Banner
today rss facebook twitter

Bonkers Blog April 2013

Index: 2009201020112012201320142015201620172018

30 April - Bexley council, bluffing again

Unapproved signsBexley council suffered another embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Parking Adjudicator last week. You may recall that both the Evening Standard and the BBC reported last February that Bexley was one of several London councils using unapproved temporary parking bay suspension signs.

At the Public Realm meeting a week or so later, cabinet member Gareth Bacon assured everyone that that report was of no consequence because a court had ruled in councils’ favour.

John Watson of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group was particularly interested because he had received a Penalty Charge Notice in August 2012 because, he said, a temporary sign had been taped to a pole next to his car after he parked it.

Not having taken a photograph of the unadorned pole that was a difficult point to prove, on the other hand it wasn’t difficult to get confirmation from the Department of Transport that Bexley had no dispensation to use their own sign. John‘s case went to the Adjudicator and Bexley was asked to supply their Dept. of Transport certification. The resumed hearing took place last week and Bexley provided a certificate. The only problem was, they tried to cheat; they had hastily applied for retrospective certification and hoped the Adjudicator wouldn’t notice. It didn’t cover the date of John Watson’s PCN.


Frizoni's pay
The case highlights a couple of things. Deputy Director of Public Realm, Mike Frizoni is not worth his salary, let alone his 10% bonus. Clearly the department he runs is incompetent and breaks the law without a thought. Just like the council leader.

Cabinet member Gareth Bacon was not in possession of the full facts when he advised the Public Realm meeting while under the inadequate scrutiny of his wife Cheryl.

And finally anyone who was fined for alleged offences against temporary signage before 17th December 2012 should ask for their money back.

For convenience the Adjudicator’s report is appended below. It would appear that not only was the signage illegal, the PCN itself was defective. All in return for paying the highest salaries in the country to get the best brains. Today’s Sun reports that Will Tuckley is on £254,000 a year. Bexley threw out Elwyn Bryant’s petition for claiming a £209,000 total salary package. The liars said he exaggerated the figure.


Case No. 2120644178
Appellant: Mr. John James Watson
Authority: Bexley
VRM: D1G4568
PCN: XL0980120A
Contravention Date: 29 Aug 2012
Contravention Time: 18:05
Contravention Location: Hadlow Road, Sidcup
Penalty Amount: £110.00
Contravention: Parked in a suspended bay/part of bay
Decision Date: 25 Apr 2013
Adjudicator: Mamta Parekh
Appeal Decision: Allowed
Direction: Cancel the Penalty Charge Notice and the Notice to Owner.

Reasons: Mr. Watson attended the personal hearing listed for today. This case was previously adjourned to the local authority as follows:-

"Please confirm if you have obtained authorisation from the Secretary of State for your suspension signs, and if not, on what basis you say these should be considered as being validly authorised. If no response is received by the adjournment date the appeal will be allowed."

The local authority have responded referring to a Statement they have received from London Councils in rebuttal of the BBC Inside Out London report which has given a rise to a number of claims that suspension signs are not valid and which was also referred to by Mr. Watson at the last hearing.

This statement points out that the case referred to in the documentary has been superseded by the subsequent Court of Appeal Case of Herron v The Parking Adjudicator [2011] EWHCA Civ 905.

In that case The Court concluded that substantial compliance with the statutory specifications in the TSRGD suffices, so long as the signage adequately informs motorists of the restriction, and does not mislead. The basis for this conclusion was that the authority for the placement of signs derives from the local authority's Traffic Management Order (TMO).

The TMO submitted by the local authority in this case is dated as coming into operation on 17th December 2012. However as Mr. Watson correctly points out the date of issue of the penalty charge notice was 29th August 2012 and the local authority have failed to submit the TMO which was in force at the time of the contravention.

I therefore cannot be satisfied that the contravention did occur.

In addition I note that this penalty charge notice is defective following my decision in PATAS Case 2120504543.

 

29 April - Address request addressed

“Are you dead” said a cheeky message this morning just because I took the weekend off. No, but having driven Bexley council underground - rare meetings, few responses to questions - the information flow may be.

Obviously council leader Teresa O’Neill is not going to admit to breaking the law by insisting that residents could only be fully involved with democracy if they agreed to their addresses being published on line, that would demand a degree of honesty, but she does seem to have mended her ways recently. At the first sign of that the councillors’ addresses which were taken from the Register of Members Interests and listed on this site were removed from view. Technically speaking they were only hidden, the raw data was still available to those who knew about such things; but not any more.

Most councillor’s addresses are now available via a Bexley council webpage though about a dozen of them claim the information leaves them at severe risk of violence. It’s a lie of course. More than half London’s councillors who claim that exemption live in the safest borough in London - Bexley. It doesn’t make sense.

The old Rogues Gallery page which has existed since the day this website was launched has been considerably revised, not only is the address data entirely removed, the page has been renamed to something less contentious.

Councillors used to be listed, party leaders and their deputies first, followed by an alphabetic sequence but by reader request it is now in simple Surname sequence with an alternative Ward sequence available from a button. ‘Rogues Gallery’ is redirected to the Surname list for the benefit of search engine indexing or Favourites listings.

 

26 April - The woman who doesn’t care

Teresa O'NeillThe final significant part of last Wednesday’s council meeting was the 19 page ‘Report of the Leader of the Council’ in which she lists her achievements over the past six months. It wasn’t the last item on the Agenda, that went on for a further 141 A4 pages but most of those were nodded through without comment.

I suppose it is fortunate that the leader chose not to comment on her report but invited questions straight away. Labour councillor Brenda Langstead got the ball rolling with a suggestion that Bexley should ensure its staff (I think Brenda was referring to those employed by agencies and contractors) were paid at least the London Living Wage. Cabinet member Campbell’s response was “we participate in the London pay bargaining scheme” but he refused to “reveal any details of what we put in the budget for pay rises”.

Opposition leader Chris Ball shifted the ground to fostering and adoption and if I heard him correctly was particularly interested in the time such procedures were currently taking. Cabinet member Katie Perrior told him she had been advertising services on the back of buses, revised leaflets, improved the website and held an open day in Medway, but I didn’t hear her answer the question. Perhaps the defective microphones were to blame.

Councillor Crawler Camsey gave cabinet member John Fuller an opportunity to restate that Bexley does pretty well in providing parents with their first choice for their children’s schools. Third best in London according to Fuller.

Labour councillor Stefano Borella had more serious things on his mind when he reminded the leader that domiciliary care workers are being employed on zero hours contracts and weren’t being paid for their travelling time. Teresa O’Neill replied that “we don’t employ care workers” thereby appearing to wash her hands of the hardship her council is causing, but she did claim that “our care workers are better off than Greenwich care workers”. Hang on a minute… “Our care workers”? I thought she just said that Bexley didn’t employ any care workers. One thing is certain though, we have a ‘Woman Who Doesn’t Care’ as well as Chris Taylor, ‘The Man Who Doesn’t Care’. One up to Stefano for exposing the real and callous Teresa O’Neill.

Councillor John Waters was concerned about the mud bath which is Danson Park after a wet winter and cabinet member Don Massey reported on the remedial action taken. He said “the Danson Festival is currently in the lap of the gods”.

Councillor Val Clark wished to congratulate Tony Hughes (Head of Operational Services) on his sterling performance in keeping the borough’s roads open through the winter. I wish to second that, a good bloke always ready to swing into action to fix a reported problem. Someone should vote him some extra money to fix the pot holes. The past winter seems to have done even more damage than usual. Not nearly as bad as I see on my weekly trip to Newham though, they’ve been neglecting them for years. I could show you one which must be 15 inches deep; but enough of this digression.

After spending 30 minutes on the leader’s report, it was time to skip rapidly through 13 reports from the scrutiny committee chairmen. Most were deemed unworthy of comment.


MayorThe one chaired by councillor Maxine Fothergill which supposedly examined the effectiveness of the other scrutiny committees provoked most comment. One Conservative member had already whispered to me that it was a complete waste of time so to hear the same from Labour’s Alan Deadman and Seán Newman was not a big surprise. There is “a lack of transparency” and “a tyranny of the majority”, comments which provoked a chorus of jeering from that majority. The cretinous mayor Downing failed to bring his attack dogs to heel.

Councillor Philip Read said the committee’s report was “well balanced and constructive”.

Sean (or was it Alan, my notes have failed me) went on to remind the leader of her refusal to accept a 2,219 signature petition and referred to it as a “democratic deficit”. The leader has “an inability to scrutinise patronage” and “failed to hold the executive to account”. Alan said the whole thing had been “a total waste of money”.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill said her version of democracy “is the result of the electors [who provided her majority]. Don’t give us any lessons on not allowing free speech”, she said.

Maxine Fothergill said she spent 270 hours working for the committee she chaired and that “Labour’s attendance was disappointing”. Councillor Alan Deadman, who as a consequence of being a member of more than a few committees, said he suffered unavoidable date clashes. However Stefano Borella came out with something far more interesting, he suggested that Ms. Fothergill was paid for her efforts.

After that the discussion degenerated, if that is possible, into a pointless argument about who introduced Bexley’s cabinet system.

As the meeting drew to a close and the debate had moved on to “Health and Wellbeing’, Labour councillor Gill MacDonald asked the leader if she could accommodate an opposition member on the Board. Teresa said “No”. I suppose that is “the result of the electors” too. Perhaps we would be better off not voting Tory next year.

Incidentally, as I left the chamber, I could have sworn I heard someone say that councillor Lucia-Hennis is to be deputy mayor from next month, with councillor Sharon Massey as head girl.

 

25 April (Part 3) - Building bridges. I think not!

Sunday Telegraph
The biggest item of the night was councillor Craske’s Motion that “The London Borough of Bexley supports the proposal for a tunnel at Silvertown” which is no surprise because he has been trumpeting his special line in spin for quite a while and filling the local paper with it. In the event Craske marshalled an impressive range of old platitudes and presented them in a convincing manner. The only suggestion of Misconduct in Public Office was his assertion that all the people of Bexley are against a Gallions Reach crossing when every single bit of real evidence suggests otherwise. But as it is Craske we are dealing with you have to forgive the occasional lie, he knows no other way.

Despite that he correctly said the issue “should have been resolved decades ago” and that the issue now is “what sort of crossing and where”. It was a great night for statements of the obvious.


Cable carHe reminded us of the recent transport improvements and gave Ken Livingstone due credit. “The DLR now goes to Woolwich and it would be great if it could be extended to Bexley. Boris Johnson has given us the cable car too (surely he jests?) but what we need is more vehicle crossings”. Tell us something new Peter.

Ah, here he goes, sort of…

“Silvertown has all the infrastructure in place, north and south, for a new tunnel. The same is true for a [Gallions Reach] bridge except in the south.” Aah, so it’s not quite true then, Craske must be getting back on form. After a brief interlude for political name calling over the original proposals, Craske said he was against tolls on any new crossing.

Councillor Colin Tandy seconded Craske’s Motion. He wanted a Silvertown tunnel “as soon as possible, if not sooner. Blackwall is an absolute nightmare and the tunnel is a totally viable solution. We must have it.”

At this point councillor Munir Malik stood up to make a point of order. Unfortunately he wasn’t standing up straight enough and incurred the wrath of the pen-jabbing mayor. Maybe he should try a salute or a curtsey. Malik stood to attention and said he was “happy to be standing” which is apparently sarcastic. The mayor’s criticisms might be justified if they were applied consistently but they are not. Later on Conservatives were laughing and jeering at one of Malik’s proposals but not a word of admonition came their way. Eventually Munir was able to make his point of order. He wanted to move an Amendment the most important section of which is featured below.


