A councillor told me in connection with the Cheryl Bacon affair that Bexley “controls the Independence process” and then wouldn’t say any more. Given that Rebecca Sandhu was happy to go along with the decision not to seek any witnesses to Bacon’s ‘Closed Session’ meeting and rely totally on her account of what happened (unsupported by any other person) when complaints were made against her, I looked once again at the councillor’s statement. I don’t think any of them risk writing to me unless they have a very good reason for doing so.
Tracking Rebecca soon took me away from the main objective and led to Boris Johnson and his cocktail party at local business Mobile Bar Hire last year. The cocktail story was briefly taken up by the national press.
Was Boris really plugging a local business or was it all an incestuous Tory love-in? I suspect the latter. The Sandhu brothers the News Shopper refers to are Avtar Singh Sandhu and Ragbhir Singh Sandhu, two very successful businessmen from Dartford.
Bexley Conservatives confirmed the political link with a helpful Retweet of a comment by Dartford Conservative councillor Avtar Sandhu. His Register of Members’ Interests on Dartford’s website makes it amply clear just how successful the Sandhu brothers are. Umpteen houses and businesses and the ultimate proof that Boris Johnson’s promotion of a local business was another case of ‘We are all in this together’ and a stunt to boost each other’s status.
Avtar Singh Sandhu is Dartford’s Deputy Mayor - and Bexley’s shopping guru is Bromley’s deputy mayor, another coincidence you can be sure.
And there the trail goes cold. Rebecca Sandhu, at the same address as Inderjit Singh Sandhu in Abbey Wood may be an Independent Person but is she? What else could the Bexley councillor have meant when he said the Independence process was being controlled?
Who fancies their chances as a Private Eye?
didn’t learn a lot from yesterday’s Crossrail exhibition at the Abbey Wood
Community Centre. The people I spoke to were friendly and enthusiastic but
clearly not local. There was a good deal of confusion over what was north and
what was south and ditto east and west.
A Crossrail track will terminate on the Thamesmead side (north) of the existing down (for Dartford) platform (see 23d February picture). The existing Dartford bound track, or its position at least, will become a Crossrail track and extended some way towards Belvedere to provide storage for a train when necessary and a connection to the North Kent line.
The present London bound track position will become Dartford bound and a new track to the south will provide Southeastern services to London. The track realignment will be gradual on the Plumstead side but more acute on the approach from Belvedere.
Several local readers along Fendyke Road (parallel to the track on the southern side) have complained about compulsory purchase orders but I was assured there would be no permanent land grab east of the station on the southern side, just temporary access rights. Very close to the station they may have to become permanent shared access rights for maintenance purposes.
The track realignment will commence in May this year; a necessary precursor to building the temporary station by October.
When I asked when the two houses pictured here would be demolished to make way for the new track to the south, no one was able to confirm they had to go at all. I suspect this was part of the east/west confusion on display.
One question fell on stony ground. On Bexley council’s website it says that Controller O’Neill has persuaded Network Rail to provide a canopy the length of the new platforms. No one knew anything about that, nor was any canopy shown on plans dated February 2014.
you need to know about Bexley council’s budget consultation has been published.
The figures are absolutely clear. Including organisations, 663 ‘people’ responded
in some way or other, however not everyone answered every one of the 23
questions. The biggest response was on the subject of the archives. 342 people
gave their opinion on that.
Overall 2,881 answers were in favour of the council’s proposals and 1,932 were against them which means that those in favour formed just under 60%. The council rounded that up to two thirds. That degree of agreement can only be achieved if the Don’t Knows are deemed to be in favour. But according to a report in today’s News Shopper that is not the full extent of Bexley’s subterfuge.
Council leader Teresa O’Neill is quoted as saying that almost 1,000 residents were involved in the consultation. That is simply not true; fewer than two thirds of that figure took part. Presumably Teresa is as usual banking on resident apathy and the failure of journalists to check up on what she says. Few residents will have a copy of the consultation report.
My own extract of the questions and answers is available as an Excel file. See if you can discover where the FC (Fibbing Councillor) gets her figure from.
Click image for the News Shopper’s report.
Not mine obviously for the reasons given earlier, but Chris Attard has summarised the meeting on his UKIP site. Pretty good in my opinion, I can see if I get careless too often Chris will be putting me out of a job.
There was a cabinet meeting on Monday evening and I couldn’t get there. When
I tried to get out of my front door I was confronted by a marauding mob of
pensioners waving papers and shouting at the top of their voices. I was forced
to retreat inside, barricade the door and reconcile myself to a Closed Session
for the entire evening. I called the police and my neighbours for help but the
cops weren’t interested, in fact they cracked jokes with my tormentors and none
of my neighbours had seen anything like what I did.
Stop, stop, stop. This Baconesque hallucination will get me into big trouble; I’ll ’fess up. I misread the Calendar of meetings and I am very sorry. I shall try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
To try to make up for my failure I have contacted representatives of the parties most active in the borough for their comment. Two out of three have replied and their reports are as follows…
Nothing but platitudes spouted re: the budget!
What a waste of time!
Exclamation marks appear to have come back into fashion. The only message of the evening was, I understand, that the cabinet will recommend freezing council tax for the fourth year in a row. Freezing the level at about the ninth highest in London.
Note: The missing third contribution was, when it arrived, “Shut Up While the Leader is Speaking!” I told you exclamation marks were in!
And if they approve the tax freeze it is still likely there will be 23 boroughs in London which levy lower taxes and none paying their senior staff more or care service workers less.
Mick Barnbrook’s attention being
diverted to other things I didn’t think there had been much progress with
the case of Bexley’s illegally closed bridleway. The last I heard was that he
made a formal complaint in January against Mike Frizoni who sanctioned the law breaking on
the authority of Sergeant Alison Bateman
and had had no reply
However it seems that others have been bolder.
As I am not sure that the author would be happy to see their letter here, I’ll just mention that they went to the top in the shape of a formal complaint against Chief Executive Will Tuckley. He is accused of willfully disregarding Section 130 of the Highways Act 1980 and a failure to use Sections 143 and 149.
Various precedents are quoted together with judges’ unequivocal pronouncements. The most recent is the 2010 judgment of Lord Cranston who said…
“The public is entitled to use and to enjoy everything which is in law part of a public footpath. The statute allowed gates over public highways, but only for the pupose of restricting animal movements, and it was not open to the authority to permit a gate for other reasons, any structure erected within the legal extent of the way, and which prevents public passage or the enjoyment of amenity rights over the area of its footprint, significantly interferes with the exercise of public rights of way, Highway authorities which refuse to take action to secure the removal of such structures may be subject to an order under Section 130B of the Highway Act.”
It remains to be seen in which direction Bexley council will wriggle next.
weekend’s reports of
more shop closures and the assault on trade that Bexley
council is inflicting on Sidcup do not
show the full extent of their attacks on business in the borough.
The appearance of a beige coloured recycling bin in Gayton Road, just around the corner from Abbey Wood’s Wilton Road shopping area, provoked some questions. Had Bexley run out of blue ones, if not who did it belong to? My enquiries revealed yet more intransigence from Bexley council.
As is well known, the western side of Wilton Road is in Greenwich and the eastern in Bexley. Most of the shop premises are rented, often the upstairs is residential and the ground floor occupier has no rights to anything beyond his four walls.
The rear of the premises border Bexley council’s car park and its access road. Some traders have the use of the rear of the property and others do not. Those without any rights to use the rear of the property have nowhere to put their rubbish, there is no place to store a bin.
Some have done deals with other nearby businesses, usually on the Greenwich side of the road, to add their rubbish to what is collected for them under commercial contract. This attracted the wrath of Bexley council which was first drawn to my attention a couple of years ago. Bexley council had noted the lack of rubbish and assumes it is being put in the shop owners’ domestic bins at their home addresses. There is not a shred of evidence of it happening but it has not stopped Bexley council threatening prosecution.
The best solution by far would be for Bexley council to provide a secure lockable bin for trade refuse and charge accordingly. The existing recycling facility in Gayton Road would be an ideal location. No one lives in Gayton Road and it is not the prettiest. Railway, car park, viaduct, bins; another one or two wouldn’t matter. However Bexley council has refused an offer to pay, they insist on traders providing their own bins or they prosecute.
One trader has taken the council at its word. He entered a contract with a waste company to have his own bin, just as Bexley council instructed him to do. But there is nowhere private to put it, so the contractor did the best he could. Bexley council has again announced its intention to prosecute. No one in the appropriate department appears to have any ideas other than to prosecute for something, it doesn’t matter what as long as some poor businessman is being driven closer to the wall.
Wilton Road used to boast a butcher, a greengrocer, a health food shop and delicatessen, an electrical appliance retailer, a pet shop, a hardware shop and a florist. All now gone and replaced by hairdressers, takeaways and betting shops, although the gift shop has taken over the florist business. Bexley council continues to make life hard for the few that survive. Perhaps they have a deal with Sainsburys (Cross Quarter) now under construction to the north of the railway line
Nearly five years on from its demolition the Harrow Inn site shows some changes. The plastic site shroud has been removed - or maybe it just blew away - and there is a For Sale sign on the Harrow Manorway viaduct.
John Watson and I showed up for last Thursday’s Crime and Disorder Overview
and Scrutiny Committee meeting - plus the committee and a guest councillor or
two of course.
Chairman councillor Alan Downing saw the silly side of asking us if we were going to take photos and if we objected to being photographed, not that it stopped him going through the ritual. I took only one during the meeting.
If there is a highlight to this meeting it is the Borough Commander’s crime report but I had forgotten something. I’d heard his report at the Policing Engagement Group’s meeting three weeks ago. Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling used the same script, so I heard once again that burglaries were up and it was due to too many villains being released from prison at the same time, organised gangs of Romanians and that the higher risk areas were along the A2 corridor which affords an easy escape route.
The questions and complaints were much the same as from the public on 3rd February. That the communications system stinks. No one ever responds to questions, no one ever tells anyone anything. This time it was councillors complaining and giving examples. C.S. Ayling said the new arrangements did not provide for a dedicated communications team but he would try to improve matters.
Councillor Philip Read did not have anything good to say about the council’s crime survey. The numbers participating year on year steadily declines and is now so low that if the figures were divided into wards they would be statistically unreliable. The problem is council cuts. Only half an employee could be spared to organise the survey.
Before all that, Rob Clarke, the Assistant Chief Officer of the London Probation Service, attempted to describe what was about to happen to the probation services. At the previous meeting a lady from the probation service made a right old mess of trying to tell the committee what was going on, a fact that chairman Downing referred back to. Rob Clarke did not do an awful lot better. I once had to give a lecture extolling the virtues of a plan I knew was doomed to failure and so I sympathised with Rob Clarke, although I think I fell short of saying neither the staff nor the Parliamentary Select Committee agrees with the plan which was described as “a very difficult process” and “a very complex process”. Councillor John Wilkinson said “it seems to be a very vague sort of system”.
Councillor Brenda Langstead feared that allowing a private company (Serco was mentioned along the way) to take over probation services would end up with the awful situation which has allowed care workers’ conditions of employment to fall below legal requirements.
Councillor Philip Read picked up on the only good sign: that probation services were to be extended to those who had served fewer than twelve months in prison.
The London Probation Trust will cease to exist on 31st May 2014.
Council officer Diane Kraus (see top right of enlarged photo) spoke about the measures taken in connection with the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act 2013. Clearly it was not as well drafted as it should have been because the procedures licensed scrap collectors must adopt can vary depending on whether scrap is picked up from just inside or outside private property in a way which is both confusing and impractical. The council was having to take a fairly relaxed interpretation but the restrictions explain why I have accumulated over several months a large box of metal taken from old computers, too heavy to lift. In the old days I could have left it on the drive and it would have disappeared within 24 hours. Now it will probably go to landfill. But if it helps keep railway signalling cable out of the hands of Peter Ayling’s Romanians…
Please note; I have a Romanian for a neighbour. You couldn’t meet a nicer bloke.
The pattern detected with the sound system was maintained at this meeting, it was rubbish again, not helped by councillors Cheryl Bacon, John Wilkinson and Michael Tarrant not bothering to switch on their microphones. When will someone remove that ugly white screen which has blighted the chamber all year and reveal the council’s crest before the place is smashed up in May?
another trainless weekend for Erith, Belvedere and Abbey Wood travellers,
this time a Sunday not the Saturday of recent weeks.
