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Bonkers Blog April 2014

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30 April (Part 3) - News Shopper plays catch up

The News Shopper has now weighed in with an on-line feature about the Four O’Neills. I thought it might be fun to add a comment.


30 April (Part 2) - Up for the count

Some kind soul has put me down for an invitation to the local election count to be held at the Crook Log Leisure Centre on the night of 22nd May. Not sure why I should be pleased at the prospect of being up all night but I am. But I have been engaged in a different sort of count today. How many candidates from each party are standing in Bexley? It shouldn’t be hard to find out but conversations have revealed different numbers from different people so I’ve been seeing if my abacus can do any better. By my reckoning we have…

63 Conservative candidates, 63 Labour, 21 British National Party, 19 United Kingdom Independence Party, 15 Liberal Democrats, seven Greens, four Christian People’s Alliance, three Independents and one Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (in Colyers ward).

One ‘official’ summary I saw showed only 14 LibDems standing but I think someone missed the one in Sidcup. No one believes me but when I first went to school we didn’t have pencils and note books, it was chalk, slates and an abacus. I hope I learned to use mine better than some others.

I think that wraps up April, with luck I'll manage the complexities of the month changeover tomorrow better than last time. Apologies to those who didn’t at first find April as a result of my error.


30 April (Part 1) - Pathetic reaction or masterstroke?

O'NeillNews reaches me that council leader Teresa O’Neill is not best pleased about the three competing O’Neills in her Brampton ward and has been huffing and puffing about how unfair the Labour party is. Several of her Conservative colleagues admit to finding it hugely entertaining.

So far so so predictable but Teresa’s rage has apparently driven her to reporting the situation to the Evening Standard thinking that publicity will somehow help her cause. Presumably she hopes that the more people who know about the Labour opposition the fewer will mistakenly put their cross against their names. This gets close to an admission that people who vote for her are stupid and perhaps she has a point there. The only people who will put a cross against Teresa’s name are those who haven’t yet found out what a thoroughly malign piece of control freakery Teresa has proved to be. Bloggers reported to the police, councillors instructed not to reply to residents emails or talk to them etc.

Thanks to Teresa, the Standard’s reporters have been busy in the borough digging into the case of the four O’Neills and now that their first edition has hit the streets the whole of London knows about the local politician most admired by Boris Johnson.

I don’t know what she is worried about, heavyweight politician Teresa Anne Jude O’Neill can balance three ordinary O’Neills any day.


29 April (Part 4) - Oh, the irony!

News ShopperIf you Google for ‘Belvedere underage fireworks’ as I did you may be in for a big surprise, for while Labour candidate Baljeet Gill is currently second on the list, beating him into that position is Tory candidate Jarmail Singh who in 2010 sold both fireworks and alcohol to an underage shopper.

Jarmail however, being a Conservative, did not get hauled before the magistrate and fined an awful lot of money, he merely had his knuckles rapped by his friends on the Licensing Committee for an offence that was every bit as bad, if not worse, than Baljeet’s.

AllonSo it looks like my prediction that political skullduggery would have led to yesterday’s court case may not be too wide of the mark.

Kerry Allon who stood alongside Jarmail Singh in 2010 now stands accused of being a hypocrite as well as a knave who is happy to work alongside a liar. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones Kerry.

One has to wonder how councillors Read and Allon were able to Tweet about this case 24 hours before the News Shopper reported it. My guess is it’s because Bexley council controls the Magistrates Court too, they have certainly had councillors and staff on the bench in the past, probably still have. Almost everything about Bexley council will stink if you are prepared to poke around beneath the surface for a while.

Click newspaper headline above for the News Shopper’s report.


29 April (Part 2) - Digging the dirt

TweetI don’t know anything about Labour election candidate Baljeet Singh Gill of Brantwood Avenue Erith or why he was dragged in front of a court and heavily fined but I do know something about Philip Read of Myrtle Close Erith and Kerry Allon of School Lane Welling; Conservative candidates for Northumberland Heath and Lesnes Abbey respectively.

Philip Read first came to my notice when he set up immediately after I started this website as a When he let the domain die I took over and in tribute the .com now routes directly to this blog.

Philip’s wife Eva works for Bexley council and is responsible for vetting questions to council. Potentially at least councillor Read could influence what happens at council meetings.

In 2012 Philip Read imagined a situation for Bexley’s compliant police force and it landed Crayford resident John Kerlen behind bars for 24 hours. A judge in Bromley fortunately saw Read’s charges for what they were, balderdash, but the police kept John in a cell for a further hour or two because that is what you get when police are subject to “political interference”. John Kerlen has since moved to Erith.

Philip Read has long been associated with the travel industry and according to various company registers he has been director of eight all of which have gone bust or otherwise folded. His business experience allows him to chair Bexley’s Finance Committee meetings.

By contrast, Kerry Allon is quite low key. He famously campaigned against ASDA in Belvedere, even organising a petition which was later discovered to have been rigged by other shopkeepers, but apart from that he has done nothing. It’s no surprise he has done a runner to Lesnes Abbey for next month’s election. ASDA has become an enormously popular feature of an area Bexley council always neglects.

Kerry Allon was also present when councillor Cheryl Bacon made the silly mistake of shutting out the public from her Public Realm meeting and then went on to wreck her reputation by telling so many lies about it. Kerry Allon seized upon the adjournment to, in his own words, “go out for a fag” and later refused to confirm, as did some of his colleagues, that no member of the public misbehaved on that fateful evening. On the other hand he refused to back Cheryl’s lies, not that that marks him out as anything special, no councillor has stood by the beleaguered Cheryl Bacon.

When Bexley council was asked via FOI how many Bexley councillors had been arrested by the police they refused to answer. Maybe councillor Peter Craske has company.


29 April (Part 1) - Get digging

MapThe big green patch in the picture is the site of Erith Quarry. You’ve probably driven past it and not noticed it, it’s along Fraser Road which runs from Erith’s Fish Roundabout and by the Wickes store. Click image for a better view.

Bexley council has designs on it as revealed below. Relevant websites for more information are:-
Bexley council
and to dig into its history there is a PDF available from - Erith and Belvedere Local History Society.



28 April (Part 3) - BID mistakes goodbye

InterestsI hope it’s always been clear that if anyone sees something wrong on these pages they should let me know. Spreading misinformation is just plain stupid, I leave that to election pamphlets and Bexley Conservatives’ website.

Most days someone spots a typo or a misplaced apostrophe but factual corrections are almost unknown. Last week I said councillor Sandra Bauer was the deputy Labour leader in Bexley after forgetting that that position was taken over by Alan Deadman last year but I honestly cannot remember the mistake before that.

I must have encouraged Ian Payne (Bexleyheath Business Improvement District Manager) to correct me if I misreported him when we met last Friday because he was on to me early this morning to put me right on a couple of things. I could have offered excuses but he is far too friendly for anyone to want to risk an argument with him, however insignificant.

Ian PayneHe said his boss is not Teresa O’Neill because he doesn’t work for Bexley council. If I had wanted to be combative I would have protested that Bromley council begs to differ. Ian’s Register of Members’ Interests (see image) says that he works for ‘The London Borough if Bexley (via Reed)’, however Ian told me who he works for and who his boss is and it is definitely not you know who.

Not unnaturally he was a little concerned that I had pictured more than 20 empty premises while he had said there were only 14 vacant shops. Well leaving aside the fact that a few of those photographed were probably offices rather than shops, I did say in yesterday’s blog that I walked well past Lion Road which is the western outpost of Ian’s territory. So we are probably both right - and Bromley Council should get their website up to date.

If you see Ian around town don’t talk to him unless you want the hard sell on how good a shopping centre Broadway is and how he is determined to make it better.


28 April (Part 2) - Minor updates

There’s probably been too much road related stuff here over the past few days but apart from that there is currently not a lot to report, but here are some minor updates on old stories…

Bridleway 250
You may remember that Bexley council allowed partial closure of Bridleway 250 on the authority of police sergeant Alison Bateman after one crime in five years when the law says that closure requires the agreement of the Secretary of State who will give it only after it is shown that a bridleway is the cause of persistent crime. Bexley council is simply not interested in upholding the law and as usual hopes the problem will go away. A suitable letter has been sent to the Secretary of State, I’ve not seen it but presumably it advises him that Mike Frizoni has raised two fingers in his direction.

Closed Session
Akin Alabi told Mick Barnbrook that after five members of the public refused to leave the council offices on 19th June 2013 the police had to eject them. This of course is a total lie. If any of them had been rough handled by the cops I would have blogged about it, instead I described them as jovial bobbies. They in turn said no crime was committed and that one was a Bonkers’ reader. It’s hardly likely they would have said that in the presence of council staff but according to Alabi five people including me were prepared to risk arrest by refusing a request to leave by someone who wasn’t there and who in my presence denied all knowledge of the unsigned statement he was supposed to have written.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary it was reported by their Inspector that Constables Kelly and Arthurs did have to eject us because we refused to go peaceably. It’s hard to see why two police constables would risk a charge of Misconduct in Public Office to protect the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon and her fellow fabricators so Mick Barnbrook put in a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the police statements. You won’t be surprised to hear that the borough commander has refused it. Whether this is because the statements don’t exist or because they say something completely different from what has been reported I do not know.

The last two Bexley borough commanders started off by pulling small stunts which escalated into big ones and eventually found themselves under Investigation for Misconduct in Public Office. We may be heading for the hat trick.

Index to related blogs and documents.

Will Tuckley
The Chief Executive has not yet replied to the letter that formally advises him that councillors from both political parties have provided email confirmation from which the only possible conclusion is that councillor Cheryl Bacon is a liar. Not a single witness has confirmed what Bacon stated although several highly paid council officials who weren’t there have backed her but refused to seek witnesses. Mr. Tuckley has not yet responded to the evidence which shows the council he runs to be corrupt to its core. Presumably he will want to draw a veil over it at least until after the election.

Another possibility is that he is collaborating with the police to “resolve the situation” as he did when councillor Peter Craske got himself into trouble.

The Election
I asked Mick Barnbrook how he was getting on with canvassing in Blackfen & Lamorbey and found him in a buoyant mood. I’m not sure why because he told me that a very high proportion of voters have nothing much to say beyond “I’m voting UKIP”. However such people have three votes so there is room for Bexley Action Group crosses on the ballot paper. To read Tory Tweets you would think they were going to romp home on an increased majority.

Mick also said there is a lot of interest in what happened to councillor Peter Craske after his arrest and he has been referring them to Bexley is Bonkers. To make it easier for new readers to navigate to the dedicated Craske page a new link has been added to the Index page at

I gave him some Bonkers leaflets to hand to interested parties too. Craske has been the publicity man for telephone masts and fixed odds gambling machines so I hope he appreciates the efforts made towards handing him the same treatment.

New Readers
I told an enquirer at the weekend that the number of Bonkers’ readers had not gone up much in the run up to the election, “no more than 10%” I said. A more careful review showed this to be wrong. It varies from day to day of course but the numbers recorded this month are at least 20% above March and daily unique visitors are breaching the 25% increase mark on some days.

One new reader asked “how do you get away with making these statements?" The answer to that probably has something to do with never making things up. Everything you read about the hard core of thoroughly dishonest Conservative councillors - they are all Conservative at the moment but that could change - and the top brass who are well paid for their loyalty, is true.

Usually Bexley council provides the evidence of its own dishonesty and nothing controversial ever goes on line without evidence being posted too. To make something up would instantly destroy all credibility. A lesson Bexley council has failed to learn.


28 April (Part 1) - Slow progress in Sidcup

At the Public Realm meeting last week we were told that the Sidcup regeneration is now coming on “at a pace”. Well maybe a snail’s pace. When I took a look last Friday there was some activity outside the gym and across the road in Hadlow Road. The latter is probably half done now but there were no more than ten or a dozen men working anywhere and it is supposed to be finished before the 16th May to allow time for the bus route rearrangements to be made.

Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup

Sidcup One of the changes planned for Sidcup High Street is a uniform appearance for shop premises and to that end the name facia boards are to be changed. I have looked out for them before but didn’t see any that obviously matched its neighbour, but maybe the pair shown in Photo No. 5 does.

Whether that will help bring shoppers storming into town is probably for the experts to say. I suspect there is a fine dividing line between character and untidiness and uniformity and boredom.


27 April (Part 2) - Jam today, more jam tomorrow

A man who lives near the Bowling Alley roundabout which most people find they cannot safely navigate reckons I missed a trick with my report; well I don’t like to make them too long and he is right when he speculates I don’t use Albion Road at busy times. His local knowledge allows him to list more danger spots than I noted…

Many Albion Road drivers travelling towards Welling (unless stopped by the pedestrian crossing lights as they approach the Townley Road roundabout) do not even consider slowing down. The huge corner kerb radii coupled with the built out central reservation kerb line and the clear line of sight encourages some drivers to accelerate to see how fast they can cross the roundabout. I have witnessed many near misses.

Based on my daily observations and some common sense I could design a far safer roundabout without charging the council any of its Highways Dept. fantastic salaries.

As your photos show the vast majority of drivers at the Bowling Alley car park, after perhaps trying to follow the lane marking once or twice, just give up and use both lanes.

The magic roundabout [Trinity Place] about which much has already been said demands that drivers are fond of playing Russian roulette.

Restricted width Old viewSomething you have not mentioned (and perhaps it is not a problem at the times of day you normally travel this route) is the deliberate narrowing of the exit from the magic roundabout towards Welling. If there are road works or some other blockage towards Crook Log, the queue of vehicles can easily extend back to the magic roundabout and into Albion Road.

Vehicles wishing to go into Church Road used to be able to go around the outside of this queue then turn right into Church Road and away from the congestion.

Next time you travel the route look at the island on the exit from the roundabout and you will see that it has been deliberately widened to stop vehicles coming around the outside to get into the Church Road turn right lane. The Church Road turn right lane can be empty but vehicles cannot get there because of the unnecessarily wide island. I cannot see any logical reason for this but then again logic is an alien concept to Bexley’s Highways Dept.

Does any sane person think that humps are really necessary in the narrow confines of Church Road? There is often a queue of vehicles waiting to get out on to the Broadway and on the other side lorries are delivering to the Volunteer public house. It really doesn’t need humps as well to slow traffic.

Then you come to the mini painted roundabout at the junction of Church Road and Belvedere Road. If you make any attempt to go around it then you are probably the only person who does. From my observations everybody just ignores it and drives over it. It’s a waste of paint.

O'NeillI remember when I owned a car with a bit more performance than the little runabout I have now and Bromley council installed a chicane in Crofton Lane which I was using weekly at the time. It was almost impossible to resist speeding up for the fun of it. I was far from being alone and Bromley council soon removed it, they learn from their mistakes instead of repeating them as Bexley does. They open up bottlenecks to, Bexley constructs as many as it can as Photo 1 above just about shows. (Click to enlarge.)

And as for the reason for speed humps in Church Road, I doubt the Highways Department had any say in the matter. Someone must have forgotten who lives there.


27 April (Part 1) - Caught red handed

On 16th April I said I planned to count the number of empty shops on Broadway; that was before the Bexleyheath Business Improvement District (BID) Manager, Ian Payne announced that there were 14, so Friday morning found me walking from the new Civic Offices and Marriott Hotel to Upton Road and back snapping at everything that was either closed, or looked closed or was in the process of closing down.

I was caught in the act by none other than Ian Payne himself. Being spotted around town by council officers is not unprecedented, David Bryce-Smith (Deputy Director Housing) has briefly acknowledged my presence but all other noses have been stuck firmly in the air. David, I’ve just remembered, is the only person at any council meeting who carefully walks behind the ‘press table’ so as not to obstruct the view when exiting the chamber mid meeting for any reason. I hope I don’t get him into trouble for revealing his consideration for those who pay his salary.

Ian PayneIan Payne, as you might guess if you read last week’s blog, is quite unlike other Bexley council personnel. He didn’t know my name - it’s on the Contact page Ian - but he stopped and congratulated me on the blog. He said his daughter thought it got his character just right; how honest is that? The man is absolutely brimming with enthusiasm for his job and we must have stood chatting for 15 minutes or more.

The contrast between the reaction of this man when faced with the political blogging phenomenon (it’s not yet reached his home town of Bromley) and his political boss, Teresa O’Neill, is amazing. Ian effortlessly made a friend and ally but when I first started blogging, Teresa O’Neill marched straight up to the police station to see if she could have me arrested for “criticising councillors”.

Her apparently corrupt friends (I base that adjective on new official information that has come my way which I cannot reveal) were only too happy to oblige and issued a warning to me and John Kerlen who at the time had been blogging for less than a week.

It was a year or so before the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that Bexleyheath police had no grounds on which to succumb to O’Neill’s demands and had disregarded their own procedural safeguards. Not one officer was punished for this little bit of police corruption and so they went on to do the same but on a bigger scale when councillor Peter Craske’s phone line was shown to be the source of homophobic obscenities.

How different things might have been if Bexley’s council leader Teresa O’Neill was not a power crazed control freak.

BIDIan Payne was not only keen to tell me more about what was happening on his beloved Broadway but happy to answer questions too. Perhaps he is unaware of Bexley council’s minimal transparency policy. I’ve had Conservative councillors speak to me briefly only to hurry away making excuses if Teresa O’Neill is seen on the horizon.

I asked Ian about footfall (because his explanation on Tuesday could have been more comprehensive) and he said there were three ‘beam counters’ above Broadway that measured it. I said I had just noticed his office on Broadway (see second photo) and he explained that it is not his office but a derelict shop and he had got so fed up with it he arranged its decoration himself.

The BID extends from the Marriott Hotel on Gravel Hill along Broadway to Lion Road, opposite the Esso filling station. My walk extended further and thereby found rather more than 14 closed looking premises. I know Wise’s furniture store is closing soon because as a former customer they sent me a letter about it.

There were four shops no longer trading in The Mall too, though one of them may have been undergoing a refit.

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

GamesWhilst the above pictures gathered together portray a certain amount of dereliction a comparison with the previous similar feature exactly a year ago indictes a fairly rapid turnover. On the other hand that first feature showed only twelve shops and this time there are rather more.

When Labour councillor Seán Newman said of Mr. Payne “You painted a very rosy view of Bexleyheath but it is not one that I recognise” he may well have had a point, but I doubt anyone could have done more than the energetic Ian Payne.

When Mr. Payne was addressing the Public Realm Committee last Tuesday he commented on the number of shops investing a lot of money in Bexleyheath and said the Games Workshop was one of them and a valuable addition to the high street. It’s not a door I shall ever pass through but I shall take his word for it. It looks smart, I’ll give him that.

I suspect that if there is anything not quite right about what is written above, Ian Payne will let me know. Whilst he is keen to play down his role as a Bromley councillor I doubt he will adopt Bexley’s prehistoric approach to public scrutiny any time soon.

Note: Looking at the photograph, I’m not absolutely sure that Toni & Guy is permanently closed but it certainly gave that impression at the time.


26 April (Part 2) - So it’s not just me

For years my route home from points south has been via Gravel Hill, Erith Road and Long Lane but recently I have taken to branching off into Albion Road if the traffic lights are favourable and thence via Church Road into Long Lane. There’s less traffic that way and it may even be shorter but the downside is three more roundabouts.

Bexley council doesn’t have a lot of luck with roundabouts - no, make that ‘invariably proves incompetent with roundabouts’. There was Ruxley Corner which no large vehicle could negotiate without going up the kerb and there was Wickham Lane which no bus could get around at all, and then there is the well known ‘horizontal dart board’ at Trinity Place where drivers and pedestrians have to guess what the rules of the road might be. However the one I have recently found most ‘interesting’ is the new one outside the Bowling Alley.

I am described by my friends as a rather cautious and probably boring sort of driver. I have not yet descended into slouching behind the wheel wearing a flat cap and peering between the spokes of the steering wheel but I do observe speed limits and try to stay in lane, but I was in for a shock when I first went around that Albion Road abomination.

On the inside lane at under 20 m.p.h. and with another car just behind me in the outer lane I was in some danger of hitting the kerb while keeping studiously in lane, so acute is the bend. I’ve passed by many times since and it’s near impossible to keep within the inside lane at any speed unlikely to get you rammed up the backside.

Yesterday I took these photos while crossing the road on foot. I didn’t have to wait to see other drivers finding the roundabout difficult. I took seven photos and there were fewer than thirty seconds between first and last. Another accident waiting to happen.

Broadway Broadway Broadway Broadway


26 April (Part 1) - It’s all change again on Broadway

How would you describe the changes made to Bexleyheath Broadway? I think it looks much more attractive than before but has it met the other design aims, and what were they anyway? This is what council leader Teresa O’Neill said about them in June last year…

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.

Whether clutter is reduced is hard to tell but certainly Bexley council can’t seem to make its mind up on whether or not their plan is working. While they dither there have been accidents. Last week an old man was hospitalised by a bus on the redesigned Friswell Place/Arnsberg Way junction and this week new street clutter has been installed.

Broadway Broadway Broadway Broadway

Arnsberg Way BroadwayAt the Trinity Place junction (Photos 1 to 3) and at the Mayplace Road free for all (Photos 4 to 6) the little yellow signs imploring pedestrians to Listen have been replaced by meaningless stainless steel fingers. The protection a hard to see post offers against a large articulated vehicle must be close to zero.

The large expanse of kerbless paving outside the police station (Photo 5) is now guarded by two barely visible posts but the one opposite, by the bus stops, may survive a little longer, standing as it does just a few inches from the CCTV support column.

Councillor Peter Craske spent £4 million on buying road planning advice from traffic consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff and apart from the two abusive emails that came from their computers to mine, we seem to have got very little out of it. Maybe Peter or someone did.

According to the News Shopper there was another collision at this roundabout just 20 minutes before these photographs were taken.


25 April (Part 3) - Labour party injects some fun into the election

Go here to download the Nominations Lists.

Note: For technical reasons the image above may require a browser refresh to display correctly.


25 April (Part 2) - The Public Realm Meeting - The boring bits

After the talk on what Mr. Payne repeatedly called ‘The Jewel in the Crown’, as if the other shopping centres were all second rate, chairman Cheryl moved on to the routine items, the first of which was the review of local employment. As usual, everything is rather marvellous and much better than other parts of the country.

“There has been a significant drop in unemployment exceeding the drop within London. A 34% drop.”
The council had “placed 917 individuals into work” with 672 different employers.
Crossrail had advised 112 vacancies but most are highly skilled tunnelling jobs.
The Tesco distribution centre in Erith continues to provide jobs.
There are 22 providers of apprenticeships in Bexley. Again the statistics are claimed to be better than those found elsewhere “in London or nationally”.
Employment opportunities for those with learning disabilities are also among the very best. 18·1% of those entitled to support get it compared to 6·27 nationally.

Chamber That is a brief and hopefully accurate summary of what was said in a rather self-congratulatory report but the combination of voice, microphone technique and room acoustics meant that intelligibility was not to the standard achieved by Mr. Payne.

Councillor June Slaughter asked about apprenticeships and in particular the numbers involved and the sort of firms offering them. She also spotted in the written report - but not the spoken one - that young people in Bexley made up 25·2% of those claiming Job Seeker Allowance compared to an average of 19·5% across London. The latter observation was answered with the comment that Bexley’s figure has been coming down faster than elsewhere in London. I don’t think the first question was answered at all, at least not publicly.

