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Bonkers Blog July 2013

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31 July - In like a lion, out like a lamb

The month of March is supposed to be like that but in July blogging has followed that weather pattern and probably August will continue to be a quiet period. The Licensing and Planning Committees will reluctantly meet but in other areas Bexley council will be on hold.

In all probability one particular councillor will not put in an appearance as a planning committee member in August due to ill health, continuing the pattern of the past three months. If the Bonkers’ postbag is any guide this is creating a strong undercurrent of discontent from residents who consider the situation warrants a by-election but at the same time I can expect criticism from respected quarters for daring to mention the subject again.


DutiesI recognise the sensitivity of the subject and it is a cowardly streak coming to the fore that causes it to be slipped in just hours before the July blog is wrapped up and forgotten. However I am of the opinion that the secrecy surrounding the unfortunate councillor’s predicament is a prime example of the dishonesty at the heart of Bexley council and of its leader Teresa O’Neill in particular; and that is reason enough not bury the subject.

Teresa O’Neill knows that one councillor is no longer able to carry out her duties because of dementia, yet instead of encouraging a resignation she attempts to hide the fact from the electorate. This is a blatant and head on attack on democracy typical of Teresa O’Neill.

The issue has been put to the the MP for the area in question, James Brokenshire, and he is not unexpectedly distancing himself from the dilemma. When asked for an opinion on the following…


Councillors may not be able to force [name redacted] to retire but they should be capable of persuasion.
She is certainly not capable of acting in a responsible way on council committees, particularly planning. Only over the last two/three months has it been arranged for her to have a substitute at planning - and only then because I was kicking up a fuss. This should have been done last year.
I am now having to publicly disseminate the information that [the councillor] is suffering from dementia and incapable of performing her duties as a councillor. If she had been persuaded to retire due to health grounds I would not have had to do so.
Local councillors have treated this serious matter irresponsibly and to [the councillor’s name] public detriment because I understand they do not want the bother of a by-election. (†)


and he carefully and correctly replied…


There is no mechanism to force a councillor to be retired or to be removed in the manner you suggest. Whilst councillors may be elected on the basis of representing a particular political Party, they hold their offices as individuals and cannot - and I would argue should not - be capable of being removed forthwith at the executive edict of their Party.


As is well known, no one can remove a councillor who is too unwell to perform his or her duties so long as he or she can be wheeled into a council meeting once in six months. One can only rely on their conscience. Nothing addresses the problem created by an illness which deprives the victim of their faculties and their conscience.

Sidcup may very well get along with just two councillors, the same might be said for all 63 wards, but what if either of those two should fall ill but remain mobile? The law has no answer to that. In the absence of any shred of honesty by the ruling party there is no recourse for the electorate. Not until next May in Brampton ward anyway.

† Some words removed for reasons of anonymity and brevity.

 

30 July - Bexley council still doesn’t get it

After reporting on Bexley council’s BELL failure on the night Mrs. Barbara Baker died alone with a council provided emergency pendant draped around her neck, I was contacted by someone who claimed to be her best friend and who said she was totally unaware of the circumstances of her death, it having been hushed up by Bexley council. Now the News Shopper has found a similar case and reported it today.

What I find most shocking are the reported comments by the Bexley council spokeswoman who would appear to be totally devoid of any semblance of humanity.


“The death was not avoidable and it was not as a result of the BELL alarm not being answered.”


Still no recognition of the fact that Bexley council’s poor management and penny pinching caused this lady to die helpless and alone. In two days time BELL call handling will transfer from the Civic Offices to Chippenham in Wiltshire and result in “a much improved service”. Presumably that is an admission that Bexley council has run a seriously sub-standard service. As the News Shopper lady says, “I don’t trust the system after what I heard about Barbara”.

Before Bexley council’s programme of cuts took its toll on vulnerable lives Mrs. Baker could have had someone by her side within a minute or two. In preparation and awaiting final approval from the source informant is a report on how things used to be when the council could be trusted not to let an old lady die alone.

 

29 July - Keeping the pot boiling

As you will have guessed from the late arrival, there is nothing very significant ready to go on line but there may be some little things that could be briefly mentioned…

Blocked cycle track
Cycle path Two cycle pathsBexley’s half hearted approach to cycle paths has been highlighted again and Yarnton Way in Thamesmead provides many examples. However maybe blocking them there is less critical than elsewhere because Yarnton Way enjoys the special privilege of two cycle paths heading in the same direction.

Note: The second photograph is squashed so as to include both cycle tracks. Click image for natural view.


Blocked bridleway
A formal request to arrange the unblocking of Bridleway 250 has been sent to Bexley council. This means they have 30 days in which to take suitable steps to restore access to all, after which a magistrate will be asked to intervene.

Crown Prosecution Service. Playing hard to get again.
The CPS have now gone around their evasive loop a fourth time and once again lost track of Elwyn Bryant’s request for them to tell him what advice they gave the police, advice which the police chose to ignore, in the case of councillor Peter Craske and the obscene blog. Looks like the Information Commissioner must be the next port of call.

Double yellow lines
Today’s announcement that Eric Pickles’ has said that councils should allow 15 minutes grace time for parking on double yellow lines has provoked comment from readers. My view on the matter may not be mainstream.

Firstly, Bexley council does not follow government guidance, it follows its own agenda and their first motivation will always be secrecy closely followed by money. What Pickles says will have no effect; only legislation works.

If Bexley council had any intention of sanctioning 15 minutes grace time it would have happened two years ago when the perpetually dishonest Teresa O’Neill said she would look into the matter. Needless to say she didn’t.

But in my view the whole thing is a nonsense. Surely double yellow lines are only placed where parked vehicles would be hazardous or cause a traffic flow problem and to allow parking even for 15 minutes would result in danger or chaos? On the other hand Eric and I may have unwittingly exposed more dishonesty and shown that double yellow lines are there solely for revenue raising purposes.

Not everyone wants Waitrose
WaitroseReliable sources have reported that Bexley council is planning an exclusion zone around the new Waitrose coming to Sidcup. It will take the form of a Controlled Parking Zone and operate until eight o’clock at night.

Thus a new supermarket on their doorstep will be costing a lot of Sidcup residents another £120 a year they may possibly be unable to afford - and almost certainly resent.


Recognition
Bexley is Bonkers was not only mentioned at a council meeting this month but I have been assured by a reader that I was personally mentioned in a conversation between the deputy council leader and a resident. The councillor is alleged to have called me a plonker; well nearly. The word he used was similar but began with a W. Good to know that, anything less might be regarded as a failure.

Rhys Lawrie
I thought the case of the three year old boy who died after Bexley council failed to respond to any of the warning signals from health visitors and school teachers would be capable of providing blogs for weeks to come but unravelling the papers is far from easy. The next stage of reporting might involve the court case itself but I suspect that will be several days away.

One thing that is puzzling me at the moment is that the first people on the scene were the paramedics who were thus in the best position to tell who may have collected the elder boy from school and who may have been at home with Rhys. The police turned up later when the situation was far less clear, both possible suspects were home by then. So why were the paramedics not called as witnesses while the police were able to make statements in court which suited their case? Unlike the paramedics, they had no first hand knowledge of who was at home when.

Nice for Bexley council, maybe not so nice for justice.

The Rhys Lawrie blog index.

 

26 July (Part 2) - A plastic blot on the landscape. Recommended for approval

I’ve always been quite impressed by Bexley council’s planning officers at planning committee meetings but goodness knows what they were thinking of yesterday evening when they recommended approval of 8·3 hectares (more than 20 acres) of 10 foot high polytunnels on Honeydale Farm on Maidstone Road, Sidcup.

Honeydale Farm

The owner wanted to fill the whole of the big square to the north west of the (black) rectangular pool outlined by red dots on the image above (scroll down to see) and provide the houses behind North Cray Road with an outlook of a wall of plastic only 50 metres or so from their back windows.

According to the farm owners’ supporting agent Mr. F. Robinson the council’s Head of Building Control “welcomed the application” and he was “surprised by the opposition”. The mass of plastic which must change the skyline for ever would have “no adverse visual impact” and in the chosen position “be less visible than anywhere else”. There would be “no environmental harm, only benefit”. The tunnels would be “unobtrusive” and “there are no reasons for refusal”. Is he totally mad?

Maybe he is, for as he returned to his seat he picked a verbal fight with John Watson who had earlier in the day presented a legal challenge. viz. the fact that no one had thought to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). For this outburst Mick Barnbrook was reprimanded by the planning committee chairman, councillor Peter Reader. From where I was sitting I could see no reason for it.


Don MasseyA couple of local residents offered objections but it fell to councillor Don Massey to do the real demolition job which he did with aplomb.

Don Massey reminded the committee that Honeydale Farm has a long history of non-compliance with planning permissions. In this case they had made no attempt to speak to residents or to ward councillors and had not produced any form of Environmental Impact Statement. It was simply “not good enough” said councillor Massey who is clearly a master of the understatement. But he wasn’t finished.

Such an expanse of polytunnels would require a large labour force. Where would they be accommodated? In a proliferation of unauthorised mobile homes like had happened before? The application was “ridiculous and condescending”. “It beggars belief.” The claim it would not be visible to residents was “tosh”. It will have “significant visual impact”.

By comparison councillor Mike Slaughter’s assertion that the tunnels would be “a blot on the landscape” like the accumulated rubbish already strewn around the farm was a bit of an anti-climax.

Councillor Simon Windle wanted to know why no EIA had been produced and Mrs. Clark, the Head of Building Control, didn’t think one was needed although when the councillors voted to defer consideration of the application she thought it “would be a good idea to get one”. It all seemed very unprofessional to me.

If you have ever wondered if Bexley’s planning department would be amenable to the occasional brown envelope then this case would not be one to set your mind at rest. As Don Massey said, the application and the claims made for it, beggared belief - and it was recommended for approval!

 

26 July (Part 1) - Twitter

Yesterday the BiB Twitter arrangements were changed; I felt they had become confusing. The @BonkerBexleyBot which announced new blogs was set up by an anonymous third party volunteer but quite soon after it commenced working an old friend convinced me that Twitter was quite easy to set up and use. So I stuck my toe tentatively into the water and almost certainly confused the whole issue.

When the @BonkerBexleyBot announcements occasionally fell seriously behind new blogs it highlighted the inevitable inefficiencies of a third party volunteer service and I saw no alternative to abruptly taking control by removing the link from @BonkerBexleyBot and making the announcements on @BonkersBexley.

This may well have appeared somewhat brusque and rude to the anonymous volunteer but it was only while writing this blog that I have realised that it may have been possible to communicate with the anonymous volunteer via Twitter itself. Clearly I have much to learn.

I would like to thank the anonymous volunteer for his enthusiasm to spread the word and introduce me to ‘Social Media’ and hope he will forgive the lack of consultation. Now I have even more work to do! The RSS feed will continue as usual.

 

25 July (Part 2) - Bexley Cabs are Go!

It seemed a foregone conclusion to me that Bexley Cabs must get approval for an office in Birkbeck Road but I had to sit through three hours of Planning Committee meeting to be sure. The application was reasonable, the premises were adequate and hidden in a backstreet along with not too dissimilar businesses. How could it be a problem?

The proprietor had promised that no one would be waiting for cars there and except in the rarest of circumstances no driver would need to visit. What reason was there for anyone to object?

The most obvious reason was that when the company was in Bexley Village it paid scant regard to planning conditions and councillor June Slaughter among others thought it would happen again and of course it had. The business has been operating from Birkbeck Road without permission for three months already.

Despite the discouraging history, permission was given to operate a minicab control centre from Birkbeck Road, Sidcup subject to stringent conditions and a review in twelve months time. If the photographic evidence obtained by the local residents in recent weeks is any guide as to the future, the council’s Enforcement Officer won’t be short of work.

 

25 July (Part 1) - Bridleway 250. Illegally blocked

BW250 blockedSomething you may not know about Michael Barnbrook, founder member of the Bexley Action Group, is that he likes to consider himself a bit of an athlete. Nothing too strenuous, he walks; but sometimes for long distances. He race walked a couple of hundred miles across France last month and he takes his training seriously.

This morning his schedule took him along Bridleway 250 and he found it blocked. I don’t need to tell you that blocking a bridleway is illegal and Michael does not take kindly to that sort of thing. I can’t imagine it will be too long before a Form 1 notice will be winging its way in Will Tuckley’s direction, or whichever name wanders into his sights today.

Anyone can do it. The form is available as a printable PDF from the left side of this webpage. It’s dead easy to fill in.

I’m sure Bexley council will not want to condone a criminal act a moment longer than is necessary.

 

24 July (Part 2) - Relief in sight?

Chris TaylorIn March this year I was able to speak to several of Bexley’s domiciliary care workers and was shocked to hear the conditions under which they are forced to work. Minimum pay, no pay at all for the travelling time between jobs and pay their own expenses for travelling to Bexley’s sick and needy clients. I had heard councillor Chris Taylor, Bexley’s cabinet member for Adult Services bragging at too many meetings that Bexley paid its contractors less than any other nearby borough and the plight of the people at the sharp end was no concern of his.

Since then the issue has escalated quite nicely through Parliament and this afternoon the Greater London Assembly.

A motion by LibDem Assembly Member Stephen Knight proposed…


A full day’s work deserves a full day’s pay, and it’s totally unacceptable that some care workers are not being paid for travelling between appointments, effectively reducing them to a life below the national minimum wage. The Mayor must speak out about the low pay endemic in the care system. Councils across London - and across the political spectrum - could and should do more to tackle this blatant and cynical exploitation.


The motion was carried 13:6. Will this prove to be more guidance that Bexley council chooses to ignore?

The GLA debate may be viewed on line. See London Assembly (Plenary), Wed 24 July. About 2 hours and 15 minutes into the video.

 

24 July (Part 1) - Economical with the truth

AbsalomThe documents relating to Rhys Lawrie are multi-faceted and difficult to summarise but in the days following his death there was as you might imagine a flurry of report writing by those involved.

Bexley council produced several by their Legal and Social Services departments. They concentrated on a period starting two days before the boy’s death when he was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital with severe bruising. He was sent home the same day following an examination and X-ray which did not reveal the bleeding on the brain.

Bexley council’s reports carefully avoided the concerns expressed by medical and teaching staff from 2007 through to December 2010 because that would presumably highlight their negligence and instead contrived to give the family a clean, almost glowing, bill of health. A model family.

It certified that Rhys was generally well, that his parents provided a safe environment, protected him from abuse, kept him clean and sympathetically comforted him following any injury.

The report was signed by a Bexley council Social Worker whose name did not (and does not) appear on the Health and Care Professional Council’s register of qualified social workers.

Among the facts that could have been included was the mother‘s concern that she might harm her son and a reference to Rhys’s severe injuries noted by school staff in the six weeks before his death.

Contrary to the excellent references for household and personal cleanliness, the case papers refer to the older son being reliant on nappies to the age of five and the fact he “smelt unclean” and both children wore “visibly dirty clothes”. Naturally there was no reference to the health visitor’s 2008 comment, “I feel some additional help into [sic] the family would be useful”.

None was given, at least not until it was far too late. The rewriting of history had begun. Much was made of the mother’s claim that the injuries were caused by up to eight epileptic fits a day. The General Practitioner’s report said Rhys suffered approximately one seizure a month but concedes they could last up to an hour.

Everywhere one looks, contradictory reports are in evidence.

The Rhys Lawrie blog index.