So far progress would appear to be of the subterranean kind with new cable and ducts but at last an above ground structure is taking shape. Will it become a footbridge? Is it a new booking hall?
To find out you should perhaps get yourself along to the Abbey Wood Community Centre (Knee Hill, opposite the Lesnes eyesore) next Wednesday between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Representatives from Lesnes Abbey Labour Action Team have promised to drop in.
I shall ask if the plans definitely include a station footbridge at the London end of the platforms. With twelve coach trains promised on both lines we don’t want to see everyone crowding into one end of trains or dragging suitcases the length of 24 coaches.
Network Rail has plans of the temporary arrangements on its website. Click on the maps section. It does look as though two footbridges will be provided for the finished station. More Crossrail images.
Click images to enlarge.
Bexleyheath may not be doing a lot better than
Sidcup; including those I spotted from a bus going towards Welling
I counted five business gone and another apparently re-let, that I had not noticed before.
The second picture is of two shops, the one on the right is boarded up with a painted replica shop front.
But fear not, we have another pawn shop!
I listen to the cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Development speak at council meetings she
can usually rattle off a list of her achievements. I’m not always convinced they are hers.
Without investment by L&Q, Orbit Housing and the housing associations we’d not have any new social housing to look forward to. Without Tesco there would be no packing and distribution centre in Erith, without Bexley College Bailey would not be able to crow about what is taking shape outside Erith station. Without her pouring bucket loads of taxpayers’ cash into The Thames Innovations Centre its failure would have caught up with it long ago.
To borrow Bexley Conservative’s current political slogan, “What has councillor Biffa Bailey ever done for you?”.
Last July she was busy telling everybody of the so-called Box Shop coming to Sidcup High Street and that the Co-op store was soon to reopen - as a gym of all things. Is that really what Sidcup shoppers had been looking forward to?
And as for the Box Shop, I heard nothing positive about it and now it has gone - or maybe the plans were all wrong in some way and it is being refitted.
Here’s two pairs of before and after pictures. As usual, click to enlarge them. Linda Bailey: didn’t she do well?
No shoppers to be seen in any of the pictures. Whose achievement might that be?
It’s more than three weeks since I took a look at the Sidcup regeneration
project which is now getting on for a quarter of the way through its allotted
time (†). Much to my surprise, I saw no change. No advance whatsoever as far as I could see.
There was constant traffic congestion around the Station Road junction and although it was a Saturday morning the number of shoppers was not encouraging. When I left by bus I noted that several families who had boarded at the police station stop alighted in Bexleyheath.
A picture is said to be worth a thousand words so here’s a few photos taken this morning, followed by January’s collection. Click any of them for an expanded view.
I should have been more prepared for a wasted visit because I had been warned…
It is now four weeks since Sidcup High Street became one way from Church Road to Station Road to facilitate the improvements (?) to the High Street. As of today as far as I can see, absolutely no work has been carried out, apart from work in Hadlow Road.
Meanwhile shopkeepers stare out of their windows in the vain hope of seeing some activity that may bring them some business.
For comparison, some photos in less contrasty conditions from last month.
Shops have closed. Even
Bexley council’s Box Shop has gone.
† Both six months and eight months have been mentioned during council meetings.
report a couple of days ago about the
vandalised parking machines in Abbey Road
not far from Abbey Wood station, in which it was suggested the machines cost
in the region of three thousand pounds each has brought forth a letter from
Bexley council which makes it clear the figure is wrong. Completely wrong. The
machines cost nothing at all.
This financial sleight of hand is based on the fact that the machines were already held in store and not purchased specially. Ergo they cost nothing.
The letter dated Friday 23rd September - the photograph was taken on the following Monday at 10:37 - goes on to say that installation of the ‘free’ machines cost £10,000 if road marking is included. The road markings consist of poorly applied double end demarcation lines. The long one already existed. (Note the cycle track down the ‘middle’ of the road.) Maybe councillor Val Clark’s assertion at last Thursday’s Crime and Disorder Committee meeting, that contractors double the price if they see a council job coming, is true.
You may find the financial logic behind keeping half a dozen or more parking machine in store and then not putting a value on them to be strange, but it seems to me that is not their only mistake. Bexley council “intends”, if their letter can be believed, to charge Crossrail for the cost of installing the machines because Crossrail took over the Felixstowe Road car park for their Abbey Wood base.
I’m no accountant but if Bexley council has rented out its car park to Crossrail should it not be at a level that covers all its consequential losses? The lost parking revenue, the cost of alternative arrangements and the fee for the Public Notice in the News Shopper etc.
Putting £3.80 for two hours parking machines in several roads around the station was Mike Frizoni’s decision. He didn’t have to do anything, he could have just extended the free parking which exists in Abbey Road up to just behind the photographer’s position in the associated photograph.
I can imagine that Crossrail will just tell Bexley where to go if they receive an unexpected bill from a council which has so much difficulty with adding up.
I heard councillor Colin Campbell say at a council meeting
in front of the
councillors and public assembled there that he “didn’t read the crap on Bexley
is Bonkers” I was really rather pleased to be acknowledged in the chamber for
the first time. I jotted his remarks in my notebook with a smile on my face. Not
so Michael Barnbrook who decided to complain about Campbell’s comment. It’s not
that he is an old fuddy duddy offended by a four lettered word, he judged that if he
complained it would provoke Bexley council into another bout of lying. And I
think he may have been right.
After he appealed against Campbell’s initial denial of his use of the C word, Mick was interviewed by Bexley council’s Head of Lying Services, Akin Alabi and he took along a copy of my notes (†) in which I had immediately noted Campbell’s opinion of my efforts. However Mr. Alabi is not allowed to search for the truth about Bexley council and has been forced to protect his job.
It is all so unnecessary. Who cares if Campbell says “crap”. Why didn’t he just say ”so what?”. In the past five years no complaint against a councillor by a member of the public has ever been upheld in Bexley. There is no way that Campbell would prove to be the exception.
What Alabi said in his final dismissal of the complaint was…
So what has Colin Campbell achieved by refusing to shrug off his spoken opinion as being a trivial off the cuff aside? He has either proved himself a liar before all the members of the public present on 17 July 2013 or proved the sound system is horribly distorted. Bexley council has retained its record of never ever upholding a complaint from a member of the public. Mayor Sharon Massey has admitted to suffering from diplomatic deafness. Akin Alabi is seen as a lawyer who yet again (see below) refuses to seek an independent witness who might have heard something different; and Rebecca Sandhu is a silly little girl floundering out of her depth.
Mick Barnbrook risked being labelled petty if his assumption had back fired. Bexley council could have wrong-footed him but he knows that the council is a totally reliable non-stop lie factory and he gains another victory. Albeit a minor one.
Do you think the “I we” slip could be an indication of the truth? That the Independent Person is sidelined when the going gets tough?
Note: The “q. excluded’ to which Mr. Alabi refers is my shorthand for the council refusing to accept a question from. Mr. Watson
The new Civic Centre at No. 2 Watling Street is either on time or running two weeks late dependent on
which committee you believe but one way or another the wrecker’s ball is likely
to make an appearance on Broadway by late Spring.
The photograph shows the building lights are now on, not that there was anything obvious going on inside. The same could be said of the existing Civic Centre at night too.
In the Bexley First poster the council tells you what it would like you to believe about the project. Whether it is true or not is difficult to say but the deputy leader’s refusal to answer Munir Malik’s questions at the Finance meeting may offer a clue.
The poster claims that the new HQ will save the taxpayer £1·5 million a year. It’s never been put at more than £1 million at any council meeting I’ve attended.
Late yesterday afternoon news emerged that Bexley council had given the OK to sowing poppy seeds in Riverside Gardens. If my experience is typical there will be poppies there for ever more. It doesn’t matter how many seed heads you gather up and dispose of before they burst, there will always be more appearing next year. The Friends of Riverside Gardens are to be consulted next.
Is the prospective Conservative candidate for the Abbey Wood area commenting on the Harrow Inn again?
The people who organise
Riverside Festival have asked Bexley council what they plan to do to
commemorate the Great War. Erith with its proud industrial past has many
connections with the First World War 1914-1918. The answer would
appear to be nothing. Would you expect anything else of a council prepared to
dump its history in a cupboard in Bromley?
One of the ideas put forward is to sow poppy seeds in the Riverside Gardens. It would cost very little but so far Bexley council has shown scant interest. Maybe it would encourage them to show some respect if residents asked them why they prefer to do nothing when Tories come knocking on their door soliciting votes. Or maybe they could get in touch with cabinet member Don Massey more directly.
I think I should perhaps organise my own remembrance in April next year. This is all that was left of my grandfather’s brother after he was blown to bits by a shell at Ypres.
The Finance Scrutiny Committee meeting was notable for one thing. No questions
from Tories and I duly took the mickey out of them.
There was a meeting of the Environment and Leisure Committee last night which I was unable to attend. According to councillor Seán Newman, much the same thing happened again. You can see his conversation with ex-Bexley councillor Grant Blowers by scrolling or clicking the image alongside. Together they put forward alternatives to the present Cabinet system which isn’t working in Bexley because it is abused by leader Teresa O’Neill. Even Tory councillors have misgivings about how she manipulates the system to her advantage. How else would I have emails in my files which tell me how she rigs the rehearsals and refer to FC? (Think Thomas the Tank Engine.)
At last night’s meeting there was a further report on retaining the borough’s historical archives in Bexley. You have to be a very special sort of stupid to have proposed such a nonsense in the first place.
The council’s press release is available on line.
the theme of Bexley’s Conservative council’s neglect of the north of the borough, here is another typical street scene. In a few year’s time passengers will alight from their
shiny new Bombardier Crossrail trains and come down to earth with a bump as they
step over the border into Bexley. Not that Greenwich just a dozen steps away is any better.
A problem at this site is that many of the nearby traders have no place to keep their rubbish. More about that another day.
Three minutes walk in an easterly direction will find another rubbish dump. The dried up water course that was once, depending on which history book you read, the route taken by barges carrying stone to build Lesnes Abbey. If you could follow it to the south it you would end up in that big water filled depression in Lesnes Abbey park said by some to be a Roman dock.
If you decide to visit the park and exit via one of the stairways to Abbey Road, be very careful where you put your feet. The 40 year old concrete has crumbled away and the repairs have not been very successful. If you decide not to descend to Abbey Road but instead take the Green Chain Walk towards Thamesmead and use the steps there, things are rather worse. Almost every step (†) has crumbled away and not just some of them with no sign of a repair. It’s Thamesmead, why should Bexley council care about them when it has a 43 seat majority in the south?
Confusingly, it is Greenwich council which appears to lay claim to this decrepit walkway, it is their notices which warn of dog fouling, not Bexley’s.
All this at the end of four years of tender care of the area by councillors John Fuller and John Davey. Is it surprising they have scarpered to pastures new?
† A week later the steps had been repaired.
of us who know Abbey Road, Belvedere well never expected Bexley council’s £1.90
an hour parking machines to survive the Friday and Saturday night revellers for
long, and it would appear our predictions were correct.
Another has been out of order for a week and yesterday I spoke to the three men who were taking it apart. “Second one in a fortnight” they said pointing at its neighbour across the road. I didn’t see the need to take an intrusive photograph, the man in the yellow jacket and the contractor’s van should be enough to prove the point. The machine was still covered early this morning.
The man on the spot agreed that the four machines in Abbey Road do not take enough money to justify their existence or breaking them open. From memory I think I heard in a council meeting they cost around £3,500 each and more for installation, maintenance and cash collection. So how much has Bexley council’s avarice cost the taxpayer?
Note: This machine was restored to use during the afternoon of 24th February.
News Shopper carries a story on Page 5 of today’s paper edition
featuring an Abbey Wood eyesore which would never be allowed to continue
elsewhere in the borough but has existed at the bottom of Knee Hill for what? Four years.
(†) Something like that anyway. It’s been featured on Bonkers before,
most recently last Saturday.
The Shopper’s story features New Road resident Veronica Keene and repeats what is really rather old news. That current Lesnes councillors have ignored the problem and their candidate for May 2014, Kerry Allon, a refugee from Belvedere, had negotiated with the site owner that he would board it up before mid-February.
