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Bonkers Blog July 2014

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31 July (Part 2) - More Abbey Wood parking spaces sacrificed to Crossrail

As noted some weeks ago, the one way system to and from Abbey Wood station is to revert to two way working with the loss of half a dozen parking spaces from Gayton Road (Photo 1) and more from Wilton and Florence Roads. The Gayton Road 244 bus stand (Photo 2) is to be removed too and one can now see where it will go before long (Photos 3 and 4). The lower end of Knee Hill oposite the notorious green fence.

Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway

Knee Hill Knee HillThere used to be parking spaces immediately to the north (station side) of the busy Knee Hill bus stop (currently four routes and about 20 buses per hour) but they have been removed to allow the road to be widened and a bus stand installed. The central reservation has been reduced in size to make the road as wide as possible to accommodate a parked 244 bus. There is likely to be congestion when two 244s are there at the same time. It happens very often at the old bus stand.

This work by Greenwich council has made Bexley’s twelve year old New Road Layout Ahead sign (Photo 6) under the viaduct almost correct.


31 July (Part 1) - “The criminal relationship between Bexley council and Bexley police”

I said a few days ago that Mick Barnbrook’s most recent letter to the police following their endorsement of Bexley council’s support of the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon was a reasonably easy to follow summary of a complex situation and I would ask him if it could be published here for the benefit of connoisseurs of police criminal behaviour. He agreed it could be and it now is.


30 July - Crossrail digs up Abbey Wood again

TimetableThe Harrow Manorway viaduct is to become the main access point for Abbey Wood’s new ‘high level’ railway station which will straddle the two platforms and four tracks.

The temporary station was scheduled to open about now but there is precious little sign of it as yet. Nevertheless, work is proceeding on modifying the viaduct, the central reservation has been removed; it is reduced to one lane in each direction and some effort has been expended on trying to maintain the bus service with temporary bus stops while work continues.

The plan doesn’t work too well when two buses arrive at the same time as was the case here (Photo 4). Other road traffic is held up while the buses disgorge their passengers.

Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway
More Crossrail related blogs


29 July - Making up for lost time

When Bexley council wakes up to the fact that its ostrich act is no longer tenable and realises how much damage it has done to job prospects in the borough and its own income, then credit where it is due, their publicity machine does its best to cover their shame and embarrassment. Look what has just showed up on the council’s website.
Naturally there is yet another consultation and fortunately it does not require a masters degree in IT and economics to complete it but you can still tell it is a Bexley consultation paper because of the inclusion of its usual ’motherhood and apple pie’ questions.
Do they honestly think that anyone would suggest Bexley council sits idly by and makes no plans for the future or perhaps plan to get least benefit? Idiots. And they cannot resist a bit of bias either.
We are asked if a Belvedere to Rainham bridge would be of benefit but the shorter, cheaper, land already reserved, quicker to build bridge at Gallions Reach which actually goes towards London rather than make landfall two London boroughs further to the east and half way to Southend is not given the same advantage. Connecting directly to the North Circular Road (A406) from a bridge at Thamesmead has obvious benefits but specific talk of it is supressed. Teresa O’Neill is still hoping to control our minds.

FailureHowever her new leaflet (PDF from link above bridge image) is well worth a look if only for the map and benefits summaries on Page 3.

It starts with an admission of failure which is welcome. It is good that the sinners may be repenting for depressing growth and prosperity in the borough for the past eight years.

Perhaps their lack of foresight is a reason for Bexley having a higher council tax rate than comparable boroughs. 24th worst position out of 32 is nothing to crow about; not that it has ever stopped them.


28 July (Part 3) - The leader’s ambition is to be Rounded and Robust. Who'd have thought it?

MayorThe last part of a council meeting is the report from committee chairmen and anyone who has attended all the scrutiny meetings (e.g. me) is unlikely to learn anything new; however 41 councillors at scrutiny committees may not be going down as well as the leader had hoped and with the official opposition upping the stakes this concluding session was not as boring as usual.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) soon laid into the lack of democracy on show and complained that six of the 41 hadn’t any say in the make up of sub-committees. #democraticdeficit.

Councillor Langstead alleged that no one had been allowed to discuss housing. #democraticdeficit. Social care workers are leaving in droves because of the sub-minimum wages and the council should be ashamed of the way staff have been treated. Care workers’ time with patients has been cut from 45 to 30 minutes. (Some have told me occasionally 15). Chairman James Hunt responded with what may be described as a stout defence of his chairmanship while councillor Don Massey revealed that he was a director of a domiciliary care agency. To save you looking it up it is called Supreme Home Care (Bexley) Limited.

The meeting moved on from People to Places.

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) complimented the council on adopting Labour policy on housing and asked what other imaginative and dynamic ideas did they have. Did they plan to participate in the Treasury’s Housing Zones for London scheme?

Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) said he expected to be consulted about moving Bexley town centre bus stops and wanted to know what lessons had been learned from Phase One of the Bexleyheath regeneration. He repeated what councillor Val Clark had called scurrilous by referring to the money sucked out of Howbury to fund the new Civic Offices. I was under the impression that was fact not scurrilous rumour.