Labour amendmentThe Labour amendment took no issue with the Silvertown proposals but had gone in for some serious blue sky thinking. “Bexley,” councillor Malik said, “is a forgotten outpost of greater London. Ten years ago the only proposal on the table was the bridge but today we have opportunities to mitigate the Gallions Reach site”.

He suggested tunnelling under the river and extending it to the A2 (four miles by my reckoning) with a slip road or two into the North of the Borough and perhaps the middle. That way only local traffic would spill on to Bexley’s roads.

The tunnelling technology and skills are already here thanks to Crossrail, he said. He wanted the Underground to come to Bexley as well as the DLR via Gallions. Ambitious stuff.

Munir said he had made a formal submission to the Mayor’s office and offered to give councillor Bacon a copy which he declined. Bacon said such submissions are considered confidential but a copy fell into my hands and in case Bacon changes his mind about reading it he may click here.

Councillor Borella seconded the Amendment. “Boris has not ruled out a bridge at Gallions Reach” and he reminded everybody of the public put down councillor Bacon received at his hands for being an old stick in the mud. Like everyone else he labelled the proposals for tolls as a South London jobs tax.

“Residents are in favour of a tunnel as may be seen from the local press. If your Mayor can support a [Gallions Reach] crossing, why can’t Bexley Conservatives?”

Next to stand up straight and raise his hand was Labour councillor Seán Newman. His concerns were tolling and the fact that Bexley residents had already suffered a long list of stealth taxes and a host of crossing related scare stories from Bexley council. Their real motives were political, to stop Bexley Conservatives in the central borough wards “haemorrhaging votes to UKIP”.

Bexley Conservatives however do not like original thoughts so councillor John Waters stood up to say that he would be “delighted to oppose this amendment”. He aimed sarcasm at councillor Malik accusing him of being a bad accountant and bad engineer and feared that the Thames Bridge might “rise like a zombie. Like all Labour governments Malik could not make up his mind. Bexley would gain few benefits from their scheme”. (Surely more benefits than the preferred tunnel sited eight miles away in another borough though?)

The debate had run out of time but the mayor offered an extension. The Conservatives shouted out they wanted a vote right then, so one was taken with the obvious result. (100% party unity.)

Then councillor Gareth Bacon belatedly decided he wanted to sum up the Motion, so the mayor grudgingly gave him five minutes. Such a momentous decision for the future of the borough, but Conservatives did not want to extend the debate and mayor Downing allowed just five minutes for a Tory to have the last word.

Bacon began by referring to Ken Livingstone’s decision to ban the contra-flow in Blackwall tunnel, Ken blaming it on police advice but Bacon assuring us that that excuse was a lie. He then went on about “partisan rants from Newman and Borella” and that was about it. All very relevant stuff I am sure you will agree. The vote was taken again and no one had changed their minds. Conservatives are unwilling to debate sensibly, they have all made up their minds and road block Teresa has spoken. End of story.

News Shopper report.

Note: Labour’s submission to the Mayor of London was provided by a councillor. A clear indication it was intended for publication.

 

25 April (Part 2) - Many questions; few answers

Answers to councillors’ questions tend to fall into two categories. Those from Labour members which get no answer or a dishonest one, and those from Conservative councillors who are provided with a catalogue of favourable facts and half truths exactly as the questioner intended, thereby enhancing their chance of promotion. Last night was no exception. There were 32 questions and time for three answers.

Councillor Deadman (Labour) asked Cabinet member Colin Campbell if he could agree that “the bedroom tax will bring personal hardship for many people”. Campbell said he had checked with the relevant government department and had been unable to identify any such levy and was therefore unable to answer the question.

Councillor Deadman tried again and Campbell replied that only 965 Bexley social housing tenants had a single spare bedroom with a further 289 having two or more - the ‘or more’ being pretty much nil as few council tenants occupy houses that big. Quite a lot of tenants had already agreed to the financial changes and a very few had asked to be moved. The flexibility to do so is restricted; in Campbell’s words “the trick is finding the housing”. Councillor Philip Read felt it necessary to reinforce that by reminding His Worship of the patently obvious; “housing is a finite resource”. On the other hand councillor Read may have recognised that the mayor is not very bright and will have forgotten.

Councillor Malik’s (Labour) question was not as subtle as it might have been. Rather long and likely to be seen as politically motivated. It referred to millionaires who were benefitting from the reduction in their income tax rate to 45% and asked how many might be living in Bexley and possibly able to spread their good fortune around the borough.

Campbell treated us to a political history lesson ranging from James Callaghan’s iniquitous 98% tax rate in 1974 to the munificence of Margaret Thatcher’s 40% - plus, if I remember correctly a further 9% of National Insurance contribution. Better but still too much. What 98% had to do with the question wasn’t clear but we did eventually learn that there were “less (sic) than 200 houses in the top council tax band in Bexley”. Campbell admitted that might not in any way relate to millionaire status.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative) stood up to say that “the tone of the question highlights the difference between the parties” which was another statement of the obvious”.


2 Watling StreetCouncillor Val Clark (Conservative) asked Colin Campbell how much money might be saved by moving to the new premises next year. A question clearly well into Category 2. Campbell was happy to oblige and whatever the cost, anyone who sat for two hours in the sweat box which was the council chamber last night and wincing at the noise from the defective microphones will be looking forward to the move. Campbell said of the Contact Centre “I can’t believe we designed it”.

It would appear that Campbell’s financial forecasting is on a par with those architectural skills as he also said that offers for the sites no longer required were coming in “above expectation”.

“In May next year we will be on a removal van” he said, adding, “but some of us won’t”. Was that a personal reference to his future plans or recognition that some of his cronies might expect to be run out of town by UKIP and/or Independents next May?

Whilst councillors’ questions can be extended to 30 minutes, the next two or three on parking stupidities and self inflicted traffic chaos were best put on ice, and so they were.

Time for councillor Peter Craske to make his bid for rehabilitation…

 

25 April (Part 1) - Fib and Fudge. Question time at Bexley council

At last there is meeting of the full council to report, the first ‘ordinary’ council meeting since November last year. Not bad going for a minimum councillor allowance of £9,418 a year. As you might imagine, it was a full Agenda and dragged on for 139 minutes.


Mayor DowningAs usual it began with the mayor spouting his ‘prohibition of recording’ drivel; not, you must understand, to prevent knowledge of his inadequacies spreading, but to protect the audience. Or so he says.

Having completed the routine lies he later said that any member of the audience who made a comment would be thrown out of the chamber, “I really mean it this time”. He insisted everyone showed him respect so nearly every councillor went on to address him as “Your Worship’. Some presumably were indulging their talent for sarcasm.

As always it was question time first where the main rule of the game is to try to ask a question that will elicit a straight-forward answer free of filibuster, fudge or fib. Mick Barnbrook who is a regular correspondent with the Information Commissioner knows that the Commissioner has put paid to Teresa O’Neill’s law breaking scheme to publish residents addresses so his question was “Please confirm that … the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 were adhered to.” The leader’s answer was a simple ”Yes”, which bearing in mind what the Information Commissioner has said and how Bexley council has reacted, strongly suggests that O’Neill would rather fib than admit a mistake.

Mr. Barnbrook then asked what she was going to do about the sensitive data that had been published over the past two years and O’Neill said “Nothing, because those people had consented to having their addresses published”.

Some people believe asking questions at council meetings is an essential part of the democratic process so to say that they freely consented to invasion of their privacy is like saying they had consented to run naked down the Broadway because the alternative was to have O’Neill cut off their oxygen supply. Would her victim be charged with outraging public decency or Teresa O’Neill with threatening murder? Given Bexley police’s track record on investigating council criminality maybe that isn’t a very good analogy. Even so, Mick would be well advised to seek the views of the Information Commissioner on that one.

Nicholas Dowling asked deputy leader Colin Campbell if he had succeeded in saving more than £29 million by March 2013. “29·6 million” said Campbell, but the sting came in Nick’s supplementary question. “How is that reconciled with a recorded reduction of only £7 million in spending?” No fib this time, but plenty of fudge. It was because costs had been “absorbed”. Good. but I still don’t understand how it is that tax went up 40% under the previous regime and this one fleeced the population via innumerable stealth taxes but tax is as high as it ever was.

Elwyn Bryant asked the leader if her policy of paying senior staff “at among the highest levels countrywide, will continue?” She said it was nothing to do with her, it was all down to decisions taken by the General Purposes Committee. Elwyn also asked if O’Neill would consider making a personal statement to the 2,219 residents who had signed his petition about excessive salaries but not been answered. I can only guess the answer was No because the Mayor got all ratty and started shouting threats and I am not sure what was said. Evidently Elwyn struck a nerve.

Bedonwell School Bedonwell School pathNext to the microphone was Mr. Chris Attard who is concerned about safety outside Bedonwell school. He asked cabinet member Gareth Bacon “Does a child have to die or be seriously maimed outside an infant school before Bexley council takes action to improve its road safety?”

In fact Bexley’s record on child road safety is not at all bad and Bacon lost no time in running through his file of positive facts, but unfortunately it would cost £12,000 to do anything about the ultra-narrow footpath outside Bedonwell School.

Cabinet member Bacon offered to meet Mr. Attard to discuss the matter but when Chris asked the Mayor if he could ask Bacon a question about it, the mayor, for whom child safety is always a priority said “No”. Maybe a child has to die before Downing shows any humility.

All the questioners disappeared soon after the question session ended reducing the audience numbers to a dozen or so who were presumably enthralled by councillors’ questions, their thoughts on bridges and tolls, and the London Living Wage.

More on that later…

 

24 April (Part 3) - Plodding

News Shopper Parsons Brinckerhoff vanJust a day after councillor Peter Craske’s last visit to Bexleyheath’s cop shop where he was apparently given the nod and a wink that his “situation had been resolved” I received two anonymous messages of a mildly obscene nature. The f word featured a couple of times but it was just a bit of nonsense really. Despite the anonymity, the owner of the Bonkers web server traced it to Parsons Brinckerhoff without much difficulty. And who the hell are they you may ask.

Parsons Brinckerhoff is a company closely associated with councillor Peter Craske. Funny that; so I let the police know about it in case it linked to their so called investigation into the obscene blog, widely believed to be the work of councillor Craske, which at the time the police insisted was still ongoing.

Bexleyheath police decided to investigate the two new messages as a separate crime. Since then they have from time to time let me know it had not been forgotten; then last Monday I received a different sort of call. They had traced the offending emails (†), just as I had done last October. What’s more they came up with the same answer. The messages were confirmed as originating at a company closely associated with Peter Craske. Just like we know the obscene blog went up Craske’s phone line. He is a very unlucky man to be the victim of so many circumstances.

So after nearly six months of tax payers’ money gurgling down the plug hole the police have proof that the web server logs pointing to Parsons Brinckerhoff I gave to them on 5th November 2012 were correct. Really impressive don’t you think?

I told the police again what I told them in the first place, that the two anonymous messages were only worth pursuing if there was a chance they would help convict councillor Peter Craske. That cannot happen now thanks to the corruption seen in 2011 and I suggested that it was not worth wasting any more money on the enquiry. The police were of the same opinion.

† Strictly speaking they were not emails, they were web generated forms which are much harder to trace than an email because they have no useful header. Except in this one case I never attempt to trace such ‘emails’ because it involves calling in too many favours from people who have better things to do.