Kerry Allon is not yet a Lesnes Abbey councillor and should not be blamed for the problem. Responsibility for it lies firmly with councillors John Davey and John Fuller both of whom have buzzed off to test the waters where their reputations have maybe not preceded them. Electors of Crayford and Christchurch respectively, take note.
† Readers have reminded me that the Harrow Inn was demolished in May 2009.
I received this message this morning. Anonymously of course.
Is it true you attend Labour meetings and advise them? A labour member tells me you are on their side.
Confession time. My lifetime association with the Labour Party is as follows.
• Flung out of one of their hustings in 1959 for heckling.
• Attended their public meeting to discuss the down grading of Queen Mary’s Hospital and reported here that it was disorganised.
• I have never voted Labour ever but may do in May if I think it will block a Tory.
• I think Teresa Pearce has been a great local MP but I do not agree with all her politics.
• My correspondence file contains folders from Labour people but not as many as folders for Bexley Conservative councillors.
Is that a good enough answer? I’m on nobody’s side. Teresa got closest to the truth when she said I was “a plague on all your houses sort of person”.
were council meetings scheduled last night and I thought I would take a look at
the Agenda before making the trip to the Civic Centre. I was confused. The website said
there was to be an Adults’ Services Committee meeting but when I clicked on the link it
provided no Agenda and since there was an
Adults’ Services meeting as recently
as last Thursday it looked like being a mistake. It is illegal to hold a public
council meeting without making the Agenda available a week in advance.
Fortunately it was the Audit Committee meeting I had my eye on, there has not been one for five months and chairman Steven Hall can be relied on not to treat the public with contempt. Since permission to record was granted there has been little of that but maybe things will change if Cheryl Bacon is ever let loose again.
On arrival it became clear that advertising an Adults’ Services meeting was indeed a mistake. Chairman of Audit, Steven Hall, asked me if I had nothing better to do other than listen to him which was a good question. This banter is, I should explain, something I had encouraged and in no way rude or offensive. Before the meeting began I was joined by regular attendee John Watson and half way through the meeting councillor Philip Read shuffled into one of the public seats.
Councillor Hall is too sensible to bother with issuing a futile warning to me not to take photos of John Watson if he objected and launched straight into a warm welcome to everyone present. This included a contingent from Grant Thornton, the council’s auditors. The auditors appeared to be on very good terms with the councillors and officials. All first names, jokes and good natured exchanges.
I didn’t expect to learn much from the meeting but there was one surprise. Because Bexley council had accounted for the sale of the Civic Centre incorrectly the auditors had to report that it was sold to Tesco for £25 million. Grant Thornton said Bexley had understated it by £1,876,000 due to some obscure error that only an accountant would understand. A good job they did because otherwise the sale price may never have come to light.
Given that Bexley had put down £23 million for the sale, if their claim that the Woolwich building has cost nothing is true, they must have banked on selling the other four sites for £19 million. Recently we learned of a site that didn’t sell at all and was leased. I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole of the Conservative’s ‘free new HQ’ claim came tumbling down eventually.
It is probably worth noting after being rather critical of his performance two weeks ago, that it was councillor Colin Tandy who asked all the best questions. One was about the parking accounts which council officer David Hogan (I hope I have that right, the speaker had obscured his name plate) described as a “significant control failure”. “Pay & Display income reconciliations had been reconciled by Bexley Finance for the first six months of the financial year but had not since been conducted on a monthly basis as required and that due to a lack of data a reconciliation of the Penalty Charge Notice Income had not been conducted for the 2013/14 year at the time of audit.” Maybe it’s more difficult to keep a check on staff who have been hidden away in Bromley to save a few bob.
Other interesting snippets were that council tax collection by Direct Debit stands at only 66% and refuses to go any higher. This is lower than other London boroughs. Collection rates are lower than other London boroughs and although the rate is improving it is not improving as fast as the other boroughs. Council officer John Peters said that all the figures being discussed were “in year” statistics and follow ups pushed collections up to 98%.
One of the intriguing things about the auditor’s contribution to the meeting was their booklet on best practice in Local Government. Bexley didn’t get a mention but Barnet did. I am sure the bloggers of Barnet will be gratified to know that their much loved Conservative council is seen as one of the best by Grant Thornton.
During Agenda Item 8 John Watson and I were asked to leave because the committee was about to discuss some subject about which the public must be kept in the dark. We were not even allowed to know the subject matter to be discussed.
As usual I audio recorded the meeting but time constraints do not allow it to be checked through so this report has been produced the old way, from scribbled notes. I took only one photograph which may be seen above. I thought it might come in useful one day as part of my Cheryl Bacon evidence pack.
extract from Bexley Conservative’s election leaflet; this time they are claiming
they haven’t spent a penny of taxpayers’ money on moving themselves from one old
building to another. It may be true that housing all staff at the same
address will be more efficient and save money but did it really cost nothing?
And will it be big enough? Doubts were expressed at the
Constitutional Review Panel meeting last year.
When the Woolwich HQ refurbishment is discussed at meetings, the public has been flung out. Councillors were heard complaining that while they remained in the room they learned nothing.
At a meeting where the public was not kicked out it was revealed that rebuilding on the existing site would have been seven or eight million pounds cheaper than going around the corner to 2 Watling Street. When Nicholas Dowling asked to see the accounts while they were supposedly available for public inspection, no evidence that the costs were neutral were forthcoming.
Earlier this month councillor Munir Malik asked cabinet member Colin Campbell how much the sale of the vacated sites would raise and was refused an answer.
The only way the project can be cost neutral is if the “four different inefficient buildings” are sold for the price of refurbishing the ‘new’ one. A neat coincidence that probably doesn’t add up. The cost of refurbishing the Woolwich HQ is currently said to be £42 million but at the meeting that approved it the figure was £36 million. Have the old buildings sold at an unexpected £6 million price premium?
The answer to that has to be no. Colin Campbell recently said that one of the old council buildings is not to be sold at all. I might have missed such a quick announcement but my recorder misses very little.
If Bexley’s Conservative elite makes a claim there is a very strong chance it will be a lie.
I got caught up in writing this blog I used to do a lot of DIY work or maybe
that is an excuse and I have become old and lazy, but soon after I moved here in 1987 I
went to a nearby builders merchant to order some sand and aggregates. I knew I
would need a lot but was unsure how much I could conveniently accommodate on the
drive of a new house and dithered when considering one cubic yard or two. I
probably looked like a complete beginner but eventually plumped for two cubic
yards. When it arrived it was quite clearly only one; I’d had enough experience
of ordering sand before to know what two cubic yards looked like; so I called in
Bexley’s Trading Standards.
A man came out, put a tape measure over my undisturbed heap, nodded agreement and went away. I got my extra sand and the builders’ merchant went out of business a year or two later. I bet you couldn’t do that any more.
I’ve seen Trading Standards officers out with tape measures checking if advertisements are larger than the law allows. I have seen CCTV of 16 year olds who looked ten years older trying to trap shopkeepers into selling them alcohol and I have seen them handing out labels to stick on doors to deter cold calling but I suspect the old Weights & Measures aspects of the job have fallen by the wayside. When did you last hear of a greengrocer prosecuted for selling unweighed soft fruit which they seem to do all the time?
There is a lot for Trading Services to do and a fair bit of it is a statutory requirement. As I understand it the government provides the funds to ensure the law is upheld. Bexley, as readers will know, is the worst borough in the country for food hygiene in restaurants etc. and the council’s excuse is that they only have the resources to inspect the high risk premises which may well be true. But is it a reasonable excuse? Is the grant being spent on Trading Services or being diverted to other functions?
It would seem the latter is more than likely because I have not heard that the government has removed any Trading Services responsibilities from Bexley council but they have nevertheless decided to chop the number of staff from six to two from April. Only a few years ago the number exceeded 20.
What is Bexley council doing with the money saved? They make no real secret of it, they are using it to plug Bexley’s £40 million black hole and without doing that council tax would rise. That might get O’Neill and her cronies slung out of office because it is close to being their only worthwhile achievement. In the lead up to May 2014 saving political skins is the priority, not statutory requirements.
A Chief Inspector of Weights and Measures is a post required by statute, like the Monitoring Officer, but he is for the chop in Bexley. Has the relevant government department been notified? Would the department have a view on the inevitable reduction in Bexley’s ability to uphold the law?
Were the public aware of these development before 663 of them filled in their budget consultation forms? If they were I can find no reference to any comments on the subject. Bexley council should know by now that ill-thought out economies can have dire consequences. Do I have to spell out again how many deaths there have been where economies were a contributing factor? Or the cover-ups that followed?
Will Bexley’s next scandal be Weights & Measures related? My heap of sand was not a matter of life or death but regulating tanning shops, tattoo parlours and sales of legal highs may be. I really don’t want to hear “lessons have been learned” again from any council, least of all Bexley when someone dies after eating a take-away.
Note: With assistance from a retired Weights & Measures Inspector. Bexley council has decided to rob their health budget to fund two more Trading Services posts bringing the total to four. A far cry from twenty plus!
At the end of the week
before last’s Public Realm meeting, the one chairman Cheryl Bacon dodged,
the question of cycling cropped up and the answer from the chair dodger’s spouse
was quite interesting. This is a more or less verbatim report on what he said.
A councillor had referred to the mayor of London’s cycling initiatives and asked “what additional benefits will we have other than a few cycling lanes if we were successful with that bid?”
Cabinet member Gareth Bacon said we would get lots beside cycle lanes. “The mini-Holland scheme is being run by the mayor's cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan and is a £100 million pot. The idea is that Outer London boroughs bid competitively and the money is to be shared between three or four boroughs and the idea is that there will be a step change in take up [of cycling] in the boroughs that get the money.”
“Ours is a very strategic bid, North, South, East, West of the borough will benefit from it. The idea is that Bexley has a very low [cycling] take up at the moment, it is round about 2%, we don’t have great public transport links, a lot of people drive cars and we have a topographical problem in Bexley, the borough is hilly in certain parts.”
“The scheme is built around the idea of hubs and spokes the hubs being the destination and the spokes the travel to. Town centres being the obvious ones but also Abbey Wood is one of the central hubs with Crossrail going in there in 2018 becoming a destination that people will be very keen to get to.”
“Having established the hubs, the hubs are Sidcup, Bexleyheath, Erith and Abbey Wood. Then we have to establish how you get there, there will be a network of highways are what we are calling them, taking cycling away from the main roads where you bring people on bicycles into direct conflict with buses, lorries and cars. Down some of the quieter residential roads running parallel to these things. What we actually get with that is that all of those roads will be completely resurfaced and there will be a huge amount of public realm work to be done as part of the bid to a level we will never be able to afford if we are unsuccessful.”
“There will also be an awful lot of soft measures as well, so lots of things like cycle hire schemes, various things around cycling, various PR things, training things as well, and of course there will be lots of facilities like bike racks. There is no point in establishing cycle routes to get places if there is no means to leave your bicycle securely. What it won’t involve is lots of scrappy bits of cycle lane that go for 200 yards and then stop and go nowhere. There would be absolutely no point in spending money doing that. There won’t be cycle lanes on pavements it’s going to be about prioritising cycling without disadvantaging motor transport as far as its possible to do that. And where there is likely to be some kind of conflict taking it away from where [motorists] tend to be. What we don’t want to do is grossly upset one section of road user at the expense of another. We actually want to create an environment where people will think of cycling as a more state of mind activity rather than something they might choose to do once they [voice tailed off to inaudibility].”
Answering a question…
“Where most of the parking problems occur is around primary schools and I would not be keen on my children cycling to school at that age. Secondary schools frequently do. There are things that can be looked at around primary schools.”
In response to a question about the cycle lifts (and other things) from Labour councillor Seán Newman…
“There are two lifts proposed in the bid In New Road and one in Erith. In New Road it is proposed the lift will go on the woods side of the road where there is a wide grass verge and in Erith it will not go where the pedestrians go but will be taking some of that space. Shared space does not make a huge amount of sense to me. Right throughout there will be segregation between two wheeled transport and pedestrians.”
