the gold regalia was woken up by his alarm clock and that was the end of questions. We will not get an answer to councillor Newman’s question to councillor Don Massey about why he believes that increased charges for leisure facilities have not led to the reduced usage. The secret of how one small area of S.E. London is able to defy the laws of economics that apply elsewhere remains safe for a little longer.
Next on the Agenda was a Motion from councillor Chris Ball - leader of the opposition - seeking Bexley council’s endorsement of the need to keep energy bills within bounds. He said that the average Bexley household pays £1,345 a year for domestic fuel, that in Bexleyheath and Crayford some 12·5% of residents are in fuel poverty and this is close to being the worst figure in London.
Not being a politician I’m not sure what these Motions are all about. It seems to me that the idea is that one party puts forward the suggestion that motherhood and apple pie is a thoroughly good thing but to do it in such a way that the opposing party has to reject it. Then the fun is in watching everyone try to avoid the elephant trap. This time the apple pie idea was to be critical of greedy foreign energy companies and the elephant trap was a proposal that government should legislate against them.
Councillor Peter Catterall, the closest thing we get to a reasonable man on Bexley council, proposed a small amendment that would substitute the elephant trap with something no more offensive than a mouse trap. He proceeded to debate the issue with councillor Ball in his usual eloquent way until the mayoral clown got bored and told him he had heard enough.
‘King Cnut Seymour’ then thought he had something worthwhile to say, this time the tide he was trying to defy was high intellect, but in trying to compete with head teacher Ball and university professor Catterall he was only able to demonstrate his many inadequacies. The Cnut man’s contribution to intelligent debate was to blame the Labour government for the present high energy prices (well I suppose Kyoto was a big mistake) and the “champagne socialism” of their present leader Ed Milliband who wanted “to take us into the Euro”. A highly intelligent and relevant contribution to the debate on energy costs worthy of the daftest thick haired decorator’s brush I am sure you would agree. The amended Motion was carried unanimously, the first time I have ever seen every hand go up at the same time.
As time was pressing on I was hoping that council leader Teresa O’Neill would not spend too much time on reading her report which takes up 16 pages of the Agenda. My mind rustled up an old Scottish saying, one of many evocative little gems learned when I had to spend too much of my life in Glasgow. Their description of a hot air merchant fond of the sound of their own voices was of someone who opened their mouths to let their bellies rumble. I decided that if O’Neill was going to do nothing but let her belly rumble then a bus would be more attractive than a bum.
And so it proved. Within three minutes I had heard quite enough of how “Bexley had done it for Boris” and of the thousands who had thronged the Broadway to watch the mayor strut his stuff from Christ Church to Clock Tower and as she moved into extolling the virtues if the Olympic torch relay it seemed clear she was merely embellishing her Agenda boasts. I did a Usain Bolt for the door and the back end of a 229.
was stand up, sit down, stand up again as the new mayor failed to make an
appearance on time. Trouble adjusting his chains I expect. I assume we are
supposed to stand up out of respect for the office, surely it cannot be for the
incumbent clown. If you are in need of mild amusement during the initial
proceedings listen to the chaplain praying for wisdom and good decision
making, what follows must test his own faith to the limit.
Clowning Downing went through the usual rigmarole about no one being allowed to record his mistakes and if there is a fire we are to exit via the rear door into the car park. No one ever explains where we are to go if the seat of the fire is in the rear passageway and the back door is inaccessible. After that the Clown said everyone was to treat everyone else with courtesy and respect. Some hope: he doesn’t so why should I?
As already noted, ex-cabinet member Peter Harold Craske did not make an appearance, did not sign the attendance register, did not send his apologies and nobody noted his absence when the mayor asked if there were any more absentees. Nobody that is apart from some members of the public who called out “where’s Craske?”.
Within seconds of the meeting commencing the first Downing inspired cock-up occurred. It is hard to say exactly what happened but councillor Stefano Borella (Labour) stood up with a proposal that… and that is as far as things got because the chain entangled clown on the top table told him to sit down again. Apparently his sin was not putting up his hand first, so Stefano dutifully went through a Jack in the Box routine sticking up his paw at the appropriate moment. Thus the Clown’s massive ego and miniscule intellect was satisfied and councillor Borella was allowed to suggest another Labour member, Seán Newman, be allowed to join the library committee, whatever that may be, to allow a measure of “cross party representation”.
Councillor Munir Malik seconded and then the mayor‘s brain belatedly kicked in and everything came to a grinding halt. He had muddled two Agenda items and he wasn’t where he thought he was. We had to start again on some other subject. When councillor Borella eventually got back to his theme it was inevitably thrown out unanimously by the Conservatives who don’t like the idea of Labourites being given the opportunity to rock their cosy little boat.
There was then a deputation by the residents of County Gate (Longlands ward), the narrow road that is chosen by those using Sat Nav to leave the A2 near the border with Eltham. The deputation was presented by Mrs. Dakshy (or Mrs. Darkshy according to the mayor) who was featured in last week’s News Shopper. She did a first rate job of exposing the dishonesty of Bexley council and illustrated why I have so often found it necessary to use the words ‘vindictive’ and ‘spiteful’ to describe their default position.
The details of the complaint were provided last year. Councillor Peter Craske blamed Greenwich council for the problems and got himself plastered all over the News Shopper’s front page for his pains (29 June 2011). This time it was revealed that Craske had earlier threatened to order all his officers to abandon County Gate if Mrs. Dakshy or her supporters dared to criticise him. Makes you think that Craske might be behind my Harassment Letter and the obscene blog if that is how he reacts to criticism - what a disreputable individual he is.