 

24 April (Part 2) - Relief in sight

FoundationsCabinet member Gareth Bacon has today announced that the traffic chaos surrounding Bexleyheath should come to an end about five weeks from now. From the end of May traffic will revert to the old routes and circulate in the old direction with only minor exceptions. Work will continue for another five months but the town should offer a more attractive destination than it has recently.

As stated last June, on the day councillor Peter Craske was due to make the announcement but was instead occupying a police interview room, the Broadway regeneration looks to be a very attractive scheme and it is to be hoped proves to be safe as well. Councillor Bacon says the work will be to a “standard we can be proud of”.

As the photo shows, it shouldn’t fail for the lack of concrete and steel reinforcement.

Note: Two of the photographs in yesterday’s feature were of shops which were not closed down but which are closed every Monday morning. They have been replaced with alternative pictures. The blog did not actually say that the shops were all business failures but it was a conclusion too easily reached and as such was not acceptable.

 

24 April (Part 1) - Secret sessions

If you go to council meetings regularly you will soon come to the conclusion that they are held solely to satisfy statutory requirements and the real business is done behind closed doors. Some committee chairmen are even honest enough, or maybe that should be stupid enough, to spill the beans as happened last January.

The revised Constitution gives some clues as to the procedure on Page 287 of Volume 1. It says that the rules on public scrutiny fly out of the window if secret discussions are at least 28 days before a ‘key decision is taken’.
Constitution
Click extract for full text.

 

23 April (Part 3) - Olly Cromwell. Under attack but not offended

St GeorgeThe former Bexley blogger known as Olly Cromwell is in the firing line again for defending free speech and has directed some of his Twitter followers here. In my opinion, if they want to see how Bexley council tried to stitch him up on totally false charges, they might be better off reading this page, the left hand column in particular.

Three months after that page was written, Olly Cromwell’s conviction was overturned on appeal at a hearing most notable for the sight of a Bexley councillor making up ‘facts’ while in the witness box.

 

23 April (Part 2) - A lack of communications

AppointmentsBexley council’s new Constitution provides rich pickings for anyone prepared to look closely. I find myself wondering what has happened to the Deputy Director of Policy and Communications. Whilst it would obviously improve the management team if Maureen Holkham has been removed it would be sad to have to endure a scrutiny committee meeting without the giggle factor she engenders.


Maureen HolkhamSearching the Constitution (PDF file) for the words Policy or Communications produces nothing of note. Where has the Incredible Holk gone? It’s only a few weeks since health policy was added to her portfolio.

The table alongside is an amalgam of what was spread over two pages, hence the reference to a “table overleaf”. don’t bother trying their link www.bexley.gov.uk/about/man-structure because unless they have fixed it since this blog went on line, it routes to their front page.

Get it right first time? You must be joking.

As noted yesterday and confirmed by readers, Volume 2 of the Constitution remains unavailable. So Mr. Akin Alabi, the Monitoring Officer still shows no sign of getting his employer to obey the law.

 

23 April (Part 1) - Shutters ‘R’ Us

I am in trouble with the good people of Welling for the implication that the scenes of desolation in Bexleyheath Broadway are on a par with the problems found elsewhere in the borough.

I bow to their superior local knowledge. One of their number collected 20 photos of premises not open for business yesterday morning without really trying.

Click any one (and click the arrow for more) for a better view.

Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop

Photographs kindly supplied by a reader.

 

22 April (Part 2) - Arses and elbows?

Bexley council’s stance on publishing the address of any resident who wishes to fully participate in democracy via question time at council meetings is getting ever more confusing.

For almost two years, the Data Protection Act has been ignored at the insistence of Bexley’s Constitutional Review Panel chaired by council leader Teresa O’Neill. No great surprise there, she has become well known for assuming that laws do not apply to her. The revised Constitution was approved at a Full Council meeting in May 2011 and the Appendix A of its Agenda is reproduced below left - or top if your viewing screen isn’t wide enough.

This year the Information Commissioner eventually cottoned on to Teresa O’Neill’s crime while at the same time her senior officers, Nick Hollier, Paul Moore and Will Tuckley were still defending her decision in writing. Then the council accepted questions for next Wednesday’s meeting without any address attribution. Had they caved in? It looked like it.

Another of Bexley council’s illegal acts was to operate for a couple of months without a Constitution. That too has been recently put right. It is now available on the council’s website though if you can download Volume 2 (Complete) you have a better internet connection than me.

Volume 1 is however quite enough to be going on with and Appendix B (below right - or bottom) to the section on public questions is interesting. We seem to be back to square one and address publication is back on the agenda - no pun intended.
Appendix A Appendix B
Maybe it is all a big mistake. That particular Appendix B doesn’t appear in the Contents List. If that is so it will be another Fox foul up.

How come Bexley council is in such a muddle? What is the Monitoring Officer for?

Under section 5(2) of the Local Government Act 1989, it is the duty of the Monitoring Officer, if at any time it appears to him that any proposal, decision or omission by the authority gives rise to a contravention of the law or a relevant code of practice, or to maladministration or injustice under Part III of the Local Government Act 1974, to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission. It would appear that Mr. Akin Alabi, by failing to prepare such a report in the face of clear evidence of breach of data protection law and guidance, is himself in breach of his statutory duty as a Monitoring Officer.

I think Mr. Dowling is on to that one.

Note: Click either image for complete document.

 

22 April (Part 1) - Ghost town

Bus queue Christchurch ASDALike many people, I am hoping that Bexleyheath Broadway looks very nice and doesn’t become an accident black spot when it is finished in October but meanwhile there can be little doubt that it is causing traffic chaos and by the looks of things a good number of bankruptcies.

My bus out of Bexleyheath had two drivers on board and their opinion of Bexley council’s diversionary scheme was scathing. However I must confess I wasn’t over enthusiastic about their pet plan for bus only access to the Broadway.

Has the last month seen a spate of business closures? When Jessops, HMV, Milletts and Blockbuster all went down the pan at much the same time I took a stroll around town to see if there was any scope for a feature on the Broadway scheme and the draconian parking regime driving businesses to the wall. I concluded there wasn’t.

By last Saturday things seemed to have taken a turn for the worse as these pictures show. At this rate it will be Bexleyheath that needs rescuing, not Sidcup which was killed by council incompetence some years ago.

Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop
Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop
Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop

Click any image for enlarged version.

 

21 April (Part 2) - Parking trap

Letter box Watling Street Gravel Hill School Plymouth council was in the news last week for issuing a fine to the driver of a Royal Mail van which stopped to empty a post box. Royal Mail sealed the box in protest. But anything Plymouth can do Bexley can do better, they were busy fining mail vans long before Plymouth jumped on the band wagon.

Someone who was driving along Watling Street with a letter to post told me of another post box trap a month or two ago and I’ve only just found some spare time on a dry day to go and take a look.

As you may be able to see (click to enlarge) the road bears some fading zig-zag lines outside a school and a notice has been taped to the fence on each side of the road. It isn’t likely to be read in full by any motorist tempted to pull up before slipping his letter in the box. It’s not big enough for the restriction times to be read from the car. Expensive if one of Bexley’s gestapo wagons is lurking nearby. But with stopping prohibited from 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. In typical Bexley fashion this applies to school and bank holidays too.

It's clearly not the best place to post an urgent letter. If Royal Mail obeys the rules only the 6.30 p.m. collection is possible.

My correspondent who fell into this money trap fortunately didn’t get a ticket.

 

21 April (Part 1) - Crazy paving

Windsor Road Windsor RoadI live in a cul-de-sac which means hardly anybody passes by. The footpath outside my house doesn’t get used most days, not even by me, it should last for ever. Which is what a resident of Windsor Road thought about his quiet little backwater but Bexley council had other ideas. They came along and swapped the stones for asphalt as if it was the most worn out bit of paving in the borough - which it wasn’t.

One can only guess at the reason. It was an accounting fiddle over the last couple of days of the financial year? Someone with council connections lives there? The local crazy paving suppliers were running short of stock? No one knows.

Every property seems to have a dropped kerb but Bexley council still fails to acknowledge that vehicle rear wheels do not follow the same path as those at the front. None makes provision for that. The council was intransigent over alignment last year and are no better this. When renewing everything it costs no more to allow for geometry.

 

20 April (Part 2) - Marked for life

Today’s Part 2 comes from an unhappy reader…


I gave up one job for another. Worked there for eight weeks unpaid. They took out a car and phone in my name. Employed my son and son’s friend to leaflet drop vast areas. They owe me £2,500 in wages, my son £150 plus a £4,000 company car and the phone company £360. It’s all all in my name. My credit rating is ruined.

As a result I lost my home and I’m in debt to the tune of £7,500. I appealed to the boss’s father and called at his £875,000 house. He said he would speak to his son but I heard absolutely nothing.

I suffered a break down after chasing and pleading with this family. They ruined my life.


Goodness! Who can that be? It reminds me of a number of similar stories over the past year or so.

 

20 April (Part 1) - Cameron on wicked socialists

BBC reportPrime Minister David Cameron is often accused of being out of touch. I try not to to be too overtly political during national election periods (even if Bexley is unaffected) but quite obviously he has not visited Bexley recently and the daily web hits from the Houses of Parliament cannot be from his office after all.

Click image for BBC report.

When the Taxpayers’ Alliance placed Will Tuckey 6th on their list of highest paid Chief Executives he was beaten by Hammersmith & Fulham, Essex, Kensington & Chelsea, Suffolk and Buckinghamshire. Just behind our Will were the Chief Executives of Norfolk and Surrey. None of them sound like hotbeds of Socialism to me. Perhaps Cameron has been quaffing too much champers.

Note: With thanks to the reader who alerted me to this news item.

 

19 April (Part 3) - Turning over a new leaf?

I have a dream that Bexley council will one day transform itself into an honest and open organisation, beyond reproach and criticism. Fat chance of course while Teresa O’Neill is in charge but I continue to grab at every passing straw in the hope that Bonkers might become redundant.

Next week there is to be a proper council meeting; one where the public can ask questions. There’s not been one of those for six months.

The Agenda is quite remarkable and there hasn’t been one quite like it for at least two years. Four members of the public, all genuine - no political stooges, have put forward questions. I either know or have exchanged emails with all of them, and none of their addresses has been published in an act of spite by a resentful leader.

The first three questions, from my occasional contributors, Mick Barnbrook, Nicholas Dowling and Elwyn Bryant all require one word answers. Yes or no. That should leave plenty of time to answer the fourth question. Assuming we do not see a bout of juvenile filibustering by Cabinet members this should lead to a civilised meeting without any hysterics from the mayor. Well we can hope.


Seán NewmanCouncillors have asked a total of 32 questions. I rather like Labour councillor Seán Newman’s “Why is the Constitutional Review taking so long” and Stefano Borella’s (Labour again) “Could the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services outline the progress towards all staff employed by Bexley Council or through our sourced procurement in social services, being paid at least the London living wage?”

At a quick glance there is only one sycophantic crawling up the cabinet’s backside style of question and it comes from Sybil Camsey (Conservative) who is on a mission to be recognised as the chamber’s potty councillor. “Could the Cabinet Member for Education update us on the numbers of children who have been offered their first or second choices of school for September for both Primary and Secondary Schools?”

Everyone who attends meetings regularly knows that John Fuller has done quite well with this and will happily sooth the false concerns of Silly Sybil. Somebody had to let the side down.

 

19 April (Part 2) - Vote for change

Over the past months a small number of readers has suggested that there should be more opposition put up against the main parties at the elections next year.

It’s not something that interests me, I do not think it is a job I could do, but yesterday I took a look around the Electoral Commission’s website to see what might be involved. An awful lot of form filling it seemed to me. It would be nice to deliver a bloody nose to some of the leading lights at Bexley council but I shall leave that to others.