Good to see that councillor Bacon does not think cycling on the pavement is a good idea as advocated by his predecessor Peter Craske in 2009 and we will see no more “scrappy bits of cycle lane that go nowhere”. With Crossrail and possibly a cycle lift coming almost to my doorstep interesting times lie ahead. I can see the children of South London flocking to New Road with their skateboards. A free ride on the bus and a free hitch to the top of the hill and whizzing back down again.
In case you are wondering the cost would work out at about £150 per man woman and child in the borough but is shared across London.
Note: The cycling scheme discussed above is in addition to that featured in the News Shopper last month. Clearly councillor Bacon doesn’t know New Road very well, there are woods on both sides of the road and the grass verge is not very wide. Note also that it is bad to mix cyclists with pedestrians but apparently both can share the road with buses and lorries on Broadway.
The Tories are quite clever with their election leaflets, you have to hand it
to them that they are very selective with what they put in them. If everyone in
Bexley knew that its council leader will nobble the police if she can and encourage lying on the
grand scale their claim to be the responsible party might be dented.
Their current leaflet which seems to be going out across the borough plays a pretty straight bat but my eyebrows were raised by this claim. That older people feel safe in Bexley. Obviously these people don’t read the local newspapers. How many of them have died in Bexley’s care recently. Two isn’t it?
Their record on child care is among the very worst in the country.
Death through false economies, Bexley style.
My garden abuts land owned by Gallions Housing now absorbed by the Peabody
Trust. When Gallions used to look after their land properly - they haven’t for at
least the past five years - they used to inspect it daily. When I renewed my
fence one of the groundsmen got ever so slightly stroppy with me because I had
unwittingly got him into trouble.
Apparently Gallions had fixed a bar code strip on my fence which their men used to ’swipe’ as they arrived on site and as they left. Their mobile reader would log their arrival and departure times to (almost) prove they had done their job. I have been informed that at least one Bexley care agency has been using a similar system for their care workers to log in and out of clients’ homes without use of a telephone.
Maybe cabinet member Chris Taylor should think about renting such a system instead of what he took a fancy to recently.
After Christmas I related how a care worker did a 30 hour shift to keep the system running over the holiday. An unconfirmed report said this was a long way from being a record. However it would appear that Chris Taylor has found a solution to that. He will no longer pay the care agencies double time for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Yes, that should fix it.
Labour, UKIP and the BAG have all promised to improve conditions for care workers should they be elected. The Conservatives are planning more cuts.
try to read Bexley’s Legal Notices each week and find myself wondering how many
years it will take for Mike Frizoni to extend yellow lines to all of Bexley’s
300 miles of roads. I never respond to the invitation to comment because I feel
one needs local knowledge to do that and in any case I try very hard not to
drive to any Bexley destination so I am unlikely to be affected.
This two week old notice made me think I should visit the Contact Centre to see what it was all about, but then along came BT Openreach who managed to trap me in the house for most of ten days - so it didn’t happen.
If I had to guess it might be that the roads are to be marked out with individual bays. I do see some dreadfully inefficient parking around Abbey Wood station.
When one of my associates asked why parking restrictions were being introduced in a cul-de-sac and how many people had asked for it he was told no one had and it was for road safety reasons. No reported accidents either.
It seems more than likely that most parking restrictions come about through some Bexley jobsworth walking the streets and judging where extra restrictions might be slipped in. One of my correspondents thinks that is what happened near where he lives in Slade Green.
He wanted to know how the public objectors and approvers balanced out and who made the judgment between them. It reminded me of the weasel words I was sent when Abbey Road, Belvedere was butchered in 2009. No one approved and all the objections were overruled by councillor Peter Craske, cabinet member for Public Realm, before the police caught up with him.
The response from Traffic Engineer Peter Nevard was just as evasive. He ignored the real question and just said there were comments for and against. So the balance between pros and cons is something we are left to guess at.
The scheme was signed off by cabinet member Gareth Bacon, that champion of free speech who twice threatened Nicholas Dowling when he asked permission to record a meeting chaired by his wife.
There is no reference to objectors in Bacon’s decision except that they should be notified. Without local knowledge I am in no position to make a judgment on the correctness of the decision, only that the refusal to give any figures relating to comments received may be noteworthy; but I am stunned by Bacon’s reference to “efficient movement of traffic”. That’s exactly what his predecessor Craske didn’t do when he wrecked the B213 through Belvedere. And it’s not what anyone at Bexley council has tried to do throughout the borough. Narrowing and blocking operations have been ten a penny but I struggle to think of any noticeable improvements.
This morning I was wondering how cabinet member
Chris Taylor, currently
representing Colyer’s ward but soon to try his luck alongside
in Blackfen, was going to tighten the screws on care services when the agencies he
employs are already keeping them afloat only by breaking the law on staff payment.
(Confirmed by HMRC).
Taylor is on record as being proud of the fact that Bexley
pays less for care work than any other nearby borough. A reader from Welling has offered a clue.
He has received a letter from his care provider, Avante, which explains what extra pressure Chris Taylor insists on imposing on care agencies, care workers and their clients alike.
Taylor has arranged that people in need of care can only have it if they rent a land line telephone. Whilst I accept that most people will have one, some who are trapped in a wheelchair or bed might prefer to use a mobile. Whatever the home situation it should not be dictated by Chris Taylor more concerned with plugging Bexley’s £40 million black hole than catering for the needs of the sick and infirm. They might be on a tight budget and only able to afford a Pay as You Go phone and use it as little as possible. Generally PAYGs cannot call ‘free’ numbers without charge. Taylor may get away with his penny pinching in many cases but he should not assume it is a universal solution or don a little black moustache, much as it might suit him
The automatic clocking in system is not secure anyway. What’s to stop a friendly client, sympathetic to the care worker, logging a call for him or her 15 minutes after they leave?
Neither Bexley council nor its contractors have asked their clients if they approve of Taylor’s plan. What does the care worker do if a member of the household is using the phone when he/she arrives or departs? Why should that person be inconvenienced? Avante clients are already expected to complete a timesheet. It could be optically read, can it not be trusted?
What happens if the client has calling number barred? Will their care worker remember to switch it off every time, and if they don’t will Avante not pay them?
Bexley council’s ‘efficiency savings’ at the expense of the vulnerable and disadvantaged really ought to be stopped. Avante’s letter may be read in full by clicking on the first image or here.
nearly three months since any
new Crossrail pictures appeared here and I can see
men working on the line most days from my kitchen window. I thought it about time I took a closer look but there was
nothing very obvious to show for the work either nearby or further away. I keep hoping
to see the first house demolished, though obviously its inadequately compensated owner won’t be.
From next week Bexley council is to ban parking along Alsike Road which runs parallel to the railway line on the Thamesmead side. Apart from the insignificant Frizoni notice taped to a post there is no forewarning and not everybody will have read the legal notice in the News Shopper the week before last.
There are only four significant free parking roads near Abbey Wood station, Abbey Road, Alsike Road, Harrow Manorway and New Road. The loss of about 25% of spaces will surely have knock on effects nearby.
As you can see, the local Conservatives did not come good on their promise to have something done about the rat infested eyesore at the bottom of Knee Hill. They said it would be all sorted within four to six weeks of 1st January. I suppose the weather hasn’t helped.
The only train related image I managed to grab today was this one. Trains began to go through at approximately half hourly intervals from 07:45 and were fully restored by around 10. Click image to see what it is all about.
Better than the last three Saturdays though. There were no Saturday trains from Slade Green to Plumstead on any of them due to planned engineering work. Crossrail related probably.
I attend the Adults’ Services Committee meeting I find it much the same;
reasonably well run, no political mud slinging of the Cheryl Bacon variety and
maybe because of that, tedious in the extreme. Last Thursday’s was no exception. I went not with the
intention of writing a detailed report but because a friend is on the receiving
end of Bexley’s care services and I was interested in how she might be affected
by £465,000’s worth of cuts, or efficiency savings to borrow the council’s
euphemism. I wasn’t sure how the council can get half a million quids’ worth of
savings from a service which is contracted out at the lowest price to companies
that cannot even to afford to pay their workers minimum pay. The meeting’s
Agenda says they are going to squeeze those contracts still further but I came away no wiser
I was the only member of the public in attendance and four councillors acknowledged my presence in a friendly manner, councillors Borella, Catterall, Hall and Seymour. Another was his usual boorish self, volunteering a rude answer to a question I had not asked. The same councillor who once observed that obscene homophobic blogging is not a crime.
Chairman Eileen Pallen read out the standard warning on taking photographs but as I didn’t intend taking a selfie no member of the public was likely to be offended by the presence of a lens. I think I surprised her when I said I would not be taking any pictures, I had already taken the one you can see here before the meeting started. I was sitting right at the back of the chamber on the highest of the tiered seats and even from there there was no decent view of anyone not at the top table.
The sound system was working very well and I think I am detecting a pattern to its variable performance. In recent times it has been good when doorman Mal Chivers is on duty and poor when he is not.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour) asked a very long question come statement and he took five minutes to complete it. It concerned “massive changes to benefits” and the fact that “a lot of people on benefits are working”. He said paying a living wage would reduce benefit costs which have not been falling. He was concerned for the street sleepers who can now be seen on Broadway and the shortage of social housing.
Stefano was not very happy with the council’s website where it relates to housing. It was not very accessible and it was wrong to rely so heavily on the site when so many of the intended readership do not have computers. He was concerned too about the adverse effects of what he did not call the bedroom tax and cited several examples of where this “terrible pernicious tax is dividing our community”. People cannot downsize from two to one bedroom properties because there aren’t any available.
To complete the council’s attack on the disadvantaged, councillor Borella reminded the committee that grants for the Law Centre and Citizens Advice Bureau had been taken away. “It will put another pressure on the front door of the council and will we be able to cope?” For his pains, Councillor Borella was mildly rebuked for the length of his question.
Council officer David Bryce-Smith said housing problems were worsening because private landlords were less keen on taking tenants on benefits and because of the demolition of the Larner Road estate. The latter will begin to come back on stream from next October. He acknowledged the lack of one bedroom properties and offered some hope that the Law Centre and the CAB would get some support.
In response to a question from councillor Edward Boateng (Labour) concerning evictions David Bryce Smith said “we do have households for example who choose to pay discretionary matters rather than pay their rent, for example to pay for a Sky Sports subscription rather than pay their rent. We may decide those people have made themselves intentionally homeless”. In such circumstances the council might offer a private landlord a deposit bond but landlords were reluctant to accept them.
Cabinet member Chris Taylor went into self-congratulatory mode by saying “the homeless team we have here in Bexley are very good and it’s probably one of the hardest jobs to do in the council but they are very strict in employing the policy… it’s not an easy job but they work very well. It is not an easy ride.”
Very little intelligence came out of the meeting which could not be gained by reading the Agenda so there is little point in extending this report further. If anyone has a particular thirst for knowledge there is a recording; 87 megabytes of MP3. It is nice and clear except of a certain gentleman who never switches his microphone on and sometimes covers his mouth with his hand. Obviously not one of the council’s bad guys or I would have named him.
It’s very rare that I find myself getting annoyed by a comment made within incoming
mail. The several received from councillor Melvin Seymour’s in-laws -
confessed thugs - after he stood in a court witness box and said something that
simply wasn’t true. The police documentation made that very clear. Then there were the
emails that came from Parsons Brinckerhoff in defence of councillor
Peter Craske. You may need to be reminded that Craske had given Parsons Brinckerhoff a £4 million contract.
And then there was this one yesterday…
In the interests of honesty and transparency that you constantly stress you are promoting on your website, could you ask Michael Barnbrook why there is no reference in his election profile to his membership of the BNP - and publish his response?
It wasn’t so much annoying as so damn silly, at least I thought so. Many candidates will be ex-something or other, Michael left the BNP about two years ago. I decided that he would be far too modest if I asked him to reply and probably more restrained than I shall be.
Mick has this millennium been a member of the British National Party, the United Kingdom Independence Party and the English Democrats - definitely not to be confused with the English Defence League. He has stood for election with both the BNP and UKIP and would have done the same with the EDs if only they had gone half way to meet his expenses. They didn’t have the cash! As a younger man he had dalliances with both the Tories and the Labour party. Like many of us he became disillusioned with both of them.
He attempted to reform the BNP from within as did many other members. Mick went further than most; when he discovered just how corrupt the BNP had become under its present leader he reported him to the police. He also provided information to the BBC when Panorama did an exposé of the BNP. His membership came to an end when it became obvious to him that the BNP is beyond reform and he now recognises his efforts were in vain.