Because of Craske’s lack of interest Mrs. Dakshy went to the Labour Party for help, I had wondered how it was that councillor Malik was involved when the issue first came to light a year ago. This time she was sponsored by Seán Newman. Mrs. D. went on to reveal that she had become a member of the Labour Party which provoked a loud outbreak of desk thumping and jeering by the Conservative morons present. The geriatric mayor had already forgotten his plea for courtesy and respect so sat there grinning like the idiot he undoubtedly is.
Councillor Mike Slaughter (Longlands) said that a while ago he canvassed every house in County Gate, for exactly what purpose he didn’t say, and was immediately met with a chorus of disbelief. All the residents present insisted that he had not knocked on their door. Councillor Gillespie (Longlands) said that since the Labour Party began to sponsor the issue no one had bothered to complain to ward councillors. Mrs. Dakshy said he had been copied in to every email. Councillor Newman hoped that Gareth Bacon, the newly responsible cabinet member and also Longlands ward councillor would prove to be more effective than Peter Craske. It’s not the highest of aspirations but I am sure everyone will agree. (Councillor Bacon was not at the meeting and had offered his apologies.)
Councillor Malik said he had recent discussions with a Greenwich councillor and was told the major problem was Craske. Mrs. Dakshy advanced the view that had [Conservative] Bromley been involved there would have been no problem but Craske “had a problem dealing with a different ideology”. For reasons that were not immediately apparent, councillor Mike Slaughter thought that Mrs. Dakshy was “putting work in jeopardy”. What work is hard to say. No one contradicted Mrs. Dakshy when she said that in six years no one had got around to putting up even the simplest of signs. Eg. ‘Not suitable for heavy vehicles’. What sort of absolutely useless uncaring council doesn’t try such a simple and cheap solution?
Councillor Borella asked Mrs. Dakshy if she had a long term goal. She said County Gate had a wide sweeping entry point leading to the narrow section. That entrance needed to be narrowed; as it is the police have to be called to escort reversing lorries back on to the A2.
Mrs. Dakshy had earlier referred to the filibustering of her previous deputation and she didn’t fare a lot better this time around; a bored mayor said that “15 minutes are well gone” and halted proceedings mid flow. I glanced at my watch and sure enough we were three seconds beyond time. Once again no conclusion was reached.
Next on the Agenda was Questions from the Public and the council has come up with a new restriction. From last night anyone asking a question is made to read it out in full even though it is printed in the Agenda. Thus a further minute or two is shaved from the meagre 15 minutes allowed to question Bexley’s pathocracy.
The first question was a request to limit filibustering following leader Teresa O’Neill’s disgusting exhibition three months ago. “Would the leader be willing to consider restricting answers to five minutes, yes or no?” Mr. Barnbrook wanted to know. O’Neill waffled on at some length and Mr. Barnbrook reminded her that he required only a simple yes or no. Our grinning geriatric went through his courteous and respectful routine and told Mr. Barnbrook to sit down and shut up and that if he didn’t he would throw him out of the chamber. O’Neill’s answer eventually came. The time to be taken answering any question is “down to the responder”.
Question 2 was strategically withdrawn by Mr. John Watson to give Danny Hackett some chance of asking his question later on. It was John’s question which Teresa O’Neill filibustered at the last meeting to the detriment of Danny Hackett.
Question 3 looked like a plant to me. Ms. Susan Petty of 49 Collindale Avenue, Sidcup, DA15 9DN asked councillor ‘Biffa’ Bailey “What benefits does the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration think a Waitrose store will bring to Sidcup?”
Biffa, who must have heard the audience comment, began her response by stating the question was not a plant and I might have believed her but for two significant admissions. We had not in fact heard Ms. Petty ask the question, we had heard someone else drafted in at the last moment because Ms. Petty had not shown up. Back in April 2011 the Constitution Committee said that if a questioner did not show up the question could not be asked. How come the rules had been subverted for this question, would the same courtesy be shown to Mick Barnbrook for example? I would doubt it but if that wasn’t enough evidence of a plant Biffa Bailey carried on digging the hole. She said she knew Ms. Petty well, had been working with her on the Waitrose issue for some while and explained why she was unable to be present in person. Not a plant! Who does she think she is kidding?
The question did nevertheless reveal that the Waitrose petition would be presented to The John Lewis Partnership within the next couple of weeks and Biffa plans to “fight to the very end”. If anyone from John Lewis is reading this, please do us all a favour and give Biffa a straight answer. Or to put it in the mayor's favoured lingo, get her to sit down and shut up.
The fearless Michael Barnbrook had another question up his sleeve. He wanted to know what sanctions were in place to deal with councillors convicted of a criminal offence. Leader O’Neill said nothing that made any sense so Mick pressed his question with an example, maybe not the most appropriate example. I would have chosen something from real council life like perjury or homophobic hatred, but Mick, whilst making it very clear he was accusing no one and it was just an example plucked from the air, went for paedophilia. A certain amount of hysteria broke out with the geriatric clown warning Mr. Barnbrook once again that he was liable to be thrown out of the chamber if he continued “to stand there insulting me. Please be quiet and don’t call me chairman”. Teresa O’Neill also took the insulting line and in the commotion managed to avoid answering the question.