While Googling around for useful information I stumbled across the Electoral Reform Society (EFS) and found they were particularly interested in councils like Bexley. It is listed among their One Party States with 82·54% Conservative members.

The EFS is currently asking for your story if you consider you live in ‘A Rotten Borough’. What are you waiting for?

 

19 April (Part 1) - Incompetence?

There is still a lot of confusion surrounding this address publication business.

How does one reconcile the Minutes of April 2011’s Constitutional Review meeting which say that address info would be excluded…
Minutes
…and the Agenda to the May 2011 Full Council meeting which recommended that its Appendix A be agreed.
Agenda
And Agenda Appendix A which said addresses must be published…
Item A


Teresa O'NeillAs criminals go, Bexley council is a bunch of bungling amateurs. It’s clear they are backtracking on the unlawful publication of addresses (†) but why couldn’t they just put their hands up and say “Sorry, we were wholly wrong to have tried to put the lid on true democracy in Bexley, we have seen the error of our ways and we promise to be honest in future.” Dishonesty is in the very DNA of Bexley council’s leader.

† The Agenda for next week’s council meeting shows no addresses against the questioners’ names.

 

18 April (Part 2) - Monitoring the situation

Bexley council has been ignoring the Local Government Act 2000 for nearly two months while their Monitoring Officer Akin Alabi has turned a blind eye. When his employment depends on the whim of councillors it’s almost inevitable.

LegislationNick Dowling went to the Civic Offices on 21st March to view the paper copy of the council’s Constitution but there wasn’t one. A message was left for Mr. Alabi so what do you think he has since been doing to ensure Bexley behaves lawfully?

He promised to complete an investigation by 5th April. One might have expected something quicker given the serious breach of the law but in the event he failed ignominiously.

On the 7th April Mr. Dowling complained via email about Alabi’s neglect of his duties and requested details of any professional bodies to which he might be affiliated so that a secondary complaint could go there. The response was precisely as before; nothing!

A couple of days ago Mr. Dowling caught up with Akin Alabi while on a visit to the Civic Offices. This is a summary of his account of the encounter…


A smirking Mr. Alabi said he was no longer able to discuss the matter with me as I had complained about his investigation. (Not strictly true as I only complained that he had failed to keep his word and investigate the matter by the time he had himself specified.)

I accepted it might not be possible to discuss a matter that had been escalated to Director Paul Moore but I asked Alabi about his professional associations as I wished to have his conduct judged independently.

The smirk left his face and he refused to inform me of any of the professional organizations he belonged to insisting that this aspect of my complaint would be dealt with by Mr. Moore. He was by now most definitely trying to get away from me but I asked if he could explain what his role as a monitoring officer entailed. He flatly refused and scurried away down a key coded corridor.

Akin Alabi is the Head of Legal Services and the council’s Monitoring Officer but he won’t discuss law breaking by his employer!

Blocked by the security locked door I turned to find a beaming Mike Ellesmore, Director of Finance. Something had amused him greatly.


As revealed earlier today, a revised Constitution has sneaked back on line and the reason for for the earlier withdrawal has become apparent. It advocated breaking the Data Protection Act and now they are trying to hide the fact by rewriting history. Probably Nick Dowling should report Alabi to his professional associations. When the Monitoring Officer is involved in a cover up what other course is left open?

 

18 April (Part 1) - Teresa O’Neill. Caught red handed

One thing you can be fairly sure about when monitoring the activities of Bexley council is that if there is any law breaking involved, Teresa O’Neill’s fingerprints will be found all over the crime scene. It was certainly the case when she took the decision to ignore the Data Protection Act and publish residents’ addresses on the council’s website. Unlike Bexley’s police who have encouraged council law breaking (pitchforks, dog faeces etc.) or buried it (homophobic obscenities) the Information Commissioner has come up trumps. This week the new Bexley council Constitution went back on line after a two month absence, itself another illegal act because it wasn’t available on paper either, and there is no longer any sign of the address publication requirement.

This is a copy of Teresa O’Neill’s two year old illegal instruction known as Appendix A…
Address publication required
(the agendas go on line of course) and this is the new version.

No addresses required

Are we witnessing a rare outbreak of straight dealing by Bexley council? Err, well, probably not. A deep seated underlying dishonest streak runs through everything Teresa O’Neill puts her grubby hands on. Delve a little deeper into their shenanigans and what do you find? Yes, another cover up.

The minutes of the April 2011 meeting which O’Neill chaired, which unanimously approved law breaking and resulted in many residents’ being put at risk through their addresses going on line are not what one might expect given the two year argument over addresses.

They say…

Minutes
If that was truly the case how come the Bexley council’s senior officers right up to Chief Executive level have been dishing out excuses as to why residents must be put at personal risk? It wasn’t a Policy, it was a Protocol. It wasn’t a Protocol, it was a rule book issue. All of these officers have been compelled to prevaricate in the service of their esteemed leader. Now that the council has backtracked are they going to have to change two year’s worth of Full Council agendas which are on line, withdraw the dishonest letters sent by Nick Hollier, Paul Moore and Will Tuckley and expunge the memory of everyone who has read this blog?

I suspect the hand of Kevin Fox, Head of Committee Services, in this, the same man who fiddled the rules to get the 2,219 signature salaries petition thrown in the bin.

What’s the point of employing the legal eagle Akin Alabi as Monitoring Officer if he stands idly by ignoring the blatant illegalities (address publishing) that goes on under his nose?

Note: A click on any document extract leads to the original.

 

17 April (Part 2) - Thirty minute theatre

Last night’s Cabinet meeting was observed by Nicholas Dowling whose initial interest in Bexley council was confined to their unjustified decision to triple the price of residents’ parking permits. His flair for things financial soon led him to conclude that the numbers bandied around by councillor Peter Craske to ‘prove’ his case were pure fiction. Personally I don’t think a flair for economics was essential to the realisation that something was wrong as soon as Craske went on record as saying it costs the council nearly £250 to issue each one. If that was really true why didn’t they triple the price again to cover their costs? I think we know the answer.

Nick reports that the meeting lasted half an hour during which time the Cabinet considered, if that is the right word, 166 pages of Agenda. Why waste time when it has all been fixed in advance? It must be galling for Teresa O’Neill to be obliged to hold a public meeting and find the one who turns up is going to put the charade on the net; speaking of which I had better get on with it. Over to Nick.


On my arrival at the Civic Centre at 7:20 p.m. I found some diligent jobsworth had blocked off the best seats claiming that they were for councillor and council officer use only. Normally Kevin Fox is at the root of such pettiness but he was absent from the meeting despite being the nominated contact officer.

By the 7:30 p.m. start time there was an audience of eight Conservative councillors in addition to myself which is a jolly poor show considering the effort that must have been put in to concocting the spin and propaganda just for my delight and delectation.

Half the Agenda revolved around schools and young people so it seemed a trifle odd that the Cabinet member for Education, John Fuller was absent; but perhaps he was at the dress rehearsal so his presence would not be essential.


Gareth BaconThe meeting formalities were rattled through at breakneck speed, including an absolutely trivial amendment by councillor Gareth Bacon who claimed that one of his many sinecure roles had been mis-labelled in the Minutes. Nero was fiddling while Rome burned, he was indignantly bothered about it while admitting that it was only a trifling error, but something that must be corrected nonetheless. Hypocritical when you consider his missus won't allow more significant corrections to minutes if they come from Labour members.

The first motion to exclude the press and public from Agenda items relating to the Bird College, Adult Education and young people with complex learning difficulties was duly nodded through. In the event they didn’t discuss these items in any detail. It might have looked better if they hadn’t brought to the fore their eagerness to stifle openness and transparency.

Once again the microphone feedback problem arose with additional audible crackle and the ensuing shuffling and passing of microphone sets was hilarious to watch. Never let it be said that these people are not prepared to provide some light relief but you would have thought that this technical fault would have been remedied by now. Perhaps they have outsourced the maintenance contract.

The item on school administration arrangements for 2014/15 included a reference to a two month consultation. It got one response - assiduously ignored, of course. Still, the council loves these pointless exercises as to them it reinforces their inherent belief that they know best. A different perspective is that nobody believes they will take a blind bit of notice as is amply demonstrated time and time again when comments are invariably ignored. 2,219 signature petition anyone? In my three years of attending these meetings I cannot recall one single consultation recommendation by a Bexley resident that Bexley council has ever endorsed.


Katie PerriorThe item on the children’s performance management framework permitted councillor Katie Perrior, the Cabinet member for Children’s Services and Community Safety, to bemoan the fact that none of the Labour opposition was present to comment. The paltry eight out of forty six optional Conservatives present agreed in unison. They love this sort of easy political point scoring although the impact was limited by the absence of Labour people available for squirming. It was a puerile comment purely for the entertainment of small Tory minds.

Katie Perrior went on to admit that staffing and recruitment are key issues as it appears nobody really wants to work for the pittance Bexley council is willing to offer. The actual report is over 40 pages long and does not paint nearly as rosy a picture our Katie’s.

I will not bore you with the details but suffice to say the council is still way off of their own targets in numerous sectors. I would like to be able to tell you that this was highlighted by a councillor or two but this report elicited just the one question from Richard Gillespie – and I knew it wasn’t going to be much cop when he admitted that he could not locate what he wanted to query in the report.

For the record it was about some Action Team that had been brought in last November to address the damning OFSTED children services report findings. The reason he couldn’t locate it was that it wasn’t there but the officers dutifully answered the irrelevant point anyway. Another prize turkey making himself appear foolish.


Linda BaileyLinda Bailey the Cabinet member for Economic Development & Regeneration kicked off the next Agenda item by repeating Katie Perrior’s gag about there being no opposition presence. She no doubt expected the same cheers and jeers of derision. Unfortunately for Linda two Labour councillors (Chris Ball and Sandra Bauer) had by then occupied the public seats and so another splendid Conservative gaffe with Linda Bailey looking even more ridiculous than usual while spouting patent nonsense.

I am, however, confident that the doltish Linda Bailey knows a “splendid deal” when she sees one and supposedly that is what we residents are going to get in relation to the preferred estate options for Bird College, Adult Education and young people with complex learning difficulties. She was endorsed by her cabinet colleague Colin Campbell (Finance & Corporate Services) who thought it was an “exceptionally good deal”.

We will have to take their word for it because us residents and taxpayers are not allowed to see any details. On the other hand the financial information supplied on Agenda pages 83-85 showed Bexley council turning a £3·3 million total capital cost – that will have to be paid out and budgeted for accordingly – into a net capital cost of £283,000 using dodgy accounting tricks. Deploying made up unrealised sales of property in which there has been little or no interest in to date along with completely unspecified contributions from existing budgets.

There are plenty of assumptions that will have to be fulfilled and £30,000 a year of lost revenue is acknowledged, additionally the council will be stumping up for £60,000 of removal costs. Trust this kind of economic magic at your peril. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

The boy Cabinet member for Adult Services, Chris Taylor, saw his chance to drone on about education for adults with learning difficulties. Alas he opted to repeat everything we had already heard everybody else say. So thanks for that sonny! Next time if you have nothing to add keep quiet - you will look the wiser for it.

Following this Peter Ellershaw the Director of Environment and Wellbeing delivered a piece he had devised earlier via a monotone speech with all the charisma of a piece of tarmac about allowing pavement parking in Roseacre Road Welling. All eight residents’ objections were ignored despite being a significant 30% of the 27 responses received.

It was noted that twice as many people wanted pavement parking as opposed it which was to ignore those who felt the council would do as they damn well pleased anyway. It could be argued that support was an unimpressive 37%.