Council officer Mrs. Jane Richardson did her usual resumé of things happening across the borough in her usual clear voice and mentioned…

Sidcup is “progressing at some pace and most of the shop fronts are now in”. The work outside the gym started on 22nd May and will take two weeks. Hadlow Road will reopen on 16th May. The regeneration had brought nearly 100 new jobs to Sidcup but I would guess that for that to be anywhere near true you’d have to include the Waitrose and Travelodge jobs which were created before Bexley council inflicted its particular brand of chaos on the town.
The new bridge across Eastern Way in Thamesmead is now formally called Cory Bridge after its sponsor. Due for completion at the end of this year.
In Howbury the two new schools will be finished by the end of June.
Crayford shopping centre has seen an increase in the vacancy rate.
Crossrail is progressing well. Greenwich and Bexley will put in a joint bid to TfL to secure public realm improvements around Abbey Wood station.
Bexley failed with its mini-Holland bid but the mayor’s cycling commissioner will visit Bexley next week to see what else might be done.

Cheryl Bacon Gareth BaconDuring question time councillor John Waters said that TfL had “made a right mess” of Welling and the council got the blame. In particular TfL had placed the traffic signal control box right next to the historic cannon and “made a mockery of it”.

Cabinet member Gareth Bacon responded to his chairman wife’s request for comment by agreeing that the control boxes were “a complete eyesore and completely unacceptable”. He hoped to meet TfL about it but nothing was yet confirmed.

Councillor June Slaughter wanted to talk about Sidcup saying the time it had taken so far was “unconscionable” which is a word genteel solicitors like her use when other people might say bloody ridiculous. She was however complimentary about the new shop fronts.

Linda BaileyCouncillor Stefano Borella who lives in Sidcup was similarly “concerned about the time it takes” and “in Welling it has been a disaster zone”. “New pavements [in Sidcup] do not mean people will come into your shops, they do that because of good transport links and parking”. He referred to a meeting at which councillor Linda Bailey said she had saved Sidcup. This would be the infamous presentation of the Sidcup scheme from which the hapless Cheryl Bacon illegally excluded the public.

Councillor Borella asked councillor Bailey if she still believed she had saved Sidcup. The chairman then stooped to sarcasm while rebuking councillor Borella for making the same point as he had at a previous meeting. She also said that the regeneration was about a lot more than new pavements but omitted to say what they might be apart from the fact we should be proud of them.

The microphoneless councillor Colin Tandy said “Sidcup was splendid and I buy my groceries there”. He said the same thing at the previous meeting but was not rebuked by the chairman for the repetition.

Counclllor Linda Bailey had obviously been brooding over Stefano Borella’s comment about saving Sidcup and decided it was best that she denied it. No one has saved Sidcup which is probably what most visitors to the town currently think.

The eighth Agenda item raised not a flicker of interest from anyone and item nine met the same fate, so the meeting was wrapped up just before a quarter past nine. Thank goodness for Mr. Payne or it would have been an evening totally wasted.


25 April (Part 1) - Bexley fails royally compared to Royal Greenwich

Greenwich council has published a list of all the candidates due to stand at the elections in four weeks time. Not a lot of use to Bexleyites unless they want to see where their former deputy Labour leader Sandra Bauer has run off to. If I may be permitted to abuse her colleagues’ slogan, it’s the Ultimate Chicken Run. Sandra now lives across the border and is no longer eligible to stand in Bexley.

Greenwich’s Nomination List is signposted from their website’s front page but I have searched Bexley’s in vain. They won’t be keen on publishing a list that includes names and addresses. Nearly a quarter of Bexley Conservatives refuse to include their home address on their Register of Members’ Interests. They can only legally do that if it would place them in grave danger - Section 32 of the Localism Act. But when did observing the law of the land ever trouble a Bexley Tory?

Note: Bexley’s Nomination List is promised for 4 p.m. today.


24 April (Part 2) - Two Tories in ‘incestuous’ relationship

TweetSo the Conservative candidate for Belvedere claims that Bexley council (@bexleycomms) are hard at work preparing the Belvedere Splash Park for its May reopening and the Conservative candidate for Lesnes attempts to bask in the reflected glory with a Retweet. Neither make it clear who they are. Presumably they both have very short memories.

Belvedere Splash Park is an excellent local facility, at least I assume it is, in this day and age old codgers like me cannot go anywhere near it for fear of being arrested. It was one of the things the Labour administration provided during its short time in office. It opened on 13th August 2005.

When the Tories were elected in 2006 one of the first things they did was consider introducing a charge. Public pressure scuppered that idea.

Then in 2010 when the Tories were elected again, what was among the very first things they did? They consulted about the possibility of introducing charges.

Now the hypocrites are using it as an example of Bexley Toryism at its best. What do you think they might do if they gain a large majority in 2014 too?

Bexley Times report. Evening Standard report. News Shopper report.


24 April (Part 1) - The man who does Bexley council’s dirty business

AlabiNicholas Dowling, Independent candidate for Blackfen and Lamorbey is becoming a bit of an expert on electoral law and has caught Bexley council failing to observe it absolutely once or twice already this month. He read yesterday’s blog about Bexley council gagging Chris Attard, UKIP candidate for Lesnes, and suggested I read the ‘Code of Recommended Practice’ covering electoral purdah.

I was a little surprised that Nicholas should be interested in a Code as he of all people should know that Bexley council takes absolutely no notice of Guidance Notes - but maybe they do when they believe one might be perverted into an excuse to exercise illegal control over residents.

So I read up on Electoral Law and the so called purdah period and found it is not supported in law at all, it’s just a tradition.

The current guidance note was issued by The Department for Communities and Local Government in March 2011 and gets nowhere near suggesting that Akin Alabi, Bexley’s Head of Legal Services, can gag a member of the public because their question to council might be “unfair on the current administration”.

This (click or scroll) is what the Guidance Note has to say…


So once again solicitor Akin Alabi is prepared to exceed his authority to please his paymasters. Is that corruption?

Note: For technical reasons the guidance note may require a browser refresh to display correctly.


23 April (Part 3) - No Payne, no gain

There was another Public Realm Scrutiny Committee meeting last night and when I entered the council chamber at 19:17 there were four of the usual suspects already there, plus two Labour candidates for the forthcoming election and two ladies who were I believe wearing Bexley council staff badges. The reason that may be worth mentioning is that no Agendas were available and as far as I could tell only four people had one. That is barely legal. Fortunately Mick Barnbrook gave me his. Only one more visitor arrived later.

Ian PayneThe first hour of the 102 minute meeting was taken up by the Bexleyheath Business Improvement District Manager blowing his own trumpet - extremely loudly. To be fair it was probably the most entertaining presentation I have ever heard in the council chamber. Non-stop self-promotion with a bit of shopping promotion thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t bring myself to dislike it or the speaker but probably not everyone will agree that everything is as wonderful as he portrayed. Clearly a born showman but probably not my first choice when buying a used car. Credit where it is due, most definitely slick and enthusiastic and a breath of fresh air among the dead wood that surrounded him.

The man of the moment was councillor Ian Payne, former deputy mayor of Bromley and the following is a little of what he had to say. I doubt it does his jokes justice, some were rather good, especially those at Bexley council’s expense and he did actually use the pun “No Payne, no gain”. No shrinking violet is our Ian.

He began by saying that Bexleyheath Business Improvement District had “a great partnership” with Bexley council and joked - I think - that he charged for having his photograph taken and even more if audio was recorded. He found what was happening in Bexleyheath to be “exciting because of the vision of the council. Bexley council had always committed itself to the town centres; to Welling, to Sidcup, to Bexleyheath and Erith”. However he went on to say that for practical reasons his job was confined strictly to the centre of Bexleyheath; so presumably his promotional work must to some extent be to the detriment of the other places.

Businesses in the BID area pay 1·25% of their business rate to fund its activities, the money being collected by Bexley council. It adds up to about £280,000 but the BID has invested closer to £500,000 in Bexleyheath town centre in the past two and a half years.

Achievements include…

Ian Payne• A Christmas lights policy. Traders now accept that it is a bill that they should pay, not the taxpayer.
• The average footfall in 2010 was between 25,000 and 30,000 and now it was - oh dear. Mr. Payne didn’t say.
• Remembrance Day is now celebrated in the town centre.
• Two police officers have been funded who remain in the town centre come what may. No secondment to other duties. Crime is down 17%, the criminals “have gone to Bromley and we are quite happy with that”.
• Millions of pounds of investment has been poured into Bexleyheath by incoming businesses. Nine businesses have opened along the regenerateed Broadway since December.
• Shrove Tuesday pancake races have helped to bring in hundreds of shoppers.
• Easter weekend nationally was down 1·9% for the retail trade but Bexleyheath was up 9%. Mr. Payne claimed the credit for himself. It may have been tongue in cheek.
• The BID funded the Easter free parking, there was no loss to Bexley council, so don’t let Bexley Tories fool you when you read in their election leaflets that it was all down to their generosity.
• “The Big Dance Bus was great”. People dancing in the square creates atmosphere.
• Continental markets have been introduced but not as great a success as was hoped. The prices are too high but there will be another in June.
• The Olympic flame was diverted from Arnsberg Way to Broadway at the request of the BID.
• The Diamond Jubilee bust of the Queen. “The only one in the country, the Commonwealth, the universe!” All the money being raised through voluntary contribution.
• The footfall has reached as high as 60,000. Ah, the missing figure at last.
• There were two Broadway Christmas trees last year.
• There is to be NFC coding on shop doors. That's Near Field Communication, so swipe your smart phone over the sticker and go to the company’s website. A first for the UK.
• Morrisons chose Bexleyheath for their kitchen and chefs display. The only town other than Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester to be chosen. It received more custom than the display in Manchester City Centre.
• The few market traders on Broadway are to be compelled to do their business from within BID gazebos to make everything look neat and tidy. “If they don’t like it they can go to Dartford.”
• January footfall is up 2·5% compared with last year, February 12·5% and March 11% and the first week of April 9%. “The average being 3·32%.” (I don’t follow that arithmetic either.)
• The national average vacancy rate for shops is 16%, in Bexleyheath it is 6%. 14 empty shops.

I must commend Mr. Payne on being the clearest speaking voice recorded so far and the first not to bore me half to death while listening to the recorded presentation again. Very slick but still not absolutely sure that is a good thing. I think I may have almost been won over but did the councillors have any killer questions?

Colin TandyA microphoneless councillor Colin Tandy was first in line and with a complaint too. He and his wife thought the walkway from Highland Road past Sainsburys to T-Max was always filthy. Why didn’t the BID keep it clean? Mr. Payne had the answer at his fingertips. Because that piece of land is owned by Bexley council. “And the square is mucky” he said, apparently keen to rub salt into the wound.

Mr. Payne went on to say that “one of the cut backs, sorry one of the savings, the council made was to cleaning because it is not part of the statutory duty. We are just about to invest in a deep clean”. The BID is going to buy a chewing gum removal machine.

Councillor June Slaughter wanted to know if all businesses had to contribute to the BID and the answer was “only those with business rates above £12,500”. There have been no outright refuseniks but a few traders in real trouble have been allowed reduced payments.

Cheryl BaconLabour councillor Margaret O’Neill wanted to know what responsibility Ian Payne had to the satellite towns, mentioning Erith in particular. Chairman Cheryl Bacon interjected that it was not an appropriate question but the irrepressible Ian Payne answered anyway. “No dealings at all, nor should there be as I am paid by the Bexleyheath partnership.”

Councillor Seán Newman commented on the footfall being up by 9%; it was not lost on him that the comparison was with the regeneration chaos of a year ago. What was the impact of the resurfacing when local business were putting signs in windows saying “we are closing because of this scheme”? “You painted a very rosy view of Bexleyheath but it is not one that I recognise.”

The problem was, Mr. Payne said, that “some businesses do not do their homework” and proceeded to blame them for their own misfortune and berate the News Shopper for suggesting Bexleyheath was closed. There was some acceptance that the 9% year on year improvement might be road works related.