People who label all ex-BNP members as racists should logically regard all Tories as expense fiddlers, all Labour members as fraudsters - it was Mick who has had members of both parties jailed. Presumably all LibDems are sexual perverts and all UKIPers are ex-Tory fruitcakes who fanatasise about the weather, gays and Bongo Bongo Land.
I’m not sure Mick will thank me for telling you this but in his youth he was an athlete and only last year he walked half way across France. When in his prime, he was sports mentor to youngsters in the locality. For nearly five years before his death, Mick was the principal mentor to Stephen Lawrence. He spoke up for him at the subsequent Macpherson Inquiry.
These days he spends a great deal of his time, and in my view too great a proportion of his police pension, on looking after a young mixed race boy. Ferrying him to school most days, indulging him with the things that the average ten year old demands and taking him on holiday breaks nearly every Summer weekend. OK, he's his grandson but, for domestic reasons, it is Mick who acts the doting parent.
The picture alongside/above is one I took in 2012. It is of Mick offering advice and support to a clergyman who had set up a school in Ghana. I think some or all of the Bexley Action Group people made a donation to his work.
I should probably tell my anonymous reader something that may persuade him that he shouldn’t visit Bonkers again. I have a second cousin who is a member of the BNP and who is continuing the lost battle to reform it from within. He has stood for the BNP in Parliamentary elections and the only thing I have against him is that he will insist on indulging in academic debates on the finer details of Christianity which leave my knowledge of the subject far behind. He is married to a lovely Chinese woman and has raised a slightly oriental looking child who is very clever and he loves to tell me just how clever she is.
Anyone can Google Mick’s name and will find nothing he need be ashamed of. Maybe it was naive to believe the BNP could be reformed but at least he tried. Mick works tirelessly for honesty in public life and in my opinion can sometimes get too emotionally involved when he sees crooked Bexley councillors cocking a snook at the electorate, which as faults go, I do not believe is too bad a one. Is any candidate listing membership of another party? Surely that would be madness, they might as well stand for that other party if they show any form of support for it.
Mick provided a very short version of the above when that perpetual dickhead James Cleverly made a similar point about Mick and the BNP on Twitter. Obviously I have failed to do it in 140 characters as Mick managed.
Probably the anonymous contributor is yet another demented Tory worried that the presence of one more honest councillor will prove to be anathema to Bexley council.
The normal calmer blogging service should resume tomorrow. Absence of ill informed anonymous messages permitting.
Sometimes when you see fewer than usual blog posts here it means there is
nothing to report. At other times it is because there is so much going on that I am
failing to keep up with it. Now is such a time.
Yesterday afternoon I was interviewed for an hour and a bit by someone from Birmingham City University. They are doing a study on the role of blogs within local communities or something like that; I simply haven’t had the time to check up on what they are up to but there is of course a website. I think it is fair to say they were amazed by the lengths Bexley council has gone to to suppress comment and the degree of criminality that has been exposed. I gave permission for the recording to be made available if they so decide. The interviewer was also rather surprised to hear that Bonkers is a single handed effort, albeit with quite a lot of independent information providers.
This week alone I have received three letters from the police. One from the IPCC, one from the DPS and one from the Deputy Assistant Commissioner. It would appear that alleging that two senior officers and Will Tuckley are guilty of Misconduct in Public Office sparks quite a lot of interest. So far the police have responded very positively and an earlier complaint is no longer being handled at Constable level.
I believe the evidence against Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer is devastating and leaves no wriggle room. Not that anyone will be surprised given the reputation of the Metropolitan Police if some far fetched excuse is concocted. I had to reply to one of the letters and it may shed some light on where the complaint is going. In case you are a newcomer to Bonkers I should explain that all of this stems from the cover up operation and the need to “resolve councillor Craske’s situation” after a load of obscenities were found to have been originated on his phone line. See Timeline.
Then last night I attended another council meeting. It provided little of general interest so I am not going to spend much time on reporting it, but something will appear here eventually.
I think I have caught up with the emails delayed by BT’s reluctance to properly investigate a fault but new ones keep arriving. I doubt those that ask me to grab photos of this or that are going to be dealt with any time soon, and the weather is as big a disincentive as time.
Comments on election leaflets are interesting but would be even more so if accompanied by a scanned copy. Requests from election candidates for lists of things extracted from Bonkers will necessarily go on a long list of things to do. About all I can find time for right now is to answer one email question. Yes Bexley does rank among the lowest crime areas in Greater London. The figures vary over time and we have had rather more murders in recent years than other boroughs but on general run of the mill crime, if there is such a thing, it would be hair splitting not to accept that Bexley is among the safest boroughs in London. Comparing it with areas elsewhere in the country that the police think are similar to Bexley produces a less favourable result.
IPCC : Independent Police Complaints Commission. DPS : Metropolitan Police Department of Professional Standards.
Local Labour sources are saying there is no truth whatsoever in the suggestion that their election campaign might concentrate on bad mouthing UKIP. Glad to hear it; Bonkers has the monopoly on bad mouthing political parties. Only joking - I think.
Would readers, especially those who choose to remain anonymous, please note
Bexley Action Group website is not run by me, nor can I answer questions
more correctly addressed to their three prospective candidates. Their email
address and phone number may be found on their website and both currently route
to Mr. Barnbrook. All three postal addresses are also there.
Mr. Barnbrook is also available on Twitter @Sleazebuster where he has been answering questions. The BAG and UKIP websites have been linked from here because they provided their web addresses. When other parties do the same they will get links too.
One of the reasons I have never voted Labour is because when Ted Heath was Prime Minister railway arches and walls were daubed with slogans like ‘Tories out’ or ‘Heath out’. Ten years later it was ‘Thatcher out’ but I never saw graffiti that said ‘Wilson out’, or ’Callaghan out’ or ‘Blair out’. It convinced me during those periods that Labour was the party for barely literate hooligans without any constructive ideas of their own. Has anything changed? Not according to a correspondent with a stuck Caps Lock key.
JUST HEARD THAT LABOUR ARE PLANNING ANTI UKIP LEAFLETS IN THE NORTH OF BEXLEY.
NOT SURE WHY, I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT TORIES ARE A BIGGER THREAT BUT MAYBE NOT.
NOTHING LIKE A BIT OF DIRTY POLITICS FROM LABOUR. EXPECTED IT FROM TORIES, BUT NOT LABOUR.
LABOUR JUST LOST MY VOTE!
What can I say? Line 3; I thought non-stop shameless dirty tricks was the Lib/Dems’ preserve. Line 4; Inclined to agree but depends on what I see. The BAG people are going to push rivals Peter Craske and Chris Taylor’s records down people’s throats and I think that is well deserved. If UKIP can be reasonably criticised I’d be a hypocrite if I came off the fence and went against Labour.
I have no idea what Labour is planning; I have more contact with disenchanted Conservatives than Labourites, and the former have listed their prospective candidates and I’ve found nothing similar for Labour. Perhaps they have an embarrassing shortage of candidates.
looks as though ex-copper Mick Barnbrook will soon be plodding the streets of Blackfen again in
another bid to crack crime. Bexley council’s crimes that is. I’ve just been told he has updated his website. Actually I
think Nick Dowling did it for him.
Click image to see the complete version on the Bexley Action Group website.
To complement the occasion the Bonkers’ Peter Craske page has been updated. Every one of the assertions is backed up with evidence.
A quick recap on Bridleway 250. Landowner blocked it. Bexley council turned a blind eye.
Mick Barnbrook complained and was told it was closed to prevent crime. Police
very reluctantly admitted there had been almost no crime. Head of Legal advised
addressing a question to the General Purposes Committee. Committee refused to
accept question. And so the case takes another step nearer to court.
It was known that Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 specifically stated it could not be used to overrule any other legislation but Bexley council was not to be put off by the inconsequential matter of breaking the law. They disregarded it.
Then a government guidance note ‘On Crime Prevention on Public Rights of Way’ turned up and very interesting it is too. It says that closures such as that conducted on the word of Sergeant Alison Bateman of Bexley Police is not really good enough. Closure requires the Authority of the Secretary of State and will only be permitted in very strict circumstances which probably do not apply to Bridleway 250.
What you see above (click or scroll) is only a small section of the guidance. You may get
the full copy from here. (PDF)
You’d think Akin Alabi (Head of Legal) would know the law, he is paid more than enough. Perhaps he does know the law but has been told what he has to do again, like in the Cheryl Bacon case.
age 10, school was two miles away and I rode there on a bike. Then
we moved house and it became three miles in a straight line but a good ten on
two buses. That was because the airfield at Farnborough got in the way. I was
given a free bus pass as you might expect.
I wonder how Bexley council would react if faced with that one. Very badly no doubt.
As far as I know the question of free bus passes for school children doesn’t arise any more because they all get one but the question of practical distances versus ‘crow files’ distances hasn’t gone away. Bexley council has decided to change the rules and dress it up as a much better system. I don’t think it could have worked for my school in Hampshire but perhaps urban areas are less likely to cause anomalies over short distances. As soon as a public transport has to be drawn into the equation I’d guess almost anything can happen.
To make it easier for parents Bexley plans to measure home to school distances as if every child was a crow. It’s more accurate they say. Does that add up? Wouldn't it be just as fair and more accurate to use some sort of sat-nav style mapping application?
If the educational system in the borough has done its job everyone will know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line which is pretty good proof that anything else will be longer.
I imagine there will be winners and losers in this exercise but since extensive advertising of the Budget consultation resulted in only 663 responses I suspect this rather more low key one needs all the publicity it can get. Parents take note.
Click the image for the council’s two page PDF.
A couple more emails from long time correspondents.
One says that the Conservative’s official line on the Dan Taylor episode will be that he never was a candidate. Maybe so but we know he was lined up to be one and now he has gone. Presumably it’s why one of their members suggested a couple of weeks ago that I grab a copy of the East Wickham website. He didn’t say why. It would be nice to think it was James Hunt because if he is mixed up in this business it will shatter a few of my illusions about him. I might say I actually like him except that if I do it will probably wreck any political ambitions he may have. Until we get rid of Teresa O’Neill anyway.
The safest assumption might be that no Conservative councillor or prospective councillor can be trusted - which is a bit unfair because I can think of four or five who might be totally honest. Not all of them are loyal disciples of the Great Dictator.
Whilst no fan of cabinet member Chris Taylor for his treatment of care workers, I don’t see how this episode reflects badly on him as some have suggested.
The other email said this…
Dan Taylor was on the list yesterday, after reading your article I looked at the Conservative web site and he was there. Just looked in my history and yes he was defiantly there yesterday. Attached is screen shot of page from yesterday’s history.
The second coincidental disappearance this week. The forgotten traffic lights in Lansdowne Road vanished the day after they were given a mention here. Dan Taylor remains as chairman of Colyers ward Conservatives if their website can be believed.
You have to admit it. Being a Bexley Conservative confers all sorts of privileges ordinary people would not expect to receive. How many shops in Blackfen get opened by the mayor?
They are all in it together. Up to their eyeballs in dishonesty and boosting their own careers and income.
Note: This blog was retrospectively modified based on fresh information.
Thanks people. Dan the man seems to have gone. Enquiries to Bexley Conservatives say he was never a candidate, but I think that is splitting hairs.
For technical reasons you may need to refresh (F5) your browser to see the above image correctly.
can’t find the Conservatives candidate list for May 2014. It used to be easy
enough to find, and I last looked at Bexley Conservative’s website around three weeks ago to see if it had changed since last
October. It hadn’t. Maybe it is me but it is proving very elusive today.
Can anyone find it? I’d like to know because rumour has it that Daniel Taylor isn’t a candidate in East Wickham ward any more.
I also need a clearer indication of the date of the alleged ‘event’ too if this is to be pursued further.
Maybe I should ignore these stories, on the other hand some of the sources are impeccable.
As noted last month,
Mike Ellsmore, Bexley’s Director of Finance, plans to
retire. I wonder if one of his underlings, Tariq Bashir, is eyeing up the job.
Mr. Bashir is responsible for paying Bexley council’s contract bills, but he didn’t. The result was that Bexley council’s staff mobile phones did not work for a couple of days. EE cut them all off for non-payment. Social Services were unreachable by vulnerable clients. Can’t have done Tariq’s promotion prospects a lot of good.