 

23 July - Bexley is not Barnet

CraskeWhile struggling to dig into a mound of Rhys Lawrie papers yesterday but managing to barely scratch the surface, a succession of emails was arriving alerting me to news from the High Court where Barnet council had lost a case brought against it by the Barnet CPZ Action Group.

Barnet council had hiked the cost of a Residents’ Parking Permit from £40 to £100 to raise revenues and that was declared illegal. In Bexley the increase was from £35 to £100. £120 in some places, and nobody here did anything about it - apart from Nicholas Dowling (†) who has been a pain in Bexley’s backside ever since.

I frequently hear people say that Barnet council is very similar to Bexley but I simply don’t see that at all.


• In Barnet bloggers and councillors regularly exchange views via email. In Bexley that is pretty much banned by the Great Dictator and on the very few occasions when a councillor has spoken to me, there have been references to not being seen by you know who.
• In Barnet, photography and recording is the norm at council meetings, in Bexley they call the police at the merest sign of a recording device.
• In Barnet there is concern that public services have recently been contracted out. In Bexley it has been like that for several years. There is nothing left to contract out.
• In Barnet no councillor claims to be under constant threat from residents (Section 32 of the Localism Act) and in Bexley at the last count more than a fifth of Conservative councillors claimed that their relations with the public were so poor that they must go into hiding.
• In Barnet criminal acts by councillors are punished with the full force of the law, in Bexley there are free dinners to be repaid.


When councillor Craske decided to triple Bexley’s parking charges he concocted a load of false figures (3,081 residents’ permits issued at a cost of £783,200) suggesting that it cost in the region of £250 to issue each parking permit and instead of asking himself how things could be that inefficient he simply bumped up the prices. If there had been a shred of truth in Craske’s claims you would have thought he would go for the full £250 rather than half that amount. But at that time at least, Craske always lied so logic was not a factor.

The real reason why Bexley council gets away with murder, metaphorically at least, is that so very few people challenge them. Too many residents are willing to vote for the proverbial monkey with a blue rosette. Too many people are scared off by council leader Teresa O’Neill’s malicious trips to the cop shop and the resultant threats of arrest, actual in some cases. Barnet has its CPZ Action Group. Bexley has its Action Group. Tiny and with an average age in excess of 70.

Until that changes Bexley council will continue on its highly paid path of dishonesty and corruption.

† Nicholas will be inspecting the parking accounts again in a few days time during the period the council is compelled by law to open its books. (22nd July to 16th August.) Last year he was a bit of a beginner at it and was to some extent conned by Bexley council. That won’t be happening again.

 

22 July (Part 3) - 39 injuries from falling off a sofa. Death from natural causes!

Rhys LawrieIt’s nearly a week since Rhys Lawrie was last mentioned here. Rhys died in January 2011 and a young man, only 16 at that time, was convicted of his murder. Rhys’s grandfather Trevor Lawrie is adamant that that was a miscarriage of justice engineered to circumvent a Baby Peter, Sharon Shoesmith, Harringey council style scandal here in Bexley.

Some of Trevor’s evidence is hearsay and circumstantial but some of it is documentary and really rather compelling.

For example, we only have the grandparents’ word that Rhys, who suffered from epilepsy, only had one fit while they were either visiting or looking after Rhys at their own home, yet he allegedly suffered bruising fits almost daily while alone with his mother. She reported up to eight seizures each day.

Trevor Lawrie insists that when his own son, Rhys’s father, rang to inform of him of the bad news he said he was relieved that Rhys was in “no more pain”. He’d never reported pain in connection with the alleged seizures.

It is unlikely that it will ever be known if the elder brother really did tell his grandfather soon after the murder that “mummy kept hitting Rhys” and then when the police became involved, chanted over and over again that “Mummy never hit Rhys” almost as if he had been rehearsed.

If you are not prepared to believe the grandfather, how about the documents? Bexley council social services were definitely aware of potential problems in 2007/8 and 2010, and both times did nothing about it. Imagine what might happen if that became public knowledge.

It is absolutely certain that the Consultant Paediatrician at Darent Valley Hospital wrote a report within hours of Rhys’s death listing 14 separate injuries to his body. He said in that report that “it is not unknown for people to die during a seizure, however this event is quite rare. Some of the bruises are unusual accidental injuries and one has to consider that they may have been caused non-accidentally” - and the police chose to believe the death was from natural causes. Only the autopsy report eight months later forced the police’s hand. It recorded 39 injuries.

The Rhys Lawrie blog index.

 

22 July (Part 2) - What is it this time? Still dodging the issue

Gateway Gateway Gateway Danson Park The video says it’s a roundabout but the sign writers are still not sure, they had another go at explaining what is going in Broadway on this morning.

If you approach from Albion Road it’s a shared space with some sort of indication there is a major road ahead. Coming from Welling it’s still a shared space but from the centre of Bexleyheath no warning is considered necessary.

Last week’s arrangements.

 

22 July (Part 1) - Projecting their image

MediaYou’d think that after spending a load of money on producing a propaganda video Bexley council would want as many people as possible to see it, but there is no link to it from any main page on Bexley’s website and after it was featured on this website they hid it away to break the YouTube link from Bonkers. But nothing stays hidden for long on the web and the 15th July blog link is restored now or you may view the video directly by clicking here.

You may notice that there are no ‘vox pops’ in the video where residents may have their say and the YouTube facility to ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’ the video is switched off, as are ‘Comments’.

‘Listening to you’? Of course not.

 

21 July - Bexleyheath uncovered

Arnsberg Way Arnsberg Way Arnsberg WayFor those who have yet to see it or be inconvenienced by it, another “slightly confusing free for all” in the making.

 

20 July (Part 2) - Chopping and changing

Dying trees Replacement trees GlendaleIf you plant a load of trees in June in time for the council’s Civic Parade the chances are they will struggle to survive and leafless trees might not impress Boris Johnson when our own glorious leader shows him around town in a few weeks time.

So a company called Glendale Civic Trees has been taking out the old ones and hoping to nurse them back to health, and replacing them with lush new greenery. Money no object.

 

20 July (Part 1) - The coin is still spinning

On which side will it eventually fall? Bexley council has withdrawn its Broadway Regeneration propaganda video from YouTube so you can no longer view their instruction on how to use a ‘town gateway’ signed as a T junction as if it were a roundabout there. Yesterday a council officer told me it was intended to be a slightly confusing free for all. If there is an accident it will always be your fault.

Note: The video remains available on Bexley council’s website.

 

19 July (Part 6) - Fobbed off by the Local Government Ombudsman

BridlewaySome of you have asked why Bexley council’s complacency over the blocked bridleway has not been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman because its closure is a clear breach of the law. There are two problems with that.

Firstly the LGO is stuffed to the gunwales with ex-council types steeped in the way of their colleagues and naturally sympathetic to all but their wildest excesses and secondly they will only help an individual if he or she has been personally affected by a council’s inappropriate action or inaction.

So the offer of an electronic key fob absolves the LGO of the need to do anything. The fact that the rest of the population is deprived of their right is of no consequence to them - unless of course they all complain.

LGO

The fact that key fobs are near impossible to obtain is of no consequence to the LGO and if Mascal Stables won’t issue a £12.50 key to everyone who asks they suggest a trip the the Magistrates’ Court.
LGO
Who’s coming?

 

19 July (Part 5) - The acceptable face of street clutter

Heritage Heritage Old BexleyheathPhotographed within five minutes of its installation and before, as the contractor cynically put it, it is sprayed with paint from an aerosol can, is the new heritage panel alongside the ASDA crossing. Well worth a read.

 

19 July (Part 4) - Another disgraceful blog

Elwyn Bryant got short shrift from councillor Colin Campbell when he asked for a meeting to discuss the comments he had made on live TV. Campbell replied “I have no wish to have any dealings with you or your friends connected to Bexley is Bonkers”.

Elwyn is not a man easily put off…


Dear Councillor Campbell,
Thank you for your email. On the evening of the 9th July I asked you twice if I could have a word with you. On the second occasion I asked you as my ward Councillor to talk to me, you refused again and said “I feel threatened by you”.
Would you please explain to me the reasons why you feel threatened by me.
Yours sincerely,


Campbell lost no time in replying…


I find that whatever I say to one of your friends appears on a web site, usually distorted and thus I have no intention of entering into a discussion with you. As I say you are associated with a disgraceful web site and as such must accept the consequences


It seems Campbell does read Bonkers after all but I’m disappointed by the ‘distorted’ bit. If distortion was the intention I would have edited Campbell’s first email and omitted its final sentence. viz. “May I repeat my offer if you have any genuine issues as a constituent I will endeavour to deal with them or find someone to assist you”.

It would appear that readers of this website risk being disenfranchised and it remains the case that the deputy leader of Bexley council does not regard his lying on TV to be a ‘genuine issue’. Exactly what you’d expect of a council built on lies.

 

19 July (Part 3) - No hiding place

Tenterden I am going to declare today Crap Colin Friday in commemoration of councillor Campbell’s declaration that he doesn’t read Bexley is Bonkers and its first mention in council, albeit associated with the crap word.

Tenterden is Terrible might be more up Campbell’s street, for the councillor no longer lives in Camden Road, Bexley.

He retains business interests in Bexley which is perhaps just as well for without them he might not retain his position in council nor would we know where he had gone to.

Councillor Colin Campbell is a trustee of the Freemantle Hall. Check it out on the Charities Commission website, when it pops up with Charity No. 211899 click on ‘Contact & trustees’. It’s hard to hide from the web.

 

19 July (Part 2) - Cruelty towards the elderly

Mayor's limo Mayor's limoMy offer to take a tasteful panoramic shot of the mayor and her entourage at the council meeting two days ago was rejected on the orders of controller O’Neill so I am forced to rely on the local paparazzi - with some reluctance I might add - but Bexley council’s dishonest intransigence over one simple photograph persuades me that it doesn’t always pay to be Mr. Reasonable and as councillor Colin Campbell has said, this website is full of crap anyway.

I have been sent photos of the mayor's car parked on the pavement before, usually accompanied by critical comment but in the immortal words of councillor ‘Biffa’ Bailey “They can do what they like”.

This motto finds widespread use. As noted a couple of weeks ago, Teresa O’Neill is subverting democracy again by concealing the fact that one of her councillors is sadly no longer fit to hold office. A by-election should be called but O’Neill’s excuse is that that would cost money. If she was really keen on that she would have pursued her three year old promise to reduce the number of ward councillors to two.

Meanwhile O’Neill condemns a councillor to being wheeled into the chamber and taken home again before the meeting has ended in the mayor’s expensive motor car to ensure the attendance record is maintained.

Not ideal photos with which to illustrate a council meeting but thanks to the council’s protocols they are the best available. A nice picture of the mayor resplendent in her apple green outfit would have been so much more tasteful.

 

19 July (Part 1) - On yer bike, Frizoni

A reader supplied blog and pictures this morning. When I went to the Civic Centre last Wednesday, having heard of the Mayplace Road chaos, I chose to get the B11 bus rather than the 229 so as to avoid it. If I had known it was so spectacular I’d have gone to have a look.

Bexley Stables Slades Livery Vicarage Road Horse Transport

I decided to drive through Bexleyheath last night at 7 p.m. What could possibly go wrong?

Approaching Erith Road from Mayplace Road East I could see that Mayplace Road West was closed. The recommended diversion was to turn left onto Erith Road but that way was full of stationary traffic. I turned right instead, headed north on Erith Road, left into Long Lane, left again into Woolwich Road heading toward Arnsberg Way.

As I got to the junction of Chapel Road and Arnsberg way, the traffic was gridlocked and appeared to have been for some time. After about five minutes I decided to walk down to the junction to see what the problem was. There were two single file road works restrictions allowing one direction at a time controlled by temporary traffic lights, one either side of the T-Junction.

I don't receive £108,622 per year myself so I am not qualified to explain to you the wisdom of this particular arrangement. A local Bobby had been sent along to try and make some sense of it all. He eventually unblocked it after plenty of manoeuvring. As I returned to the car I saw that some of my fellow victims had found a bit of kerb space to abandon their cars and continue their journey on foot. I can't help feeling that the town centre will need to undergo some regeneration when these monkeys have eventually finished with it.


Map provided for out of town readers. Click to enlarge.

 

18 July (Part 4) - The Woodland Trust. I wouldn’t

BW 250 WarningThe Woodland Trust was sniffing around Bonkers this morning, someone must have tipped them off that the blocking of Bridleway 250 has become more widely known.

So I returned the compliment and learned from the Woodland Trust web site that they have an annual standing order for 200 key fobs at £12.50 a throw to be delivered to Mascal Stables. These are probably not for the illegal gate on Bridleway 250 as it would appear that Mascal Stables is responsible for controlling more than one access to Joyden’s Wood.

After leaving the council meeting last night I returned to the scene of the crime to check things out again. There, as bold as brass, pointing straight through Mascal’s gate, is a sign saying Bridleway 250 and on the gate is a notice saying the gate is closed after 10:30 with no way back (†). So what about someone out for a romantic stroll on a summer’s evening who lingers beyond sunset and finds themselves trapped?

There is also the matter of horse riding in Joyden’s Wood. The cheapest permit to allow that is £80 going up to £300 a year for commercial use. A permit doesn’t restrict the times you can visit but Mascal Stables’ gate effectively imposes a limit. But that conflict is easily resolved, if you complain about the gate you are refused a permit or a renewal.

Between them, The Woodland Trust, Mascal Stables and Bexley council have managed to totally stitch up anyone who wants to take full advantage of a public right of way.

† Council correspondence states that a a weekend gate closing time of 8 p.m. has been approved.

 

18 July (Part 3) - Council meeting report

DA7 6LB DA6 7LBOccasionally people ask me how to get to a council meeting and my reply will usually include a link to the council’s own advice. There were two such enquiries yesterday and one came back to tell me his Sat Nav had flagged up Crayford from the council’s website. And he is right, the wrong post code appears on many of the council’s pages. Oh dear.

Yesterday’s meeting began in the usual way, with a lie. The new mayor was forced to repeat the leader’s abuse of the English language by implying that recording of meetings is welcomed but only with permission, and as every man and his dog knows, that is absolutely never granted. The mayor dutifully waffled on about a Constitutional Meeting in September to settle the issue. You can be sure that they will not abide by the spirit of Eric Pickles’ guidance.

By 19:37 the meeting got down to business, two council plants, from the Young Conservatives at a guess, asked questions referencing “the deficit left by the last Labour Government” and “the seamless experience of residents needing to access both Health and Social Care Services”. Exactly the sort of words you’d expect from the average Bexley teenager.

Let’s skip over the well rehearsed politicking this allowed and get down to the real questions. Mr. John Watson wanted to know how much Bexley ratepayers were forced to pay via the council tax levy, to finance the Olympic Games. Deputy leader Colin Campbell gave a clear answer; £16·8 million.

CampbellMr. Watson then asked councillor Campbell about his notorious TV appearance on 7th July when, in John’s words, he “made one untrue statement after another about Bexley residents”. Campbell wasn’t best pleased and finally came out with “I don't read the crap on Bexley is Bonkers”, which is in fact another lie to add to his score.

Michael Barnbrook asked a question about the council’s filming policy and referred to the News Shopper’s poll on the subject. Nearly everyone was in favour of filming in one form or another. Council leader Teresa O’Neill dismissed the poll out of hand saying that only 135 people took part in it, leaving close to 300,000 people in the borough against it, or so she believed. Perhaps I should remind her that she holds her present position because of a poll in which only 99 people took part, 52 of them Conservative councillors more than likely. The alternative was an elected mayor.