Linda BaileynA Public Realm meeting can never be complete without councillor ‘I can do what I like’ Bailey launching a personal attack on councillor Seán Newman. This time she accused him of having an uncle who sits on the Executive Board of the BID. What she hoped to achieve by that or of what relevance it is I have no idea, however Seán got the better of her by denying the existence of any uncles anywhere.

Linda Bailey, having brought a more interesting than usual meeting down to the expected level of debate, the chairman decided enough was enough and moved on to the next Agenda item. There was little of interest there and what there was will be reported another time. Maybe the announcement that Hadlow Road Sidcup is due to reopen on 16th May, a mere ten weeks behind the original schedule, will be of interest to some.

Note: At no time did Mr. Payne define footfall. It clearly wasn’t being done in the way I researched on the web and from what he said it could just be the number of people to be seen on Broadway in a month.


23 April (Part 2) - Messy Massey business

News ShopperThe Star Letter in today’s News Shopper is from Bonkers’s reader Arun Jolly who suggests that the cancellation of the Danson Festival is a put up job designed to keep the “riff-raff” away from Massey territory. It is a view I have heard before but I didn’t get around to sharing with you.

Like Arun, I have my doubts about councillor Don Massey, he is certainly not in office to represent the people, his priority is no different to a dozen or more Conservative councillors who are there to take what they can from the system.

It was Don Massey who took the decision not to accept Elwyn Bryant’s 2,219 signature petition against the excessively high salaries paid to Bexley’s senior officers.

Not everyone accepts the News Shopper’s registration process and consequently may not see their letters page, but the email I received is not very different to that which they published.

Don Massey and his wife Sharon Massey rake it in from expenses paid by the Bexley council tax payer. Bexley council tax payers also paid for Sharon Massey's school fees when she was a kid. Sharon Massey is a councillor in Danson Park Ward and the Tories are running around like headless chickens because they know UKIP are going to wipe the floor with them at the council elections in May.

In a desperate bid to attract the votes of the Mrs. Bucket types who live in Danson Park ward and don't like the festival because they think it attracts “riff-raff”, Don Massey has cancelled the festival in the hope this gets his wife re-elected so they can carry on living off the Bexley council tax payer. The weather excuse is complete bullshit and shows the Masseys think we are all mugs.

Maybe if we ask her nicely, Sharon Massey will organise a free beer festival for us with a few strippers hidden in the corner.

For the record, the Massey’s will pocket £45,000 of your money this year.


23 April (Part 1) - It seems only too believable to me

TweetYou can tell when someone is relatively new to Bexley politics, they find the frequent corruption and skullduggery hard to comprehend.

Chris Attard is astounded by the fact that he has been banned by Akin Alabi, Head of Bexley’s Legal Services, from asking a question at the next council meeting. He must have forgotten that Akin is the solicitor who refused to interview the councillor witnesses who were prepared to confirm that councillor Cheryl Bacon comprehensively lied about what happened on 19th June 2013. Would anyone expect straight dealing from a man like that?

I must confess that when I first saw Chris’s Tweet I assumed he had fallen foul of the ‘election purdah’ rules since Chris is UKIP’s declared candidate for Lesnes ward and I was sort of half right. Chris is banned from asking a question not because he is a UKIP man but because his question could be construed as critical of Bexley council. That would rule out any questions from me and countless others too. Chris is being “unfair on the current administration” apparently.

I’ve been trying to sit on the electoral fence to some extent but I think it has to be said that anyone who places an X against a Conservative’s name in Bexley in four week’s time is voting for continuing corruption. They have their senior officers in their pockets by paying among the very highest salaries in the country and for reasons which are hard to fathom, the local police admit to succumbing to their political interference.

For the record, Chris’s question related to Bexley council reneging on their promise to do something about the dangerous footpath outside Bedonwell Infant & Nursery School. You may read his account of how he came to be banned from asking a question by clicking on his Tweet above.


22 April (Part 2) - Crime and Disorder in the Civic Chamber

It feels like a long time ago now but there was a Crime and Disorder Committee meeting last Thursday and I have forgotten most of what was said already. I’m going to have to listen to the nearly two hours of recording.

Alan DowningIt was chaired by councillor Alan Downing whose performance there is quite different from that seen when he was mayor. The rudeness to members of the public which was his mayoral style is totally absent and any member of the public unaware of his history might think he was an OK sort of chap. As the only members of the public present were Mick Barnbrook and myself that opportunity did not arise.

Councillor Downing saw the funny side (as he has before) of the routine request for anyone intending to take photographs to identify himself - neither of us admitted to carrying a camera - and then saying he wanted each of us to be aware of where the non-existent photographer might be.

The main event of the evening is Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling telling everyone about local crime statistics and how they never seem to change much. They are low and Bexley was now in the top spot in the Metropolitan Police area gaining the honour from Harrow which was pushed back into second place.

We heard all the old stuff about Romanian burglars and prison releases which can cause peaks in crime numbers until their collars are felt again and the only fundamentally new thing I picked up is that football World Cups always cause an increase in domestic violence. (Previous Romanian references: here and here).

For those who are interested in the detail…

• Burglary was up by 4% in the last financial year compared to the previous one. 68 crimes. Last Autumn was particularly bad but things moved back on track more recently.
• Thefts of motor vehicles were up by 41 offences but known offenders are being targeted to good effect.
• Criminal damage was down by 7·%. 114 offences.
• Theft from motor vehicles down 4·7%. 55 offences.
• Violence with injury was down 4·6%. 52 offences.
Anti-Social Behaviour down 13·7%. 1,053 fewer incidents.

AylingOver ten years burglary is down by 31%, robbery by 41%, criminal damage down by 72%, theft from motor vehicles is down by 39%, of motor vehicles down 61% and violent injuries down 29%. The total offences recorded in Bexley is down 43%, 8,745 a year. Even allowing for people like me who have given up on reporting crime that looks like things must have got better.

The Chief Superintendent has been criticised both at council and public meetings over what is seen as a lack of communication. He said the internal processes had been given a complete overhaul and they are to be rolled out shortly. A new Chief Inspector has been appointed to the role.

The “workforce not deployable for one reason or another” has fallen from 20% to only one vacancy which sounded like comparing apples to pears to me but CS Ayling said it was “a really good position to be in”.

Questions from councillors followed and the first was from John Wilkinson but as at no time during the meeting did he bother to switch on his microphone I can only assume that it was as inconsequential as his questions usually are.

ClarkCouncillor Val Clark was similarly inaudible because she places the microphone some three or so feet from her mouth. However I noted that her question was something to do with drivers ignoring School Crossing Attendants, photographic or other good evidence being obtained, but the police doing nothing about it. Chief Superintendent Ayling was not aware of the problem but said that such reports are not handled ‘on borough’ under the new arrangements but he would be looking into Councillor Clark’s report which included a bundle of evidence. He though it might well be good enough to warrant prosecutions.

Councillor Brenda Langstead contrasted the number of police officers to be seen rushing around in cars with their lights and sirens on with falling crime statistics. CS Ayling said that Bexley had seen the largest increase (18%) of any London borough in the number of ‘immediate grade’ calls and that and a lot of responses to road traffic accidents explains the increased activity. There have also been more responses to health emergencies because of the ‘challenges’ facing the London Ambulance Service. Yes I found that one a bit shocking too. And then some reported crimes turn out not to be crimes at all so there is not necessarily a direct correlation between police sirens and crime statistics.

Councillor Alex Sawyer displayed his usual preoccupation with “crimes committed by persons born outside the United Kingdom” and was curious as to how people could be encouraged to report crime. Young people are apparently reluctant to report crime but whilst recognised as “an issue” there is nothing specific being done about it. Bexley has a high proportion of foreign offenders though the absolute numbers were not bad compared to other borough.

Councillor Philip Read asked the Borough Commander what had caused the burglary spike last year, I guess he must have dozed off at the last meeting. It was pre-Christmas, the dark evenings were longer, there was an abnormally high number of prison releases and organised Romanian burglars took a fancy to Sidcup. This was not helped by courts who refused to remand them in custody and they committed more crimes.

The other item of interest was an update on the situation at the soon to be privatised Probation Service. It would I think be fair to say that previous speakers on this subject have painted a bleak picture of the likely outcome and failed totally to conceal their own misgivings. This time the London Probation Service (LPS) was taking no chances and had sent along their Assistant Chief Officer Louise Hubbard. She made things rather clearer but failed to dispel the fears for the future.

In future all imprisoned offenders will be given supervision on release and not just those sentenced to over 12 months which must be good but “an element of competition in services delivered by the public sector” may be more debatable. All sex offences, even low level ones, and the most serious violence offences will remain in the public sector but “pretty much everything else” will go.

Ms. Hubbard said that “a huge amount of complexity is to be introduced into the system” and that comment just about sums up what is planned. “We don’t have clear boundaries between the new National Probation Service and the delivery companies. I cannot believe that this will not be something that will get resolved sooner rather than later”. Any half decent manager should be tearing their hair out with planning like that and you can understand why the LPS people have made such a poor job of explaining the changes to councillors. Should they be loyal to their employer or should they tell the truth? There is apparently “a huge risk that offenders will get lost” in the transition between the present system and the next. There will be “challenges”. As if there are not enough already!

There were no questions from councillors. All of them no doubt stunned by what they had heard.


20 April - I should not have tempted fate

I really shouldn’t have said anything about no more blogs until Monday. Computer wouldn’t start on Saturday morning due its failure to recognise a Kingston SSD boot drive. Only five months old. Google suggests they suffer very high failure rates. Perhaps I should go back to tried and tested spinning chunks of metal but solid state is so much faster.

I will have lost several days’ worth of email and some software (due to deactivation issues) which is no longer available to buy. Getting back to normal may not be simple or cheap.

This message comes to you via Notepad and Internet Explorer on a borrowed PC. Not a web publishing method to be recommended!


18 April - Yet another dangerous roundabout on Broadway

Fairground FairgroundToday has not gone anywhere near to plan and I found myself stuck in Islington all day attending to a broken computer which I had hoped to fix in under an hour. As a consequence this short blog is entirely dependent on reader input.

One was concerned less about the Trinity Place roundabout than the power supply to the children’s roundabout by the Bexleyheath Clock Tower. It was dangerous when he photographed it on Wednesday, with a domestic grade cable emerging from a sharp edged hole in the ground without any form of protection against chaffing and when he checked it again the next day the trip hazard was even worse.

Bexley council has cut nearly all its Trading Services staff in order to freeze the council tax and it doesn’t matter if a child is electrocuted or an old lady goes flying when there is an electorate to bamboozle. Bexley council takes the fat fee but does nothing to earn it.

TwitterYesterday I dropped into Hall Place around 2 p.m. to see if the Ha-Ha had been repaired in a satisfactory manner and saw that it had been. Foolishly I did not photograph it but this morning it was reported that the stones had not only been dislodged again overnight but had been taken away and stolen.

I had spent the evening listening to the borough police commander telling councillors that Bexley is the most crime free of all the London boroughs but Sidcup especially suffers at the hands of foreign criminals.

TwitterDuring the past week election candidates have been collecting their certification from the returning officer, Will Tuckley, and a copy of the postal voters register. It is vital that the latter is issued punctually as there is very little time to canvas those electors. Both Nicholas Dowling and Mick Barnbrook were complaining that there was a delay in issuing them and in some respects electoral law was broken.

Bexley council breaks the law quite often so why should electoral law be any different? It has been reported (see associated image) in several places that the Bexley magazine contains blatant Conservative propaganda and has been distributed during the pre-election period known as purdah. Illegal again.

I’ve not received mine yet and maybe I now never will.

Due to plans going awry there will probably not be any more blogs until Monday. Have a good Easter.


17 April (Part 3) - Look what I found

Labour sloganAn almost fully working Bexley Labour website and so far I have not found any deliberate falsehoods there which appears to be the trademark solely of the Conservatives. They are even at it in Bromley where I recently picked up a copy of their leader’s election brochure.