Don’t laugh. The last time Bexley council screwed up their communications systems, someone died.
Eye has had a long term blind spot for the criminal goings on in Bexley but we seem to
have chalked up this small success.
Well done Nicholas Dowling and Cheryl Bacon.
I’ve read through the gross of emails caught up in
BT’s Infinity breakdown and as you might expect, road planning and parking
issues formed the majority subject but not far behind was what one correspondent
called ‘political dynamite’. Well it might be if it is true and can be proved,
which in this case may mean “if the police don’t cover it up”.
I don’t like publishing things that I cannot prove but if I never pushed the boundaries that story about Bexley council letting a lady die in their care would never have found its way into the News Shopper. I think I will dip my toe carefully into the water again.
Some of the information received here comes from inside the council and some from Conservative party members who are concerned or appalled by what they see going on. Very occasionally a councillor will spill a few beans. Sometimes they give their names but more often they don’t.
One thing the public doesn’t like, to go by comments received here, is the number of married couples who regard being a councillor as easy money. Another term I have heard more than once is the unnecessarily colourful phrase, Bexley’s gay mafia.
It’s not something I would ordinarily mention as it makes no sense to gratuitously offend even a small proportion of readers but I think it is relevant to this story. I suspect the proportion of homosexual members on Bexley council is higher than in the general population but the only concern I have with that is that I know of no way of checking gay relationship as there is with married couples. It may be that we have more than six married couple on Bexley council because those in civil partnerships won’t have come to notice.
Over the past three weeks several emails have pointed me in the same direction with various degrees of crypticality. Is that a word? Probably not.
This is a typical (edited for brevity) comment…
Nepotism is routine practice in Bexley giving priority selection to spouses of councillors as candidates for vacant seats. It will be interesting to note how many 'relations' appear as new candidates in the forthcoming local election. Bexley residents deserve the best candidates selected on merit and experience/expertise - not on the basis of who they are married to on the basis that they are 'safe bets' who won't challenge the leadership.
The writer makes a good point, there is a whole load of spouses in Bexley Conservatives’ candidate list, but it is not perhaps an earth shattering observation. That is because I left part of it out, a part that links with other emails from elsewhere. Let’s look at one of those; again edited down to size.
Explosive news about homosexual partner (and candidate) of a current councillor arrested and cautioned for theft.
Yet another email implores me to do some detective work. That’s easier said than done. Then another tells me to take a look at East Wickham ward and gives a clue or two. So I did.
The Tory’s candidate list for East Wickham says the would-be councillors are Daniel Taylor, James Hunt, and Christine Catterall. Another name you’ve heard before. Here they are pictured alongside you know who.
So who in East Wickham is the partner of a current councillor? It cannot be James Hunt (wearing the white shirt) because he is married with a young daughter - I think he proudly told me when we bumped into each other in Broadway last year. He's a pleasant enough bloke and I hope he will forgive me if he said his child was a boy. So if anyone is being fingered it must be the fellow on the right who by a process of elimination must be Daniel Taylor. Who of the men on Bexley council might he be partnered with? Hard to say and Taylor is not an uncommon name which complicates matters.
But I found this.
Taylor is as I said a common name but this Chris Taylor lives at the same address as councillor Chris Taylor used to give in his Register of Members’ Interests, maybe he still does. So councillor Chris Taylor lives in the same house as Dan Taylor. It could of course be his brother, but Chris has twice told council meetings that he lives with his civil partner. So the chances are that all your assumptions are correct.
It looks as though the various informants have got at least half of their stories right. What we don’t know is whether Dan Taylor, prospective Tory candidate for East Wickham ward, was arrested for theft and cautioned. Informants can be wrong. On the other hand I’ve only known that happen once. That was when someone suggesting he was a councillor gave me ‘evidence’ that a certain named councillor was responsible for Bexley council’s obscene blog. He was wrong, and I was very wrong to take him seriously and if I was a betting man I’d put money on who had a vested interest in sending me on a wild goose chase.
How do we find out if the story is true? Maybe the News Shopper can look into it as they did the BELL case. Perhaps the police will come over all honest and transparent. I wouldn’t bet on that either. The present borough commander was all Teresa this and Will that at his very first meeting with the council within days of his arrival. It’s presumably still all mates together there.
Another way might be if one of the principal parties denied the whole story as otherwise it may blow up at just the wrong moment. Yes , that is probably the way to do it. But it’s not impossible that a good handful of Bexley council supporters have got together to set me up big time. Maybe time will tell.
This is not new news I know but Teresa O’Neill is obviously keen on telling
as many people as possible that her plans for more service cuts meets the
approval of two thirds of the borough’s residents.
The figure councillor Peter Craske mentioned at the
Finance Scrutiny meeting has now
turned up on
the Tories’ website. The claim spurred me on to examine the figures more
closely because a quick glance didn’t look like supporting O’Neil’s stated two thirds.
“A clear mandate from residents”. But how clear? Is it being selective with the truth or just plain wrong?
The official analysis, all 132 pages of it, starts off with the statement that 64·2% of responses agreed that the council’s priorities were ‘broadly supported’. The 64·2% is bumped up to 65% on the website and Teresa O’Neill bumped it up to two thirds when speaking into my microphone. Not the biggest lie she has ever told I am sure.
There is a table in the Consultation Assessment which was reproduced here last month. I thought it was about time I put the figures into a spreadsheet. The most favourable approval rating I can get out of it is a little short of 60% support for the budget.
Only 583 people and organisations filled in the consultation form and a further 78 sent comments by letter or email. The deputy leader admitted the response was ‘tiny’.
Whilst the overall broad support is stated to be 64·2%, analysis of the answers to individual budget proposals shows a different picture. Of the 663 respondents only 342 commented on moving the archives to Bromley and that was by far the biggest response due no doubt to the pressure exerted by Penny Duggan. The other 22 proposals were commented on by (with one minor exception) fewer than 300 people each. The only proposals that didn’t get at least 50% support apart from the obvious archives fiasco was the chopping of music services in schools and the reduction in non-statutory funding for Bexley Voluntary Service Council (BVSC).
I still don’t know where the council’s 65% came from. Of those who responded only 44% were actively in favour of cuts. Of those who expressed a clear opinion, not even 60%.
I confess to being inexpert at Excel spreadsheets - even though I once coded my own long before Excel was ever dreamed up - so maybe someone would care to download mine (Office 2007 version), compare it to the table taken from the council’s document and check whether I have made a stupid mistake or Bexley council is fibbing again.
Whatever the figure, 663 responses from a population approaching a quarter of a million is never going to be a clear mandate.
not only emails that are all behind, there are local websites that I look at
most days to collect new info. One is
Chris Attard’s UKIP site. He nicks stuff from me so I return the compliment!
On 1st February he told his readers how he and his colleagues were welcomed in Belvedere. Like Chris I have taken the Tories’ Twittering on about how everyone loves them with a big bucket of salt. The Mandy Rice-Davies comment springs to mind. Their only claim seems to be that they froze council tax for three years - or four if you stretch a point. What else have they done? Closed all the public loos, filled in the William Morris fountain, introduced a myriad of stealth taxes, refused to accept petitions, prosecuted several residents for things that haven’t done, encouraged zero hours contracts and lower than minimum pay. There’s probably more.
They’ll perhaps claim they revamped Bexleyheath Broadway but those who have complained about the cost have been told Boris did it and it was his money, as if somehow it cost us nothing. If they refer complainants to Boris they can hardly take the credit when people like it, and some do. Oh, I forgot, maybe they can have it both ways; they lie without scruple and as councillor Linda Bailey said they “can do what I like”.
Chris has another article on what he calls Bexley’s Education Warfare Office. Fining parents of sick children is another nice little earners for councils.
Two and a half years ago a couple of Bexley council employees set up a little scam they called South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service Ltd. complete with spoof Post Code. The whole thing was designed to scare parents into paying them money. Whether that shady outfit is the same as the one Chris refers to I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find Bexley council still encouraging malpractice.
The associated slogan is from a booklet issued by the police and supported by Bexley Trading Standards at a meeting in the Civic Centre last Monday.
I’m just back from a windy, wet and wild weekend in the west; actually the only place I saw very wet weather was in Sevenoaks. Why is the weather always so bad in Sevenoaks? You descend the hill from Junction 4 of the M25 and the sky ahead is nearly always black. But I digress; using time as an excuse I'm going to fall back on featuring another recent email. Some local residents may be fooled by over-familiarity with Bexley council but this newcomer can see right through them…
Something your website should highlight is the madness of Bexley's parking charge structure. I have moved from North London to the area recently and am completely baffled by how it costs 90p to park for the first hour in Sidcup's car parks. For only 10p extra you get the same length of time in Bromley, one of the UK's top 40 shopping destinations, or Bexleyheath Town Centre.
You can save 10p by going to Eltham, where they have Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Next etc. There is simply no sense in that charging structure. There is simply nothing in Sidcup worth paying 90p an hour for. As a result, I often park in Morrison's for free. Sometimes I have to circle around for about ten minutes to get a space, but for the saving it is worth it. Don't Bexley Council realise that if they charged less e.g. 40/50p an hour, people might not bother hunting for that free space and just pay the small charge? As you put it - Bonkers!
Dear immigrant from the North,
I am afraid Bexley council will tell you you have got it all wrong. Before they decided to double all the parking charges, and nearly triple some, the council did a comprehensive survey of South London charges and based on that told the local press and splurged it on their website, both political and council, that Bexley had the cheapest parking in South East London and provided more car parking spaces than any other nearby borough. Needless to say, both were a lie. Anyone with time on their hands could visit all the other councils’ websites and whilst it was sometimes laborious, add up the spaces at each car park and compare the charges.
Bexley’s ludicrous claim was and is a lie made up by councillor Peter Craske who was the council’s liar-in-chief at the time. He tends to keep his head down after having his collar felt by the fuzz and councillor Cheryl Bacon has taken his place.
I have a page commemorating some of councillor Craske’s achievements in the field of lying which gives a few links to some of his more extravagant prevarications. A newcomer to the borough might find it a useful record of his more fantastic fibs.
I hope to give that page an update and makeover in coming days because I understand some of his political opponents intend to refer to it on doorsteps.
‘Bonkers’, I should perhaps explain to a newcomer, was the description of Bexley’s abysmal road planning given to me by councillor John Davey who has since fled Lesnes ward scared rigid by the presence of the UKIP and Labour opposition - Lesnes has a record of being a marginal Labour ward. I then discovered that John Davey was the hypocritical vice-chairman of the Transport Scrutiny Committee, since subsumed into Public Realm. John Davey was one of two people who in effect created Bonkers due to their lies and general uselessness back in 2009.
According to Bexley’s Parking Accounts, their revenue has been falling year on year. It’s all the fault of people like you who decide that Bluewater or Bromley is a better bet. Bexley needs philanthropic drivers not skinflints from up north!
Some of those 144 emails held up by
BT’s failure to take any notice of its
customer were either interesting or amusing or both.
There were several offers to use readers’ computers for the blog upload which contrasted with the reaction in some places. I had to travel quite a distance to find someone who wasn’t concerned about retribution from Bexley council if it discovered they had helped me. I find that rather encouraging, the vindictive, spiteful and criminal tag must be more widely accepted than I knew.
A message from a Salvation Army HQ address said the sender was at a loss for something to read on his way home if Bonkers was not available. It helped spur me on and I wrote something every day but the uploads were not as regular.
My maternal Great Grandfather was the first, if family records are to be believed, Salvation Army Captain and Band Master in Wood Green at the beginning of the last century so now I have an excuse to resurrect one of several photos of him clutching a variety of musical instruments.
Another message informed me that the Evening Standard had picked up on Bexley’s filthy food outlets on Thursday; a bit late in the day. The further cuts to Trading Services staff are not going to help. I think I'll have to get hold of some real figures to see to what extent Bexley council and its leader are prepared to put residents’ health at risk.
The trader’s despairing message at the beginning of the month sparked another one in similar vein.
Your previous contributor was quite right concerning the proposed improvements in Sidcup High Street. Over the course of the next eight months I imagine Sidcup will lose the few remaining shoppers they have. More shops will close down and it will be very interesting to see the response of Waitrose.