Mick’s supplementary question was deemed to have timed out and councillor Colin Tandy was given the opportunity to ask how much money Boris Johnson had pumped into Bexley in gratitude for his election five years ago. Goodness knows what figure cabinet member Gareth Bacon came out with because firstly he was as far away from the public gallery as he could be without being out in the Broadway, and secondly he was three or so feet from his microphone. An inaudible mumble is all I am able to report.

Councillor Philip Read asked for an update on the council’s financial position which isn’t all that good. A £40 million black hole and a further £7 million cut by government. However according to the cabinet member for finance, Colin Campbell, all is well because he has already saved £60 million since 2006 and with his skills, he could do it again.

Labour councillor Margaret O’Neill asked Gareth Bacon if he had decided how the council planned to support the Mayor of London to build a bridge at Thamesmead. I heard enough of Bacon’s mumbling to say he wasn’t going to give any support. And that was it. Questions were out of time.

We were deprived of knowing how much traders had lost “during the tarting up of the Broadway”. A question from councillor Alan Deadman. Councillor Stefano Borella had a similar question in mind.

Councillor Malik had asked about Bexley processing Parking Penalties through a court in Northampton. No answer; and councillor Seán Newman wanted to know about parking provision in Belvedere, post Crossrail. Another one not answered.


Ross DowningCouncillor Ross Downing then launched into an eight minute eulogy to Queen Mary’s Hospital apparently unaware of its downgraded status. It has no A&E or maternity unit any more but it may eventually acquire a radiotherapy unit thereby saving Bexley residents the trip to St. Thomas’. Having made that trip daily for eight weeks I can tell you that Sidcup is not a lot of use to those who live in the less salubrious outposts of the borough. Train to London or bus to St. Mary’s? No contest!

Ross Downing “hoped” in her motion that the new “Campus” would “deliver a long term sustainable future”. Despite all the claims of a resounding success for Bexley council they are no longer referring to a Hospital and don’t seem to be sure of anything.

When Ross Downing had finished skating around a few realities, Labour councillor Gill MacDonald attempted to invoke Standing Order 36. Mayor Sharon Massey made, ignoring the lies foisted on her at the start of the meeting by her leader, her only mistake of the evening. She hadn’t a clue what S.O. 36 was. The legal officer came to her rescue and Massey showed her annoyance by telling MacDonald not to be so obtuse in future. If she was proposing an amendment, say so.

The amendment expressed disappointment over the downgrade from Hospital to Campus status and sought to “ensure a sustainable future”. No false inference that the changes at QMH represent anything other than a reduction is services overall, but Bexley council is never keen on admitting the truth about anything. Various councillors got on their very high horses about Labour’s amendment.

Leader Teresa O’Neill sought to have the amendment thrown out for not being relevant to the original motion. How could that be? Maybe she had spent too much time in the sun. The legal officer overruled her and Teresa melted back into her chair like a lump of lard in a hot pan.

DaveyCouncillor John Davey excelled himself. The new QMH was “not a campus, it was a fully fledged hospital with the same services as before. The A&E was taken away by the last Labour Government”. No reference to the fact that James Brokenshire, the MP for the area, was elected on the promise of saving the A&E, but failed miserably.

Warming to his theme Davey said that QMH had suffered from “totally incompetent managers” and “Labour had turned the NHS into a tick box killing machine” and they had “blood on their hands”. Cue widespread jeering from the public gallery.

By contrast, councillor Val Clark was a model of restraint saying only that she was disappointed with the amendment in view of the “wonderful things [the council] had done for us” and “the wonderful things that are being done there [the hospital].”

Various councillors resorted to a historical slanging match with Labour going back to the NHS’s foundation in 1948 and Chris Taylor dragging up 1979 and the unburied dead all over again. They never tire of the political mud slinging, always preferring what they must see as career enhancing rhetoric over something more productive.

Then Colin Campbell got back into his stride, revealing that he had been a chairman of QMH and saw all its problems coming. He had told the Labour health minister and Lord Norman Warner, then a senior civil servant, exactly where they were going wrong. Interesting, plausible and almost certainly libellous with words such as ‘idiot’ and ‘stupid’ being bandied around as freely as lies on a TV show.

Inevitably the Labour amendment was slung out but not before councillor Ross Downing said she was “absolutely stunned” by it. I really cannot see why. Labour’s position on the NHS doesn’t always appeal to me nationally, but locally at least, their amendment was much better worded than Ross Downing’s original.


NagFinally, as far as I am concerned, because I left before the really boring stuff began, was the Report of the Leader of the Council. The usual bragging session.

Residents are “respecting the shared space” in Broadway. Sidcup has “turned the corner” and Waitrose is coming. It helps, she said, to have a woman leader who is a nag.

The Larner Road Estate is on the way out, Verona House will be demolished next month, Tesco is to create a distribution centre in Erith and the new Abbey Wood station looks “fantastic”. She is going to make sure that the borough’s infrastructure is improved such that residents to the south have easy access to Crossrail. That’ll be good, it will allow Thames Bridge traffic to get to the south more easily too. Good thinking Batman.

 

18 July (Part 2) - Better late than never

Order As seemed likely when the traffic lights at the junction of Mayplace Road West and Erith Road were adorned with new signs, buses have been diverted since Monday 15th July.

Mike Frizoni (£108,622 a year) managed to get around to publishing the new order two days later.

 

18 July (Part 1) - It’s a T junction

Sign SignI came close to losing one of my longest serving contributors yesterday. He was driving from Crook Log into Broadway and correctly observed the sign thoughtfully placed there by Bexley council and continued on his way, only to attract the wrath of a bus driver wishing to turn right out of Albion Road.

I diverted on my way to last night’s council meeting to make sure that the exit from Albion Road was adequately signed, and it was. Obviously the bus driver didn’t notice that the Magic Roundabout has been demoted to a mere T junction. Not that anyone should be too quick to blame the bus driver, Bexleyheath has been a nightmare for them over the past year - as it has been for shoppers too. Retail sales down 7·1%.

For now that junction is a T junction. Who knows what tomorrow might bring.

 

17 July (Part 3) - Hunted down

BookThe man who said that Roger Hampson who is Chief Executive at the London Borough of Redbridge used to work for Bexley’s Social Services was right - evidently he has a long memory - because the proof turned up earlier today.

It seems that Mr. Hampson wrote a book on the subject of Social Services in 2002 that is referenced on the web if you look hard and long enough.

You might think that only a sworn enemy of Bexley council would go to those sort of lengths in the hope of finding damning evidence and you would be right. The hunter’s name is John Kerlen, possibly better known to some readers as blogger Olly Cromwell against whom Bexley council made repeated attempts to have imprisoned.

Olly is not often seen in Bexley any more but has not forgotten how its council goes about its business. Once in a while he still blogs about them. His latest, only a week old, is here. Don’t be confused by the American style date and be on the look out for four letter words.

 

17 July (Part 2) - Horses bolted

HorseIf you haven’t got a horse mad daughter you might never have been along Bridleway 250, or Vicarage Road, Bexley, as it is also known, but it makes for a pleasant shaded walk on a hot sunny afternoon. It is lined by horsey businesses, stables, livery, hacking, transport.

If you keep going for long enough you can eventually land up in Joyden’s Wood which I am ashamed to say I know only as a destination on the front of a B12 bus.

Bridleways and footpaths are protected in law, in particular no one is allowed to obstruct them. Everyone knows that.

Unfortunately not everyone respects it, including it would seem, the Enviro Crime Unit of Bexley council who have been running around finding excuses for an illegal act.

Bexley Stables Slades Livery Vicarage Road Horse Transport

Horse Alison WindowThe last property facing Vicarage Road houses Mount Mascal Stables, owned by John and Alison Window of JW Equestrian Ltd. They are quite well connected; all the horse association affiliations you could wish for, connections to the Olympics and they were Bexley council’s chosen horse attraction provider at the Danson Festival.

Maybe Bexley council feels beholden to them but when the Windows decided to put a gate across the bridleway they swallowed their excuse that it was a security measure. It’s not just a minor inconvenience to passers by, this was something more worthy of the Bank of England.

CCTV, remote control, electronic key fobs, all mod cons. Take a look…

Gate Gate Gate Gate

Security is potentially a problem for anyone with a footpath running past their door, so that’s most of us. More so for businesses and probably worse still if you live or work along a bridleway that leads to a wood. But that’s life and it’s the law we have to live with. You can’t go around blocking public roads willy nilly because there is a thief about and you certainly can’t go around blocking bridleways and footpaths. But Bexley council thinks you can.

It accepts that no one asked for permission to block Bridleway 250, no one was ever likely to do that, rejection would be inevitable, but now that it is a fait accompli Bexley council is standing by the landowner’s excuse that the blockage is a security matter. They told the complainants…


It is considered best, particularly in the interests of wider community safety and having regard to costs, to progress any contact such as from yourself through the route of issuing an electronic fob. This in no way condones the fact that the bridleway has been obstructed. […] this would be a viable solution to your original report of access not being available at times when you or others may require it. I shall of course be pleased to make arrangements for you to have a fob and will contact you with regard to collection/delivery arrangement as soon as possible.


So if you complain about the bridleway only being open when Mount Mascal Stables allow it you can have a key. That half baked idea was always likely to open up a can of worms, and it does.

More on this another time…

 

17 July (Part 1) - Nice work if you can get it

AbsalomAn old theme on this website was that councillors and senior staff use the council for networking opportunities designed to line their own pockets, a subject that has been neglected of late, but an example crawled out of the woodwork while researching the Rhys Lawrie story.

That research led me to the C4EO website on which Absalom as Director of Children’s Services was telling her peers that she had been “struck by the commitment and quality of work which already exists in the sector” at the very moment that Rhys Lawrie was being ignored by her department, which for irony takes some beating, but that is not today’ story…

Absalom left Bexley council two months after Rhys was killed and the council was reluctant to talk about whether or not there was a golden goodbye but there was speculation that it may have been over £100k. She then fell into the same job at Redbridge in the traditional manner of failed public servants.

Throughout her time at Bexley, Deborah Absalom was a Director of a company called 15Billion and guess what it does - provides educational services to local authorities. Which local authorities? Bexley and Redbridge of course. (Currently nine boroughs in total.)

Bexley’s over £500 expenditure list reveals that money has been regularly going to 15Billion. £45,000 in the last available month, various sums all the way back to when ‘over £500’ started.

Note: Ms. Absalom also runs her own company. Deborah Absalom Ltd.
Somebody who ought to know reported that Absalom got her job in Redbridge because its CEO is an old Bexley man. I can find no evidence of that. Does anyone know better?

 

16 July (Part 3) - The liars are at it again

Not exactly the whole truth
Minutes
What about the “and we illegally excluded the six members of the public who had taken no part in the disturbance including the prospective Labour councillor for Lesnes Abbey”.

I wonder if there will be a councillor honest enough to comment on this distortion at the next meeting? Oh, don’t be silly, even the honest ones are chicken.

 

16 July (Part 2) - Rhys Lawrie. The final weeks

Rhys Lawrie Christmas was coming and Rhys spent the weekend of 11th and 12th December 2010 with his mother. The 16 year old toy boy was away. On the following Monday Rhys did not show up at Shenstone School. He had been injured over the weekend.

Usually after such injuries the mother prevented others from seeing him, in the normal course of events Rhys would probably have been off school sick for a week but on the Tuesday his mother, Sadie Henry, needed to go out. It was winter so she formed a seasonal plan.

The injuries were more than just slight but were disguised with foundation cream and scarves. No one would notice, but they did.

The teacher at Shenstone took off Rhys’s hood and jacket and scarves and found the horrors that lurked beneath. His face was severely bruised and the bruising extended deep inside his ears too. The same mysterious bruising was present after Rhys’s death and in court the medical expert said “I have carried out thousands of autopsies in my long career and I have never seen anything like it before, so I cannot tell you how the Injuries to the ears were caused”.


Sadie HenryThe school naturally called the mother - repeatedly - but Sadie wasn’t answering her phone. When she did several days later she said Rhys had had “a very bad week falling about everywhere and getting injured all the time”. (Head teacher’s court statement.”)

The school rightly wasn’t going to wait for Sadie to surface and got on to Bexley council’s Social Services on Wednesday 15th December, a call taken by Laurantia Mqotsi. She promised that the matter would be looked into - but you’ve guessed it - it wasn’t.

During a meeting between Grandfather Trevor Lawrie and Sheila Murphy, Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care (£108,708 a year) on 18 September 2012, she explained that it was Christmas but had Rhys not died they would have visited eventually. (Trevor’s words.)

Rhys was killed six weeks after the school’s referral. Bexley council had done nothing to help in that time. Just like they did nothing when the original Health Visitor made her report three years earlier.


StatementOn 20th September 2012 Trevor Lawrie (Grandfather) wrote to Sheila Murphy about the murder of his grandson and her department’s dereliction of its duties. She replied on 13th October.

Ms. Murphy was not unsympathetic but claimed that the council took no action over the school’s report because no written referral was made until 19th January 2011.

The Head teacher’s police statement (see image) confirms it. She went on to say that the council called her just prior to the 19th January - she couldn’t remember the precise date - requesting another report. Red tape kills.

The Rhys Lawrie blog index.

Note: Rhys was not collected from school by his mother on the 14th December 2010 and was delivered home by the school’s transport service. The police were not called to see the injuries. That may have proved to be a fatal error of judgment.

 

16 July (Part 1) - Bexley Cabs are on the way back

Bexley CabsWho can forget the saga of Mark Campbell’s Bexley Mini Cabs outfit that opened without planning permission in the heart of Bexley Village? Their office disappeared two months ago. However they appear to be on the way back.

If you live in Birkbeck Road, Sidcup you may not be too happy about it, but last April a Planning Application was submitted to Bexley council to change an office at No. 9-11 into a call centre for Area Cars, the company that runs Bexley Cabs.

The application says no cars will be based there, didn’t they say that about the Bexley Office too?

The application numbered 13/00767/FUL is still under consideration. If you should look at the council’s Planning Portal be prepared for barely legible documentation, extremely slow response times and an alleged 13 public comments, none of which are visible. This is because there is an error in Bexley’s computer code which needs fixing.

 

15 July (Part 5) - It’s a roundabout. See the proof on video

Ignore the signs. Sit back and see what your beneficent council has done for you.

Click to play, double click for full screen.

 

15 July (Part 4) - An open and shut case

Act Although I was born in the East End of London I spent half my life as a country bumpkin in Hampshire so I know what footpaths and bridleways are. Your rights to traverse them unhindered are currently enshrined in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In essence walkers are guaranteed easy and unfettered access to footpaths.

The same goes for bridleways where the rights are extended to horses and their riders. There are no ifs and buts about it, a footpath or a bridleway must be permanently open for ramblers or anyone else who cares to use them in the manner intended. Any unfortunate hindrance, field ploughing etc., must be put right within 14 days. So what can possibly go wrong with that? Probably quite a lot with Bexley council in charge.


BridlewayWhen Bridleway 250 was blocked by an elaborate electronic gate complete with CCTV coverage you might expect the council to fly into action as soon as it heard about it. Unless of course some councillor is behind it all, but as yet no evidence of that has come to light. Mind you, councillor Campbell in whose territory it is, has been very dismissive towards the complainants, in writing too. Maybe it is because they are Bonkers readers.