Councillor Stephen Carr manages to slip in ‘lowest council tax in outer London’ four times. The truth is it’s second lowest, but admittedly a lot better than Bexley has achieved and enormously better than what they have implied to the electorate.

Council leader Carr also claims that Bromley has the best recycling service in London which is correct by some measures - what! you believed Bexley’s hype? - but on the other hand my Bromley based friend has been caught several times tipping her waste into my brown bin and I have never found the need to repay the compliment.

BromleyIf you take a look at the Labour website it might be best not to accept their cookies. After I did so it required the repeated acknowledgment of a cookie message on every new page, at least it did in Internet Explorer and Chrome. The site worked perfectly well without cookies. Wordpress! It’s an abomination in my opinion.


17 April (Part 2) - How Bexley’s cuts fall on the poor and the vulnerable

Bexley council’s adult care services are designed to be run as cheaply as possible with scant regard for employment law and the wellbeing of care workers. Last week the council took a further step towards cost cutting which at first glance looks like a reasonable plan. This is what it said…

Care staff employed to work with residents in their homes will soon be using ‘call logging’ via a freephone telephone number. The system will record and provide evidence of when carers arrive and leave and will automatically feed this information into an invoicing system for the Council.

The system allows adequate time for carers to greet people and settle in, so that the provision of care is not rushed.

“When the carer arrives they call the freephone number using the resident’s phone”, explained Cllr Chris Taylor, Bexley’s Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services. “There is no cost to the person receiving care, but the system protects them and their carer. It also helps to reduce needless bureaucracy, which is good news for everyone!”

Using the new technology provides the several safeguards and efficiencies -

· It will ensure that people do not get 'short changed' with their care. Residents will get their full time allocation, which ensures that tasks are not missed.
· Residents will only pay for the actual care they receive - and a record will be available in the event of a dispute.
· Instead of thousands of invoices from homecare providers being checked and processed by the Council each month, in future there will be just one from each provider.

The system will also provide a degree of safety for staff. If they do not ‘log out’ of a property, their office can be alerted. If they do not arrive at their next call, their office will know where they were last and at what time.

TaylorExcept for the automation the revised system is not really any different to what has been happening up until now. The client or other household occupant is still forced to get off their phone when the care worker arrives and departs or their pay may be affected. Some care workers contracted to Bexley council have been giving their views on the new regime…

Staff from one agency at least have been advised that if they stay longer than the time allocated they still won’t get paid whatever the automated logs may say. It is hard to walk out on a patient at precisely the allotted time just because a computer says they should.

It is not particularly rare for a carer to call on the help of paramedics, especially when they arrive at the home of a sick person living alone and it is then essential for the care worker to stay for as long as the situation demands. Agency staff have said they are no longer going to be paid for this extra time although they usually were in the past. One told me there was a legal requirement to stay with a client if paramedics have been called. Whatever the law says there is a moral obligation to do so but Bexley council cabinet member Chris Taylor is not concerned with that. Their £40 million black hole has to be plugged somehow and in an election year it is the sick that have to suffer.

Forewarning of the changed arrangements was given by a Welling reader in February.


17 April (Part 1) - Occupant of glass house lobs large stone

The Daily Mail Online carried an article about Bexley councillor Munir Malik last Sunday which said he claimed to have been a Chartered Accountant but “he has not and never has been a member”. Having once been closely involved in a story that appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail, I should have known better. On that occasion, rather a long time ago, the Mail admitted to me that they invented the story and it would appear that their standards may not have improved a lot since.

Councillor Malik has since said very clearly that he qualified with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1974 and his qualification has not been rescinded. However he has not actually been a paid up and practicing member of the ICAEW for the past 20 years. Unless Munir is a bigger liar than councillor Cheryl Bacon, which might stretch the credulity of even the most gullible of Daily Mail readers, it would appear that there has been an element of political muck raking over this story.

ShockingNever far from the mucky end of politics is Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill; she is saying that Munir’s failure to renew his ICAEW membership is “shocking”.

She said the same about former Conservative councillor Ian Clement when he helped himself to taxpayers’ money but was not so shocked that she could bring herself to report him to the police. Teresa believed “the integrity of his colleagues should not be questioned” even though they were the willing beneficiaries of his largesse.

Teresa O’Neill lost her tongue and showed no sign of being shocked when her close colleague councillor Peter Craske was arrested for Misconduct in Public Office or when the police tracked a stream of homophobic obscenities to his address. She does not so much as blush when spouting the oft repeated lie that Bexley is “built on the foundations of low taxes” when it is 9th worst in London and can invent stories to present to her tame police force aimed at getting residents arrested on her politically motivated whim, but she is struck dumb and shows no sign of being shocked when her mayor and deputy organise an illegal strip show.

It’s one rule for them and another everyone else.


16 April - Expensive money for sale

Something that grabbed my attention on Hugh Neal’s Maggot Sandwich last weekend (third paragraph) was his observation that the number of empty shops on Bexleyheath Broadway had declined. He may be right, I’ll have to repeat the exercise of exactly a year ago as soon as I can although there will be no spare time in the immediate future - hence the quick and short blog for today.

Broadway Broadway Broadway Broadway

Broadway BroadwayWhat I have noticed over the past year is the number of pawn and loan shops that appear to thrive in Bexleyheath.

Bright House, as Hugh has himself noted in the past, appears to prey on the poor with attractive offers on domestic appliances and other essential household goods accompanied by horrendous interest charges. A sort of retail Wonga. Maybe Bexleyheath is not as prosperous as some politicians would have you believe.


15 April (Part 3) - Ha-Ha. Not funny

TwitterI caught this Twitter exchange with Bexley council yesterday which had expanded somewhat by this morning and as I have become a Belvedere Bromley commuter it was easy enough to drop by to see who was telling the truth.

I saw no evidence that anyone had tried to make the wrecked ha-ha safe, the stones were still forming a bridge presumably to amuse some mindless idiot strong enough to remove the large and heavy masonry.

Below are some pictures taken at 5:30 this afternoon to illustrate what the vandals have done and why I believe Bexley council’s claim to have tackled the problem should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

According to @raymagini who I recognise as a long term Bonkers reader, no one has taken any action to preserve the site or make it safe in the week since the vandals did their dirty work.

Should anyone be surprised by the lack of action from a council which deliberately wrecked the William Morris fountain in the town’s centre?

Note: The ha-ha was repaired on 16th April.

Ha-Ha Ha-Ha Ha-Ha


15 April (Part 2) - A correction…

Telephone Exchange Yesterday’s blog fell victim to a phonetic error and maybe a minor language difficulty. It has been corrected but originally attributed the Wilton Road problems to Crossrail. Further enquiries revealed that Crossrail were originally accused of unneighbourly behaviour but a representative of Balfour Beatty responded immediately and identified the culprits as BT - which is where the confusion arose.

When the shop owners were telling me it was all BT’s fault I took it to mean Beatty. An embarrassing if slightly amusing mistake on my part. I am pleased that Crossrail retains its local reputation for doing as much as possible to protect normal life while so much work is going on in our midst.

The telephone exchange is right opposite the vehicle shown in the third of yesterday’s photographs and due to the loss of part of its carpark to the Crossrail project was having the remaining space resurfaced. There looks to have been quite enough room to park the contractor’s vehicles off road, but they preferred to wreck the trader’s prime shopping day.

The area piled with building materials in the associated photograph - click for larger view - is the part of BT’s car park that has been ‘nicked’ by Crossrail.

15 April (Part 1) - When a parking fine becomes a lottery

Corner crossoverThe law about parking and dropped kerbs ought to be pretty clear; as a rule of thumb, don’t park across them, but things are in reality more complicated than that. Bexley council has a good leaflet on the subject which explains things. Probably you should read it yourself but in essence, at any crossover giving access to more than one driveway or at the corner of many roads, keep well away. The complicated bit is the law as it applies to single access drives. You can park in front of those unless the owner has asked the council to enforce restrictions. How is one to tell if a single drive is registered or not? It’s another trap for motorists, best keep away, especially as it is extremely inconsiderate to block anyone’s drive.

When a crossover is part of a relatively straight road, where one should park is very obvious. You stop either before or after the footpath crossover. But what if the crossover is at a corner such as the one outside my own house? One can legally park against the kerb to the right of the first picture but how far along it do you have to be to not risk a fine for blocking a driveway? No one knows.

In my road the question is academic, no one here is such an evil wotnot as to tittle-tattle to the council if access to their drive is a little restricted but remains possible. Not everyone is so lucky.

Sherwood Close, Bexley Sherwood Close, BexleyThe Google Earth picture shows a similar situation in Bexley. As you can see, a line of cars is parked along a cul-de-sac right up to the house at its corner. (Top middle of Photo 2.) There are no parking restrictions and no marked bays, so how close to the house in the corner can you park without risking a fine? Once again, no one knows.

I went to take a look for myself at the weekend and did not meet a friendly reception. However it was obvious that the corner resident was never likely to be blocked in by anything less than a small bus. Clearly this is not a road as harmonious as my own but someone who objected to me carrying a camera told me that the situation was in practice very simple. If you are a friend of the corner resident you can park pretty much where you like and if you are not you will probably be reported to the council and fined. If he is correct it is legally very far from being satisfactory.

Coptefield DriveA resident who has been fined for parking as in Photo 3 asked Bexley council for guidance. How far away from the awkwardly placed drive does one have to be to be able to park free of persecution? There must be a place at which parking become unreasonably close to a drive and there must be one at which it is just as clearly perfectly OK. The Listening council refuses to say, in fact it is worse than that, the Listening council refuses to reply to any enquiries. It is much more profitable to issue a fine on the whim of a resident.

Photo 3 also shows that the corner resident could never be blocked in by a parked car, although in an extreme case he may have to drive over some grass. It’s a good job he doesn’t live in my road (Photo 4) where people put up with a bit of inconvenience now and again and no one complains about people carrying cameras.

Bexley council should never allow any single resident such arbitrary powers. It’s bad enough that they adopt them for themselves.


14 April (Part 2) - BT takes charge of Wilton Road, Abbey Wood

Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton RoadPhotographs of the incident on 5th April when BT took over all the parking spaces on the Bexley side of Wilton Road have become available.

There was no prior warning of their intention and no legally enforceable notices exhibited by Bexley council who probably knew nothing of the invasion. The busiest shopping day of the week was effectively ruined.

Vehicle owners were given five minutes to remove them or risk physical damage. Owners who subsequently gave statements to the police allege that shop premises were entered by men armed with chains and tools held in a threatening manner, looking for drivers.

Some of those threatened were of Pakistani origin and I have been assured by one I know well that the words used by the leader of the Crossrail gang were “I am not having some FPC ruin my day”. Apart from the suffix ‘ing’ all three words had four letters. No doubt readers will be able to decipher the phrase from the initials.


14 April (Part 1) - Another target missed

Today is the day Hadlow Road in Sidcup was supposed to be reopened - if you discount the fact that it was originally scheduled to open on the third of March. Anyone monitoring progress would know that there was no chance that Bexley council would relieve Sidcup High Street from its misery on time. My own forecast that the junction of Hadlow Road and Sidcup High Street would approach 50% completion by today looks to be remarkably accurate and the final photograph suggests that Bexley council has given up on the forecasting game. Meanwhile shoppers remain thin on the ground.

Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street

Sidcup High Street Hadlow RoadDue to personal circumstances the past week has seen me driving through Sidcup to Bromley and back on a daily basis. Over the years I must have made that trip many hundreds of times but before last Thursday I had never returned to the borough boundary at the A2 roundabout in the early afternoon and found it clogged by traffic queued all the way to the Sidcup traffic lights half a mile away.

A quick glance up the High Street as I passed by revealed nothing exceptional. Bexley council mismanagement and incompetence and traffic chaos is the norm.