Councillor John Waters, as the prime mover in this affair, was then invited to repeat everything that had already been said. He dutifully did.

Paul Moore, the Director of Customer Services, regaled us, (me?) with Bexley council’s most splendid performance management framework. He was most noteworthy for the fatuous comment that it was all part of the accountability and openness to the public by Bexley council as a whole. So much so that an actual copy of the data was not included for anyone present to look at and marvel over. They missed a real trick there huh?

I could have a field day with our utopian council’s cherry picked statistics on page 110 of the Agenda. It revealed that according to yet another survey 79,200 of Bexley’s 220,000 residents are not satisfied with the council’s performance.

For the final item we had our magnificent Chief Executive Will Tuckley ‘refreshing’ the Corporate Plan. You know, the wish list of things that the council plans to do but will change and amend as time goes on to make themselves look as great and good as they can. It is packed out with vacuous and often self-serving promises with few if any meaningful targets by which they will judge themselves – and as they can change them at will you won’t catch them out anyway! Luckily these 50+ pages were not at all scrutinised and nobody felt that they had anything at all to add to this piece of fantasy


Sybil CamseyIn just 30 minutes one of the centre pieces of local democracy was totally trammelled. A 166 page Agenda had generated one solitary and irrelevant question. A complete farce. I expect they are proud of themselves.

For an encore councillor Malik wandering in after the meeting had officially closed. He was berating the traffic conditions; he’d been held up by the almost permanent traffic chaos which maroons the Civic Centre. Several petty Tories in true playground mode commented that he should not be allowed to sign in as he had missed the meeting. The loudest complaint was coming from the totally useless councillor Sybil Camsey who had herself contributed exactly the same to the meeting as had councillor Malik. i.e. absolutely nothing. Given that councillors are paid whether they attend or not, what point was she trying to make? It was another cheap political point by another cheap councillor.

 

17 April (Part 1) - Scammers - of the doorstep and the parking variety

The repercussions of the doorstep scam referred to earlier contrived to keep me away from last night’s Cabinet meeting, but do not despair, I asked Nick Dowling to go in my place and his report will be along later. I need to tone it down a bit first as it would appear he has an even lower opinion of Bexley’s ruling mafia than I do.

A reader with a more analytical mind than mine and with, I assume, more legal knowledge, has alerted me to more problems with B&Q’s new parking rules than I had noticed. While I work on Nick’s cabinet report you may ponder his views. Maybe Hugh Neal will bump into his B&Q ‘friend’ again.


Vehicle Control Services Ltd does not own the land and therefore cannot offer any contract or impose penalties for parking on it. It would be like me charging you £100 for parking on my next door neighbour’s front lawn. It would be interesting to see them explain that in any court of law. Also, by failing to disclose the company registration number, full registered address and telephone number on their sign, they are committing an offence under section 82, Companies Act 2006. I noticed something about charging VAT, in that case, they would also need to display their VAT registration number on any charge they attempt to make.

 

16 April - Nowhere near done yet, but you may be at B&Q

A correspondent reported that taking a bus over the newly cobbled section of the Broadway is not a pleasant experience but I have yet to test that myself. To my untrained eye, with more than half the allocated time gone, there seems to be an awful lot left to do to rid Bexleyheath of its traffic chaos - until the next lot when the Civic Centre site is redeveloped.
Broadway Broadway
Down in Belvedere however the new ASDA store seems to be coming on quite quickly. They have even changed the canopy to green, it was orange a month ago.
ASDA ASDA
The adjacent B&Q, now a shadow of its former self and barely worth visiting, has got rid of their illegal car park notices and perhaps this blog can claim some credit for that. It’s a long story but reader Hugh Neal of Maggot Sandwich fame bumped into someone who had access to B&Q’s management team who promised to have a word. Unfortunately the new signs (below right) are just as confusing as the originals (below left).

They tell you that the Maximum Stay is three hours but nowhere do they tell you that those three hours may be free. It actually says that Charges Apply 24 Hours Per Day. “By parking on this private land you fully understand…”. A tall order in my opinion, I can guess what it means but why should I have to?

The notice is yet more proof that companies like Vehicle Control Services Ltd. have no real understanding of their responsibilities and must be run by a bunch of clowns. And as you will have guessed, it’s another slow news day but rejoice, there is a Cabinet meeting at the Civic Centre this evening.
B&Q parking B&Q parking
Click any image for enlarged views.

 

15 April - Your life in their hands

How did I miss the councillors discussing their take over of health responsibilities? I have been checking my notes to see where things went wrong. I didn’t have to go back very far.

The subject was on the Agenda of the General Purposes Committee for 20th March 2013. It is 113 A4 pages divided into eight sections. The whole meeting lasted just over half an hour and ‘The Transfer of Public Health to London Borough of Bexley’ was Agenda item seven. My notes reveal that no one asked any questions. This was the meeting which approved pay rises for three Deputy Directors and confirmed that Bexley council pays its care agencies less than any other nearby borough.

My recollection is that Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith briefly explained what was to happen which is that staff will be transferred from the Care Trust and fill up to 20 posts at Bexley council. The precise number seems to vary according to where you look but as you might expect, most will be part of Director Peter Ellershaw’s Wellbeing empire reporting to his deputy Bryce-Smith. A couple will be under Director Mark Charters and his Deputy Director of Policy, Maureen Holkham. Thank goodness it is only the two given Charters’ OFSTED achievements and Maureen Holkham’s record of never being able to answer questions at council meetings. If Charters has any sense he will be working out his excuses right now.

The details are probably not very interesting to the average reader, even the councillors were so bored they nodded it through without a word. To be fair that is all they were asked to do.


Recommendations
Those interested in exactly what the council is taking over should click here. The list starts with all the Nanny State stuff…

Smoking, drinking, eating too much and taking exercise. In its own words, ‘lifestyle interventions’.

Note: With thanks to one of the usual suspects for prompting some belated research.

 

14 April - Should we be afraid?

Teresa O'Neill News ShopperI suppose this is going to depend one whether it’s run by the recycling service or road planners.

Whatever the case let’s hope it is kept well away from Adult Care Services.

 

13 April - The road to nowhere

Knee HillI’ve not actually counted all the readers’ letters the News Shopper has published about a Thames bridge since councillor Peter Craske peddled his line about “huge lorries descending on Knee Hill” but it is obvious that a considerable majority didn’t agree with his nimbyism.

Sooner or later something has got to be done about Bexley’s inaccessibility to and from the north and almost everyone I have spoken to thinks we might as well get on with it now before the price escalates any more and while a Conservative Chancellor says it is the right time to invest in the country’s infrastructure.

Bexley council sees things differently because some traffic will traverse leader Teresa O’Neill’s Brampton ward and so they spent £3,366 of taxpayers’ money leafleting households to broadcast their political agenda. They tell us that Bexley residents are in favour of a ferry, but when does Bexley council tell the truth?

Bexley council surveys are ten a penny but they have not asked for our views on river crossings. Transport for London has, but we don’t know the answer yet. The last time questions were asked, about ten years ago, the result didn’t go the way that Bexley council would have liked. Most people in the affected boroughs were in favour of a bridge.

Bexley council probably wants to believe that if Bexley residents could be isolated in that poll it would show them to have very different views from those living elsewhere.

While the Listening Council bungs its fingers in its ears and hopes the problem will go away more open minded councils have been conducting telephone polls across the affected areas. Newham has concluded its poll and just as our council hoped, Bexley residents are less enthusiastic for a bridge than any other riverside borough. A whole 3% less enthusiastic.

Clearly Teresa’s propaganda sheets and councillor Craske’s scare stories are having a huge effect.

Note. Distances on signpost from Google Maps.

Poll of Bexley residents

 

12 April - Beware of pickpockets

Bexleyheath police stationAs most readers of this blog will know, my experience with Bexley police is not a good one. My personal view is that a force proven to have more interest in protecting their own bent officers and a dishonest council than upholding the law is a corrupt one. Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer’s time in Bexley saw too many examples of exactly that. For just one, take a look at the case of the playground attack by a policeman’s ‘friend’ and a judge’s condemnation of their dishonesty.

The fact that Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa had some of the worst offenders transferred to another borough didn’t impress me nearly as much as he seemed to think it should. I can sympathise with a Commander who walks into a hornet’s nest but his excuses for failing to catch the obscene blogger were laughable and when he played the race card to try to turn the argument his way it said all I needed to know about Bexley’s former borough commander.

I expect better of senior policemen especially for the £16 million Bexley council gives them each year.

At various council and police meetings Bexley commanders always tell us that Bexley is best in London for this or that but listen carefully and you learn that the borough does not compare well with similar areas elsewhere in the country - and you don’t have to go far to see how true that is.


PickpocketsLook at the cost of policing in Kent. Bexley people pay far more than those across the border in Dartford. They already finance Bexley police through their income tax and VAT, but also have to shell out £15,899,368 this year through their council tax, conveniently collected on the police's behalf by their friends in Bexley council.

Although Bexley's crime rate was 44% lower than Kent's in 2011-12, its householders will have to pay 61% more towards the police this year than householders in Kent. £228·10 for a Band D household, compared to £141·47 for Band D households just across the border in Dartford.

Policing is much more expensive in Bexley. Figures for 2011-12 show that the average cost of processing a crime in Bexley was £6,396 (†) - two and a half times the £2,418 cost of processing a crime in Kent. This is partly because Met. Police officers are much more generously rewarded, costing taxpayers an average of £112,204 per officer in salaries and pension costs in 2011-12, according to the Met. Police's own accounts.

However, it's not just a case of Bexley's police pocketing large sums of cash; the problem is exacerbated further by inefficiency. In 2011-12, it took 1,125·3 police employees (†) to handle just 12,164 crimes in Bexley. That gave them only 10·8 crimes per person to deal with in a year (or one crime every 34 days), making them the least efficient force in London.

In these times of austerity, perhaps we should expect Bexley police to work rather harder and take as little from Bexley residents as Kent’s do from Dartford. Not letting eight months elapse between identifying a suspect and paying him a visit might be a good start.

† Central costs/staff apportioned pro rata to the number of borough-based employees.

 

11 April - Let there be light

An anonymous reader suggested that Bexley council may not be totally bonkers and implied that that is why there has been little to report recently. The ‘not bonkers’ comment is absolutely correct. The site name ‘Bexley is Bonkers’ was derived directly from councillor John Davey’s assertion in 2009 that Bexley council’s road planning is bonkers and had I known then what I know now I might not have been quite so keen to adopt it. But it’s too late to make a change and Bexley council is Bad or Bent does not trip easily off the tongue.


Let there be lightNot that Bexley council is all bad, far from it. Some staff take an obvious delight in doing their jobs well and maybe I can add those who take responsibility for street lighting to my list. The dark was banished from Abbey Road last night and maybe even the night before - I didn’t check on Tuesday evening - and another nearby Keep Left which I hadn’t reported was adorned with a battery powered lamp.

The only Bexley council related act over the past three years which was truly bonkers was setting up the obscene www.malcolmknight.blogspot.com using a councillor’s internet connection to do it; a cabinet member at the time and given the arrogance of Bexley’s leadership, quite likely a cabinet member again soon.

Bexley council would argue that it was an innocent bystander but someone there knew enough about the crime to have the blog removed immediately it became an embarrassment. Then, despite it being none of its business, cosied up to the CPS and the police in a joint effort to “resolve” the councillor’s situation. But let us not go over over that ground again; councillor Davey was probably right but I accept that the whole of Bexley council is not actually bonkers.