The idiots who thought up this scheme have not got a clue. Two things are required. Adequate free parking (will never happen) and shops that local people actually need and want. Meanwhile apart from lots of cones, very little actual work seems to be happening; a bit like the temporary lights in neighbouring Landsdown Road which have been in situ for four weeks with no sign of a work force.
And then there was this…
WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING AT WELLING CORNER IT MUST BE THE 20TH TIME THE PROJECT HAS HAD ALTERATIONS? COME ON ARE YOU JUST MESSING AROUND WITH OUR COUNCIL TAX?
That should probably have gone directly to Bexley council. I do sometimes get emails from people who Google Bexley council and come to the wrong site. I forward them to Bexley council who are usually stupid enough to send the replies to me, probably breaching every data protection law known to man.
Other messages concern holes developing in the new Broadway, Bexley council’s attitude to security CCTV cameras, arrested local politicians, the ever tightening restrictions on parking places and more developments on that illegally blocked bridleway. They may get a proper mention next week.
Since Bexley council was dragged kicking and screaming by Nicholas Dowling
and Eric Pickles a little closer to the land of transparency and honesty and
photography was allowed at council and committee meetings, only Elwyn Bryant has
made any serious attempt to grab photos. Other members of the public may have
snatched the odd picture on their phone but if so I have not noticed, though
one such photo was submitted last year.
I have imposed a rule upon myself which is not to illustrate formal meeting reports with photographs of councillors caught in unfortunate poses or council staff below the most senior level and to go easy on those who have not at some time or another tried to harm me personally or treat regular meeting attendees with total contempt.
Will Tuckley is all over the web anyway and qualifies for inclusion for his suggestion to his friends in the police that I should be arrested for republishing the obscenities that originated on councillor Craske’s phone line. I justified the inclusion of Nick Hollier to myself because of his refusal to seek out a witness who knows that Cheryl Bacon lied in an attempt to escape the consequences of her illegal ‘Closed Session’. There will no doubt be some borderline judgments to be made as time goes by but as a general rule no one is going to be pictured within the formal reports in other than a respectful way. But every man has his limits.
Wednesday’s Public Realm Scrutiny Committee meeting was the first to be chaired under the new recording and photography rules by the discredited councillor Cheryl Bacon. I asked Elwyn to make sure he took plenty of photos of her and secretly hoped some might be less than flattering. But Cheryl Bacon failed to turn up. She gets £8,800 for chairing four Public Realm meetings and she chickened out. So that’s £2,200 she has taken under false pretences.
The meeting was necessarily chaired by a substitute and councillor John Waters was duly lumbered. Elwyn, probably disappointed that Cheryl had metamorphosed from headless chicken to the yellow variety, almost gave up on picture taking and snapped only two of the chairman. As one shows him glugging water I have little choice if the ‘no unfortunate poses’ rule is not to be broken. I would certainly have considered breaking it for a councillor who has chosen to lie about me and others so comprehensively.
The usual crew was in the public gallery augmented by half a dozen ‘strangers’ some of whom were clearly prospective election candidates. Chairman John Waters asked if any of us objected to photography. None did.
It took exactly two minutes to get to Agenda Item 7 which was taken out of sequence and headed ‘Adult Learning, Skills and Employment Strategy’. Jacqueline Beckett, Head of Sustainable Employment and Skills addressed the meeting about the achievements of the past year. The main one was the reduction in local unemployment levels (borough average 26%) which councillor Deadman queried the previous evening. Some parts of the borough were closer to 40% Ms. Beckett said.
Tesco had guaranteed 100 jobs for unemployed Bexley residents. After delivering a seven minute catalogue of statistics none of which were sufficiently interesting to find a home here, the chairman called for questions.
Councillor Margaret O’Neill rose to the occasion and asked how many of the new jobs were zero hours contracts, a now familiar Labour party theme. Part of the response was obliterated by ‘noises off’ but as far as I could judge, councillor O’Neill did not get an answer.
Councillor Caroline Newton asked what sort of apprenticeships were being offered. Ms. Beckett said she didn’t know. It was revealed, one might have guessed, that most local people attending university go to Greenwich.
Councillor June Slaughter asked several questions but the answers were again entirely obliterated by the noises off.
Someone (noises off again) asked where “Crossrail’s one stop employment hub at Atrium Court” was. Ms. Beckett said it was in Erith, the first time I had ever heard it pronounced the posh and wrong way by anyone, except on the BBC.
Linda Bailey thought it necessary to comment that “there is a lot of good stuff in here” (the Employment Strategy) and wished to “thank all the officers, the work that goes into these and hopefully it will keep going up and up”. (Sic)
The next Agenda Item was a discussion on the Draft Budget and an address by a council officer whose name the public address system did not convey to the public gallery from which there was no line of sight to his name plate. I could identify him with a photograph, but it is not his fault that the Civic Chamber was not designed with the public in mind; so I will stick to my rule.
The anonymous council officer said that to prevent the council’s reserves falling too low all departments were to be required to trim their budgets a further 0·5% beyond what is already planned. There would be a similar squeeze on council contract prices. Public Health spending would be “restructured” and there would be a reduction in the “contingency”. Together these things are expected to save £1,500,000.
Councillor Seán Newman asked if further changes to contracts would affect front line services. Cabinet member Gareth Bacon told him “there might possibly be some impact”. Some things would be done less often. The emptying of dog poo bins was given as an example. Seán was assured that the graffiti removal services would be protected.
Councillor O’Neill queried the £53,000 cut to the “Community Trigger Scheme, which supports the wellbeing of residents”. Mr. Frizoni said the money would be taken from the Public Health Budget which seemed to satisfy Ms. O’Neill. She was also concerned about the cuts to Engineering Services which is I believe Trading Standards. There is to be a vicious cut of £358,000 attributed to “a small number of staff reductions”. Not sure how those two facts can be reconciled.
Councillor June Slaughter queried the “equalities impact” of the cuts to Community Safety. Mr. Frizoni said “to answer that question in isolation would be very difficult”. He “recognised that the impact would be greater than in some other areas. There will be a reduction in front line staff. The number of neighbourhood teams from three down to one. We won’t be able to do the proactive preventative work we have done in the past”.
A thoughtful councillor Marriner had similar concerns and by the look of his marked copy of the Agenda must have actually read it beforehand.
Councillor June Slaughter asked about the worsening domestic violence statistics and whether early prevention was being put at risk. (Background noises prevent an exact quotation.) Mr. Frizoni didn’t seem to know, he’d “have to check on the figures”.
Councillor Newman suggested that too many targets were being met and that more challenging objectives should be set. He didn’t think the council was performing quite as well as the plethora of green stars would have us believe. The chairman was not entirely unsympathetic. Cheryl Bacon would most likely have come down on a Labour councillor like the proverbial ton of bricks for an implied criticism like that.
The elderly gents (read hard of hearing) in the audience are always pleased when Mrs. Jane Richardson gets to speak. She is not just easy on the eye but much more importantly she is easy on the ear. Every syllable is as clear as a bell and she is almost unique in appearing to be on top of her brief. I am going to break the “no officer pictures unless they are evil’ rule to show the mumblers how it is done.
Mrs. Richardson mentioned the Sidcup ground works and how the weather has handicapped them. Emails are going out to nearby interested residents to update them weekly on developments. A £100,000 gift is coming from Cory Ltd. to renew the long footbridge across the A2016 in Thamesmead. The new clinic in Crayford is soon to open. Lesnes Abbey park and woods are to get a new look soon. The Queens Road roundabout and bridge renewal plans are on the final straight too.
The chairman complained that the Welling corner changes have been “taking an awful long time”. Since last April if I remember correctly. Mr. Frizoni blamed it on Boris Johnson, Traffic signals needed to be reprogrammed and he had no date for when it would be completed.
Councillor Slaughter was none too pleased about the Sidcup road works going on for a similarly silly period. Another thing she was unhappy about is that the Black Horse recreation still doesn’t comply with the approved plans and she clearly has a less than glowing opinion of the developer. She will accept nothing less than strict observance of the approved plan. Mrs. Richardson said she and her team were inspecting the site weekly.
Councillor Margaret O’Neill was not happy with access for the disabled at Erith station and wondered if improvements could be included in the Queens Road roundabout scheme. The answer was a lengthy ‘No’.
Following that the discussion moved on to various cycling issues which proved to be quite interesting and probably justifies a separate report and this one is already far too long.
The Public Realm meeting ended at twenty five to nine. 65 minutes. John Waters’ first chairmanship session being handled with rather more skill and charm than the aggressive Cheryl Bacon could ever muster.
I have a friend who for more than twenty years has driven from Bromley to
Belvedere every weekday. From her I get frequent updates about the state of the
boroughs’ roads. Bromley’s have gradually improved with bottlenecks eased and
awkward junctions expertly redesigned, realigned and widened where necessary. I
don’t do the journey often myself but I can think of five such improvements
over the past five years or so.
In Bexley the reverse is true. All roads have been progressively narrowed and junctions which once had two lanes are reduced to one. On the route from Belvedere to the borough border at Sidcup I can instantly think of eleven degradations and just one improvement. The man to blame for this is Mike Frizoni. He hates motorists.
The latest wheeze brought to my attention is in Welling. It is rather like the accident blackspot introduced to Oakhampton Crescent where little protrusions jut out into the road to catch the unwary. But at least there the protrusions are marked by illuminated bollards. Not so in Welling High Street which being a major A road is probably influenced by the dead hand of TfL too.
Whichever bunch of chumps was responsible for introducing another bottleneck to Welling High Street presumably lacks any qualification for the job. With no warnings and no illumination it puts pedestrians, cyclists and motorists at additional risk. At night the latest of their deathtraps becomes invisible.
One car driver has already reported clipping the kerb and writing off both nearside tyres. By the look of the third photograph he is not the first to do so. The sharp edged kerb stone bears the scars.
Bexley council, in its characteristically uncaring manner, has ensured that the kerb is given a very sharp edge as it has elsewhere. Here a softer edge might have been more considerate, but when has Bexley council been anything other than spiteful?
Late in the afternoon and unannounced another BT engineer turned up. Like his
predecessors he had a good idea where the fault must be but this one was
prepared to argue with his bosses that they didn’t know what they were talking
about. They eventually agreed that my line should be put on a different port in the
street cabinet. The connection sprang back into life. A mere eight days later
than it would have done if BT Openreach had an iota of common sense in its corporate body.
The connection is horribly slow, not as good as I used to get over copper (under 6 megabytes download) before subscribing to the optical fibre service but that is a battle for another day. There will be a letter on the BT Chairman’s desk before too long.
With 144 unanswered emails in the pipeline, don't expect replies any time soon.
For the second time BT promised to send an expert from their Special Faults team
to get to the bottom of their failure to provide me with a working business grade Infinity
fibre connection. For the second time I sat in all day while they failed to show up.
Full story here.
With luck I shall tomorrow bring you the report on last night’s Public Realm meeting to see how councillor Cheryl Bacon’s first chairmanship under the new protocol on recording council meetings performed. When Nick Dowling took his recorder to her meeting last June she ran around like a headless chicken and then lied on an industrial scale to cover her illegal activities. Would anyone like to guess how she handled yesterday’s meeting?
Philip Read is usually a half decent chairman, especially when compared with the total incompetents
like Cheryl Bacon. However this time I found myself
wishing that he would get a firmer grip. The amount of Tory waffling was
almost unbelievable. If you assume that a Scrutiny Committee is there to
scrutinise, a logical extension of that is that they ask probing questions. No
Tory did so, they praised the council’s achievements, they praised each other
and they repeated what the Chairman had already said, Councillor Maxine
Fothergill twice chipped in with comments which showed she wasn’t paying attention,
resulting in worthless repetition, and she added
absolutely nothing to the collective knowledge store. A total waste of space.
The meeting started well enough, Philip Read welcomed everyone, members of the public included, and told them that they were free to record and photograph events if they wished. Then he ran through the standard rigmarole about his power to prohibit photography if any member of the public objected. It was perhaps a little over the top given that the only members of the public present were Nicholas Dowling, John Watson and myself, all of whom had pressed Bexley council to adopt government guidelines on recording. No one attempted to take a photograph, no one had brought a camera.