The omens for Sidcup were bad when councillor Cheryl Bacon illegally refused entry to any member of the public wishing to attend the public presentation on the scheme - and then, as everyone knows by now, issued a stream of lies in defence of her own misjudgment.

For the record the year long chaos inflicted on Welling appears to have come to an end.


13 April - A monstrous carbuncle on the face of an old friend

Civic Civic CivicBeauty is in the eye of the beholder and to mine the old Woolwich Building Society Headquarters has always been quirky rather than a thing of beauty but whether you agree or not I would doubt there will be many enthusiasts for what Bexley council has done to it.

The major problem with the conversion to Civic Offices has always been that the Woolwich wasn’t built with public access in mind and was erected before the age of electronic data storage, so it was equipped with high ceilings to house enormous racks of files. The adaptation was always going to be a bodge and maybe it would have been a better idea to have saved some money and chosen an alternative plan put forward by council officers but not considered by the ruling Conservatives hell bent on a vanity trip.

Obviously Labour’s plan to build in Erith would have been bodge-free too albeit at a slightly higher cost more than offset by a much longer projected life.

To provide the missing public entrance Bexley council has stuck a concrete monstrosity on the front of their old friend which would not get planning permission if anyone else had the same idea. It looks to me as, come the revolution, it might serve as a gallows.

A notice on the building says it will open on May 12th and perpetuates the myth that it cost taxpayers nothing. The claimed annual savings have risen from the £1 million of a few months ago, past the £1·5 million of recent times to “Saving over £1·5 million a year”. It was only ever a guess so you cannot really say any fanciful figure is wrong and if the saving turns out to be almost nothing no one will ever know.

There have been persistent reports, one from a cabinet member, that the building, or maybe some parts of it, are not big enough. Perhaps I am an optimist in hoping for a decent view of the council chamber and much better acoustics. I wonder if there will be guided tours for members of the public? A democratic council should be keen to show off what the taxpayers have paid for.

Note: “A monstrous carbuncle… © Prince Charles 30th May 1984.


12 April - You can bank on funny business at Bexley council

Malik MalikIt would appear that Bexley councillor Munir Malik has been thrown off the board of the Cooperative Bank for claiming to be an Accountant when he wasn’t or possibly he was at one time but was no longer after being declared bankrupt. It all seems rather murky at the moment but apparently he has been suspended by the Labour party too for bringing the party into disrepute.

Oh well. At least Munir may have some accountancy qualifications lurking away somewhere which is one up on the bank’s former chairman Paul Flowers who famously ran it with no monetary qualifications whatsoever.

Note: The Daily Mail Online later published a simple summary of events.


11 April - Crossrail lives up to its name

Crossrail Crossrail CrossrailYou always know when there is little new to report about Bexley council when Bonkers falls back on the Crossrail project developing almost on my own doorstep.

In the past and for about three decades rail users and residents had to put up with constant flooding outside Abbey Wood station but it would appear that Crossrail is taking no chances. A massive storm drain has been dug deep into the ground. Why it needs to be quite that big I have no idea but a construction worker told me it will connect into a network of underground tunnels.

CrossrailThe project necessitates the regular arrival of large vehicles and construction plant in Wilton Road which is a small but busy shopping area. Last weekend while in Malmesbury I received two messages to get myself to Wilton Road quickly to record what was going on there. It transpires that lorry drivers had taken over the road using their own cones and forbidding parking by the general public.

I have heard that car drivers who were reluctant to move their cars were approached with heavy construction tools, bolt cutters and the like, threatening words and racial abuse. The police were called and are still pursuing enquiries. I have been promised some photographs and if they support the stories provided by local traders you will of course see them here.

Note: A subsequent investigation showed that the construction vehicles were working on behalf of BT, not (Balfour) Beatty as originally alleged.

More Crossrail related blogs.


10 April (Part 2) - A Miller’s Tale

I have been remiss in not providing the promised link to the Blackfen & Lamorbey Independents’ new leaflet before today.

Having seen an early copy I think I can say without fear of contradiction that it’s better than any Conservative, Labour or UKIP leaflet I have seen so far - in terms of paper quality anyway. It looked like a quality job to me; as for content I shall leave others to judge.

One thing that caught my eye was Mick Barnbrook’s (true) claim to have been responsible for getting several expense fiddling MPs banged up. Recent events may have persuaded you that he still has work to do in that department which gives the perfect excuse to extract the following letter from a file he loaned me some while ago.
Voters in Blackfen have the opportunity to get rid of a councillor associated with extreme homophobic obscenities and another whose only claim to fame is that he pays care workers less than any other nearby borough and who was in a civil partnership with a man who suddenly disappeared after a theft from his councillor employer. A very odd couple of candidates, one proudly gay and the other apparently of very much the opposite view. I think I would prefer to elect a man who has spent a lifetime chasing crooks rather than people who are so closely associated with the criminal fraternity.


10 April (Part 1) - Dashed yellow lines!

The 36 hours since the last blog has unfortunately been filled with more hospital visits. Apart from nine yesterday evening until nine this morning I have been stuck at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Lock’s Bottom. The medical crisis seems to have been satisfactorily resolved but probably I should say nothing about the interminable delays, the lack of communication and the occasionally less than friendly staff.

Alsike AlsikeExactly 24 minutes after posting pictures of the less than satisfactorily parking arrangements around Abbey Wood station last Tuesday an email message said I should get myself to the other side of the tracks, which I did soon afterwards. Up until now there has not been an opportunity to show the pictures, but until Bonkers gets up to speed again they are almost all I have.

It looks as though the line painter came along while cars were parked and painted around them. Why ever wasn’t a warning given in advance and a day set aside for the lining job? Ah, I remember now, the man in charge is Mike Frizoni.

Perhaps I should note in the interest of balance that there were no road hold ups anywhere driving to Petts Wood and Lock’s Bottom over the past two days even though three trips were within peak hours. This morning’s trip took under half an hour door to door. It surely cannot all be due to the lack of the school run.


9 April (Part 2) - What’s all this then?

CCTV BromleyNot vandalism as you might expect but total carelessness. The CCTV equipment has been left exposed with the key in the lock. The key is labelled ‘Wellington House 20’ and as you can see from the long shadow the photograph was taken at 7 a.m. this morning.

Siemens has the local contract for running CCTV, it looks like they are no better at that than keeping my top of the range freezer running for more than a month past its guarantee period.

And while I am covering silly things, here’s the notice put up by the contractors who removed the nearby crossing beacon and replaced it two weeks later.


9 April (Part 1) - How low can they go?

This report comes to you courtesy of Blackfen & Lamorbey Independent candidate Nicholas Dowling without the aid of his Dictaphone, it’s broken remember. I am sure councillor Cheryl Bacon bitterly regrets that. If it had been working on 19th June she may not have been tempted to don the mantle of the biggest liar in Bexley. Akin Alabi, Lynn Tyler, Nick Hollier and Rebecca Sandhu might have retained just a smidgen of a respectable reputation. However without more ado here is Nick’s report, just as scribbled into his notebook and complete with his own title.

Malcolm had mentioned to me that he would be unable to make the Public Cabinet on Tuesday 8th April 2014 and I assured him that if I had nothing else to do so I would wander up to the Civic Centre and report on it for him.

The Agenda was a hefty 148 pages and there were a further 36 pages relating to the Quarter 3 Status report for 2013-14. ‘Gosh, this might be a long one.’ I thought. Still, I need not have overly worried as it was all taken care of in less than 25 minutes.

As per normal there was not a big crowd. Apart from myself there were two others in the public gallery, although, one of them was sporting a Bexley council badge and the other, it transpired, was a Labour candidate for the upcoming local elections. Councillor Deadman joined his colleague in the cheap seats shortly after the meeting started and complementing the assorted masses was a handful of Conservative councillors on the wings of the debating – Ha! Ha! – chamber. Even by normal standards it was a pitiful attendance effort all round. Perhaps it is just too hard for most of our elected representatives to even pretend to bother with local democracy as the elections loom large.

BaileySo first up was some 60 pages on the adoption of an Adult Social Care Vision Statement. It was obviously all crystal clear to those present as a mere four minutes sufficed to shelve this “very important” (according to councillor Chris Taylor cabinet member for Adult Services) document. However, it did evince the only question of the night, coming from councillor Linda Bailey who evidently had not been listening to the person sitting next to her, one Mark Charters, who as the Director for Education & Social Care had clearly stated that Bexley council had consulted widely about the vision statement. So why she ridiculously enquired if the document had been widely consulted on was probably a mystery to everybody present. What is it they say? Oh yes, you get what you pay for and clearly £22,000+ doesn’t go far here in Bexley! A really poor effort tonight Linda.

The next item was only 20 pages long so unsurprisingly it was all wrapped up in around three minutes or so. The headline here was that Bexley council is going to use an ‘as the crow flies’ measurement for its admission arrangements for community and voluntary controlled schools in 2015/16. From what I could garner it seems that the shortest walking route currently employed has led to all sorts of confusion as officers of the council cannot read maps very well; with the end result being that pesky parents have been disputing our local bureaucrats orienteering skills and winning their appeals on too many occasions. Clearly the council cannot have residents gaining the upper hand in any arena so rather than improve their own level of service and general attention to detail they have decided to skew the game back in their own favour. Now in all fairness that was not how Jane Richardson, the deputy Director of Strategic Planning & Regeneration put it but if you want the official version you can read it here. (PDF.)

Another four minutes saw the London Local Government Pension Scheme Collective Investment Vehicle all done and dusted and given it was only eight pages of the agenda this was proportionately the most intensively discussed item all night. Everybody seemed very keen to stress that it was all about driving down the costs of fund management but there was absolutely no indication provided as to how this would actually be achieved. Indeed a cursory glance at the paperwork supplied seemed to indicate that this was actually significantly unlikely. And in fact the only thing that was stressed above everything else was that our glorious leader, councillor Teresa O’Neill, would not benefit at all from her membership on the committee, which until everybody kept repeating this fact I did not for one moment assume that she would.

Massey CampbellFrankly, when the likes of councillor Colin Campbell and councillor Don Massey keep insisting that there will be no personal gain I am afraid that I am wholly unconvinced. I guess we will all have to wait and see!

Getting things back on track some forty four pages relating to the Children’s Social Care Quality Assurance and Performance Management framework took a mere seven minutes to address. The rather irritating thing here was that it related in large part to a very recent OFSTED inspection that the council knew the results of but, of course, was not going to discuss in public just yet. So why bother mentioning it at all then? I guess it just about sums up this rather shoddy lot!

Luckily for some, councillor Teresa O’Neill took great pleasure in announcing that this inspection report would not be published until the day after the local elections and one can only wonder if Bexley has really markedly improved since the the previous damning OFSTED report?

The final item on the agenda was led by Paul Moore, the Director for Customer & Corporate Services, who jauntily trotted through some aspects of the Performance Management Framework for Quarter 3 which related to Bexley council’s performance for October to December 2013. Now this is normally an exercise in self-gratification as the council dutifully achieves all of the (low) targets that it sets for itself and if it doesn’t it can always claim that things have moved on since the data was compiled; or claim that things are getting better now; or moving in the right direction et cetera. Indeed, generally, this was what Mr. Moore proffered and without a murmur from any of the attending champions of local democracy he wrapped things up in a little over six minutes.

How odd that this supposedly diligent senior officer whose basic salary is a meagre £125,439 could take no time to highlight the travesty that was indicated on Page 21 with regards to Tackling Childhood & Adult Obesity. (See below.)

O'NeillTeresa O’Neill should take note that a great deal needs to be done in this area. Perhaps she could even lead by example on this one? Marvel at all of the red rated and amber categories. This is failure on an epic scale. I have just never seen Bexley council admit to such a fiasco and not unsurprisingly nobody wanted to scrutinise or talk about this huge matter in any way shape or form. Shame on them all. There are millions of pounds potentially involved here and Bexley’s residents deserve so much better. I am pleased to think that I am responsible for putting this in the public domain. What a shame; Paul you didn’t manage to hide this one very well at all!