So the complaint went to Bexley council’s Enviro Crime Unit Manager Mrs. J Glander and after consulting or informing all sorts of people including James Brokenshire MP, Colin Campbell deputy leader of the council, Alan Downing, still mayor at the time, chief executive Will Tuckley, Mike Frizoni and assorted senior officers, Mrs. Glander came back with her reply. Bexley council was not going to do anything about the blocked bridleway.

More on this another day.

 

15 July (Part 3) - Rhys. The neglectful years

Rhys Lawrie The Serious Case Review on Child B who we now know to be Rhys Lawrie, runs to 47 pages. Two paragraphs cover what Bexley council did to ensure his safety from when the family moved to the borough in October 2007 to when he was brutally killed in January 2011. A third paragraph says there was no need for “continuing involvement” with the family despite the report acknowledging that the mother “hit him and was finding it difficult to control her anger”. Last Saturday’s blog refers.

Due to this neglect there is no more that can be said about Bexley council’s involvement over that period. Rhys was in and out of hospital with various problems and by 2010 was attending a special needs school. In December a concerned teacher asked a visiting council Social Worker if the council knew about Rhys. She reported back that it did not. Absolutely nothing had been done about the worrying reports of 2007 and 2008.

Bexley council may not have been concerned but Rhys’s Grandfather was. In particular he noticed that although he enjoyed a close relationship with the boy, there were periods during which he was forbidden to see him. He also saw Rhys with injuries. Some quite severe.

Burns on his hands, a bandaged foot, a bleeding mouth, a broken tooth and injuries to his eyes.

Grandfather Trevor could only surmise what might have happened. Questioning met only with the response “I don’t know how it happened” followed by the curtailment of grandparents’ visits until the injuries faded away.

The boy’s father was told he fell off the bed or bumped himself on the slide in the park. According to Trevor, injury occurred only while Rhys was alone with his mother.

The two children would stay with their Grandmother over the holidays and some weekends and it was a problem to get them to go home. They would protest and cry and hide under the bed, especially the older boy. As Trevor says, “Little did anyone know why they behaved like that, the horrors experienced at home”.

“We thought they just liked staying with us (the Grandparents) and wanted to stay longer. Never never did it occur to us that the parents home was a chamber of horrors. How much those little children must have suffered. Had we known about Sadie’s (mother) confession to Bexley Social Services; had they tipped the family off to watch out for the kids safety and report any injuries. Even if they had just asked, without revealing Sadie's confession, things might have been very different.”

Bexley’s Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care is Sheila Murphy who is paid £108,708 a year and was in post throughout the period in question. First mentioned on this website in July 2012 for boasting that she had met the targets she had set for herself and again three months later following Bexley’s disastrous OFSTED report when it was said that Ms. Murphy had overseen someone else’s sacking for the failing. That’s awfully like sacking a telecoms engineer for management failings within BELL isn’t it?

 

15 July (Part 2) - Jobs for the boys

Ian Payne QueenThe Bexleyheath Business Partnership Ltd. is a not for profit company owned by Bexley council. It has been around for nearly three years and imposes a levy on Bexleyheath’s traders to fund its so called Business Improvement District (BID). Its head honcho is Ian Payne, the Conservative Deputy Mayor of Bromley who admits on his Register of Interest on Bromley’s website to being an employee of Bexley council.

The Partnership is credited with having raised the £20,000 for the new Queen’s bust on the Clock Tower although there have been reports from insiders that he merely acted as a money channel for council tax cash.

Contrary to expectations the BID has overseen a sharp reduction in retail sales.

It will be interesting to see how wisely your money has been spent but you will have to be patient. BID’s accounts are overdue.

Bexley council Companies House

Is the BID busted?

 

15 July (Part 1) - Bonkers has joined the Twits

TwitterI finally joined that Twitter thing yesterday afternoon. The volunteer who offered to run the ‘twitterbot’ has changed his email address and the lack of communications may not be satisfactory in the longer term.

I’m not planning on getting sucked in too deeply because time will be the enemy, but I made a start by announcing things to come.

It seems a bit invasive to me, people may wonder why I am following a mezzo-soprano from Cardiff!

Click the T to take you there.

 

14 July (Part 4) - Riverside Gardens fun. No thanks to Teresa

Thames ThamesThese are the views that Teresa O’Neill doesn’t want you to see. The only easily accessible river bank in the whole of the borough is Riverside Gardens in Erith. Teresa, not an exponent of nature’s beauty, wanted to sell it off.

While it remains however, the people of Erith are pretty good at making use of it. Six weeks after Garry Taylor came back with his perennial Riverside Festival there was more fun and community spirit to be had in the Gardens yesterday. Who was responsible for it I have no idea because it was not well advertised and I stumbled upon it almost by accident. Garry tipped me off with 24 hours to spare. Possibly because of that or maybe because I arrived soon after opening time it was not as crowded as one might have hoped.

Here’s a few photos to give you the flavour of things.

Danson Danson Danson Danson

Barge RaceThe bouncy castle was looking somewhat deflated, a victim of Health and Safety issues perhaps, maybe Criminal Records Bureau checks too. Erith’s most visible export to London and beyond was exhibiting one of its construction vehicles, this one bearing Crossrail markings and in the water the Thames Barge Race was in its 150th year, not that there were any to be seen between one and two o’clock.

Overall, not quite as lively as Garry’s effort.

Quite likely Hugh Neal will have some more interesting photos on his blog later today.

 

14 July (Part 3) - Not royalty!

Email. An indispensible curse? Saturday’s usually a quiet day, only 23 messages yesterday, none from the Bexley Action Group people who seem to run a Monday to Friday schedule.

Unless it is from a very regular correspondent who I know to be an ally I’m still apprehensive about opening each one. Not sure why, the number of critical emails over the years is probably not in double figures. If I exclude those with council connections, it might be five, and if I discount those who criticise my web authoring skills, it is I think, down to three. And one of those was from a supporter who has misgivings about the bridge.

Nevertheless there was the same frisson of fear when I opened an overnight arrival; but all was well.


My blood is boiling having read your latest blog about the councillor ignoring his constituents! Who do these jumped up jobsworths think they are! He's only a councillor after all. Obviously thinks he's royalty, or someone important!


It’s always reassuring to know that the thoughts of those less intimately connected with the Battle of Bexley aren’t much different to those in the thick of it. If the next month is as good as the last, Campbell’s message should soon get into nearly 8,000 different households. Not all in Bexley - unfortunately, electorally speaking. Bexley may be the target audience but there are welcome daily guests from Yorkshire, Essex, Devon and Australia.

 

14 July (Part 2) - If at first you don’t succeed. Again!

No right turn Except buses No right turnWhat is Mike Frizoni up to in Erith Road where it crosses Mayplace Road? He probably doesn’t know himself.

For years there was No right turn, then a couple of months ago that sign was replaced by an ‘Except buses’ notice. What buses were allowed to do that other vehicles weren’t was anybody’s guess. The No right turn had gone. (Photo 2.)

Then just a couple of days ago the original No right turn warning was reinstated with an exception for buses. Sense at last? Well not quite.

Erith Road at that point is not a bus route. True, some ‘Not in service’ buses use it as a short cut to the depot, but for that they go straight ahead.

So what devious little plan has Mad Malicious Mike got in mind? It’d better be good for £108,622 a year. Maybe Bexley council’s malign influence extends to Transport for London and the 492 is going to be diverted via the new Civic Centre.

With photographic assistance from Google Street View and a reader.

 

14 July (Part 1) - Rotten Borough

Private Eye News Shopper, Bexley Times, Daily Mail, The Sunday Politics Show. Where next? How about Private Eye? (See image.)

Teresa O’Neill’s thoroughly dishonest ruling that anyone can take a photo at a council meeting with permission - but permission must on no account be granted - is exactly what electors have come to expect of her council. Lies, more lies, and the occasional bit of blatant law breaking thrown in.

What is needed at a Bexley council meeting is for some stranger to walk in. Stand in front of the assembled members, take a picture and walk out again. There is not a thing they could do about it, especially if the photographer doesn’t mind getting banned from future meetings.

And how would they do that? Put mug shots in the foyer?

 

13 July (Part 3) - The Magic Roundabout. It vanished overnight

Roundabout sign T junction sign T junction sign MagazineOfficially labelled a gateway the junction of Broadway and Albion Road has been confusing motorists for the past six weeks. It used to be a roundabout, the new arrangement looks like a roundabout, most drivers treat it as if it were a roundabout, but Bexley council wasn’t sure.

Approach from the west and you’d see a large roundabout sign (enlarge Photo 1) but go the other way and you’d get no indication of what lay ahead. At last the council has come off the fence. The dithering has stopped. It’s a T junction. Albeit one with no “Give Way’ markings and no legally recognised pedestrian crossing points. But due to someone’s unfathomable brain malfunction, it just happens to look like a roundabout. It also looks like an accident waiting to happen.

First photograph (badly) taken four weeks ago showing roundabout sign. Second photo shows replacement T junction sign and the third, a new one at the end of Broadway. At least the council knows what the gateway is supposed to be now but it is news to most drivers.

 

13 July (Part 2) - Caring for Rhys. Bexley council’s lamentable failure

ReferralRhys Lawrie was murdered just before his fourth birthday but he had an elder brother whose name I shall try to avoid mentioning. Rhys was born in Aldershot in March 2007 and the family came to the attention of Bexley council’s social services soon after it moved to Mangold Way, Erith in the October of that year. The referral papers took three months to go through Bexley’s system while various people misplaced and ignored messages.


Deborah AbsalomApart from the admission revealed in the associated image (click to enlarge), a Health Visitor recorded, referring to the mother, “She feels she cannot cope. She feels very irritated towards [elder son’s name] and she feels she is at risk of potentially harming him if she lashes out”.

There is no evidence that Bexley council did any more than that. The official report into Rhys’s death records several medical interventions between 2008 and January 2011 and a single Health Visitor visit in April 2009 when Rhys’s slow development was put on record. Nothing else. If either sibling came to serious harm after the 2007 admissions someone at Bexley council might be in big trouble.

The Director of Bexley’s Children and Young People’s Services at the time was Deborah Absalom who, according to the Bexley Times, was on £178,892 a year. She left the council’s employ two months after Rhys was killed and has resurfaced doing much the same job in Redbridge. How is it that these public servant failures always land on their feet?

 

13 July (Part 1) - Rattled!

CampbellTen minutes before last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting began, Mr. Elwyn Bryant asked his councillor, Colin Campbell “if he could have a word” and the obnoxious oaf said “I have no intention of speaking to you”. Elwyn had to resort to email instead.


As residents in the ward you represent, Nicholas [Dowling] and I request a meeting with you to discuss in detail the conversation you had on the Sunday Politics Show with presenter Tim Donovan on the subject of filming and recording of Council meetings. I would be much obliged if you would let me know what date time and venue that would be suitable for you to meet us, any date after Fri. 19th July.
Yours sincerely,


Campbell replied with the same message he had earlier sent to Nicholas Dowling, he didn’t even edit the names…


Thank you for your note which does not include any issues of relevance and I have no intention of wasting my time responding to your own and your friends time wasting emails

I note your association with the Bexley is Bonkers web site and the so called “action group” through your association with messers Bryant, Barnbrook, Knight in particular. Although i waste no time looking at the site nevertheless i do sometimes hear of the bizarre contents. Given your clear association with these people and this web site you must take some responsibility. I have no wish to have any dealings with you or your friends connected to Bexley is Bonkers.

As regards my recent TV appearance I understand your friend Mr Barnbrook has complained about the truthful facts and accordingly I will waste no further time on this matter.

May I repeat my offer if you have any genuine issues as a constituent I will endeavour to deal with them or find someone to assist you.


So there you have it. Be associated with this website and you are a second class constituent. Transparency is not a genuine issue. Take your vote elsewhere.

Councillor Campbell knows about an ‘Action Group’ which was first mentioned here only three weeks ago and nowhere else. He seems to be more than a little interested in what is said here after all.

 

12 July (Part 5) - Boy’s body, black, blue, bruised and broken

Trevor LawrieHeart broken by the news of the death of his grandson Rhys, Trevor Lawrie went to Darent Valley Hospital the next day where the police were in attendance. He found his grandson’s body, black and blue from bruising from head to toe.

He later learned a leg was broken and there had been brain damage. He exclaimed “Who has done that to him, he has been mugged by a gang with baseball bats” but the police were convinced that his mother Sadie’s explanation, that the death resulted from a fall caused by the epilepsy from which Rhys suffered, was the right one. The doctor disagreed and strongly implied murder but the police were adamant that the little boy lying in his coffin had died as a direct result of his neurological disorder and a seizure.

Why were they so keen to accept the mother’s account in the face of the glaringly obvious? Why were they there at all 24 hours after a supposed non-suspicious death?

 

12 July (Part 4) - Site news

The strangely named Twitter thing seems to be working OK, I haven’t a clue how, but so far so good.

There are still problems with the new menu which I shall be looking into over the weekend. I can see exactly what is going wrong with one issue but the other is a total mystery at present. Should be fun!

If you find the banner area of the site with a problem, please come back later

 

12 July (Part 3) - If at first you don’t succeed…

Broadway Broadway BroadwayGive them a chance, they will get it right one day.

This is what Teresa All Kneel Before Her is telling people who complain about the rearranged Broadway…


This scheme has been designed using an innovative concept of ‘shared space’ which aims to create a better balance of priorities between drivers and pedestrians. The most recognisable characteristic of shared space is the absence of street clutter, such as conventional traffic signals, barriers, signs and road markings.


Fail! The street clutter is going back in. The pictures show no signs, the wrong ‘duo’ signs and then back to one sign. You’d think a man paid £108,622 a year would get things right more often. How much does Mike Frizoni’s incompetence cost the borough?

One of this morning’s emails says that further changes have been made in the last few days so you can guess where I will be tomorrow morning.

 

12 July (Part 2) - Lying on TV. Next stop OFCOM

Colin CampbellAfter councillor Colin Councillor comprehensively lied on TV last Sunday I contacted a friend who just happens to be involved with compliance issues at the BBC. He replied as follows…


I’ve watched Colin Campbell on Sunday Politics. You are right be be angry (assuming you didn’t start a brawl, use the F word or mooning at councillors). It made whoever was trying to film in Bexley sound like a yob. You have a justifiable complaint.


So I contacted the producer of Sunday Politics and this is what he said…


I have looked at the broadcast again in light of your concerns and discussed them with senior colleagues. We are happy that all relevant BBC guidelines were followed.


So it’s OFCOM here we come.

 

12 July (Part 1) - More expensive parking

Abbey RoadThe first Crossrail related assault on motorists’ pockets has been announced. The number of exclusive residents’ parking bays in Abbey Road and New Road to the south of the railway, and Overton and Sydney Roads to the north will be reduced thereby risking a scramble for the £100 a year parking bays at some times of the day. They will become ’shared use’ and paid by phone or machine at a flat rate price of £3.80.

In Rushdene and Sedgemere Roads the same will apply except that payment will be by phone only, thereby breaking Bexley council’s promise to extend payment methods following the poor adoption rates and acknowledged unpopularity of phone parking. (†)

The charges will apply from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and some residents should expect to come home in future to find a commuter’s car parked outside their house. Exactly the sort of value you would expect Bexley council to provide for £100 a year.

† As reported at the Public Realm meeting last month.

 

11 July (Part 5) - Child murder

Rhys LawrieI met the man who alleges Bexley council has shameful links to the murder of his grandson Rhys Lawrie yesterday and took along the entire Bexley Action Group crew for an instant ‘second opinion’. We all agree that grandfather Trevor is a very intelligent and articulate man. He presented both a convincing and shocking case in support of his allegations.