Soon afterwards a lady I failed to recognise sat in the gallery. After the meeting she told me she had been selected to represent the Labour party in Crayford next May. She was I think as shocked by the display of amateurism as I was after my first council meeting in 2010. She thought she could do better than that and I agree, it would not take much to do better than that.
Once again the sound system was dreadful causing much straining of ears, the chairman who was furthest from me came over quite well but it is fortunate that the mumblers and those with nothing worthwhile to say are generally one and the same. Why don’t they switch on the speakers in the public gallery?
Within seconds of the meeting start we were on to Agenda Item 5. Unfortunately most of the statistics which should have been available for discussion were not. Not Bexley council’s fault as it happens, a cock up by ‘London Councils’. Just to rub things in, councillor Munir Malik spotted a discrepancy in the figures that were available. We moved on swiftly to the next Agenda Item.
Item 6, Budget and Capital Programme, gave councillor Maxine Fothergill the opportunity to say she was “delighted”. Maybe she meant ‘benighted’ which would be more appropriate.
Councillor Craske also failed to ask a question. His comments were barely audible but he said something about how pleased he was that the recent consultation on the budget proposals resulted in 65% of residents expressing support for cuts. This, like most of what Craske says, may not be entirely true. He gets to I still don’t know where the 65% comes from.
The number must be official council policy because deputy council leader Campbell answered one of Munir Malik’s questions with a reference to 65% and the admission that the proportion of residents responding was “tiny”. Councillor Malik is one of those rare beings who understands that proper scrutiny requires questions to be asked, not just expressions of delight.
Munir also asked if the council was satisfied it had the budget to do something lost to my ears and my recorder. Councillor Campbell must have heard because he answered the question with a reprimand about making political points and a reference to having made £65 million in savings. It was £100 million only last week but never mind. Campbell said he was entirely happy with his record.
Councillor Malik asked about the possibility of cancelling some contracts and Campbell responded by saying that all the present problems were caused by “the mess created by the last Labour administration”, which I assume he does not consider to be a political point.
Councillor Colin Tandy was another Tory who made no effort to question the cabinet member. Instead he said he wanted to endorse what Campbell had said and to praise the Conservative Chancellor who had saved this country from becoming “another Portugal or Spain or whatever” and he was “glad I am not a Frenchman”. I am sure every Frenchman alive must echo that sentiment. After telling us he is getting almost no interest on his savings he eventually sat down. Thank goodness for small mercies.
Maxine Fothergill then said something of absolutely no relevance whatsoever.
Item 7 was the cabinet member’s report. The new (ex-Woolwich) HQ is only two weeks behind schedule and it has provided “enormous financial savings”. The Archives have been saved and the Mayor’s allowance will be cut by not sending him/her on any more out of borough jaunts. That was about it really apart from a repeat of the obligatory and probably spurious ‘65% support for cuts’ claim.
Craske dodged questioning but instead compared Bexley's new HQ allegedly costing nothing and Newham’s £111 million for their new palace.
The almost lone source of questions, the soon to be missed, Munir Malik asked how much capital was raised through the disposal of redundant buildings. Councillor Campbell declined to answer. I wonder why?
Councillor Alan Deadman decided to thwart councillor Malik’s ambition to be the only councillor to ask a question all evening and recklessly asked what part of the Archive Service might still be moved to Bromley. Campbell thought that all the archives and backroom services “will remain in this borough, but with a staffing reduction”.
Item 8 was opened by a microphoneless councillor Colin Tandy muttering something about “the budget strategy being just about as risk averse as it is possible to be” - or something like that. Still no Tory questions and a slightly bored sounding chairman thanked Tandy and moved on. Undeterred, councillor Tandy came back with a comment about the council investing in government backed banks.
Agenda Item 9 is entitled ‘Overcoming the Economic Downturn’ and the chairman commented that a new title might be in order. Councillor Peter Craske said the 26% reduction in the borough’s unemployed was “very welcome”. Still no questions. Maxine Fothergill said the title was “depressing”. Err, yes, that’s what the chairman just said.
Councillor Deadman asked if the 26% was “due to people going back to work or people coming off benefit”. The Director of Finance said he was merely repeating figures given to him and he “just doesn’t know the answer to that”. Councillor Malik pushed his luck somewhat by asking what proportion of the borough’s residents were on zero hours contracts. Mr. Ellsmore did not, probably could not, know that either, though speaking to Chris Taylor’s care agencies might provide a strong clue.
Councillor Tandy thought it was relevant to chip in with the comment that Chancellor George Osborne had said “we are not there yet”. I was beginning to think that Colin Tandy was not all there too. “Waitrose in Sidcup” he said, “was a lovely place to shop, I shop there most weeks”. Presumably they had a good offer on strong spirits when he last visited.
Tandy chipped in again, the chairman made a valiant attempt to stop him, but Tandy wasn’t going to stop. He wanted to tell us that a Disney style Theme Park was due to open in Dartford. Presumably a Disney Theme Park, almost by definition, appeals to small minds. Someone pointed out it was not being built in Dartford, I think it may be Gravesham but without net access I’m unable to check.
The chairman then announced under Item 10 that the council’s budget strategy was pretty much on track. No one had any questions, even councillor Tandy had no comment.
The penultimate item was a report on Business Rates prepared by councillor Peter Craske. The word ‘excellent’ was bandied around a few times and Craske revealed that he had written to the Chancellor to ask that the Business Rate Relief Scheme be extended and George had agreed. There were no questions.
Item 12 was not discussed and the meeting was closed 51 minutes after it began. Not a single question from any Tory, what more proof do you need that Bexley is a one woman dictatorship and all public meetings are rigged beforehand?
I volunteered to take my computer, firewall, router and BT modem to a friend
who has an identical fibre connection and my ISP’s support man
agreed it would be an interesting experiment but that he was absolutely sure it
would work on a different line. He was right, it did. The The upshot is that BT
is at last agreeing that the problem must be in their system. At least I think they
do, their default position is always to blame the customer.
The ‘authentication failure’ theory has been discounted because my connection is not getting that far, it simply disappears somewhere in BT’s system.
Tomorrow, Thursday, I am scheduled to have the previously promised visit by a member of the Special Faults team. Why they have to visit me when it is obvious to all that the fault is not here I have no idea.
So much for BT sending a
Special Faults team member to sort out their broken
They sent a regular Openreach man with a fault ticket which said “FTTC.
Customer equipment fault”. BT established a week ago that the fault was
not in my equipment and doesn’t want to admit that the problem could be theirs
and have no concept of customer service.
Like his colleague last week this man did his best by first performing a number of line tests one of which failed. He fixed it, not that it made any difference.
Then he started phoning people. Eventually it was proved that the problem lies well beyond Thamesmead telephone exchange which is what my ISP support desk said a week ago. Both BT and the ISP are now muttering about an authentication failure, which I think might translate to ‘someone changed the password in the middle of the night’.
On another internet connection borrowed yesterday evening I saw 119 Bonkers emails awaiting attention. I only had time to look at a few from regular correspondents. One said one week without the net is nothing, when his Virgin line went down it took them seven weeks to fix it. Thanks for that. Just what I wanted to hear.
There was a meeting of the Bexley Community Policing Engagement Group last
night which has very little to do with Bexley council except that they rent out
the Civic Chamber for the hundred or so predominantly elderly people who are
interested in what is going on.
Chief Superintendent (he’s been promoted already) Peter Ayling was there to let them know.
In a nutshell, burglaries have been up quite steeply over the past few months especially in areas which offer a quick escape route to the A2 and the A20. This was said to be due to a combination of the time of year and the release of too many local criminals from prison all at the same time and Romanian gangs. Mr. Ayling said that the very latest statistics showed improvement and some of the crooks were already back inside.
Several questions were asked from the floor but almost all of them were of the ‘why have you never answered my letter’ variety. On each occasion the Borough Commander offered to take details and look into it.
Readers with long memories may recall that a year ago the Crown Prosecution Service told Elwyn Bryant that they had offered Bexley police an Action Plan for their Obscene Blog suspect, councillor Peter Craske, but according to the CPS, the police ignored it and instead wrapped the case up. Elwyn asked CS Ayling “Why should the local police be allowed to ignore the CPS when giving charging advice”. In reply Ayling said there were circumstances in which the police could charge a suspect without the benefit of CPS advice but he was “not aware of circumstances where we can simply ignore their advice”.
After the meeting, the police said that they would check where that CPS advice went but were unsure whether or not they would be able to tell Elwyn. I think I have a pretty good idea of where it went already. On 1st March last year, I asked Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa why he ignored the CPS advice and while he accepted the letter had been received asserted he was unaware it contained an Action Plan. As a Bexley police officer said last night, someone must be fibbing , but whether it is the CPS of the police we might never know.
Former Bexley Police Commanders Chief Superintendents Stringer and Olisa now stand accused of Misconduct in Public Office having failed to recognise that saving the political career of a Bexley councillor is not worth jeopardising their own. The present Commander, Peter Ayling, is in no way whatever implicated but some of his officers are those who tried, through ignorance or otherwise, to pin Olly Cromwell’s blog on me.
The BT investigator failed to turn up yesterday. Apart from Sunday and last
Tuesday afternoon, I have been kept in either waiting for phone calls, waiting
for BT’s so called engineer - they are not engineers, they are technicians at
best - or performing system tests as directed by them.
Everyone I’ve mentioned this to, with one exception, assumes without any suggestion from me, that Bexley council is in some way behind the breakdown. Presumably that is a good indication of the esteem in which they are held, but I still doubt it. But then I would have doubted that any council leader would go to the police with a cock and bull story in the hope of getting me arrested, but Teresa O’Neill and her cohorts did exactly that, so maybe I am just naive.
I’ve been told I should go and get myself a mobile telephone dongle to crack the impasse but I cannot get to the shops because BT have said they will try to visit today after reneging on the promise to come yesterday. I suspect another wasted day lies ahead and speaking as someone who worked for BT from age 19 to retirement, I shall never again rise to their defence when I hear someone slagging them off. They deserve nothing less.
If I can get this on line via a friend’s connection it gives no opportunity to come back and fix errors which adds to the frustration.
My Internet Service Provider kindly exchanged my own Cisco router for a more
modern one of their own and BT Openreach exchanged their VDSL (fibre) modem
because the old model has a history of failure but all to no avail.
The Cisco router allows the ISP to dial into it on a dial-up modem and my entire system has been given a clean bill of health and the tests reveal only that no data is coming down the phone line.
This morning BT’s Wholesale division are scheduled to put their Special Faults Investigation team on the case to try to get to the bottom of the problem because no one can see any reason for my fibre broadband not working. Maybe the conspiracy theorists are not mad after all though surely if they were active they would take down the website, not merely my access to it?
Note: Until I can access my web server in the normal way, some aspects of the month changeover are unlikely to work correctly.
I sent a straight forward complaint to the Metropolitan Police Service about Bexley’s police telling fibs when stating there was no evidence to go on in a case that eventually led to criminal activities being traced to councillor Peter Craske’s phone line. They then did nothing about it for six months. That complaint produced only letter from a police constable telling me the complaint could not be investigated. However much the same evidence presented as an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office has resulted in a positive response from the Assistant Commissioner. Maybe there is a lesson there.
Just before my internet connection went belly up, this message came in from a despairing local businessman…
An area is struggling and shops are closing. Weeks even months of traffic problems push the few remaining customers away to Bluewater which is only ten minutes away with free parking. The recent regeneration killed their Bexleyheath habit and Welling has gone the same way. When Sidcup High Street reopens in the future it will be to even fewer customers.
Most sane people go to the shops to shop. To buy goods. To use services. They do not go there because of the street furniture or lighting. If you cannot park, car owners with money, will go elsewhere.
The only people to ‘benefit’ from this ‘regeneration’ are those using the furniture, typically older people on a limited income who will not raid their banks and spend loads. New lighting may only offer benefits only when the shops are closed.
People go to the High Street for banking and shopping, or they used to! Get shops back, proper shops, not nail saloons, charity shops, and bookies. Then people will return. Until then, all the speed humps, benches, trees, lights, widened pavements, etc etc, as well as lack of parking, queues, traffic jams etc, will only lead one way.
The death of the High Street. Not content with wasting our money on Bexleyheath, a proven failure, Welling and Sidcup are now heading in the same direction. I think I’m gonna move. Blackheath perhaps.