Teresa O’Neill brought the meeting to a close at 7:54 but not before finding time to thank her cabinet colleagues Colin Campbell and Katie Perrior for all of their hard work as both of them are standing down come the May elections. She felt it was important to put this note on the public record. Big deal! Personally I wondered what Machiavellian shenanigans are going on behind the scenes to fill their plum spots and pocket the extra two lots of £13,197 allowances up for grabs? Watch this space…



8 April (Part 3) - UKIP Bexley launches its manifesto

UKIP Bellegrove RoadI skipped this evening’s Cabinet meeting in favour of attending the UKIP meeting where they had promised their local election manifesto was to be launched - and it was. The meeting was ‘standing room only’ and next time they are going to have to hire a bigger venue. A camera crew working for Austrian TV will have found their style severely cramped.

The official programme was for three local candidates to address the meeting followed by European election candidate Paul Oakley who would tackle the wider issues. Some of the local candidates were quite amusing which might brighten up council meetings should they be elected. Enthusiasm was such that a couple more candidates gave impromptu speeches, notably, former Labour deputy mayor Harbans Singh Buttar.

Chris Attard, the Lenses ward candidate drew attention to my presence and thanked me for keeping Bexley council on their toes but in doing so ensured I was collared by all and sundry when the meeting ended which partly explains the very late arrival of this blog.

But back to the real purpose of this bucket of midnight oil, the Bexley UKIP manifesto is reproduced here. I was hoping to learn which way UKIP would jump over the Thames crossing proposals, but they have taken the democratic route. A local referendum. Well it’s better than having Gareth Bacon and Teresa O’Neill invoking dictatorial nimbyism.


8 April (Part 2) - The Welling Corridor improvements

Bellegrove Road Bellegrove RoadBexley council’s policy of making roads as narrow as possible has claimed another victim. The News Shopper reported the crash yesterday afternoon and the road was allegedly closed for three hours.

The road was ‘improved’ two years ago and was the subject of a long running serialisation by a photographer who lives nearby. The same reader has supplied the two new pictures. One shows the demolished bollards and the other gives a good idea of where the accident happened. I am informed that a Smart car hit the pedestrian refuge and overturned. Fortunately the injuries were not life changing.

Such accidents remind me of the advice I was given when Bexley council narrowed Abbey Road, Belvedere to the extent that buses have difficulty negotiating it when the parking spaces are full. Narrow Roads I was told have to be very carefully designed as they rob drivers of their recovery space should anything untoward happen. The same man, then a Senior Safety Consultant at the Transport Research Laboratory, had told me a few years earlier that the changes introduced in Sidcup showed either incompetence or malevolence and most probably both. That Sidcup arrangement has long since gone.

In recent days I have been driving to Bromley and back each day and generally speaking the traffic delays are all in Bexley. As you might imagine in the light of recent circumstances, I am more than usually aware of ambulances with flashing blue lights at the moment. One got stuck behind me at the northern end of Penhill Road this afternoon and there was simply nowhere for me to go. Trapped by safety railings and a woman in front who thought it was sensible to stop and do nothing.

Before Bexley council introduced its stupid redesign some years ago the exit to the Danson roundabout had two lanes, but no, the idiots had to make it a single lane and there have been queues even since. The idiot that time was Aurang Zeb who said that school children found it difficult to cross the road at that point. As the traffic has to stop there that may be debatable but if it was a problem the answer is a pedestrian controlled crossing, not perpetual queues and added pollution.


8 April (Part 1) - Crossrail encroaches further on parking space

Station Station Fendyke RoadWhile I was away over the weekend there were two reports of heavy machinery clogging Wilton Road, probably the project around Abbey Wood station is about to enter a new phase.

Bexley council has been busy painting double yellow lines where single ones existed before in places which are close to railway access points. Presumably the houses closest to the tracks in Fossington Road (plus some across the border in Greenwich) will soon come down.

Signs Bridge This being a Mike Frizoni authorized job it would be unreasonable to expect it to be done properly. The double yellow lines obviously mean no parking at any time but the sign says it is OK except between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. when it is permit holders only.

Finally there is a reader’s picture of the new lines in Maiden Lane, Erith and yes the notice taped on the lamp post in the middle distance does have Mike Frizoni’s name all over it. I have a picture of that too.

Can you actually get a vehicle under that railway bridge without using the footpath? The double yellow line has not got the legally required end marker.

More Crossrail related blogs.


7 April (Part 1) - Told you so a year ago!

Bexley TimesThe Danson Festival has been cancelled, allegedly because of the poor ground conditions which I am not sure I believe because there were several hints in council a year ago that the 2013 Festival would be the last.

I am personally ambivalent about the whole thing. I went last year for the very first time and reported it in glowing terms, but then I didn’t have any youngsters with me in need of entertainment at £4 a ride. That would probably have taken the smile off my face. And then there is the annual trickery employed by Bexley council to boost parking fines. Their website said one thing and their parking attendants did another.

Local residents must be seriously inconvenienced, I live two and a half miles as the crow flies from the site and shielded from it by the biggest hill in the borough but the noise from Danson Park comes in loud and clear.

On a personal level, whether the Festival is cancelled or not does not bother me greatly, my interest extends only to whether cabinet member Don Massey was being truthful when he said the reason for cancellation was ground conditions.

I must shamefully admit that I had never walked around Danson Lake before I went there in February 2011 to check on the absence of life belts. It proved impossible to get to the water’s edge because it was pure mud and I managed to fill my shoes with the stuff before I was able to extract myself. While at the 2013 Festival I thought I would make another attempt to get to the lakeside but it was again solid mud. The Festival itself takes place on higher ground as visitors to the park will know.

On that evidence the park is constantly muddy and that has not stopped the Festival going ahead in previous years. Comments on the News Shopper’s report confirm the mud situation. I doubt it is any worse than usual.

Whilst the start of 2014 had a reputation for rain we got off surprisingly lightly in this part of the world. My solar panel installation recorded 55% more sunshine in January 2014 than in 2013, 54% more than in February 2013 and 67% more in March. Less scientific is that I only had to use my car to pick up the morning paper once this winter and last year it was three or four times! The ground conditions may be poor, but they have always been poor, and the long range forecast is not at all bad.
In all the circumstances it may have been the right decision to cancel the 2014 Festival but presumably Don Massey lacks the honesty to provide the real reason. It’s the cuts stupid! It was forecast a year ago.


6 April (Part 2) - Sidcup on Sunday

I had heard that serious progress was being made on Sidcup High Street but the events of the past week have prevented a visit. This afternoon I exited the M25 early and headed into Sidcup from the A2. That perhaps implies that I made a speedy entrance but the traffic queue extended back to Sidcup Place and the junction with The Green was jammed. Maybe because I have never attempted to park in Sidcup before I found it difficult to find a space even on a Sunday.

In the nine days since my last visit the area outside Bexley council’s own shop, Sidcup & Co., had made a little progress but was far from finished and it was not possible for pedestrians to pass by on that side of the road.

Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street

Hadlow Road is not yet half done but close. Bearing in mind that works started on 20th January and are scheduled to finish at the end of the coming week, prospects are not good. The rest of the High Street was unchanged. As you can see, it all looks a bit of a mess and will be doing nothing to attract shoppers.


6 April (Part 1) - Four years late

Tory leafletI returned from Wiltshire a couple of hours ago, diverting via Sidcup to see if any progress had been made there - very little, photos coming soon - and found two more election leaflets on my doorstep. In accordance with my self-imposed ambition to post them on line whatever the party, you can see the new Tory claims in full by clicking on the associated image.

The Labour leaflet was a very little changed but cut down version of what they sent to me a week ago. For completeness it will be added to the list as soon as time permits but it is not terribly exciting, not nearly as eye-catching as an advanced copy of the Blackfen Independents’ brochure. I’ll put the link on line too as soon as I am given the all clear to do so.

I must confess I fell about laughing at the Tory claim shown in the picture. The Harrow Inn site has been a mess for four years and with an election imminent Tories did something less than adequate about it.

Making the Harrow Inn site their number one feature merely emphasises how little Conservatives have achieved for Lesnes ward. I am not surprised that Bexley council has canned the improvements outside Bedonwell Infants’ School. If that had gone ahead UKIP would have achieved more for the ward out of office than the Conservatives achieved while controlling the council.

Note: The picture of the green plastic sheet must be quite old, some of it has already fallen, held up only by the street sign.


5 April - The Finance Committee

There was a Finance Scrutiny Committee meeting last Tuesday and another of my week’s stupid decisions is that I would do a 25 minute turn around from the hospital visiting and the poor journey home - though not as poor as on Wednesday - to get to the Civic Centre. I thought listening to councillors drone on might take my mind off a day in hospital. I was wrong.

There were four members of the public present and at the end of the 50 minute meeting I said to Nick Dowling that I had not noted a single thing of interest and he said that would be correct. He told me that the scrutineers had asked a total of three questions but did not get a single answer. That isn’t absolutely correct, I recall a couple which weren’t answered but the questioning councillor was promised an email later. This could be considered to be a trick to shut the public out of democracy. Cabinet member Colin Campbell was asked a question too but had a senior moment and couldn’t remember the answer. It came to him later after he browsed the web on his phone. It’s happened to the best of us.

I recorded the meeting but I don’t think it would be worth a couple of hours to get some quotes out of it so this is what I remember clearly.

Councillor Philip Read made his usual decent enough job of chairing the meeting but insisted on going through the rigmarole of him having the power to forbid photography. He made the announcement after asking those intending to take photographs to identify themselves. No one did but he needed to tell us of his powers anyway.

Councillor Alan Deadman caused a ripple of laughter with the occasional joke. Councillor Tandy again found it necessary to lambast the French for the state of their economy, God knows why he does that at every Finance meeting. We'd be better off swapping him for Mike Slaughter who has decided to bow out, at least councillor Slaughter asks sensible questions even if he does turn away from his microphone so that it becomes virtually useless. Colin Tandy doesn’t even bother to switch his microphone on half the time and when he occasionally remembers half way through his mumbling it makes no difference because he sits a mile from the microphone with his fist stuck in front of his mouth.

In practice it makes not a lot of difference because microphones with speakers on minimum volume are not a lot of use. Maybe the new offices will transform the situation.

The whole meeting had an ‘end of term’ air to it, as indeed it is. Prefect Campbell will not be coming back at all, and for some inexplicable reason I think I shall miss him.


4 April (Part 5) - Which cretin do we blame for this?

After spending half the day at King’s hospital yesterday I thought I would get myself to Sidcup for some street photography but I dozed off on the train to Lewisham and realised I was too exhausted to make the extra journey. Instead I sat tight on the train to do a quick bit of shopping in Bexleyheath. As everyone knows, except perhaps Teresa O’Neill, Bexleyheath hasn’t really got a railway station despite its name. It ought to be renamed Bexleyheath Parkway to give some indication of just how far out of town it is. Barnehurst station is closest to Bexleyheath and much nearer to the new Civic Offices as I see they have been christened.

So the choice was to get off at Welling and get a bus, at Bexleyheath and get a bus or Barnehurst and get a bus. I chose Bexleyheath; another bad travel decision.

When I got to the bus stop I found there were no buses at all running through the shopping centre because Bexley council had closed Avenue Road completely. The reason seemed to be to replace the four year old speed humps and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that absolutely no one was at work. The photos below were taken at exactly three o’clock.

Avenue Road Avenue Road Avenue Road Avenue Road

I walked to Broadway and hopped on a bus to the Clock Tower.

I was in and out of Argos in five minutes and found a dearth of 229s to get home. After the best part of twenty minutes I took a B11 which is actually a quicker route if a bus turns up quickly.

The B11 filled up to the extent I couldn’t see much out of the window and because of the road works shown above it continued towards Crook Log. There it got stuck for 20 minutes.