What Bexley council is, at its core at least, is far worse than being bonkers. Was leader Teresa O’Neill bonkers when she decided to break the law with her decision to put residents’ addresses on the council’s website? Does it not seem more likely that a vindictive nature, arrogance and blind rage was on display?


Teresa O'NeillWas the leader bonkers when she went to the police with her claim that the council was in danger of death by metaphor after Hugh Neal’s Mary Shelley moment (†) and pinned the blame on John Kerlen and me? No; she knew what she was doing but believed she was above the law, and sad to relate, Bexley police was at the time more than ready to go along with Bexley council’s excesses. If it were otherwise they would not have turned a blind eye to perjury - councillor Melvin Seymour in the Woolwich Crown Court witness box - and fraud. Their refusal to act against former leader Ian Clement after ten times as much money disappeared from Bexley’s coffers as the GLA’s - only the latter resulting in a conviction.

Bexley council must have its reasons for being vehemently opposed to scrutiny. Far too many Freedom of Information requests are disputed or unanswered; they refuse to deny that Peter Craske is not the only councillor to have been arrested in the past two years. They behave as if any light is shed on their activities they will incriminate themselves and many incidents have shown their fears to be well founded.

Other London councils communicate with their critics but in Bexley the only contact is through brief secretive meetings and unofficial email, the content of which cannot even be hinted at for fear of the consequences. That, and things like stretching intervals between Full Council meetings to six months, is why there is little report. It’s undoubtedly clever if you are running a mafia and hiding from investigators but it is not what you would expect from an accountable democratic body with legal powers. Why has Teresa O’Neill imposed her own Iron Curtain? What is it that she is so anxious to hide?

I doubt that honesty and transparency is possible until O’Neill’s power is diluted or has gone. At the moment all decisions are taken on a tribal 52:11 Con:Lab split with no possibility of rebellion. Voting is always exactly along party lines. Bexley needs an independent voice, people who aren¹t in the job for the allowances or to advance their own businesses With UKIP riding high in the polls and intending to stand in every ward an upset is possible, but people plucked directly from the population at large would be much more satisfying. Is anyone out there willing to oppose Teresa’s Tyranny?

† Due to an inadequacy within the blogspot software, ‘The Shrine’ must be selected from the left hand menu.

 

10 April - Several barrels well and truly scraped

Off topicI am envious of Erith’s Hugh Neal and his Maggot sandwich blog; he can wander over topics of his choosing while I am constrained by this site’s title. When I’ve occasionally wandered off topic I’ve had complaints that people come here to enjoy the exposure of dishonesty and incompetence at Bexley council and are disappointed or even annoyed when they find none. But as I have said several times, the crooks’ techniques get ever more devious and any semblance of transparency has gradually become opacity.

If I had Hugh’s freedom I might relate how HSBC is the world’s most uncaring bank, how Direct Line should be avoided at all costs - they still haven’t sent out a claim form ten days after an accident - and that Police Commissioners who appoint teenagers on twice the salary that Bexley council pays its care workers without researching their history should be sacked immediately. Ditto the broadcasters who put tearful teenagers on camera and probably scar her for life.


ScamMen who knock on the doors of 93 year old women would certainly get a mention. Impersonating policemen and persuading them that a new Met. initiative involves handing over all their money, jewellery and bank cards for safe keeping deserves being strung up upside down from the nearest lamp post and goolies removed with a blunt rusty knife.

Then there is the rioting seen over the past 48 hours by idiots barely out of nappies. Through the 1970s my job involved negotiating with unions at HQ level and some of the people there were unreasonable in the extreme. I was told by one that even if I conceded all his demands he would still call a nationwide strike and when I asked him why he said the aim was "to wreck the careers of as many senior managers as possible”. Such people were being allowed to run the country - and run it into the ground as quickly as they could. Not that they were all bad, one of them remains my best friend to this day. There was no way the 1970s style of government could be allowed to continue but maybe you have to be 50 or more years old to recognise that.

So as I am not allowed to go off topic when scandalous Bexley council news in short supply I must scrape the barrel. Today’s News Shopper carries a letter in support of traffic wardens. In general terms I do not disagree with the author but last weekend several Notomob members followed an NSL spy car which turned into a cul-de-sac. Once there they were surrounded by NSL traffic wardens who pelted them with eggs. Fortunately Notomob members are not entirely daft and wear head cams so before long I would expect a nice little video to be presented to the local cop shop.


PatronisingToday I shall probably have disappointed readers who expect something better but despite the lack lustre output recently there has been some good site feedback over the past week. Someone who was a Bexley councillor until not all that long ago but now lives elsewhere in the country thanked me for “the entertainment” and encourages me to “keep up the good work”. Another reader says “your blog is nothing short of brilliant”. Not if nothing new turns up soon it won’t be! “Really informative articles. Much thanks. Keep writing” was another. Readers who have contacted councillors sometimes offer comment too but not always using language which I’d be happy to use here. “Patronising twerp” is one of the milder opinions recently expressed.

I was quite pleased to get a message from a political source that recognised Bonkers was “politically neutral“. Not difficult to achieve when you don’t much like any of the parties.

Within the past two weeks two people have sought advice on starting a similar website in other parts of the country. I recommended they didn’t. Some days it seems like very hard work.

Note: Bexley council pays for domiciliary care through an agency. The egg throwing traffic wardens were in Waltham Forest but employed by Bexley’s chosen parking contractor NSL, and the scammers were operating in Newham. The same scam was reported on Page 5 of the current Bexley Times. If you hear of anything similar Detective Chief Inspector Gary Holmes is the man who wants to know.

 

9 April - Kept in the dark

Unlit roadThe picture is from the nearest point to my home on the B213 (Abbey Road). The pedestrian refuge has been unlit for months and the street lamp failed a few weeks ago, it rather nicely illustrates what Bexley council is all about.

When news is less that abundant I look through the emails that the Bexley Council Monitoring Group may have copied to me to see if they have discovered anything of interest. But they are not having a lot of luck I’m afraid; like anyone else who asks awkward questions, they are being stonewalled.

A three week old complaint to Bexley’s legal officer, Akin Alabi, that the council is failing in its statutory duty by not providing a Constitution for public scrutiny is still unanswered.

The Complaints Officer Suzanne Lloyd promised an answer to why Bexley council defies government instructions to publish a list of officers with salaries above £58,200 but has not done so. Bexley council has been dragging their feet on this one for eighteen months now, they even wrote to the Minister objecting to his aims.

A resident who submitted a question for the council meeting scheduled for 24th April just over two months ago is still waiting for an acknowledgement despite several reminders to Mr. Fox , the Head of Committee Services. Another resident who asked his question a week later is still in the dark too.

A resident has written to his councillor, the elusive Peter Craske, three times so far this year and not heard a word from him or anyone else. He asked me if I know anything of the old reprobate’s whereabouts. Frightening the horses at a race track I suspect as will anyone else who cares to Google ‘Peter Craske betting’ will know. His main occupation is depriving the poor, the gullible and the addicted of as much money as possible. Another Bexley councillor with public service uppermost in his mind.

Photograph taken 9 p.m. 8th April 2013.

 

8 April - Crime and Disorder in Bexley

Alex SawyerA Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee took place last Thursday evening in the Civic Centre, the first opportunity to hear the new Borough Police Commander Peter Ayling speaking in the council chamber. Such was the interest from the public that only the News Shopper reporter, a single member of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group and I were there.

Crime and Disorder is chaired by councillor Alex Sawyer who can be relied upon to be a safe pair of hands and Thursday was no exception. Alex is approachable, effective, commands respect and behaves as if he has a three figure IQ. Unlike his less well endowed colleagues he didn’t insult each of the assembled trio by telling them they must not record proceedings for fear of offending the other two. Deaf abusing mayor Alan Downing please note. Alex got straight down to business at 19:30 and before long Superintendent Ayling was asked to speak.

Ayling began by regretting the fact he was the fifth Commander In Bexley in the space of three years. He said that “Will and Teresa” had made representations to senior management but had been assured that “his feet would be nailed to the floor for the next two years” and there would be “no change of direction”. The opening familiarity, and later name dropping repetitions, I find to be slightly alarming. Ayling is already on record as being economical with the actualité when he replied under FOI that police were not stationed at the Civic Centre for last October’s cabinet meeting and were not providing any “special service”. My own eyes told me otherwise, one officer was in the chamber! There was definitely a presence outside throughout the meeting.

Ayling’s FOI response was to the effect that his then boss Victor Olisa had made the decision to “provide normal policing services”. It is to be hoped that the new man is not put in the position of misrepresenting the facts to protect another police officer again. We need honest leadership in Bexley because the other sort has proved to be a total disaster.

Superintendent Ayling said the “new police model will go live in Bexley on either 3rd or 10th June 2013”. That, in case you don’t recognise the jargon, is the new budget saving scheme much debated in recent months. He updated the Committee on crime statistics. Robbery down 24%, motor vehicle crime -9·3% and serious youth violence -44%.

Not so good is burglary up 7·1%, theft from vehicles +3%, domestic violence +18·5% and racist and religious crime up from 120 incidents last year to 215 this. Councillor Philip Read was on the ball when he said the figures didn’t correspond with the figures provided by council officers but it turned out that one set was for the calendar year and the other for the financial year. A cynical councillor Kerry Allon thought we might be using whichever looks best.

It transpires that the retention of Belvedere police station for a few hours a week is not, as one might hope, for the convenience of the public but for the convenience of the police. They are to commission a new car pound in the North of the borough and they need a stop gap base for equipment in the North. When the new facility is available, Belvedere will go.

Councillor Maxine Fothergill related how she was unable to report a crime on behalf of a resident who wished to remain anonymous and wanted to know if that was standard practice. Ayling said it was not but he is probably blissfully unaware of just how difficult it is to report crime. Fortunately the need for me to do so has not arisen frequently but I doubt I’d bother to report any minor crime, life is too short to go through all the police procedures, telephone delays and probable disinterest.

Councillor Philip Read said the level of domestic violence in Bexley was worrying and asked about clear up rates. Supt. Ayling seemed to be stumped by this and could only say Bexley is within the top ten for every crime category. How that can be reconciled with them being the least efficient force in the whole of London I have no idea.

Councillor Nigel Betts wanted to know what opportunities would be available for councillors to meet Neighbourhood Teams. Ayling did not know yet.


Graham D'AmiralCouncillor Graham D’Amiral took an interest in the large percentage reduction in recorded homophobic hate crime this year compared to last but as the number of crimes is barely into double figures, percentages were not a very reliable guide.


Mike SlaughterCouncillor Mike Slaughter usually displays a healthy scepticism for police statements and this time he said he was “particularly dissatisfied” with the cut to Neighbourhood Team numbers having been assured in the past this would not happen. “We need some honesty from the police.” How very true.

Councillor Stefano Borella was present in a sort of private capacity - he is not a member of the committee. However he was allowed to stick his hand up and ask a question with absolutely no objection from the chair. He was made to wait until last but there was no principled objection as there always is when members of the public attempt to avail themselves of the procedure - and that goes for Alex Sawyer’s chairmanship too. Borella’s question wasn’t so much a question as a criticism of councillor Fothergill and not worth the effort of reporting it.

Rob Clarke, a guest speaker from the Probation Service, explained at some length that his department had spent £25,000 on developing a finger print entry system to their Bromley office. This meant that offenders could report in as required by the courts, put their thumb on a pad and go home again without seeing anyone. They will have fulfilled their obligations.

I would not dispute that developing a software system from scratch for twenty five grand may be some sort of triumph in the public sector, but what is the point? It looked like a solution looking for a problem to me. Councillors Philip Read, Nigel Betts and Brenda Langstead all made comments along very similar lines.