He has accumulated in excess of 2,500 documents of which I have seen no more than a score so far but already I know that Rhys’s mother had been sectioned while serving in the Army in Germany and was known to Bexley council, having reported herself for repeated violent behaviour directed at children. Bexley council’s documentation refers to the ‘section’ only as ‘being unwell’.

After Rhys died the police took eight months before deciding on a murder enquiry. The timings relating to the mother’s whereabouts at the time of the murder are difficult to reconcile with known facts. She claimed to be collecting another son from Slade Green School; its school’s day ends at 15:10, but she would have had to move at the speed of light to have made the 999 call from home seven minutes later. There is a statement from the school head which refers to an earlier statement that made that point but it is mysteriously missing from the prosecution’s bundle of evidence.


LCSBThe mother was in a relationship with a 16 year old boy who suffered some mental difficulties. The police eventually charged him with the murder. Not any old police, according to grandfather, Trevor Lawrie, it was the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. I have yet to see positive evidence for that but Trevor several times mentioned their address which does check out.

The 16 year old denied the charge but was found guilty of manslaughter after none of several possible defence witnesses were called. The grandfather said that his defence lawyer was drawn from a member of the prosecution team who pronounced the boy guilty 20 days before the trial ended.

Trevor Lawrie is convinced that the whole thing was a miscarriage of justice motivated by the need to protect Bexley council which had ignored the family situation in Erith. The Baby P. case in Haringey was still in the public eye and this looked all too like a repeat. Trevor has a wealth of documentation involving familiar Bexley council names, it doesn’t look good to me but it will take a long time to wade through all his 2,500 documents.

At the moment I only have Trevor’s word for some things, but the papers I have seen so far read in exactly the same way as past cover ups by Bexley council, the police and all the other useless agencies who are supposed to clamp down on this sort of incompetence and subsequent abuse of their powers.

Presumably this goes some way towards explaining why OFSTED took such a dim view of Bexley council’s record with child care last year.

 

11 July (Part 4) - Crossrail exhibition at Abbey Wood

Crossrail and Network Rail have been keeping households close to the North Kent railway line very well informed over several years and it was good to meet some of their staff at today’s exhibition. The final station design was on show, although the colour may change because the materials to be used are subject to change.

The artist’s impressions show the view from Harrow Manorway which will be the main, above the tracks, station entrance. The other view is the low level approach from Gayton Road. It is a pity that the plans no longer include the demolition of the Abbey Arms public house.
Abbey Wood Stn. Abbey Wood Stn.

When the station opens, access from the far side (east) of Harrow Manorway will be by pedestrian crossing and not the existing subway, although unless serious disruption for residents is on the cards, I cannot see how the low level route via Gayton Road can be abandoned.

Work on providing a temporary station is due to start imminently. The two existing tracks will be realigned to a more southerly position and because of the need to maintain something close to a straight line those changes will affect the route all the way to Plumstead and almost back to Belvedere.


Exhibition ExhibitionThe track layout diagram is still subject to change and was not available to take away but a plan dated April 2013 showed that the most northerly of the two Crossrail tracks will terminate at Abbey Wood station. That is not likely to change.

The southerly (Up) line will be extended past the Thamesmead (Lesnes Abbey) footbridge until it merges with the North Kent lines adjacent to the eastern end of Coptefield Drive. It will be electrified only to a few metres short of the Thamesmead bridge with the extension eastwards unpowered to prevent any possibility of a train spanning the old 750 volt DC and the higher overhead voltages. The line extension is currently known as the ‘cripple track’ and will be used for holding a spare train to ensure a five minute service can be provided, and if a train goes faulty, to get it out of the way.

Commuter parking during the construction phase will be a problem and quite possibly beyond that. Network Rail is hoping that some will decide to use the spare capacity at Bexleyheath station. There is also a distinct possibility of the existing Controlled Parking Zone being extended further into Belvedere which will cost many residents an extra £100 a year in Craske tax. The Network Rail man was amazed that would be £100 a year to affected residents and was unable to say if compensation would be on offer.

The exhibition at the Community Hall will remain open until 7 p.m. this evening and its computerised presentation should be available on the web 24 hours later.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

11 July (Part 3) - Arresting a disabled old man - Bexley style

Councils, Bexley included, have been taking over responsibility for health services which is unnerving in some ways. In Bexley, if they are party to killing someone you can be sure it will be covered up. It will likely be the same with National Health Services too.

Yesterday I received a long awaited appointment letter for a physiotherapist but the condition which had persisted for best part of a year recently decided it would go away, so it seemed appropriate to call and cancel the appointment. After pressing a number of telephone buttons I was lumbered with one of those ‘your call is important to us, we are experiencing unusually high levels of demand’ messages, so I eventually gave up and will risk their wrath when I don’t turn up. This was to a doctor’s surgery, not a hospital but I suppose I am lucky to have a GP at all.

A neighbour who is in a very poor state of health is not registered with a doctor at all. He said he is blacklisted because it is alleged he had waved his crutch at the receptionist to make a point. I doubt he could stand and wave a crutch at the same time, he struggles to reach my front door when he is seeking help.


Four cops Bexley policeYesterday I was disturbed by four police officers at his front door yelling at him to come to the door. Probably they had no understanding of how long it would likely take him. After around 20 minutes he was bundled unceremoniously into the back of their van. Later in the day he related what it was all about.

He says he was unwell and needed a doctor so went to a surgery to see about registration. He was refused once again. The doctor, compassionate money sponge that he is, then reported him to the police for harassment. What else may have happened is unknown but the result was four uniformed officers at his door. Fortunately the duty solicitor was a good man and told the police where they should get off.

Four officers to arrest an old man who can barely stand up. Superintendent Ayling says it is his top priority to make officers visible, so I’m sure he will appreciate me making them a little more so.

 

11 July (Part 2) - Bexley Action Group claims another scalp

Dennis MacShane the former Labour MP for Rotherham is to be charged with false accounting. Michael Barnbrook, a member of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group who has recently adopted the name Bexley Action Group for himself in preparation for the 2014 election, was the first complainant and tirelessly pursued his case first with the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee and latterly with the Metropolitan police. He was acknowledged by the Standards Committee to be the first to bring the matter to their attention. For details see last November’s blog entries. 2nd November and 3rd November.

That brings to seven the number of political careers wrecked by Mick Barnbrook. Teresa O’Neill’s next Mick?

 

11 July (Part 1) - Twitter

I’m not sure that I should admit how much of my time this website and blog has been taking up recently. In newspaper terms I am reporter, photographer, editor, letters editor, typesetter, distribution manager and advertising manager. The latter consists of little more than putting out the RSS feed which I suspect that few readers have ever noticed.

There is more that could be done. I mostly get requests for a forum and to participate in Twitter. I am aware how powerful Twitter can be. On days when Bonkers is featured on a popular Twitter account, web hits rise noticeably. Anything from 5% to more like 500% when Bexley council was busy trying to get a resident slung into jail. What is needed is more hours in the day and more of the retired members of the team who know their way around a computer. At present there is only me but new members are welcome, computer literate or not.

As a small step in what I hope is the right direction I have recruited someone to, in effect, duplicate the RSS feed on Twitter. You may have noticed the arrival of the Twitter icon on the menu bar above which became operative at ten fifteen yesterday evening.

I haven’t much idea where this will lead, I don’t expect to match my daughter’s 12,387 followers, but I’m willing to give it a try. I shall not be directly responsible for what goes on there, I’ve still not signed up to Twitter, but if I consider it is all going pear shaped I can always remove the little blue bird.

Inevitably, the RSS feed will always provide the quickest notification of new material on Bonkers but Twitter might be simpler for some.

 

10 July (Part 5) - Bonkers bouncing

Would the reader who submitted an interesting suggestion from a gmail address that included the word Bonkers, please send it again as that one, and a few variants I tried, is causing a bounce.

 

10 July (Part 4) - Degrading their reputation bit by bit

I hope Teresa O’Neill is beginning to regret the day she made up lies about me and reported them to the police in the hope they were bent enough to arrest me. They tried but ultimately the IPCC stood in their way. As Bomber Harris may have said “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind”.

It’s been a good few weeks leading to Bexley council being featured on The Sunday Politics Show last weekend and today a Bonkers’ story has hit the Daily Mail courtesy of an intermediary at the News Shopper. I fear he will be sent to do Pub Spy in the manner of the Bexley Times reporter Martin Sawden who was shoved off to the sports pages when he uncovered too much Bexley muck four years ago.

Now, if only the man alleging murder comes up trumps…

 

10 July (Part 3) - Cabinet control freakery

In some ways last night’s cabinet meeting was business as usual. i.e. everything had been stitched up privately following which a rubber stamping machine was briefly put on show.

However there were also differences. I am aware of six people who asked to record the meeting in one form or another and I half expected to see the police posted outside but instead the cabinet had settled for two security men stationed in the chamber. Just an idle gesture because you can be sure that if they had touched anyone there’d be assault charges made. Extra barricades had been erected, well carefully placed tables and chairs to be precise, to prevent access to the top table.

The usual suspects (six) were in attendance, a couple I had noticed at a recent UKIP meeting, a Bonkers reading couple from Abbey Wood (nice to meet you R.), and four more hungry to see democracy in action. As is usual at cabinet meetings two representatives of Bexley’s lie factory (Press Office) were also in the public gallery.

Colin CampbellBefore the meeting started Elwyn Bryant asked his local councillor if he could “have a word”. The answer was “please go away I have no intention of speaking to you”. When Elwyn protested “but you are my councillor” he said “I feel threatened by you”. Mr. Bryant is 76 years old and cannot quite muster 5'8" and ten stone. His councillor is the TV celebrity Colin Campbell who just two days previously had announced that Bexley council allows meetings to be filmed.

Mr. Barnbrook was in exuberant form having spent the afternoon celebrating a birthday and wished to avail himself of the facility exhibited on a notice in the foyer below, to ask a question. Tyrannical O’Neill the power crazed leader of the council said “There are no provisions for members of the public to ask questions. You are not entitled to ask a question because you are not an elected member”. What’s this council’s slogan? Ah yes, “Listening to you. Working for you”.


Teresa O'NeillThe meeting began at 19:32 with a longer than usual diatribe from the leader about photography and the like. She may as well have said “over my dead body” and there may well be some who look forward to that. “The 2010 (†) statement about filming still stands and I shall not give permission in the light of the [new] DCLG guidance.”

She dangled the prospect of a change following a Constitution Review Committee meeting next September. She waffled on about needing to respect members of the public who do not wish to be photographed or filmed, which doesn’t bother her when the cameras are fixed to Parking Attendants’ helmets, nor does it make any sense when you consider any photograph I might take would be from ‘my’ front desk and not include anyone but councillors. But we are dealing with someone who cannot open her mouth without a lie emerging from it.

My suspicion is that our lying leader will set up some scheme whereby a council officer with a video camera on a tripod will film proceedings for later streaming on the council’s website. Not what the government had in mind at all.

Teresa’s lies brought us to 19:36 and Page 11 of the Agenda. Mr. Ellsmore the Finance Director then came out with his brief spiel about going £2·3 million over budget on children’s services but being £4 million to the good overall. 26 pages of Agenda in two minutes.

Mrs. Richardson was more interesting, informing us in her usual admirably clear manner that Old Bexley School was to be expanded. Seven pages in five minutes.

No one had anything to say about the next 36 Agenda pages - Safeguarding Children’s Services - so the lottery fund application for Lesnes Abbey Woods was discussed from 19:45. They are looking for £2·9 million. Councillors Gareth Bacon and Don Massey found a few platitudes and another 12 pages were rubber stamped.

Cabinet member Chris Taylor made a few comments about Adults’ Services from 19:47, another twelve pages done and dusted.

Finally Chief Executive Will Tuckley piped up at 19:51 to say the council had yet to capitalize on the Public Health rearrangements. Not sure what he had in mind but he has to justify his existence somehow. Game over at 19:54.

121 pages of Agenda proposals all moved, seconded and approved in 22 minutes. 18 if you exclude the introductory photographic prevarications. Good job they had rigged it all beforehand or I might think they were a bunch of skivers and not just a motley collection of frauds and scoundrels.

Note: With no photography permissible I’ve had to commission an artist to give us an impression of the fork-tongued dictator.
† I’m not sure where this 2010 reference comes from. No one ever tried to film a meeting until March 2011 and the council hastily changed its constitution a month later.

 

10 July (Part 2) - Bexley’s lie production department fails to plug the holes

News Shopper Maureen HolkhamThe News Shopper has today covered the Bexley council death by neglect story which gives it the wider circulation it deserves and extracts an excuse note from Bexley council. As you would expect of a bunch of liars it comes complete with some enlightening holes.

Ignoring the nonsense about John Cousins not being party to this incident, oh no, he was never asked to download the computer log and interpret it was he? Why would it need a relatively low level employee to point out that having only one person on duty and setting the computer’s back up emergency call number to be the same as the primary was not best practice? Surely the ability to spot the obvious is one of the justifications for paying a Deputy Director £90,543 a year?

John Cousins was clearly correct in his assertion that two operators and a proper back up number were essential as evidenced by Bexley’s belated decision to do just that.

Covering up the unfortunate death of a BELL client is bad enough, but later today I am off to look at some documents belonging to a man who alleges Bexley council covered up a murder. Whatever next?

Now in Daily Mail.

 

10 July (Part 1) - Crime and Disorder at the Civic Centre - Round 3

Supt. AylingThe main attraction at the Crime and Disorder meeting is usually the Borough Police Commander’s report (Agenda Item 8) where he tells everyone how wonderful things are in Bexley but he had been somewhat eclipsed by his Chief Inspector. Sure, Supt. Ayling made the almost mandatory announcement that Bexley continues to have the lowest number crimes per 1,000 of population in London but the rest of his statistics, provided on a couple of sides of A4, were rather too cryptic for me.

For example, my eyes initially alighted on the statement “Robbery. Rolling year performance is +1·6% which places Bexley 32nd in the MPS” from which I assumed that robberies were at a low level placing Bexley in the best position, bottom of the table. However the Superintendent, engaged excuse mode and attempted to explain the poor performance. It transpires that robberies are up on last year and the 1·6% increase is the worst in London. The relatively low numbers involved probably makes this look more serious than it is.

Having learned to interpret that statistic correctly I can pass on the information that burglaries are 0·7% lower putting Bexley in 19th place. Criminal damage, down 17·9%, 9th place. Theft from motor vehicles, down 2·1%, 13th place. Theft of motor vehicles down 13·5% and 8th place. Theft from person, down 2·6%, 14th place. Violence down 23·2% and 2nd place and most cryptic of all, that Bexley is in Xth place for public confidence.

So a result far from being spectacularly bad but I do wonder how sound the basis for such statistics is. If a Commander gets his crime numbers down to just one and the following year he slips up and scores two, then he’ll register a 100% increase and be placed in the worst position in London while almost certainly delivering the lowest crime rate. Meaningless statistics. Music to Bexley council’s ears.

Chairman Alan Downing then meandered off on a self indulgent digression wanting to hear “the Romanian story” again like a three year old addicted to The Big Bad Wolf at bedtime. Apparently a Romanian gang of eight had been arrested and in the wards in which they operated, burglaries had fallen from four or five a day to none.


Val ClarkNot to be outdone, councillor Val Clark said she could see some odd goings on in the Cinema Car Park opposite, and CI Loebenburg was despatched to investigate. He returned a couple of minutes later to report that Bexley council had been wasting police time again - or polite words to that effect.