Have you ever looked at Crook Log from the point of view of a west bound driver needing to turn right? Few would normally need to do so as Avenue Road is the obvious choice. Certainly it’s not built for buses and there is no right hand filter to Brampton Road.

As a result, the number of vehicles getting around the corner at each light change did not even average one. There was a queue of buses in front of mine, hence the long delay. When I went past the same spot this afternoon I saw the footpath was covered in tyre tracks. This was the silliest ever diversion by the cretinous Mike Frizoni. I appreciate there is no alternative route but the answer to that is not to close the whole of a road at one time. And especially not to close it for a week and have no one work on it. The man is an absolute hundred and eight thousand a year total moron.

When the bus eventually got to the end of Long Lane and had emptied a bit a man got on and sat next to me. He said that southbound traffic on Brampton Road (which joins Long Lane at that point) was ”queued past the chip shop” or in more precise terms, for more than three quarters of a mile.

BusAnd while I am in rant mode I am going to mention the driver of B11 bus number YX60FCU which eventually got to Abbey Wood at four twenty on Thursday 3rd of April. The bus was full of school children, all well enough behaved but the driver didn’t like them and kept shouting at them to move down. There was nowhere for them to go so he pulled over and switched off the engine to shout at them again.

When there was just enough room for a mother with pushchair to get on he refused to open the rear door to give easier access to the buggy space. She had paid and stood her ground and refused to get off until the driver relented.

After that the driver decided he would ignore the bell which rightly annoyed the children on board and they did what anyone might do, constantly ring the bell. Then he thought it would be funny to turn the heaters on full blast. It was a warm day and there was a heater under my seat and I had an Easter Egg with me bought for my granddaughter.

When the aisle became a little clearer I asked the driver to turn the heaters off. He refused. Then he ignored the bell at the top of Lodge Hill and a very frail white haired lady was taken quarter of a mile half way down the hill. Those familiar with the B11’s very peculiar route will know there is no way back. It’s walk or nothing and she had two bags of shopping.

If I ever find the time TfL are going to get a complaint from me. As a regular bus user I must emphasise that behaviour like this doesn’t even reach 1%, unprecedented might be a better description, but this B11 driver should be out of a job. The fact that Mike Frizoni must be the biggest frustration to Bexley bus drivers to have ever walked this earth is no excuse.


4 April (Part 4) - Congratulations are in order

TeresaOh, no! Not another Teresa O’Neill.


4 April (Part 3) - School for scoundrels, class 2

UKIPI have been informed via the horse’s mouth so to speak that Nick Dowling and Mick Barnbrook got hold of the wrong end of the stick about both the 22 UKIP candidates and the three per ward idea or possibly, as the UKIP source magnanimously admits may have spoken to someone giving only a personal opinion.

UKIP Bexley has told me how they plan to allocate candidates to wards but it is not my place to provide ‘spoilers’ before their manifesto launch next Tuesday, and dropping an electoral clanger once in a day is quite enough for me. It looks like Chris Attard’s Lesnes vote is safe after all.

“Bexley UKIP Manifesto Launch Tuesday 8th April 7pm - Guy Earl of Warwick pub Welling - Free Fruitcake!” is what it says on their Twitter feed.

Blog Part 4, when it arrives probably this evening, will, I promise be back on track with a well deserved kick up the backside for Bexley council.


4 April (Part 2) - News from the doorsteps

Mick Barnbrook has been telling me a little of his experiences tramping the streets of Blackfen. Some are quite funny; he was doing quite well with one woman until the conversation strayed towards UKIP when he had the door slammed in his face with some comment about not voting for a racist party. I have often thought that we should have proportional representation based on one’s IQ score, there are too many idiots out there.

Mick loves to engage people in conversation and often finds a ready audience just as keen to talk as he is. He has been keeping a score on how many of them mention Bexley is Bonkers and says that the tally currently stands at something between one in six and one in seven. That is a higher score than I would have expected from studying the webstats but presumably those who are keen to talk politics are more likely to be politically aware, so Mick’s captive audience is probably a biased sample.

I have received several reports of Conservative canvassers beating a hasty doorstep retreat when confronted with stories taken from BiB and only yesterday a Christchurch ward correspondent told me that his candidate did a runner saying he had never read Bonkers. Many do say that but I could show you emails - but won’t - from Conservative councillors who admit to being “avid readers” or “I read it to see what is really going on” or tell me other councillors read it too. I regard that as a shame because it effectively reduces the intended readership as measured by Google Analytics. A few weeks ago a different Tory councillor was in touch with comments just 14 minutes after a new blog went on line. No of course they don’t read “that crap” as deputy leader Colin Campbell so delightfully described the site.

Labour sources have said that electors mention Bonkers too, but they have no reason to run.


4 April (Part 1) - School for scoundrels

Bexley council’s electoral team ran a ‘school’ for local election candidates on Wednesday afternoon and I asked Nicholas Dowling to tell me about it. As one would expect, no Labour or Conservative wannabees turned up as they must be well versed in the rules by now but there was a big UKIP turnout in addition to the Blackfen Independents. I got the impression that Nick learned nothing because he has thoroughly studied the electoral law and the guidance issued by the Electoral Commission; not that is any criticism of Bexley’s electoral team, not everyone will have been so assiduous.

In conversation with the UKIP team he discovered that they now have 22 approved candidates, far more than currently displayed on their website and that they have been persuaded by their controlling body that they should go for three candidates in as many wards as possible rather than spread them thinly, one in each.

It transpired that they were considering putting three in Blackfen & Lamorbey where the Action Group Independents have been canvassing for a month or two. Blackfen is a tough nut to crack with a large Conservative majority and the one UKIP candidate there at the moment has let it be known to a select few that she has little time for canvassing. Presumably UKIP will collect votes on the back of their current reputation in the same way as monkeys wearing blue rosettes have attracted votes in some parts of Bexley.

I have been trying to play a straightish bat in the run up to the election treating all the parties as similarly as I can. All of them have been given links to their websites when they have come to notice and this historically 100% Tory voter (me) is not going to publicly back one party over another. Readers must make up their own minds, hopefully based on the known facts.

However you might reasonably guess that I shall not be voting Conservative this time around. With the Conservative majority in my ward (Lesnes) being as low as six I had expected to support one UKIP and two Labour candidates in the hope of kicking out the local Tory who tried to stop the only supermarket within walking distance coming to town. He also knows that Cheryl Bacon is a liar but he won’t admit it. That makes him a liar too doesn’t it? Lest there be any doubt, I’m talking about Kerry Allon.

However if I find that UKIP have put up three candidates in Blackfen, splitting the anti-Craske vote and improving his chances of re-election, UKIP can kiss goodbye to my vote. I may have come to hate Teresa O’Neill for her dishonest attempt to get me arrested but I am not going to try to get her criminal team out by voting for a stupid party. If, and it is a very big if, Mick Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant and Nicholas Dowling get elected in Blackfen, the likelihood is there would be a loose alliance between them and UKIP anyway. UKIP should put their three candidates in a different ward or I may not be the only one to conclude they are not very bright. But they have not made their decision yet, so I may be maligning them prematurely.

Note: Conservative councillor Simon Windle attended the ‘school’ as an election agent. He is not standing himself this year.


3 April (Part 3) - Old news

DansonRecent circumstances have caused a couple of news items to be neglected and everyone will know about them by now, but one is that Bexley council has cancelled its Danson Festival this year. The writing was on the wall last month when cabinet member Don Massey said he was concerned about the ground conditions in Danson Park in a manner that gave the distinct impression it was for the chop. I thought the Met. Office was forecasting very hot weather for the coming months, but on the other hand they forecast a Barbecue Summer a couple of years ago and we nearly drowned. Good to know that Don Massey’s seaweed is better at four month predictions than the Met. Office’s supercomputer.

The Danson Festival has always cost a lot of money, in reality it is another budget cut from a council which charges the ninth highest council tax in London.

The other item on which Bonkers was beaten by the News Shopper is the announcement of free parking over the four days of Easter. Last year Bexley council announced free parking on the bank holidays but ticketed cars on Good Friday claiming that day was not a Bank Holiday which is technically correct. It was the sort of mean trick you might expect from them, but this year there is an election in the offing so there will be a temporary outbreak of honesty.


3 April (Part 1) - Spot the difference

I’d love to know why councils do these sort of things. Was Bexley spending the end of year budget?

Hadlow Road Hadlow Road Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos

First picture as things were, then nine men (some out of picture) removed the central bollard and beacon leaving a two week long hazard for all road users. Finally things were put back to normal on 1st April. How appropriate!

DerelictionIf you look carefully at the large versions of the first and fourth photographs you will see that some idiot at Bexley council has changed a road sign from ‘Welcome to Belvedere’ to ‘Welcome to Bexley’. This confuses every stranger to town but maybe boosts the egos of certain people at Bexley council. Those more familiar with this part of the borough are never likely to confuse the two. Whilst the Conservatives are in charge Abbey Wood and Belvedere will always be the poor relations of Bexley.

For out of towners, Bexley is a 15 minute drive away, or 35 minutes on a bus if you are lucky, which thanks to Bexley’s lack of north to south routes goes the very long way around.

The fifth picture is of the ‘shop’ opposite the crossing which typifies the way Bexley council neglects the north of the borough. It has been derelict since the adjacent branch of Threshers closed in 2010 or thereabouts. No business would have been allowed to get away with that in Bexley village.

Unless Southeastern mess up again this afternoon there will be more later.


2 April (Part 2) - The best laid plans etc.

I had two, possibly even three quick blogs in mind for today but they will have to wait until tomorrow by which time they will be out of date. Beaten by the News Shopper in some cases! But I am well prepared with excuses.

When I visited my friend in hospital I found her being lined up for discharge which was most unexpected because she died twice on the way to hospital but miraculously suffered no lasting heart damage thanks to the speedy treatment.

It seemed sensible to wait beyond my allotted time on the visitors’ rota to arrange her journey home. In the event due to the unavailability of some specialist medic to sign her off she is to be kept in until tomorrow.

I was at Denmark Hill station by 14:30 to wait for the 14:48 to Lewisham but it was cancelled due to a derailment according to the announcement. If they had said it was at Charlton I may have worked out that the best route home was the Overground to Shadwell and then the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal. Instead I went non-stop to Victoria and District Line to Cannon Street.

I could have run for the advertised 15:17 but I am getting too old for that sort of thing. The 15:27 appeared on the board but disappeared without an announcement. Ditto the 15:37 so I asked the only man in a yellow jacket why the Abbey Wood trains kept disappearing off the board. He said there were no trains to Abbey Wood because of a derailment at Charlton. So it was DLR from Bank to Woolwich Arsenal where all the buses were full. The concept of queuing In an orderly fashion cannot be applied to a bus stop which serves a dozen buses which tend to all arrive at once.

In the end I walked to Plumstead and got on the shuttle that was running from there.

It took two hours and 45 minutes to get home and some of it might have been avoided if only Southeastern bothered to tell passengers what was happening. No one I spoke to on the Plumstead shuttle knew about the derailment, only that there were no trains.

Guess who is the newest member of the Southeastern is useless club?

For the benefit of out-of-town readers, Abbey Wood to Denmark Hill is a scheduled 30 minutes plus a ten minute wait at Lewisham. There is a picture of the derailed train at on the News Shopper's website


2 April (Part 1) - Normal service will resumed…

With any luck blogging will resume later today but at a lower level than recently because of a lack of time. Yesterday the train ride home (Abbey Wood station) from King’s Hospital (Denmark Hill station) took two hours and five minutes. Well done Southeastern.


1 April - No blog today

I am afraid there will be no blog for a little while as I have a friend very seriously ill in hospital and what with visiting and thinking about her my mind has no room left for Bexley council.

The navigation system is deliberately left in a 'half baked' state. You can get to April via the menus but the other routes are still set to March.


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