Finally Danny Hackett, an 18 year old Labour activist, got to ask his question. “There have been some changes to the Cabinet recently. Why has councillor Peter Craske resigned?” The answer from the leader was inevitable. “Personal reasons”. Danny also asked why the leader had not refilled his position but instead spread the work among two existing members. O’Neill’s response was almost as inevitable as the first. “Because I can”. I think If I were an 18 year old the words “arrogant fat bastard” would have crossed my mind, but the passage of fifty years may have mellowed my thoughts on such matters. But perhaps by not a lot.
Councillors Question Time will have to wait for tomorrow, or even the weekend. Tomorrow has been designated ‘Arguing with the Met. Police Directorate of Professional Standards Day’.
The County Gate protestors were outside the Civic Centre again
last night complete with banner. They were in
the News Shopper a week ago
because in their six years in control of the borough,
Bexley’s Conservatives have failed
to do anything at all about the intolerable traffic situation in their road. Once inside,
brief greetings were exchanged with several councillors, two more than ever before. I
won’t name any of them because one asked if I was better following
my recent ‘flu’ infection
and an admission of reading Bonkers may put someone in Teresa O’Neill’s black book.
As it happens I am a lot better but still far from being right and because of that I am going to split this Council Meeting report into two. The first will deal with the more entertaining and possibly scurrilous aspects of the public shambles while another, which may come later today, but no guarantees, will deal with the more serious but possibly equally scurrilous parts of the proceedings.
Whilst a small number of councillors appear to be happy with the briefest of civilities, Mick Barnbrook of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group (BCMG) is still failing miserably in his attempt to be acknowledged by any of the female councillors. Katie Perrior is his ward councillor and for the second week in a row Mick has tried to open a conversation with her but twice she’s hurried by saying “too busy”. Maybe she shouldn’t have taken on Peter Craske’s Community Safety role following his resignation if she now no longer has time for her electorate.
On the personal front it was going to be interesting to see if mayor Downing would be surprisingly good as chairman, as was Philip Read, or fulfill expectations, and secondly, to check the shade of purple attained by councillor Peter Craske when subjected to curious gaze. In the event Craske didn’t show up. He not only didn’t show up, no apology for absence was received and when the mayor asked if there were any other absentees no one mentioned Craske. Persona non grata or what? Is he still a councillor or is he banished? There was no signature in the member’s attendance register either. However the Agenda for the meeting still recorded his name on page 5 as Cabinet Member for Public Realm.
Mayor Alan Downing proved to be everything I could wish for. If I were to be generous I might say his performance was wooden and gaffe-prone but in truth he is a clown out of his depth. He was petty in the manner of a Victorian headmaster and he made an embarrassing number of elementary procedural errors. It seems to me there is a fundamental problem with our mayoral system. The mayor has to be free to dress up like Coco the Clown to open things or amuse youngsters who have done well at something or the other which pretty much dictates someone not in full time employment. So we tend to finish up with a bumbling buffoon with a less than complete allocation of marbles in charge of the council’s most important and complete assembly. Looking around the other potential candidates with time on their hands I don’t see how this can change any time soon. The best councillors look like they are holding down a decent 9 to 5 job. What is left is 100% dross.
At the start of the meeting the public consisted of 18 - most being County Gate protestors - five BCMG members and me. By the end the numbers had dropped to single figures when I heard one of the County Gate contingent saying that “Craske has been charged” so naturally I asked what secret I’d been left out of. Apparently “it was on the internet”, I don’t know where but as far as I know for sure councillor Craske has resigned for “personal reasons”. Nothing else. It must be true because during the meeting councillor Teresa O’Neill confirmed it that was the reason. As everyone knows, the leader never tells a lie.
Over the coming weekend I plan to change this website’s front page to include a timetable of all of Bexley’s obscene blog related events. There will be one or two new things slipped into the mix but Craske may not even get a mention. It is tempting to indulge in gossip spreading but it is probably more sensible to stick to known facts.
first realised what an evil little man councillor Peter Craske could be when
News Shopper reported how he took a vindictive delight in financially penalising
a resident who made a mistake with his pavement crossover application. The poor
man finished up paying for the job three times over when even if the original
mistake was entirely his he shouldn’t have had to pay more than twice. But power
crazy Craske could abuse his position, so he did.
Pavement crossovers shouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything, that’s a reasonable enough position for a council to take and Bexley council’s scale of fees starts at £960 so long as the area of pavement is less than six square metres.
Not far from my home Bexley council has ripped up all the paving stones and is laying asphalt paths, cracking a few garden walls in the process. It’s the sort of routine maintenance job that councils undertake from time to time and in this case they notified residents of the likely disruption and offered them the opportunity of having a crossover installed at a 25% discount. On the one hand it sounds like a decent offer and on the other, part of a crafty scheme to get residents to pay for routine maintenance. In practice it was a mixture of greed, stupidity and Craske-style unreasonableness.
The second of the three photographs shows a typical paved front garden. For reasons lost in the mist of time the dropped kerb is offset a little too far to the right. The kerb begins to rise opposite the boundary wall and there is no adjacent crossover for the next property. The owner, attracted by the 25% discount, asked the council if the crossover could be extended several feet to the left which would allow both cars to drive straight in and park parallel with each other but there may have been a problem with a nearby lamp post so the request was turned down. So far so reasonable.