Agenda Item 9 dealt with councillor Brian Bishop’s sub-group and their review of the Bexley Community Safety Partnership. It had recommended that “The learning of English as a second language should be actively encouraged, particularly for those who have lived in the UK for some time“. It met with general agreement which is in stark contrast to when I made the same suggestion to Bexley council and was labelled a racist for my pains.

Cabinet member Don Massey opined that “a lot of money could be spent on that”. Good to see him awake after all.

Another recommendation was to include an article on reporting crime in the Bexley magazine - which is published entirely in English.

Moving on to Agenda Item 10, Funding, Deputy Director Bryce-Smith said the bid for finance for the Bobby Van scheme which provides home security and advice had failed, whilst Bromley’s had not so Bexley had had to dig into its own pocket. Maybe he should ask his Bromley counterpart how to organise a competent bid.

Finally, councillors O’Hare and Read both though it would be fun to organise another sub-group and provide an impoverished councillor with a chairman’s fee. The former suggested a look at violence towards children and Read fancied himself with gangs and violent behaviour; councillor Melvin Seymour’s expertise in that field would be invaluable. The chairman ruled in favour of violence towards children and then declared the meeting closed at 22:22.

 

9 July (Part 2) - Disorder at the Civic Centre?

Council chamberIt would seem I was not alone in believing deputy leader Colin Campbell’s assertion that Bexley council would allow photography at this evening’s cabinet meeting. There have been four possibly five requests that I know of and three I know to have been rejected on the instructions of council leader Tyrant O’Neill. Don’t blame the messengers, I suspect the HR and Publicity managers who have been dragged in to sign the rejections are as heartily sick of the leader’s secrecy at all costs mission as the rest of the borough.

I won’t be taking photographs myself but I cannot speak for others. My camera will be at the bottom of a shopping bag in case there are things worth recording outside the council chamber.

The repercussions of Cheryl Bacon’s law breaking and Colin Campbell’s televised lie fest have so far resulted in complaints to the local standards board, both Eric Pickles and his right hand man, Brandon Lewis, FOIs to the police, another column in tomorrow’s News Shopper and possibly a complaint to OFCOM about piffle being broadcast as political fact.

Keep up the good work Bexley council, you make us all feel proud to have elected you.

 

9 July (Part 1) - Crime and Disorder at the Civic Centre - Round 2

Cyril O'BrienFollowing CI Loebenburg’s quick fire report it was Fire Service Chief, Cyril O’Brien’s turn. Once again, statistics were rattled out like a machine gun. Fires were at their lowest level since 1965, half were false alarms and his appliances were in use only 7% of the time. Attendance at Road Traffic Accidents was up as were rescues from stuck lifts. Some companies were “using the Fire Service as lift engineers” and if such a call out is made more than ten times the company is charged. The plan is to reduce the number to three. Over what period wasn’t stated.

The service’s official statistics for Bexley (PDF) show that lift incidents have fallen by 30% in the past three yeras.

The closure of fire stations including neighbouring Woolwich and a London wide reduction of 18 appliances will impact on response times. The expectation is that the first appliance will arrive at an incident in 5 minutes and 36 seconds, 15 seconds slower than before.

The population of Bexley has risen 6%, incidents have fallen 44% and fires are down by 61% over the last ten years.

Councillor Seán Newman asked what the effect of cuts in Kent would have on Bexley. The answer was “Not much”.

Councillor Steven Hall asked how many people responded to the public survey on the future of the service. The answer is not available, at least not to Cyril yet, but he did have the number of attendees at the Bromley/Bexley combined public meeting to hand. One.

Councillor Hall also prompted the information that unserviceable appliances are replaced from a central store within the hour.

At this point I couldn’t help but notice the faces of Conservative councillors - the Labour members had their back to me. Councillors Read, Sawyer, Don Massey and Tarrant were showing the signs of extreme boredom. Yawns and staring into space, or in Alex Sawyer’s case working on some document or other. Not that I necessarily blame them, the report had gone on rather a long time under councillor Alan Downing’s directionless chairmanship.


John WilkinsonImmediately following that observation it was confounded by councillor John Wilkinson who said the report was “very interesting” and asked if the reduction in incidents was “not just a blip”. Maybe Wilkinson had been asleep too because the Fire Chief had said the reductions had been steady over ten years several times.

In an effort to maintain the downward trend Chief O’Brien said he was encouraging developers to lay six inch water mains instead of four and was funding sprinklers for housing associations.

The next item on the Agenda - Performance Management, Quarter 4, 2012/13 wasn’t discussed at all. Maybe nobody wanted to mention Page 16 which revealed that Bexley is lagging the London average on seven out of 27 indicators. More than a quarter are not up to scratch.

 

8 July (Part 4) - It’s official! Bexley council lies on national TV

“We allow cameras already. If you want to film you simply call us on the day to say you would want to film, you don’t even have to give a reason. In the case of these individuals they did not do that.” So said Bexley’s Deputy council leader councillor Colin Campbell on the telly yesterday.

This is what you get if you seek permission. This email extract from Bexley council timed at 22:16, 8th July 2013
Extract from email
News Shopper report.

 

8 July (Part 3) - Bexley dithers. It’s last again

Government offers to fund another council tax freeze. Five boroughs including Bromley are not interested and Bexley is among the last two boroughs to make up its mind. BBC report.

 

8 July (Part 2) - Crime and Disorder at the Civic Centre - Round 1

Just three local residents bothered to turn up at last Thursday’s Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Me, Nick Dowling sans broken Dictaphone, and a newcomer who managed to stay the course until ten minutes from the end. Quite an achievement considering the generally dull fare on offer.

Someone had gone to the trouble of erecting a barrier of tables to prevent anyone getting close to the chairman and about 20 chairs had been laid out for public use. There were only three Agendas on offer which suggests that someone on the council staff may be a mind reader.


Alan DowningChairman Alan Downing kicked off in meticulous form, “No audio or video recording is permitted, all microphones have been tested” and all the standard democracy defying protocol stuff but delivered in an inoffensive manner. He even welcomed members of the public. Where has the old pen-jabbing, deaf abusing, Malik hammering, overbearing, unreasonable Downing gone? Instead we had a laid back, almost affable retired policeman on show, rambling on a bit and exercising minimal control such that the meeting went on for 172 yawn inducing minutes.

Mike LoebenburgAfter correcting the accidental omission of Agenda Item 3, the chairman invited Chief Inspector Michael Loebenburg of Bexleyheath police to enlighten us on the new policing model introduced to the borough on 24th June.

Mike, for that is how he was addressed throughout the meeting, is a man who appeared to know his subject inside out but unfortunately rushed through the facts at breakneck speed. I felt an affinity with him in that thirty years ago I wrote a computer program for BT that scheduled telephone operators’ shift patterns to meet customer demand. The numbers involved were hugely greater but I bet it’s standard practice for the police now - not BT, all the operators have gone.

The new police arrangements aim to reduce burglary by 20%, boost public confidence by 20% and spend 20% less. CI Loebenburg revealed that the front counter at Marlowe House is now staffed entirely by volunteers and that all the Contact Centres are, for memorable simplicity, open at exactly the same times. It sounds good until you realise that each opens for three whole hours per week.

The borough has been divided into three policing ‘Neighbourhoods’; the imaginatively named North, Central and South. According to the brochure one of the Northern wards is Thamesmad, so perhaps not so unimaginative after all. All 21 wards will have one dedicated Police Constable and a PCSO plus five officers who may float around to other wards to maintain staffing in a flexible and economically efficient manner. Each Neighbourhood will have its own fully equipped base from which to operate without time wasting returns to Bexleyheath - unless someone is destined for the Custody Suite.

Councillor Michael Tarrant wanted to know how long term absences would be covered and Superintendent Peter Ayling’s response amounted to the time honoured “With difficulty” but said the larger numbers of staff compared to the recent past made things a bit easier and the Commissioner had ordered “ring fencing” of the dedicated Neighbourhood team members. Councillor Tarrant said the same was promised for the previous scheme and added “there must have been a lot of holes in your fence’. Supt. Ayling indicated that the old system came to grief during the Olympics.


O'HareCouncillor Nick O’Hare asked if the number of Contact Centres London wide had gone up or down and how many volunteers we had in Bexley. CI Loebenburg was immediately able to say “slight increase” and “fifty”.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon asked a question about police visibility and the need to keep officers on the streets, oblivious to the irony of her own stupidity being responsible for the removal of two on the 19th June. Supt. Ayling said he was “absolutely convinced of the need for visibility and accountability”. He had 65 bikes of which only five were serviceable when he took over and he now has more on the road. The actual number was lost through a combination of the poor public address system and an outbreak of coughing.

Councillor Aileen Beckwith demonstrated the paucity of intellect in the chamber by asking if the right of citizen arrest still existed. Look it up on Google woman like anyone else would, Bexley council has already been accused of wasting police time once in the past week. Fortunately Ayling didn’t need Google, he knew the answer was yes.

Councillor Steven Hall sparked off an exchange that revealed some of the shift patterns employed by the Neighbourhood Teams. Don’t tell the bad boys but they don’t provide 24 hour cover.


SlaughterCouncillor Mike Slaughter always has a question for the police which implies a healthy scepticism. He said he used to be able to call an SNT manager directly but now he is put through to a call centre in Marlowe House. CI Loebenburg said this was more efficient. I think he meant slower.

Councillor John Wilkinson continued the theme and said that when he called the Brampton Neighbourhood Team he was told he would get a reply at some time during the next four days. Supt. Ayling said “that absolutely shouldn’t happen” and proceeded to identify the likely cause of the problem with the implication he would fix it.

Council Sybil Camsey said her Team didn’t even know their own email address and Supt. Ayling accepted that wasn’t good enough. It was teething problems!

As the report on the new Local Policing Model wound up, chairman Downing surprised the public present, well me and Nick Dowling anyway, by asking if we had any questions. We did not and his accommodation was not repeated for any other Agenda item so one must assume that this diversion from the norm was exactly that, never to be seen again.

The remainder of the evenings entertainment will be reported later. There is a limit of how much boring material can be imposed on readers in one go. And Campbell says they are thinking of webcasting it! One extraordinarily expensive snore festival!

 

8 July (Part 1) - Viva Arriva

Local readers will probably be familiar with the pair of bus stops opposite Bexleyheath police station. A short stretch of bus only road consisting of two north bound (†) carriageways services buses which either continue in a northerly direction from one of the stops, and those due to turn right and head eastwards, using the other.


Point dutyOn the other side of the junction and for reasons far too complicated to explain, all buses heading south turn right across the path of buses leaving the pair of bus stops. For obvious reasons the traffic lights were phased such that when buses left those two stops, nothing else was allowed to move. It was a sensible system which worked well.

Then Mike Frizoni and his crew came along. As an ultimately temporary but nevertheless long term part of the Bexleyheath regeneration programme the lights have been set to allow buses heading in opposing directions to move at the same time and interfere with each others’ movements. Together with the adjacent lane reduction to the west, the potential for chaos is considerable.

I observed it on a trip to the Civic Centre one evening and a reader suggested I get back there with my camera. I did three times but traffic was always light around lunchtime. Then last Thursday evening I went to the Civic Centre by bus again, and although the driver expertly manoeuvred his vehicle to minimise its impact on other road users, and took a short cut at one point to avoid more chaos, he experienced a very considerable hold up outside the cop shop. I hopped off at the Clock Tower and walked the rest of the way or I would have been late.


Arriva Arriva ArrivaI realised I must be at the junction when traffic is heavy and this I did on Saturday. However the traffic, whilst heavy was still running freely. The reason wasn’t hard to find, there was a man on old fashioned point duty in the middle of the road. When did you last see that?

He was thankfully wearing a bright yellow jacket and happily countermanding Frizoni’s idiotic traffic lights to miraculous effect. Click the final image to see who was using their initiative to overcome another of Bexley council’s long line of failures. Well done Arriva.

† North East for the pedants but that description is complicated enough already.

 

7 July (Part 4) - Danson Park - fine

Despite the delays the best way to get to the Danson Park Festival is always likely to be the bus, but it’s easy for me to say that with a Freedom Pass in my pocket and a pair of legs which still do their job moderately well. What if you have your disabled live-in mother-in-law to cart about?

Those so affected might check the council’s website for any special Danson parking arrangements and you would draw a blank, but there is a link to the Festival website and there under the Visitors tag is exactly what you are looking for…
Parking instruction
Good ol’ Bexley for a change. Firm but fair. Don’t park across private drives and we‘ve made it easy for you to recognise prohibited zones by putting out cones. Look out for those and have a nice day.

However our man with disabled mother-law makes an advanced reconnaissance to the park on Saturday to see what the score actually is and is pleased to see that Blue Badge holders are being given access to the Stables car park for free. This morning he makes the return trip with mother-in-law on board, and hits a snag.


Parking attendantsSomeone has changed their minds and the yellow shirted boys and girls won’t allow disabled parking any more. So back towards town he goes to find a cone free space as per the website notice. As he does so he spies many parking attendants lurking against hedges eager to earn their bonus.

A cone free space wasn’t as difficult to find as one might imagine. Not far along Bean Road was a suitable gap, no cones, no drives, no yellow lines, no nothing!

A couple of hours later, his car has a ticket on it. Further along Bean Road he discovers a tatty notice stuck to a lamp post saying “Temporary Restrictions Apply. Nothing to say what the restrictions are and nothing at all for those approaching from Danson Road who take the first available cone free space. Why should Bexley council expect people to go hunting for signs in places they have no reason to go, when the official advice is simply to look out for cones? Because Bexley council is run by a bunch of crooks perhaps?

I hope the family took photos, they certainly didn’t send me any so I had to despatch one of my regular contributors to check there were no cones and everything was as described. Another family that is unlikely to come back to Bexley in a hurry.

Note: This blog is an amalgam of two separate incident reports.

 

7 July (Part 3) - Council excels itself. Not a single truthful word

Sunday Politics Colin CampbellIn the face of a good deal of evidence to the contrary councillor Colin Campbell went on television this morning to say that a small group of protesters intent on disruption pushed a mobile phone within six inches of the chairman of the Public Realm meeting and demanded to record the meeting.

Rarely in the history of television can so many lies have fallen from one man’s mouth in the space of five minutes. Campbell wasn’t even at the meeting; fortunately some councillors who were have put the truth on record should it ever be required.

Here is a verbatim account of all Campbell’s principal statements…


• There is a small group with a history of disrupting meetings and being abusive.
• The chairman talked to individuals to try to get them to behave. They absolutely refused to do so.
• When you’ve got a group of people who are being abusive, they are breaking up the meeting.
• Quite obvious from the beginning they were there to disrupt the meeting.
• They have a history of disruption.
• They stuck an iphone about six inches from the face of the chairman.
• We allow cameras already. If you want to film you simply call us on the day to say you would want to film, you don’t even have to give a reason. In the case of these individuals they did not do that.


BaconI could go on in detail analysing those statements but suffice to say not a single one is truthful, except perhaps that no notice had been give of the intention to make an audio recording. Earlier requests had been for still photography.

Mr. Barnbrook believes a better way of getting at the truth might be a Freedom of Information request along the following lines. “Please tell me the number of meetings in the past two years for which the minutes record any public disorder. Also the number of members of the public to have been formally warned of their behaviour in the council chamber”. etc. etc.