Following council officer Emma Leathers report on Community Safety, councillor Mike Slaughter expressed some dissatisfaction about the procedures for reporting anti-social behaviour. He said “they are all very well but they just don’t work” and asked for a feature article in the next Bexley Magazine to get the word around. Councillor Slaughter in Victor Meldrew mode makes for pretty effective scrutiny of officials who might fit councillor Deadman’s description.

The meeting ended at 21:15 with only me staying the course in the public gallery. Thanks to councillor Sawyer, an uneventful meeting beautifully timed to end two minutes before my bus was due.

Note: I don’t wish to imply the NS reporter was skiving, he was engaged in another meeting in the building.

 

7 April - Dear anon…

Anonymous messageA letter arrived a day or two ago bearing the attached message. I am happy to oblige, the deed is done. As I think the writer recognised, a bit more evidence than that supplied would be required before giving the allegation space here; and dishonesty within Bexley council and Bexley’s police is a bit old hat now. Sorry, only joking. Thanks for the note, it would have been useful with a bit more supporting evidence. I shall keep it in mind in case anything similar turns up.


Bexley CabsAnother anonymous message reminded me of the short essay from a schoolgirl that was published in the News Shopper on 27th March 2013 (Page 55). I read it at the time but totally missed the writer’s reference to Bexley Cabs. “Minicabs from the new cab office in the wood yard hog the spaces outside Bar Lorca.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true, it’s a rare free parking space but I seem to remember that the promises made at the planning meeting were rather different.

For those who may have missed it, a new Home page went on line yesterday.

 

6 April - The lights are out at Bexley council too

A regular correspondent drives around Bexley every day as part of his job and as a result he is a good source of oddments of information. He has been telling me of his concern for the way NSL parking weasels bike around town with their ticketing machine swinging from a lanyard hung around their necks. He wonders what might happen to it in the event of an accident. I can perhaps provide a clue. In the road accident I mentioned on 2nd of April a sat nav flew off the windscreen and punched its own Tom Tom shaped hole in a side window. The sat nav survived but the car did not. Nevertheless I thought that without a photograph the NSL story wasn’t something I could use here, even as a lighthearted piece for the weekend.


Police vanThen at about 10:15 this morning I spotted an enforcement officer sitting on his scooter in a residents’ parking bay opposite Lesnes Abbey. He was fiddling with his machine and then just as I walked by he dropped it against his chest and off he went without so much as a glance over his shoulder as he pulled out in front of a car which was just a little too close for comfort.

The same correspondent says that he has more than once found himself behind the pictured police van and according to him the above door brake light hasn’t been working for ages. I hope he wasn’t driving when he took this photo on his mobile phone.

Another correspondent with too much time on his hands suggested I look at the message headers of emails sent by Bexley council. So I did and found another Cromwellism. Here’s an extract…


Received: from unknown (HELO cluster-f.mailcontrol.com) (85.115.54.190)
by email.xxxxx.ltd.uk with (DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA encrypted) SMTP; 4 Apr 2013 14:03:04 -0000
Received-SPF: pass (email.xxxxx.ltd.uk: SPF record at cluster-f.mailcontrol.com designates 85.115.54.190 as permitted sender)


This will of course only be amusing to those with a similar sense of humour to the blogger known as Olly Cromwell. It is rather suggestive of Bexley’s performance and I am surprised that they allow it.

What is perhaps far more typical of Bexley council is the fact that my test message was sent on 4th April but the out of office response was…


“I am on leave and will not be in the office until Monday 18th March, for any queries please contact Lorraine King for Complaints and Ola Sunmonu for FOI.”


That’s nice and helpful isn’t it? I email on 4th April and I’m told that the person concerned is on leave until three weeks ago. Then I am asked to contact two other people for whom no email address is given. Bexley council ‘Working for you’ in the way they always do.

 

5 April (Part 2) - Chris Taylor. The man who doesn’t care

Chris TaylorAs we learned at the last General Purposes Committee meeting, Bexley pays its care agencies poorly compared to other nearby boroughs and Cabinet member Chris Taylor has been heard telling family carers that as the services are contracted to private companies the responsibility for quality of care is no longer his. It is a naive view but one supported by his Deputy Director of Care Services, Tom Brown.

Chris Taylor gets nearly £23,000 a year for doing his very occasional voluntary council work on top of his day job pay. I have discovered in recent weeks that he is paying some care workers, via agencies, well under £4 an hour and they are working seventy or more hours a week in order to get their pay above pocket money level. If you think that is bad then you ain’t heard nothing yet.

These young people are only paid after clocking in and clocking out at clients’ addresses. The time spent travelling between jobs is not paid, neither is the cost involved reimbursed. They have to use a car between jobs and get nothing in return. They must buy it, insure it, tax it and pay for fuel out of their own pockets and the time spent on Bexley’s roads goes entirely unpaid.

Councillor Chris Taylor may think it is not his concern but I consider it to be not only unjust but probably illegal, but web searches for confirmation failed me. So I asked my MP if she knew the answer. By return I received a reference to Hansard and this is some of what it said…

Hansard
The response included this…
Hansard
That last comment is spot on. The sick and disabled are seriously inconvenienced, to put it at its mildest, because care workers simply cannot afford to fully meet their clients expectations. A fuller explanation is provided here.

5 April (Part 1) - A rare outbreak of honesty?

Teresa O'NeillOn a fateful day in April 2011 a committee chaired by Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill met to declare war on residents who had the temerity to scrutinise or criticise their many nasty little ways. She, aided and abetted by councillors Chris Ball, Graham D’Amiral, Caroline Newton, June Slaughter and Simon Windle decided on a number of actions designed to thwart democracy.

Among those actions was the decision to publish the address of any resident who asked a question at a Full Council meeting. It was never a reasonable thing to do and Simon Windle and June Slaughter said as much at the meeting. However such is the malign influence of Teresa O’Neill on Bexley council, there was a unanimous decision to adopt the new measures. Maybe the fact that councillors Windle and Slaughter were kicked out of Cabinet only two weeks later was not unconnected with their less than 100% support for The Great Dictator.

O’Neill’s personal war against democracy was in full swing in 2011. Just a month earlier she had gone to her mates in the police and told them blatant lies about me organising arson at the Civic Centre. She had the police summoned when blogger Olly Cromwell took Eric Pickles’ word for gospel and took a camera into the Civic Centre.

The decision to publish residents’ addresses on the web led to Elwyn Bryant and me going to the Civic Centre in May 2011 to make a note of all the councillors’ addresses to place on this website as promised in the final sentences of the blog for 27th April 2011. Then just a few hours later a certain red faced little man thought up the great wheeze which became known as Bexley council’s obscene blog.

All that damned foolery, the police cover up that ensued, thousands of pounds worth of police time and complaints that are still ongoing can all be laid at the door of the leader of Bexley council. The most admired politician in London according to Mayor Boris Johnson. It was she who sparked off pretty well all the trouble in which Bexley council finds itself. Under her leadership Bexley is well and truly Bonkers.

For how much longer can O’Neill, a politician so totally arrogant that she believes she is above the law, (publishing the addresses offends against Principles One and Six of the Data Protection Act) be allowed to impose herself on the borough?

Following the Information Commissioner’s advice in February 2013, members of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group submitted several questions to council accompanied by instructions that their addresses must not be published. An unnaturally long delay ensued and there was speculation that Bexley council might be on the brink of obeying the law of the land. Yesterday there was an even more direct indication. Bexley council has accepted that Elwyn Bryant may pose a question at the forthcoming Full Council meeting without his address being published for all the world to see.


This website published councillor’s addresses only in response to Bexley council’s illegal actions. At this first indication that the criminally inclined Teresa O’Neill has seen the error of her ways, councillors’ addresses have been hidden from view on Bonkers. Don’t bother to go looking because the deed was done yesterday afternoon. When Bexley council removes the requirement to publish addresses from its Constitution the appropriate webpage will be edited to remove every shred of reference to addresses.


Let us hope that this change of policy, protocol or rule book issue, as it has been variously called to evade questioning, is confirmed and heralds a new honest and transparent approach by Bexley’s notorious council. But don’t count your chickens. Of the 771 councillors across London that I have checked so far, just 15 of them have claimed that they would be at serious risk of violence if their addresses were to become widely available. Eleven of them are in Bexley and they have the cheek to claim that Bexley is the least violent and safest borough in London. Bexley council. Once a liar, always a liar.

Unfortunately I doubt that this probable but belated outbreak of sanity will prove to be enough to satisfy everyone. The horse has bolted, residents are still at risk, their addresses are on the web. Some victims of Bexley council’s criminal endeavours may seek redress. At the very least, those two year’s worth of web documents must be amended. Maybe asking for that sounds like the actions of the awkward squad but Bexley council appears to have committed a serious offence and some of its victims will expect that their wrongs must be put totally right. If that wastes money blame Teresa O’Neill; the expense pales into insignificance besides the several tens of thousands of public money that Teresa and her cohorts caused to be wasted when they embarked on their futile attempts to close Bonkers and criminally target Elwyn Bryant and me.

Will they ever learn?

 

4 April (Part 2) - Adults’ Services Committee. Not listening, working against you

Eileen PallenThe second meeting yesterday was chaired by councillor Eileen Pallen who I have not seen perform before. I have been thinking hard about how I might provide a succinct pen picture without offending too many sensibilities. If I was Olly Cromwell it would be easy, he would allow ‘total arsehole’ or something ending with ‘tard’ to flow from his fingertips but I am struggling; maybe I’ll think of something appropriate by the time I get to the end of this piece.

I particularly wanted to hear what was said at this meeting because over the past year I have discovered that several Bexley care workers live not too far from me and through them I’ve learned a little of the conditions under which they and their colleagues work. I consider myself to be quite a long way removed from being a bleeding heart Socialist or even Liberal, but I have become seriously concerned about what I see as cynical exploitation of low paid workers by Bexley council. Only a few weeks ago our council announced, apparently with a degree of pride, that it pays less for care services than any nearby borough. If only that were the whole story.

You may be relieved to hear that the meeting was tedious and wholly self congratulatory so I am going to skip the detail. It began with an address by a volunteer from the Alzheimer's Society speaking of their work and the help provided by Bexley council. Most of us will have had a family member affected by this dreadful affliction but most present looked totally bored. To be fair it is probable that no one learned a great deal that was new.

As the meeting got into its stride it became apparent that there was something wrong with the microphone system. If anyone raised their voice above a whisper it provoked a high pitched whine right on the edge of my own audible limits. The members of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group were apparently oblivious to the aural torture as all three present are as deaf as the proverbial post and their hearing aids were not passing the offending noise through. After various council officers told us how wonderful they were questions from councillors were largely confined to Peter Catterall, Cheryl Bacon and Peter Reader. Intelligent enough questions in my view. Peter C. wanted to know what happened to families that were for whatever reason unable to take up a council offer of social housing. The answer was in essence ‘slung on the scrapheap’. Peter is not a heartless Tory Toff and didn’t seem to be overjoyed at the prospect of people sleeping in shop doorways but if he asked how many people might be so affected I didn’t hear the answer.


Peter CaterrallAt one stage councillor Catterall didn’t turn his microphone on and one of the BCMG people raised his hand while asking if the forgetful professor could remedy his omission. Peter said he had not turned it on because he couldn’t stand the feedback any more; however recognising the council’s responsibilities he flicked the switch. Then he moved the microphone rather too far from his lips which provoked another BCMG hand in the air. Peter Catterall did his best to compromise. During the whole of this episode chairman Eileen Pallen studiously ignored the issue and Mick Barnbrook whose hand had been in the air. Has she learned nothing from the pen-jabbing mayor whose disdain for the deaf saw him interviewed by the Local Government Ombudsman a couple of months ago?