However the resident asked if the kerb could instead be made to rise just one stone further to the left. The cost of materials and manual labour would be nothing. The council jobsworth agreed it would be a satisfactory arrangement and proceeded to quote £900 for the work, a price which would appear to be 25% off the standard price for an eight square metre job. It looks like nothing short of highway robbery. No one was asking for more than a couple of feet of pathway to be lowered more than previously at zero cost to Bexley council. Alternatively the entire crossing could be minimally relocated to the left of its old position. The council jobsworth was uncompromising, he didn’t set the prices he said; lowering one kerb stone would cost £900, take it or leave it. That’s sounds like Craske’s rules being applied by someone with very little brain. The crossover remains as it always was. Bexley council has lost a little revenue, one more resident is inconvenienced and thousands more people get to know what a small minded bunch of cretins run Bexley.
It’s a pity I didn’t get to hear about this issue earlier, there may have been an opportunity to see if replacement cabinet member Gareth Bacon is as stupid and spiteful as ex-cabinet member Peter Craske. I would hope not and it would be quite an achievement on Gareth’s part, but now we will have to wait and make a judgment another time.
Council statement on pavement crossovers.
contemplating this blog in recent days and the downturn in newsworthy items my
mind kept returning to this comment (see left) on the front page of last week’s News
Shopper. It was at the foot of a feature on Bexley council investing its pension
funds in tobacco companies. Several people thought I should put my own boot in but
I am inclined to think pensions should be invested where the returns are greatest
and a quick bit of research showed that tobacco has considerably outperformed
the FTSE100 over the past ten years. Were my own pension funds similarly
invested and if so would it be hypocritical to comment? (†) But the really
interesting bit of the story as far as I was concerned is that footnote. Teresa
O’Neill, full time Bexley council leader, couldn’t spare a moment to say anything
at all to Bexley people. It is becoming the norm and it is not unexpected.
In the three years I have been commenting on Bexley council they have managed to curb their tongues in a variety of ways, even one time habitual liars like councillor Craske has not come out with a juicy new one for months, possibly all year. They have also learned to block their ears; whether it be the curtailment of questioning opportunities at council meetings, rejection of legitimate petitions or a tendency to ignore Freedom of Information requests. The one asking for a copy of Will Tuckley's business diary for May is now well overdue with no comment beyond confirmation that he is being chased for a response. Another enquiring about the possible distribution of largesse to failed officials who are asked to leave is outstanding after more than a year of waiting. When it eventually comes to a head I can already see Bexley council will look very silly.
So maybe things will pick up despite the council’s efforts to enforce blackouts. I have several reports that demand a photographic sortie and if the dreaded bug eventually succumbs to modern medicine I shall be out on the road collecting the evidence.
† My research indicates they are not. I can breathe easily.
After getting a couple of enquiries as to why things have been quiet around
here I thought I had better own up to having had a nasty bout of flu. High
temperature, non-stop coughing and general
lifelessness. My GP runs one of those lottery appointment systems that asks you
to call at 9 a.m. and if you don’t strike lucky you must call again at 9 the
next day. The system is presumably designed to save money and allow the doctor
to have an easy life but in the last three and a bit years it is a policy that,
for me, has escalated to a total of four hospital investigations, three of them
stemming directly from the surgery receptionist thinking it was highly amusing (†)
that I failed in their lottery five days in a row. Fortunately I count
a medical professional as a friend so I am now on antibiotics
via the back door.
None of the above is wholly responsible for there being little to report. Too much of what has come my way recently could land me in the libel court. If some of the recently arrived signed documents are even half true it might make Bexley Cabs’ exploitation of planning law look like very small beer.
Unless my illicit antibiotics prove to be chalk dust I expect to be at next Wednesday’s council meeting to see if the red-faced one is any more red faced than usual. Nothing very significant is lined up for earlier in the week.
† A relatively minor problem which took three weeks to get looked into caused consequential damage. A complaint was acknowledged but never answered.
yesterday’s Cabinet meeting I found myself isolated well away from the other six
members of the public who were wisely wary of associating with the coughing and
spluttering one. Attending was barely worth the effort, ‘Public Cabinet’ is a
pre-rehearsed self-congratulatory stunt and
without a few ill-chosen words from councillor Peter
Craske it is inevitably more boring than ever.
Everything in Bexley is going wonderfully well it would seem and the council’s achievements were variously described as “fantastic”, “marvellous” and “exciting”. Council officer Sheila Murphy summed things up succinctly when she said, "The targets we set ourselves have been achieved”. Perhaps someone else should be allowed to set the targets.
Councillor John Fuller told us that our school attendance record is now one of the best in London while deputy leader Colin Campbell reminded us of the further £20 million of savings required in 2015. “Pain” he said, “was coming down the road”. His graph of year on year expenditure savings was probably the most interesting information coming to light all evening; unless perhaps you regularly park in Bexley village.
Councillor Gareth Bacon having taken on his umpteenth local authority job and now in charge of parking in Bexley announced his ‘Strategic Parking Review’ which aims to “improve the quality of life of residents while helping local businesses flourish”. A brave ambition but Gareth Bacon starts with a huge inbuilt advantage, he is not Peter Craske. If he were we would be suffering fines for minor misdemeanours with our rubbish bins and bin men would have CCTV embedded in their hats. He could not however resist repeating that Bexley has the cheapest parking in S.E. London - which given the price increases elsewhere is not the lie it once was - and that Bexley has more car parking spaces than Bromley. Which given that Bromley is twice as big in area was never likely to be true and isn’t.