And a second one “Please tell me the number of requests to record in any format, video, audio, or still, any council meeting, including meetings with council officers, made in the past two years and how many were accepted.” It’s going to be nil to the first FOI and nil to the second too!

At a personal level I do very much object to the constant use of the plural. I said nothing during the incident preferring to exchange ‘knowing glances’ with the more intelligent councillors able to see the repercussions of Cheryl Bacon’s inability to handle the situation.

As Campbell seems to have rescinded the decision to forbid me to take a single photograph at next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting at which he will be present, I have sent the following email to the Director of Corporate Services.


Dear Mr. Moore,

Deputy leader Colin Campbell was on television this morning and said "We allow cameras already. If you want to film you simply call us on the day to say you would want to film".

The council’s change of heart will be widely welcomed. It will need a video recording to fully demonstrate total commitment to transparency but a single photograph will represent a small step in that direction. I shall come to the meeting suitably equipped next Tuesday and I look forward to your confirmation that councillor Campbell’s statement to the nation was genuine.

regards,


I shall never be able to watch a BBC political programme again without thinking it is very likely total cobblers.

Earlier today I was out researching a future story with the help of a couple living in Campbell’s ward. The man of the house thought that Bonkers was not an appropriate name for this website - I explained the history - he thought I should have called it ‘Bexley council are thieves and liars’. It was a very interesting hour or so in their company. Due to injudicious use of Outlook’s Reply All button they and I know what councillor Campbell thinks of his electors and how council officers rig things among themselves to ensure that it’s always heads they win, tails residents lose, even when the council has broken the law. More on this in the days and weeks to come I expect.

 

7 July (Part 2) - Labour facts and Tory obfuscation

Several requests have come in for the names of candidates expected to stand at the May 2014 council elections and the answer each time is that everything I know has been put on the website. The word ‘know’ requires elaboration. Whilst the Labour party has been happy to inform me of the situation in wards they already hold or hope to win, for the Conservatives, all the information has come from unverifiable anonymous sources. They may be right, they may be wrong, I simply do not know.

At least one of the sources must be wrong, because one says that councillor June Slaughter is heading for the exit, leaving husband Michael behind, and the other says the reverse is true. Actually two say the reverse is true, so the odds must be stacked that way.

I’d be sorry to see either go. At least they ask intelligent questions and in Michael’s case in particular will publicly speak his mind even at the risk of rocking a comfortable boat.

But why not just ask them as one can with Labour you might ask? Because if you do this is the sort of answer you will get…


“The candidates will be known when the nominations papers are submitted.”


That is the single sentence reply given by Sue Ayers, Secretary of the Bexleyheath & Crayford Conservative Association. Lying and obfuscation runs deep in the DNA of Bexley Tories.

 

7 July (Part 1) - On your bike, Bexley

Abbey RoadThe fact that the borough’s cycling injuries have gone up by 70% in a year reminded me that there used to be a cycle lane in the middle of Abbey Road at its junction with Knee Hill. What its purpose was remained a mystery until it disappeared nearly ten years ago. Why is the New Road Layout sign still there?

I’ve only ridden a bike in Bexley once or twice and serious biking would only be possible for me in an East/West direction, I have never seen anyone cycle up Knee Hill and the other direction is accessible only to amphibious vehicles thanks to Bexley council’s transport strategy; however there are cyclists around and one sent me a message, complete with photographs.


Yarnton Way Yarnton WayBexley council talks of creating a mini Holland; well a good start was made with Broadway. No cycle lanes away from the traffic. There was their chance to show the council’s commitment to cycling. The choice seems to be Broadway or hospital but at least there is a place to park your cycle while you are away.

Does Bexley council have anyone who understands cycling? It no doubt brings in so called experts; or gold diggers, to further rip the council taxpayers off.

To address cycling borough wide may be be expensive but it has to be all or nothing. To put down a few cycle lanes, then claiming credit is not a commitment to cycling.


Crayford CrayfordI’ve raced cycle speedway and road cycling, cycled to Paris, the London to Brighton and Cambridge along with others and have seen how councils think they are cycling committed. Putting white lines down as cycle lanes together with a few signs does not show commitment.

Bexley’s cycle lanes which lead nowhere may look good for the council’s leaflets and website. The non-cycling community may think it’s green and great. But it’s not.

A lot can be done to address cycling safety, at very little cost but not spending much does not massage councillors’ egos! Spending or wasting loads of money on mad ideas does.

Take a look at the cycle lane near Sainsbury’s in Crayford. Cyclists are left in the middle of the road where traffic comes out of the supermarket and the petrol station. Great thinking, by people who don’t cycle!


For another idiotic cycle path, click here. It’s no different today than six months ago.

 

6 July (Part 2) - Fantastic Free Fun

The only TV programme I watched last week was a documentary on BBC2 and I stumbled upon it by accident ten minutes in. It explained how London’s buses are controlled by centralised computer systems which know where every bus is and gives the driver appropriate instructions. Very interesting it was too but I think the controllers must have lost the plot this morning. Two buses took 63 minutes to get me to Danson Park and the second one was so packed it ceased to pick up new passengers. I’ve not seen that for a long time.

I’d planned to post some Danson Festival pictures tomorrow but on second thoughts I think it deserves a second plug for tomorrow’s event because it is a prime target to be cut when Bexley council is forced to plug its £40 million black hole. Hints have been dropped.

It’s clearly not designed for 69 year olds unaccompanied by their grandchildren but it provided a fun couple of hours anyway, just wandering around watching families thoroughly enjoying themselves, though how they afford it I am not quite sure. It is a far cry from when my father gave me ten shillings (†) for a whole evening of rides at the 1951 Festival of Britain Fun Fair in Battersea Park. Some rides at Danson were £4 a pop!
Bus ticket Bus ticket
It was by far the biggest fun fair I have seen apart from Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and in my opinion far better. Maybe the negative temperatures in Hyde Park last December made it hard to like.

Here’s a taste of what it was like three hours ago.

Danson Danson Danson Danson

For the out of town readers, that’s Danson House on the left - unless you are viewing in Mobile mode in which case it is ‘somewhere up there’.

Danson Danson Danson Danson Danson Danson Danson Danson

The guy from Bexley council (final picture) sent there to security mark bikes - or something - did not have a lot to do.

Danson Danson Danson Danson

For those on a tight budget there is the free splash park and I was right, there was a man on the gate extracting six quid from people who didn’t fancy a 63 minute bus ride. It would have been quicker for me to walk, literally.

I could barely believe someone thought yesterday’s ‘advertisement’ for the free Danson Festival was an attempt to “diminish a community event” and to “rubbish it”, but I do rather regret my joke about Mr. Easton. I visualised someone having everything organised and operating with 100% efficiency and Mr. Easton came to mind. On reflection the comment about confiscating cameras was more appropriate to Kevin Fox. I suspect Mr. Easton has big enough shoulders to bear it.

While preparing the above photographs, I have had an email from someone less happy than me with the Danson Festival, more anon I expect.

"† 50 pence. This was more than 10% of my father’s weekly salary at the time. And he had quite a good job!

 

6 July (Part 1) - Weekend pedantry

These images were taken from Bexley council’s website early this morning. The left hand does not appear to know what the right hand is doing.
Library address Eileen Pallen
I have some sympathy with the webmaster but you would think councillors Lucia-Hennis, Pallen and Seymour would have noticed the library moved eight months ago. But don’t be too critical, at least these three hold an open surgery which is far from being universal in Bexley.

 

5 July (Part 5) - Danson Festival this weekend

Danson ParkI didn’t go to the Danson Festival last year; oh let’s be honest, I don’t think I’ve been this millennium, but tomorrow I expect to make the journey by bus equipped with my camera and a long lens. You never know who you might spy in the distance.

One gets to sense when an anonymous message might have come from inside Bexley council and I suspect one such message was received earlier today. It said “Take a car there if you can and refuse to pay for parking. The park is not a road the council cannot issue you with a parking ticket, saving £6”. I can’t see that working, surely there is going to be a gate with Mr. Easton there, stuffing his jacket pocket full of cash while confiscating cameras. Tomorrow I shall find out.

Danson Park, 6th and 7th July. www.dansonfestival.co.uk. Should be a great free day out.

 

5 July (Part 4) - Photography and Bexley council

Council chamberRegular readers will know that I have no desire to audio or video record Bexley council meetings, in my opinion nothing could be more boring. However the occasional still photograph might be a welcome addition to the blog.

I went through the ‘would it be OK if I took a picture under your direction before the meeting started?’ routine several months ago and Kevin Fox rejoiced in saying ‘No’, but I thought I’d try again following the recent guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

It took more than two weeks to get a response but yesterday the Director of Corporate Services gave me an answer. ‘No’ again.

I have uploaded the complete email trail so that you may see what I requested and read the council’s considered reply. It is the second of the four emails.

To reject a request to take a single photograph may torpedo any argument Colin Campbell plans to put forward on The Sunday Politics Show. The producer is aware of the latest correspondence. As for Director Paul Moore, I think it will almost certainly be a case of ‘Please don’t shoot the messenger’. He will be doing council leader Teresa O’Neill’s bidding.

 

5 July (Part 3) - Accidents up, sales down

CongestionThe News Shopper has carried a couple of interesting reports in recent days, maybe you missed them.

On cycling Bexley council admits “the number of casualties on the borough’s roads has risen by 70 per cent in a year”. A Transport for London survey reveals the number of cyclists pedalling to work went up by 1% in the same period. Bexley council insiders have reported problems with their cycling training courses before.

The same reporter says that retail sales in the Broadway were down down by 7·1% January to May compared to the same period last year. Almost ten times as bad as the national average.

Spike in casualties - Retail sales down.

 

5 July (Part 2) - UKIP invites you to a meeting

UKIP UKIP meeting King's HeadThe major parties in Bexley don’t appear to run public meetings, so the ancient art of heckling is denied to us all. But not so UKIP who invite everyone to meet them in the King’s Head, Bexleyheath next Sunday. I’ll try to get there.

If all Bonkers’ readers turn up we’ll have the police out but maybe the extortionate price of beer in Bexley will sort that problem out. When I take a pint in Chingford once a fortnight I save 90 pence.

 

5 July (Part 1) - Deckchairs shuffled while Sidcup Titanic sinks

Benches StarfishWhile Bexley council plans to attract shoppers back to Sidcup by offering coordinated awnings, new benches and starfishes (†) set into the pavement, Mike Frizoni, their Public Realm supremo has other ideas. Hidden away in the small print of the News Shopper and the London Gazette are his revised parking proposals.

• Five four hour parking bays in Belton Road will be reduced to two hours each.
• Three one hour bays in Hatherley Road to be resident only bays. Three more to become residents/business only bays.
• Two two hour bays in Hamilton Road to become resident only.
• Two two hour bays in Stanhope Road to become resident only.

Pulling in the opposite direction are two resident only bays in Hatherley Road to become one hour parking bays and two business bays to become a one hour bay. Also two 20 minute bays in the High Street will become 30 minute bays.

All those different times in Sidcup’s streets may well confuse the Parking Attendants, but confusion is what brings in the money. But not to struggling businesses.

† Looks a bit too like mother and child splatted by a 321 bus to me.

 

4 July (Part 5) - Democracy at work

Councillor Colin CampbellNot in Bexley obviously but in far away Bideford.

A reader from way down west has taken this photograph of his local news paper.

Following on from Eric Pickles’ announcement their photographer waltzed into North Devon’s Council Chamber on Tuesday 2nd July and set up his tripod.

Council leader Brian Greenslade praised the Journal “for making the most of the new law”. He said: “The fact the Journal are doing this is a step in the right direction so people who don’t have time to come and sit in and hear their business being discussed can click on to the internet and watch.” And be bored to death presumably, but that is not the point.

The North Devon Journal’s web page gives the full story and allows you to view the video.

 

4 July (Part 4) - The Sunday Politics Show

Councillor Colin CampbellNews reaches me that deputy leader councillor Colin Campbell is to appear on TV next Sunday to defend Bexley council’s recording - not even a still photograph before the meeting starts - ban.

Don’t tell him but I quite like Colin Campbell in a lovable rogue sort of way and I have never felt inclined to call him a liar like so many cabinet members have proven themselves to be.

I do hope I’m not going to have to use the L word again on Sunday.

If the SPS researcher is looking in then please note that only Nicholas said anything out of turn. Only he was threatened with ejection but every member of the public present was prevented from attending the illegal ‘Closed session’ public meeting. Well the other room is a bit small and they didn’t relocate the projector and screens, so it would all have been a bit of a waste of time. It hasn’t stopped Bexley council lying though.

Bexley’s response to try to get one over any future recorder wielding hooligan may be read here.

By the way, Eric Pickles’ office told me that Bexley council bent their ear, presumably with much the same story as they gave the News Shopper, by telephone. Unfortunately the call was not recorded. Civil Servants always take memos though don’t they? Mick. Another FOI please.

The Sunday Politics Show. Sunday 7th July, 11 a.m. BBC1.
Now confirmed by News Shopper.

 

4 July (Part 3) - Tyred of life in Bexley

Hook RoadAs a very occasional visitor to Welling I find the junction with Hook Lane very dangerous. It looks like a standard junction with a central refuge but it is a potential death trap. If a pedestrian is heading west he might do so metaphorically as well as literally.

On approaching the first carriageway one naturally looks right and when on the central refuge, naturally left. It’s the same at millions of junction up and down the country, but not in Welling.

The first carriageway is for traffic heading south exactly as you would expect but the second carriageway is two directional. Only in Bexley would such a nonsense be contrived and last Saturday while en-route to UKIP’s little outing I came perilously close to a big red bus. “Squish” as my granddaughter is fond of saying when she steps on an unfortunate bug.

However it is not only pedestrians who are put at at risk in Welling by Bexley council; it’s motorists too.


Danson Crescent Danson CrescentIt’s a tight bend to get from Hook Lane into Danson Crescent and construction debris doesn’t help, but clip the kerb at your peril. The new stones have such a sharp edge that according to the nearest shopkeeper five motorists have sliced a big gash in their nearside rear tyre in the space of one hour. I’ve spoken to one of them.

While on site taking photographs an elderly gentleman voiced his disgust at Bexley council but said he had the solution. He was emigrating. It seems a bit drastic to me. Much better to put in a claim for damages to Mike Frizoni.

How long will it be before he gets out of his ivory tower wielding a grinder?

 

4 July (Part 2) - The Craske affair

I still get asked occasionally what happened to what might be more correctly called the Obscene Blog affair; well it is still on the go. Elwyn Bryant has been pursuing the Crown Prosecution Service and me the police

Towards the end of what the police called an investigation, the C.P.S. said they gave Bexley police a ‘course of action’ but the police decided to close the case down. Since February Elwyn has been asking what that course of action was and events have subsequently gone like this…


E.B. Can you tell me what you recommended to Bexley police on the Craske case please? (The CPS has the papers filed under the name Peter Craske.)
C.P.S. Yes, do you want it in writing?
E.B. Yes please.


After two or three weeks…


E.B. Mr./Ms. Whatever was going to send me some information. May I speak to him/her please?
C.P.S. I’m sorry, Mr./Ms. Whatever no longer works here.


Elwyn has gone around that loop three complete times now and is currently at the third stage of the fourth attempt. Me thinks they are covering for Bexley police failures.

I have had a promise from the police to send me the case file. I suspect it won’t be any such thing and in any case it has not come yet.

Mick Barnbrook, Bexley’s F.O.I. king, asked the council for a copy of the notes taken at their meeting of 13th September 2012 when they colluded with the police and the C.P.S. to “resolve the ongoing situation”.