Later in the evening I moved from one side of the council chamber to the other to sit behind Peter Catterall and fairly close to the chairman. Over there the feedback was indeed horrible, far worse than Mick Barnbrook could know from the other side of the chamber and Peter Caterrall’s ‘excuses’ were in my opinion totally justified. But not the lack of comment by the snotty nosed chairman.

Before my move there were two further incidents. Elwyn Bryant, knowing how I have been taking a close interest in care services, came over to me and whispered a question into my ear. I could barely hear him but whispered my reply.

This provoked a complaint from councillors Sybil Camsey and Geraldene Lucia-Hennis. Both drew the chairman’s attention to “the disturbance”. Chairman Pallen appeared to ignore that too, I’m not totally sure as I was still a bit taken aback by their complaint because I do try very hard to follow their many rules. The whisper was nothing like as disturbing as the microphone feedback.


Lucia-HennisCamsey is the councillor who has said that petitions to Bexley council are not worth the paper they are written on and Lucia-Hennis is famed for getting into a serious argument with a resident and then claiming it didn’t count because she was not on duty at the time; as if a councillor is only a councillor when in the council chamber. Intelligent eh?


Teresa PearceA month ago there was a Commons debate on council care services and the BCMG had got hold of a copy of Hansard. My MP, Teresa Pearce, had played a leading role and had drawn the House’s attention to the somewhat dubious employment practices of Bexley council and that they were “abdicating responsibility” for its care workers which is exactly what my own enquiries revealed. Not that it is a big secret, cabinet member Chris Taylor has gone public in the past with his claim that once he contracts out a service to an independent agency he has no further responsibilities.

The BCMG wanted to ask, as permitted by the council’s protocols, if the Committee was aware of the Hansard report. It would have taken 30 seconds at most. However the chairman steadfastly looked away and ignored the hand in the air and the following spoken interruption. As a chairman she was totally out of her depth and this representative of ‘The Listening Council’ was struck dumb.

When the three BCMG members - and myself - began to discuss Pallen’s lamentable performance among themselves she said she would adjourn the meeting. The BCMG people chose to leave instead; you can be sure there will be a formal complaint. It was at this stage that I moved across the chamber to get a closer look at the pathetic individual chairing a meeting that was totally uninterested in the MP’s assertion that Bexley’s care worker employment model passes responsibility to a vulnerable person.

Sitting close to Eileen Pallen was a slightly unnerving experience, a combination of pale visage and piercing dark eyes defeats all attempts to detect who she is looking at. With only a 1·5% swing to Labour required to unseat her I predict a successful career as an extra in zombie movies after the next election.

The meeting ended after 135 minutes at 21:45 and I asked Mr. Tom Brown, Deputy Director of Adult Care, if he knew of the Hansard report and in particular that Bexley’s sub-contracted care workers are paid in a way which almost certainly contravenes the minimum wage regulations? I found Mr. Brown to be a perfectly decent man ready and willing to speak to me but regrettably he did not know and was happy to tell me that is not something the council would wish to get involved in. He was, no doubt, only obeying orders. Cabinet member Chris Taylor has a lot to answer for.

Regretfully I have not yet thought of a better description of the chairman than the inadequate Cromwellism above so will have to settle for pathetic, pointless, overpaid waste of oxygen. Your suggestions are welcome; on a postcard to…

 

4 April (Part 1) - Review of the Review

Last night saw the final meeting of Bexley council’s Scrutiny Function Sub-Group which has been discussing ways to improve the council’s scrutiny procedures. Some might argue that preventing wives scrutinising cabinet member husbands would offer a simple improvement but as an earlier meeting revealed that council leader Teresa O’Neill wants to influence Scrutiny Committees before they reach decisions, simple common sense and decency was unlikely to feature in the Sub-group’s final recommendations.


Philip ReadCouncillor John Davey was substituted by councillor Philip Read which will have raised the level of debate by several notches. Read may be what BBC presenter Eddie Mair would term ‘A Nasty Piece of Work’ but there is no question that he is considerably more eloquent than the bumbling Davey.

The meeting was chaired by councillor Maxine Fothergill in her usual low key but effective style and began at 18:58. Apart from myself there was only one other person on the public benches who wasn’t obviously a councillor.

The ubiquitous councillor Alan Deadman (Labour) got the ball rolling by expressing some discontent with the recommendations. He said they brought us "no further forward. It was all coulds, shoulds and maybes” and paid only “lip service to calling the executive to task”. “It’s a mockery and absolutely pointless.” Philip Read set out to put him in his place.

“It is very disappointing that you asked to have your contribution added to the report.” Referring to the under representation of Labour on committees, he said “Your comments are unfounded because the electorate has spoken.” Read told Deadman to “sharpen up” and to “stop scoring party political points”. With a final flourish he added that Deadman was “Holier than Thou” and a “hypocrite”.


Alan DeadmanHow anyone could label Alan Deadman Holier than Thou is a complete mystery to me. Deadman always comes across as a sincere old school Trade Unionist who will call a spade a bloody shovel when necessary. But a Holy Hypocrite? Never. Philip Read on the other hand…

I must confess to becoming slightly lost as to what was going on at this point because my copy of the meeting Agenda was missing the Recommendations under discussion (Section 5) and even if I had a complete copy I might not have known the old procedures well enough to make a meaningful comparison. However Read had also attacked Deadman for Labour’s alleged failure to take a full part in proceedings and that may have been be a little unfair.

The Conservative Labour split in Bexley is 52:11 so the Tories take all the plum jobs and leave the unpaid dregs to Labour. Then, as there are so few active Labour councillors, basically you have Borella, Deadman and Malik doing all the work, they are run off their feet trying to represent an alternative view at every meeting. What is sorely needed in Bexley is fewer Conservatives because as things are at the moment we may as well hand everything over to Teresa O’Neill to run her own personal fiefdom. Among my many Conservative minded friends there is only one who doesn’t intend to vote UKIP in future so maybe salvation is on the horizon.


Sybil CamseyAfter councillor Philip Read had concluded his prepared speech he was echoed by the insignificant Sybil Camsey who without an original thought in her silly head repeated many of Read’s words. “I am disappointed…” etc. Not to be outdone, councillor Caroline Newton started off the same way, slavishly copying Read with another “I am disappointed…” speech. Another dimwit riding the gravy train on a tide of elector apathy.

Councillor Alan Deadman went on to say that too many of the presentations to council by senior officers are “dull” and “certain officers need help”. “They get hold of a document and read it through to us. Why?” Alan is not wrong, perhaps I should name more officer names in future. Councillor Howard Marriner who always seems to be far too decent a chap to be a Bexley councillor agreed with him. That’s his promotion prospects screwed then.

Being somewhat hamstrung by having no Section 5 in my Agenda (†) and sensing the meeting was close to its end, I left at 19:28 in order to attend the Adult Services Committee meeting. I learned later than the Sub-group meeting actually ended at about 19:35 and no doubt the recommendations were adopted with only one dissenting voice.

† This was partially my fault as I spotted a lone copy of Section 5 on a desk as I made my way out. I should have gone looking for it earlier.

 

3 April (Part 3) - Totally Bonkers

Greenwich council approved the redevelopment of a part of Abbey Wood last night - the bit right on the Bexley boundary for which a hotel and supermarket has been proposed. Bexley council objected on transport grounds but Transport for London did not. Which of them is bonkers?

http://cqabbeywood.co.uk for more details.

The Google inspired feature from yesterday has found itself repeated by the Daily Telegraph and LBC Radio. It must be a slow news day.
LBC

 

3 April (Part 2) - Interest undeclared

Civil Enforcement OfficersMichael TarrantA couple of weeks ago, Mr. Bill Leman who writes regularly to the News Shopper, said in their pages that Bexley’s parking wardens are recruited on the basis that they are “rude and unpleasant” and must “cause motorists the utmost pain and distress”.

I have engaged several Civil Enforcement Officers in conversation whilst taking photographs and apart from the gang pictured who demanded I hand over my camera I have never found any to be rude or unpleasant or anything remotely like that. However their procedures probably are engineered to cause pain and distress. Why can’t they cancel their own mistakes? Fear of bribery I suppose.

Bill Leman’s letter was ill-judged, there’s not much doubt about that, and perhaps one should expect nothing else from someone who wrote to the News Shopper to say how wonderful it is and wrote to another local paper to criticise the Shopper!

Mr. Leman has attracted criticism in today’s edition of the News Shopper but I didn’t spend much time researching who was taking the opportunity to boost Bexley council. The name Michael Tarrant of Bellegrove Road, Welling needs no research by anyone who attends Bexley council meetings. Presumably if the councillor had owned up to his position the Shopper’s letters editor would have said so. Once again we can see Bexley council at its open and transparent best.

 

3 April (Part 1) - Bexley council are not good eggs

BonkersI expect you saw the News Shopper’s report on Bexley council ticketing cars on Good Friday which were parked alongside notices proclaiming free parking on Bank Holidays. The police were called to keep the peace - or maybe do Bexley council’s bidding.

The problem is that Good Friday is not strictly speaking a Bank Holiday as it was not included in the relevant legislation in 1871. Back in those God fearing days Good Friday was already accepted as a holiday (literally) and there was no need to include it in the list of newly prescribed holidays. Easter Monday, Whit Monday, first Monday in August and Boxing Day.

Nowadays Good Friday is widely accepted as a Bank Holiday even though pedantically it isn’t. The Government’s website lists it as a Bank Holiday.

Maybe that isn’t good enough for Bexley’s parking gestapo.

In other parts of the country where dishonesty and deception is not the norm they do things rather differently. I took the photo (click to enlarge) over the weekend just to add it to the collection, never dreaming I would find a use for it so quickly. No one could be left in any doubt as to what the charging situation was. Note the board leaning against the ticket machine and the specific inclusion of Public Holidays as free days in addition to Bank Holidays. You might also notice the price of 30 pence per hour.

 

2 April - Just Bonkers

Not the best of holiday weekends for me. One family member mugged on her own doorstep and another with a written off car, but fortunately no life changing injuries, after being hit by an idiot coming round a blind bend at speed on the wrong side of the road claiming he had lost his steering! All three emergency services in attendance.

BonkersNot so exciting on the Bexley front. I always assume that most blog readers don’t confine their browsing to Bonkers and will therefore be well aware of everything even vaguely Bexley related, but for those who missed it, someone with too much time on their hands played silly devils with Google’s auto-complete feature. They typed in the names of all the London boroughs and put on record what Google suggested. Unsurprisingly, Google responded ’Bonkers’ to Bexley.

Unsurprising because for many months past if you’ve put the single word Bonkers into Google, Bexley-is-Bonkers shows up on the first page. After a handful of references to a song (?) by someone called Dizzee Rascal and the dictionary definition of the word, there on page 1 for all the world to see is the link to Bexley council’s shameful exploits. Well done Teresa, your ill judged decision to ask the police to exceed their authority - which they willingly did - appears to have backfired rather spectacularly. And thanks are also due to councillor Peter Craske for his invaluable contribution to the trashing of the London Borough of Bexley’s reputation worldwide.

There will be a council committee meeting tomorrow evening which I shall attend so this will serve as notice that Teresa O’Neill has less than 36 hours left in which to rig it, as a rather too voluble councillor admitted she always does.

Link to source site.

 

Return to the top of this page