The first step towards “improving the quality of life of residents” is to make the life of Bexley commuters more of a misery. Bexley High Street Car Park is to become restricted for all day parkers. The precise arrangements are not yet determined but the proposals are that about half of the 112 spaces will be made ‘short stay’ with a price structure of ‘Up to one hour, 90p’, 2 hours, £1.20, 4 hours, £1.60 and 24 hours, £3.80, which doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me. But then I absolutely never park a car in Bexley, so who am I to say?
An hour after the meeting started I found myself on the bus home where another dose of cough mixture and codeine awaited me.
I'm afraid my plan to be at the Danson Festival came to nothing,
most of the last weekend has been spent in bed with flu or some such bug.
Probably I should still be there. However in an attempt to see if my brain is
still functioning I have been looking at some of the detail associated with the
plan to redesign the Broadway area of Bexleyheath. At the council meeting a
couple of weeks ago when councillor Peter Craske failed to turn up to give his
presentation the scheme looked attractive but the fact that Andrew Bashford
looks to be in charge does not augur well. He was the man who failed to answer
most of my questions about
Abbey Road, Belvedere which caused me to start this
website. The final straw was his claim that what he had done was in accordance
with a Transport Research Laboratory report. When I got hold of a copy and
walked along the road with their senior safety consultant I was told in no
uncertain terms it had not.
A major feature of the new scheme is that it encourages ‘shared space’ and to that end a 20 m.p.h. zone will be introduced “on parts of Broadway, Albion Road and Arnsberg Way”. We will have to see if pedestrians feel safer with such an arrangement and hope there is no rude awakening by speeding emergency vehicles. The police station is in Arnsberg Way and both fire and ambulance stations are not far outside the zone. Pedestrian crossings are to be almost done away with.
The red As on the image above indicate where existing Pelican Crossings are to be removed, while crossing B, adjacent to ADSA, will be retained but given a raised platform and the bend realigned to make it more acute. The two red Cs indicate where traffic lights with pedestrian crossing phases are to be replaced by mini-roundabouts. D is to be a “flat topped road hump”.
Obviously you can’t ruin nice new stone paving and carriageway by painting double yellow lines all over it so the parts of Albion Road, Broadway and Arnsberg Way enclosed by the yellow Xs are to become a Restricted Parking Zone. No yellow lines, just a general ban with a few bays for the disabled and some for loading/unloading only.
You have until 25th July to comment on these proposals; I shall not be bothering. When I eventually managed to get hold of a list of all the comments made on Abbey Road back in 2009, I discovered that councillor Peter Craske had dismissed every single one. And now he seems to have dismissed himself.
Construction is scheduled to take place between 10th September and 9th November 2012 and from 14th January 2013 to July 2013.
With not a lot going on, or to be more precise, not a lot going on that can be safely reported, I fell back at looking at the Bonkers’ webstats. One item that has been a mystery for the past couple of months is shown above. It would be unremarkable if someone made that search once, but every day, several times a day and always with the same spelling mistake? Weird. For those new around here Sandra Bauer is the deputy leader of the Labour opposition on Bexley council famed for kicking off the ‘dog faeces through a letter box’ story which led to Olly Cromwell getting a criminal record when the truth was rather different, dog faeces and letter boxes being an invention that the cowardly councillor failed to admit. No integrity, no honesty. That's two of those Nolan Principles up the Swanee straight away. Sandra Bauer has never come to notice for anything on Bonkers except for that lie. What is the deputy leader of the Labour opposition for?
Over the last couple of weeks the other Bexley names being searched frequently are Chris Taylor and Peter Craske. Craske I can understand but the name Taylor is being most often searched as “Cllr Chris Taylor arrested”. I would suggest that someone has an overactive imagination or knows a lot more than I do.
Councillors are not the only people arousing curiosity. Elwyn Bryant, Michael Barnbrook and myself are all subject to searches, though maybe it is not me. My name is shared by an international banker, an actor, a man who held the record for rowing the length of the Thames and a puppeteer in Scotland. But if it was me who was being searched the answer to the question is that I am not employed by anyone to write this blog.
Questions that I cannot answer are “are there any clubs in bexley to meet mature women” and “bexley girls with huge bonkers” and a few more which are best not repeated here. As for those Craske questions, there is more info hidden away in this week’s News Shopper than you will find here. I have no definitive answers but the various indicators are more than a little interesting.
council’s AGM in May new faces have been seen chairing some of the Scrutiny
Committees. Councillor Philip Read did a surprisingly good job at
Committee meeting and last night it was councillor Alex Sawyer who was new
to the hot seat at the Crime and Disorder Committee. It used to be the case that
you could turn up at practically any Bexley council meeting and be confident of
witnessing an omnishambles. Not any more. If you hanker after the old days the
only meeting I would recommend is one chaired by councillor Alan Downing, with
luck you will not only see a shambles you might be privileged to
see him lose
his temper. Not pretty.
By comparison Alex Sawyer is a total bore. He turns up the best dressed man around the table, welcomes members of the public, does not insult them with the routine warning about recording - he knows those present play by the rules - goes out of his way to ensure the microphones are all used, doesn’t stamp on councillors for asking one question too many, and when the meeting is over wishes everyone, public included, a cheery "Goodnight gentlemen". I don’t really want to use the word ‘professional’ to describe the running of a Bexley council meeting but I fear I am going to have to.