Mrs. Holham’s reply was as follows…
FOI
A further question asked if Mr. Tuckey had any recollection of the matters under discussion - I’m not sure that is permissible under the F.O.I. Act - but Mrs. Holkham chose to give the same answer. “Mr. Tuckley did not take any notes or minutes at the meeting.”

 

4 July (Part 1) - The Beggar’s Opera

I don’t know why anyone uses the Opera web browser, I can’t even find its Tools menu to adjust the settings, but a few diehard readers persevere with it and since the weekend have been rewarded with this…


Opera
…but not any more. A kindly reader told me that a new Opera version 15 was issued on Tuesday and all is now well. So that’s great! The ‘wriggly screen’ was a corrupted Cookie on someone’s iPad and my new menu code was correct after all.

Plans for the day: To migrate the AAA and Mobile icons to the left by reader’s request. Expect some disruption while it happens. A photo sortie to Welling and a Crime and Disorder meeting in the Civic Centre; so don’t expect much new here today.

The Beggar’s Opera.

 

3 July (Part 2) - Maybe he has an alibi

Being Head of Legal Services must be a difficult job in Bexley. Defending the indefensible and the downright dishonest can’t be easy while signed up to a professional body with an interest in maintaining the law and which might just possibly rap your knuckles if you fail to uphold it.


Teresa O'NeillCouncillor Cheryl Bacon’s flagrant disregard of the 1972 Local Government Act resulted in a number of complaints that Mr. Alabi will have to find an excuse for. The lies told to the News Shopper give a clue as to what that will be; “no one but Nick Dowling was excluded” while those who were there knows very different. Any obvious lies and Alabi himself is in the firing line.

It is 15 days since my request to take a photograph at a council meeting hit Alabi’s desk and the only sign of an acknowledgement is Paul Moore’s abuse of power in threatening me with no photography if I didn’t remove the blog of 20th June. He wrote it at 13 minutes to midnight, maybe he wasn’t thinking straight.

A cabinet meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday and a reminder to that effect has been sent to Mr. Alabi and contrary to the council’s own rulebook, there is still no reply. The poor man will be under instruction from politicians with much to hide. All this fuss over a simple still photograph. When Eric Pickles eventually forces their hand a couple of people will take a handful of pictures and then the novelty will wear off. What are they worried about?

 

3 July (Part 1) - Charlton bombed. Bexley bewildered

Another history lesson. My grandmother spent her early life in Rangoon and when she returned a widow in 1933 she worked as an office cleaner in the Beckton gasworks until the 1960s and famously never took a single sick day; then her memory began to go.


ZeppelinOne day when I was reading a book on World War One bombing raids, she said “It was over Charlton, I watched from across the river” - she lived in Victoria Dock Road - “and the sky was lit up like daylight when the Zeppelin burned”. She then came out with the very same date as was in the book, all the while calling me Les, my father’s name.

Dementia is a horrible thing. By the end of her life she would sit on her doorstep all day waiting for her daughter to return from work. It has become something we are not supposed to talk about just like cancer not so long ago, something to be whispered between friends.

And so it is in Bexley. First it was a whisper, then various confirmations. One of our councillors is sadly at the beginning of the road my grandmother trod and no longer fit to do a councillor’s work effectively. Strictly speaking there should be a by-election but leader Teresa O’Neill is dead set against that and the Labour party has decided to go along with her. It’s not in a seat they could ever hope to win.

All very laudable on a personal level but the fact is that someone is pocketing £9,418 of tax payers’ money for doing nothing. All because Teresa O’Neill is running scared of her party’s unpopularity. Labour are too nice or too ineffective to do anything about it, just as their leader sided with Teresa over the excessive salaries in Bexley. Democracy is blown to smithereens again. Who can you trust in Bexley?

 

2 July (Part 5) - Hoo bloody ray!

I had this brilliant idea of setting up three test pages progressively removing all the new facilities from those three pages until it was totally back to square one to see if the user’s wriggling effect would go away, however just as the first test page was completed in came the following message…


Safari on iPad ... I've reset everything, cleared all cookies and website data, and Bonkers has finally stopped wriggling. I'm not going to touch anything or attempt to reconfigure it in any way, in case it squirms again.

Now I've just got the problem of having lost the stored passwords and other data for every other website I've ever used. Please keep ditching the dirt on dodgy Bexley so I know it was worth it!


People don’t go around making these stories up but I knew the site was the same as before with an extra facility added and the Cookie arrangements consequently revised. The test page removed the access to those new facilities and ignored all Cookies. Now the effort looks to have been wasted.

It’s a pity about the loss of passwords etc. and we shall never know now but I suspect there was a simpler solution. If you go to the footer of this or any other Blog page and click on ‘Cookie policy’ you will reach a page which allows you to delete all the Blog Cookies. It’s possible the problem was caused by this but I am grateful for the user’s perseverance.

There is an identical looking footer at the bottom of non-Blog pages which routes to a different page which allows deletion of the non-Blog Cookies. Yeah, I agree, the site has become immensely complicated. I can’t believe I wrote all that code.

As for dishing the dirt on Bexley, I have been sent some letters which indicate a possible Haringey Baby Peter style scandal in Bexley, but guess what, they covered it up. Does Bexley have its very own Sharon Shoesmith? It’ll take a while to get to the bottom of that one.

The ‘Mobile code’ removed at 5 p.m. today has been restored.

 

2 July (Part 4) - Safari on an iPad

By 5 p.m today 65 different users had visited Bonkers using Safari on an iPad spending an average of four minutes and forty one seconds on site. Three have contacted me to say things are much improved. One has said “It worked perfectly before, now the text wriggles and shimmers”. Thank you for coming back with the Safari on an iPad information.

That helps because what I can say absolutely is that nothing whatever has been done to text or to the instructions that control its appearance. Some graphics are being scaled down differently but nothing has changed with the text.

However one thing occurs to me. Each page now communicates directly with mobile devices to allow them to grab certain information and make the best decisions for that device. It will be removed within the next couple of minutes and will stay that way for 24 hours pending further feedback. It’s a shame that this has to be discussed in public but perhaps the message comes from one of the council informants who must necessarily remain anonymous.

To allow comparison, the ‘mobile code’ will be removed only from the Blog pages.

P.S. The deed is done!

 

2 July (Part 3) - The dangers of Cut and Paste

Magazine Mike Frizoni syndrome seems to have spread to magazine production. The current issue of the Bexley Magazine has been hitting doormats all over the borough during the past couple of weeks. It doesn’t actually encourage people to attend council meetings but it does list a few. There appears to be a problem with the introductory paragraph though.

If you go to the Public Cabinet you may waste your evening; somebody could cover a matchbox in cooking foil and bring it to a grinding halt. If you decide it is not for you it will be reported here the following day.

I’ve had to pass on a night in the pub with friends for that, must be going mad!

 

2 July (Part 2) - Statistical deception

Orpington High Street Orpington High StreetI seem to have referred several times recently to my GPO Telephones training in 1963, talk about thorough, it lasted six months and ranged from climbing poles to public speaking. I hope I’m never asked to do that again! One thing I remember well was that presenting statistics in an honest and straight forward manner was always essential.

I was reminded of that today when browsing through next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting agenda. Bexley council announced at one of their occasional ‘Open session’ meetings a little while ago that they are heading for a £40 million black hole and the government is not making things better with their programme of cuts. However Bexley will probably want to show electors that it is a really really bad problem by producing a very nasty looking graph showing nearly half their funding is at risk.

However if you correct the scales in the way the good ol’ GPO recommended 50 years ago it doesn’t look nearly as bad.

Mike Ellsmore (Director of Finance & Resources) should be ashamed of himself; has he never been trained in how to shin up a telegraph pole etc?

Never assume that Bexley council is not up to some sort of trickery.

As usual click the image to enlarge it. Mr. Ellsmore is welcome to take the corrected imaged if he ever decides to tell the truth.

 

2 July (Part 1) - Running repairs

Orpington High Street Orpington High Street BroadwayWhile I am preoccupied with other things may I show you how Orpington’s High Street has stood up to three years of pounding by bus wheels? Same contractor as Bexleyheath Broadway. The ramps have been dragged forwards and the repairs have left unsightly stains.

In Orpington the bus stops were block paved and they have all been ripped up and replaced by tarmac. In Broadway all bus stops are tarmac. Maybe the contractor learned from their mistakes, Bexley Broadway (picture 3) looked pretty solid to me.

Orpington pictures, thanks to a reader who has the spare time to get out of Bexley.

Everyone who isn’t a techno-nerd can go away now, but my request for feedback on the new site facilities has produced a mixed bag with only one common feature. Everyone who thinks it is a huge improvement has given their name and everyone who disagrees is anonymous and hasn’t given me any real clue as to what their problem might be. “It’s gone all wriggly” doesn’t help put me on the right path.

There are in fact only two dissenters (but three emails) and many more of the “it works fine” variety. Phew!

Yesterday’s complainer came back in response to me going to the trouble of replying publicly and said “OK, nothing more from me then. It'll be your loss”. I suppose it would be arrogant to shrug my shoulders and say “So what” but with the July blog accessed 2,690 times yesterday I am very tempted. With the ‘wriggly’ complainant demanding I restore the original site I will have to bore the rest of you to death by explaining why that won’t happen. I doubt he’ll be bothered to read it but here goes…

Basically the original site is still there untouched.

A modern website is entirely modular. The text and the way images look is all controlled by little modules which are dragged into service when required. So the banner picture, the Bonkers logo, the salaries carousel, menu and the size of text and images are all defined by separate modules. That is why the banner occasionally changes, just refer a page to a different module, job done.

The Blog has always been serviced by six modules which control the size of text and other related things. All that happened over the weekend was that a seventh module was added. That was simple, no new tricks to learn, but the seventh module defined a narrower screen width which had consequences for images wider than the reduced width. 'Standard size’ images were easily changed by redefining a module but non-standard image sizes are going to need a lot of manual adjustment - which has only been attempted back to the beginning of June.

Unless the user decides to switch into the new narrow screen module he will carry on using the old one and the new site is effectively the old site, because it is a combination of the basic text referring to the same old module.

I have had two ’web professionals’ tell me it is all working perfectly, but I do not discount the possibility that out there somewhere, someone has found a problem but just anonymously saying it is ‘wriggly’ is not going to fix it. Device name and browser please as a minimum.

Incidentally, one of those web professionals had missed the point that the idea is that the user messes around with those AAA symbols, or the Mobile equivalent, until he finds the one that suits best, then he goes to Configure (on the menu) and sets it for permanent future use.

In an attempt to locate the problem with the Opera browser and the menu, the main site menu may undergo temporary experimental changes. The blog will be unaffected.

How did I get into all this!?

 

1 July (Part 3) - Reader comment

I suppose I should have expected this, a pity the writer chose to remain anonymous. Maybe he knew the sarcasm wouldn’t go down too well after a weekend of experimentation and a lot of thought…


That's great Malcolm. What about the other half of us, who wouldn't dream of attempting to access your site using a mobile phone (or, in my case, have the slightest notion of how to do such a thing), whose “user experience” has been significantly diminished by your recent tinkerings?!


As one of the other half myself, who refuses to succumb to the dubious allure of a mobile phone, I am in the same boat. If it was possible I would reply privately as follows…


After extensive testing this morning one small simplification was made. Unfortunately Internet Explorer was perfectly OK with it but I didn’t get around to checking Chrome, Firefox and Safari and, Murphy’s Law, they weren’t happy. A fix was belatedly applied which was accepted by all four browsers.

In what way is it not as good, all the old choices are there? Unless you specifically choose the Mobile configuration nothing is changed. There may be a conflict with previous user choices (Configure) but a new one may be set the same way as before. If all else fails use the browser to delete all Cookies. The site looks exactly the same to me apart from the two line menu and with three readers who have helped with checking following this afternoon’s changes. The Mobile mode is entirely optional.


Unfortunately the Opera browser doesn’t like the new arrangements at all and Bonkers averages three visits a day from Opera users. For the time being they are going to have problems although the Menu map may provide a temporary alternative.

It would be best if these exchanges did not have to clutter up the blog and any more anonymous messages will be acted on if possible but not receive a reply.

 

1 July (Part 2) - Public Realm report : Round 4

Council chamberCheryl Bacon’s phantom Public Realm meeting was supposed to include a presentation of the plans for Sidcup High Street. A couple of screens with projectors had been set up so that members of the public could see what was going on. When she retired to the ‘Closed session’ councillors would have had to gather around a laptop screen. If the public had been allowed in they would have been able to see nothing of that, but as Cheryl barred access, contrary to the lies the council’s spokeswoman fed to the press, the problem did not arise.

A visual presentation may have been very informative but sadly the Agenda isn’t, but it is all we have. So much for public involvement in the plans.

There are very few bits that can be extracted to tell a coherent story but the general idea appears to be to provide a unified appearance along Sidcup High Street. Shops will be encouraged to adopt a consistent colour scheme and coordinated signage, doors, awnings, shutters and pilasters.


Sidcup Sidcup

The plan includes increased footway space and unlike Broadway, formal crossing points. Presumably increased footway width can only mean a further restriction of road width.

There will be more trees, more seats, coordinated waste bins, a general de-cluttering of street signs and cycle parking. Better car parking does not get a mention anywhere and if the de-cluttering of Broadway is any sort of guide, it will all go back in again soon enough.

The Broadway presentation almost exactly one year earlier looked to be inspiring, even if the reality is it can be heard being ridiculed by anyone who lingers by the ASDA crossing or the Magic Roundabout for a few minutes. The Sidcup Improvement Plan goes on for eight pages and manages to say very little of interest. It looks like someone has found some money and it has to be spent somehow. but shopkeepers are about to have their awnings coordinated, so that must be money well spent.

Public Realm report : Round 1
Public Realm report : Round 2
Public Realm report : Round 3

 

1 July (Part 1) - Bonkers on the move

Type 700My first encounter with a mobile telephone was in 1963. While undergoing training with GPO telephones some young fools which included me, screwed a telescopic aerial to a type 700 telephone, at the time the latest and greatest from an organisation that had just left Bakelite behind, and took it on a train journey pretending to be making calls. We thought it was very funny while fellow passengers went looking for another compartment.

50 years later nearly half the visitors to this website are using mobile devices, most of them being i-something or other. Not possessing such a device myself I only know what users tell me about how Bonkers looks scaled down to quarter size. Most say it is perfectly OK while just a few indicate it could be better, hence the recent site tinkering.

Most obviously a ’mobile icon’ has appeared alongside the menu on most pages. Clicking it (†) will temporarily flick the page size to the same as an i-phone when held horizontally. A similar A button appears to switch it back. The blog pages have additional choices. Play with them and it should be fairly obvious what happens. If you particularly like one setting you can fix it permanently in the Configure menu.

While researching all this I came across some code which allows a mobile device to grab all the info it needs about a website to configure itself in the best way it knows how. That code has been added but one tester has told me it tends to override the other choices. It can be removed if it becomes a nuisance.

Because the site was not designed for mobiles, some of the older pages only partially comply with the new arrangements. Everything from the beginning of June 2013 onwards should be OK but other pages will have to be modified as I stumble across the offenders.

There are some pages that will prove near impossible to modify but If anyone sees a problem please let me know, without a mobile phone of my own I’m unlikely to find everything myself.

† For those with big thumbs, clicking anywhere on the blank portion of the menu background will have the same effect as clicking the Mobile icon.

 

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