However to make everyone feel at home we still have councillor Val Clark. Apart from myself, ‘the public’ consisted only of three Bexley Council Monitoring Group (BCMG) members and Mick Barnbrook continued his charm offensive against the stuck up madam. She once again wafted by silently with her nose in the air refusing to acknowledge his greeting. I have no idea what he sees in her, surely the pick of Bexley’s female bunch is Maxine?
But councillor Maxine Fothergill’s presence last night was not my reason for ruining another evening, it was Borough Police Commander Victor Olisa. I’d heard some favourable reports but what is he like in the flesh?
He said he would address the meeting for ten minutes but failed miserably. He finished in just over six. He revealed that he expected a three year posting to Bexley and his priority was “safety in public places” and “to protect their property”. He didn‘t want anybody “hurt or killed” and specifically mentioned the elderly and the young. All the ‘acting’ police posts have gone and everyone, or maybe almost everyone, is now doing their own basic job. As a result the Commander currently has no deputy. He moved on to questions.
Chief Superintendent Olisa is very different to his predecessor. CS Stringer would answer quickly and one suspected a rehearsed response out of the Met’s Book of Standard Answers. Olisa struck me as more thoughtful and more ready to give his own honest opinion. Whilst Stringer would be on his politically correct best behaviour, the new man repeatedly referred to his men as “cops”. It would be hard not to like him.
The councillors present were Kerry Allon, Brian Bishop, Val Clark, Graham D’Amiral, Maxine Fothergill, Steven Hall, Philip Read, Michael Slaughter, John Wilkinson, Brenda Langstead and Harry Persaud. Councillor Peter Craske, aged 42, who has always put in a guest appearance at the Crime meeting in the past was absent, as was his replacement, Gareth Bacon. The loss of Craske’s expertise in matters criminal did not prove to be a problem. The only councillor who did not ask a question was Allon but the others elicited the following information.
Olisa believed it will be challenging to maintain the recent good burglary figures and in an unstated reference to earlier suggestions that Bexley’s burglary figures might not have been all what they seemed to be, said “the figures will be obtained in an ethical way”.
The Commissioner’s plan to allocate Tasers in London will result in two of Bexley’s vehicles being so equipped - but possibly not until after the Inner Boroughs get theirs.
Economic pressures mean that retiring officers are not being replaced and if a PCSO opts to train as a ‘proper policeman’ that is likely to cause a vacancy too. SNT (Safer Neighbourhood Teams) could reduce to as few as two officers per ward and recruitment won’t restart until “after the Olympics”. I’m not sure I should be repeating this but a rerun of last year’s riots would cause the police to “struggle” but they will, given the experience gained, be “better prepared”.
The Commander was surprised to hear the opinion that people are reluctant to report crimes and rejected Val Clark’s suggestion that test purchases at licensed premises have been reduced. He gave some figures that squashed that view fairly effectively. A suggestion that burglars are on a repeating cycle of offending and imprisonment was met with some impressive statistics for arrests and the comment that someone in Thamesmead will not be “filling his boots” for a little while.
In a later session Councillor Read reported on Domestic Violence. He was at pains to point out he was taking a gender neutral view but revealed that most male victims were in gay relationships. An interesting slant on a situation that most of us would be able to guess. That the more aggressive sex is the male one.
Although the meeting dragged on a little longer with a report from David Bryce-Smith, Deputy Director (Development, Housing & Community Safety), Chief Superintendent Olisa left before he delivered it. With my nose in my notebook, I failed to notice until the floor boards groaned as they always do when people move about the chamber. Glancing up I noted that BCMG members Mick Barnbrook and Elwyn Bryant followed him out. The look on councillors faces made a perfect picture, at least I thought it did until I saw a better one when Mick didn’t come back for about 20 minutes, Elwyn rather earlier.
From what I could gather later the Commander was happy to listen to a brief history of Bexley council’s criminal activities going all the way back to a previous Commander enjoying meals at council expense, crooked expense claims and the consequent refusal to lay criminal charges. It was all news to him, but not now.
Maybe it’s just me biased by Bexley council’s refusal to even accept a petition on their excessive salaries let alone act on it; but I do feel their own petition to influence Waitrose’s commercial decision not to open a store in Sidcup is ethically dubious. Maybe if they made better arrangements for the parking of delivery vehicles and potential customers it would have greater effect. However the petition bandwagon rolls on with a stall set out to promote it at the Danson Festival on the weekend of 7th/8th July and the drumming up of support among council staff. Here is another of the great Teresa O’Neill’s stunts, an appeal to Bexley council employees.
From: Ferry, John On Behalf Of Communications
Sent: 13 June 2012 09:36
To: All Bexley Users
Subject: 'We want Waitrose' petition
Message from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Teresa O'Neill
As you know we are undertaking a campaign to try to persuade Waitrose to overturn the decision they have taken not to open their new unit in Sidcup as planned.
We have an on line petition, link as follows -
I do hope that many of you may feel able to support our campaign.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has decided to open a new store in Greenwich which will, according to the ‘853 blog’, have parking for 150 vehicles. I suspect Waitrose knows far more about shopping than Teresa ever will.
To save readers the trouble of popping back here throughout the day to check for anything new, I
had better say there is unlikely to be anything as what material I have is
either too trivial or too complex. Take a look at the local press instead; today’s News Shopper plays catch up on
the Craske resignation story
and there is welcome publicity for
That’s about it - probably.
This evening the new police Borough Commander Victor Olisa will make his first address to Bexley council’s Crime and Disorder Committee, 19:30 in the Civic Centre. It will be the first time I will have heard him speak. Maybe you would like to listen to what he has to say too. Otherwise you will have to fall back on tomorrow’s blog.
I was passing nearby I thought I’d get some new photos of
the hedge which Mrs. Rita
Grootendorst trimmed. Not as much I had expected but a lot lower
than it was. She spotted me outside and asked if I had come to trim it further.
“Did I own a hedge trimmer?” I have no hedge so the answer was obvious but Mrs. G. was
genuinely wanting it trimmed further but feels unable to do it herself with the
tools she has. So if you are a neighbour and think the hedge should be for the
chop, now is your chance.
Last week Rita’s neighbour moved out and the house is now occupied by someone new. So much for Bexley council’s claim that Rita is ruining the local area and no one would want to live there.
The inside of the house is still much as before. Mr. Grootendorst has done his best to fix a few things but walking around upstairs you still take your life in your hands. Floorboards are missing and broken and you can see straight down to the garden below. The stairs are still dangerous but the doorway to oblivion through which I came close to dropping is now blocked by an old suitcase.
The neglectful builder, Chris McGuiness of 17, Sheldon Road, Bexleyheath, DA8 4PB, is still nowhere to be seen. Others have offered their sympathy but none can take on the job for a month or two. The scaffolding company has generously offered to keep the scaffold in place for a couple of months free of charge but it has been deemed inadequate by the other construction companies. MAC Construction (General Building) has a lot to answer for.
Meanwhile Bexley council is doing its best to bankrupt the Grootendorsts. Yesterday morning they were in court to make their Appeal against Bexley council’s prosecution for allegedly ruining the local amenities. I made a passing reference to its submission a month ago but neither the Court officials nor Bexley’s solicitor gave any sign of having read it so the hearing was a waste of everyone’s time and money. Instead of it providing an opportunity for the Grootendorst’s legal representative to argue that Bexley council is guilty of Abuse of Process, all that was achieved was a deferment to October. It helps to keep the lawyers fees high.
Perhaps John Waring who is Bexley council’s chief persecutor in this case was as disappointed as everyone else because he had brought a wheeled suitcase into court, no doubt packed full of papers.
There is to be a case management meeting at Bexley Court at 2 p.m. on the 1st October and a two day hearing commencing at 9.30 a.m. on Monday 22nd October 2012 at Bromley Magistrates Court.
Always nice to see what a vindictive Bexley council likes to spend your money on.
Bexley magazine tumbled through my letterbox yesterday afternoon and the
leader’s column is filled with Olympics stuff. Bexley has “been closely involved
in the planning of the Games” and "Times like these … show how much we have in common”.
Does that sound like a reasoned argument?
I never saw Teresa O’Neill as the athletic type before, though she can be fairly quick off the block when there is a chance to twist a policeman’s arm and get a critic locked up. More surprising than the implication that Bexley has been a big player in the Games (†) is Page 13 of the magazine where she and her scheming cohorts encourage us to pitch in and see what our money has been forked out on (flags up lamp posts) and descend on the Civic Centre and Danson Park with flaming torches.
Should we be scared witless like the Frightened Controller herself and sprint down to the cop shop PDQ?
Extract from police report on Teresa O’Neill’s complaint about me and Olly Cromwell for the flaming torches comment originally made by another blogger. Olly hadn’t even referred to it. The lying Teresa would have known that but chose to be dishonest. No change there then.
† There are six Olympic boroughs. Bexley isn’t one of them.
I was buried under a pile of email to let me know I can’t count. There are not ten ugly signs on the former public conveniences, there are eleven, and three more hidden away behind the building.
The green traffic cones show a great sense of style too.
set out to go to the Audit Committee meeting last Thursday expecting the usual
warm welcome from chairman Steven Hall.
But it wasn’t to be. When I arrived at the Civic Centre I bumped into the Bexley
Monitoring Group (BCMG) members who persuaded me that the place to be was the Standards
Committee meeting. Not if you wanted a warm welcome it wasn’t.
When we went into the partitioned public gallery it was obvious the assembled councillors weren’t expecting company. They were huddled around a small table and no provision had been made for the public apart from the usual agenda notice that no one was allowed to record proceedings. Printed agendas were in short supply, there were no chairs and although the public gallery is equipped with a hearing loop there was not a microphone to be seen. I think it may be a condition of membership of BCMG to be half deaf and I suspect they will be penning complaints to Mr. Hollier again.
We found some chairs with the help of a council employee and lined
them up about four feet behind the nearest members of the Committee. We were told to move
them further away. All the councillors had their backs to me but some observers may have
been able to see a little more. Councillor Alan Deadman seemed to be making some sort of
effort to angle himself into a position where he might be seen and heard but at the other extreme
councillor Val Clark spoke in a whisper. Given what I heard her come out with later it
may have been a wise decision.
The reason this particular Standards Committee was important is that all the arrangements for keeping councillors in check are affected by the Localism Bill. It is all change on 18th July and everyone must learn new tricks.
The Committee Chairman is the ‘independent’ specially selected by councillors and paid handsomely, Mr. Peter Richardson. Fortunately he spoke clearly when he presented his proposals for life in Eric Pickles’ new world. They were based on the seven Nolan Principles. Selflessness. Integrity. Objectivity. Accountability. Openness. Honesty. Leadership. One might wonder what the standards were before if that is all new stuff. However before Mr. Richardson was able to commence discussion of his 15 recommendations, councillor Deadman piped up with a radical new idea. Fairness.
He said that the public - I suspect he meant those of the public who read this blog, because I do not detect it is a popular topic for discussion in wine bars or letter pages of local newspapers - felt that decisions by the Standards Sub-Committee were biased towards the ruling party and overall “the perception is that we look after our own”. He suggested that the Standards Committee should abandon “proportionality” and adopt “equality” instead. He meant that membership of the Standards Committee and Sub-Committees should be split equally between the parties and not in proportion to the seats held. The latter means that when complaints are judged only one in seven hearings have any Labour representation at all and then only a minor one.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon immediately jumped in to deplore the idea but the longer her mouth was open the more time she had to engage her brain and her opinion appeared to mellow. Councillor Alex Sawyer has difficulty with the word dismissive but his brain is mostly firmly engaged and he strongly supported the idea that the disciplinary Sub-Committees should always have Labour Party representation. Not a lot, just one out of three, but at least it is a move towards removing perceptions that Bexley council’s enforcement of standards is a Conservative biased stitch-up. Perceptions? What am I on about? There could hardly have been any doubt and minority representation won’t change anything.
Councillor Bacon went along with the revised recommendation and so did councillor Deadman, it’s probably as much as he could hope for, and it’s not in the bag yet. The Committee’s recommendation will have to go before the full council for a vote. Luddites are in the ascendancy there and there is at least one on the Standards Committee. Step forward Val Clark, twice she said she was “confused” by what was going on, the Nolan Principles in particular. When it comes to Leadership and Integrity she is not on familiar ground as her spell as mayor amply confirmed.
Under the new procedures it is a council employee, the Monitoring Officer, who gets the last word if there is any dispute within a disciplinary Sub-Committee. Councillor Deadman thought that put him in “an invidious position”, potentially having to arbitrate between feuding councillors who had the power to blight his career. His view was not widely shared and councillor Clark was particularly vocal on the subject, at least I think she was, even councillor Deadman said he couldn’t hear what she was saying.
What was very noticeable about the discussion is that complaints against councillors were variously described as vexatious, frivolous and trivial but never once as serious. It may provide an interesting insight into Bexley council’s base position when it comes to judging complaints against councillors’ behaviour. After 75 minutes the meeting drew to a close and Mick Barnbrook of the BCMG asked the outgoing committee chairman and Mr. Akin Alabi, the Monitoring Officer and Deputy Director of Legal Services, if the sanctions available under the Localism Bill allowed a councillor to be removed from office. Unsurprisingly they did not, that is a job for the electorate. Warming to his theme Mr. Barnbrook asked what Bexley council would do if it found itself with a councillor convicted of a criminal offence. Alabi said he had sought government guidance on that and would get back to Mr. Barnbrook as soon as he could.
I noted that before the meeting began Mr. Barnbrook bid councillor Val Clark a “Good evening councillor” as she passed by. She ignored him with her nose pointing to the ceiling. On the way out Nicholas Dowling, another BCMG member, repeated the greeting with the same result. Mr. Dowling was on the receiving end of Clark’s wrath when he did not clap loudly enough for her liking at a council meeting. “Parsimonious appreciation” was her complaint when she spent good council money on looking up his address in council records and posting him a reprimand for failing to applaud enthusiastically at her command. Perhaps Nick should repeat the compliment and test out the new complaints procedure?
I shouldn’t leave you with the impression that all councillors are as ill-mannered as Val Clark. To my knowledge and in alphabetical sequence, councillors Chris Ball, Peter Catterall, Alan Deadman, Steven Hall, James Hunt, Howard Marriner, Alex Sawyer and Colin Tandy will all engage in civil conversation when the occasion arises. Hmm. Come to think of it it’s not many is it?
you read about the
regeneration of Bexleyheath Broadway you will know that Bexley council is
intent on taking over the precincts of Christ Church. The scheme was first put
to church members in October 2010, nearly two years ago, and they rejected the
idea. What changed their minds?
It seems that the Parochial Church Council (PCC) were bewitched by a freebie extension of the red and pink setts right up to the church door. “A God-given opportunity to make the church building more welcoming and more obviously part of the community” said the Reverend Francis Jakeman. Very possibly true but why give up valuable land for ever for the price of a few paving slabs? The scrap value of the railings would have offset the cost of laying their own.
Reverend Jakeman invited church members to discuss the plan after the morning service exactly one week ago. I imagine that they may have been less than impressed by the council’s plan which ignorantly referred to the “War Memorial” in the church grounds when the memorial is to its first vicar, the Reverend William Pincott, hence Pincott Road not far away.
Most of the congregation stayed behind after Eucharist to listen and there were things not to like. The removal of the hedge that prevents wedding parties trampling the flower beds for instance, but it turned out not to be a consultation to allow "the PCC to be better placed to know how the congregation feels”. It was more of a presentational fait accompli. A done deal. It had to be thus, council staff had presented the scheme embodying church land at the Public Realm Committee meeting three days earlier. Christ Church PCC appears to have allowed Bexley council’s land grab in exchange for little more than a small patio. What on Earth possessed them to sanction such a giveaway? Certain parishioners have a theory.
Where else would you expect questions to be brushed aside or unanswered or the shutters run up leaving some unable to speak at all? It sounds a bit too like a Bexley council meeting chaired by the mayor; and maybe it was. Who is the big-wig on the Parochial Council most enthusiastically pushing for the scheme? None other than former mayor of Bexley, Bernard Clewes who lost his Erith seat in 2010. John, Chapter 11, Verse 35. The devils get everywhere!