Councillor Don Massey thought Labour’s questions were an abuse of process and he may have had a point. Places chairman Melvin Seymour, unlike James Hunt (People), is no gentleman so promptly put the boot into councillor Borella - especially on the matter of bus stops. He said he was fed up with Labour going on about homelessness as he knew what it was like to live in a deprived area referring, for emphasis, to certain members of his family, who we know from the Olly Cromwell affair - they beat him up as he emerged from hospital on the night his son was born - are thugs.

The Tory’s response ensured that none of the Labour questions were answered. Result!

The third and last Scrutiny Report to come up for approval was Resources. Chairman Steven Hall called on Labour “to ramble on”. Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) duly obliged making the point he made at the meeting, that members of the scrutiny committee were invited to approve proposals before they had a chance to meet. He said the council leader had said that the new scrutiny arrangements would be more rounded and robust and they were not. Maybe she was describing herself?

Councillor Daniel Francis said it was another example of the Conservatives making decisions before committees meet and expecting them to be rubber stamped. #democraticdeficit. Nothing new there, I have an email from a Conservative councillor telling me how it is done and blaming the rounded one.

Labour leader Alan Deadman (Labour, North End) added his weight to the theme that the scrutiny committees are too big. Four meetings a year is not enough time for the wide ranging subjects. He had noticed that more time was spent at the Resources Committee discussing Computers than Health or Housing. He asked that democracy be allowed to return to the chamber. #democraticdeficit.

Councillor Colin Tandy said that from 2002 to 2006 when Labour had a majority of one they cut the Tories very little slack implying that what was going on now was justifiable tit for tat. He said the Conservatives “had a substantial majority” and he wanted “no more Labour nonsense”. Alan Deadman immediately came up with facts and figures that proved that councillor Tandy’s recollection of 2006 was far from accurate. With a majority of only one I doubt it would have been possible for Labour to run all the committees and sub-committees by themselves.

Resources chairman Steven Hall summed up with a reasonable defence of his decisions, heavily tinged with sarcasm directed at councillor Francis.

And with that the mayor drew a another fiery exchange of views to a halt. He did a pretty good job of keeping everyone happy and unlike all his recent predecessors showed no sign of blatant right wing bias.

The above report was written with the aid of the technically poor webcast. My browser didn’t like it any more than I did.
My vote for malicious add-on goes to Deputy Chief Executive Paul Moore. Malfunctioning too I shouldn’t wonder.


28 July (Part 2) - The idiot that is Paul Moore

Paul MooreDid you look at Bexley’s webcast of their last council meeting? Did you read how the newly appointed Deputy Chief Executive Prat, Paul Moore told Elwyn Bryant that he was holding up the meeting by speaking to Kevin Fox?

At the risk of distorting Bexley council’s webcast viewing figures may I suggest you take a look at the first minute of their recording. Elwyn (pale jacket back left of room) leans over to whisper in Fox’s ear at the 18 second mark. At 42 seconds Paul Prat walks into frame, still quite a long way from Elwyn but just one second later Elwyn finishes with Fox and walks back to his seat. Any sensible person would realise that if there was a potential problem it had gone away and turn on his heels. But not Paul Prat. He carries on to reprimand Elwyn Bryant completely unnecessarily.

There are some very nasty small minded people working for Bexley council. Paul Moore is undoubtedly one of them.


28 July (Part 1) - ‘Challenging budget outlook’. Challenging consultation

Bexley council is fond of consultations, it is also pretty good at getting the answers it hopes for too.

This website was started in part because a consultation about my nearest main road, the B213, went to people living some way away but not to those living alongside it. It happens too often to be a mistake and when the response rate is well under 1% - typically 600 people across the borough, it is taken as an endorsement if the council wants something - like cuts - but as a statistical anomaly if a bigger vote goes for a Gallions Reach bridge. If two pesky pensioners rustle up more than 2,000 signatures in a petition, it’s panic until Kevin Fox invents a new lie to justify not even looking at it!

I’ve heard local Labour councillors refer to Bexley’s democratic deficit several times recently, I’m not sure exactly what they have in mind but it is all around us.

Page 7 of the Bexley magazine (Summer 2014) carries news of yet another consultation and a few readers BiB have taken a look. None were impressed and one put it down to his lack of skill with a computer.

I had a look too and was confronted by this…
You Choose
Mind boggling isn’t it? I’m not totally stupid when it comes to computers and I can see what the general idea is but do I feel inclined to use it? No. And do I have the time? Absolutely not, and I never have been any good at computer games if that is what it is.

Things like this are disenfranchising half the population. Over in Newham they do everything on the web too. How’s my 94 year old maiden aunt living alone with no council help whatsoever supposed to cope?

It’s all very well them issuing free residents’ visitor parking permits to those who don’t own a car but when she walked to the Town Hall to get some she was told she couldn’t do that any more. “Go upstairs to use the free computer”. What? Three floors with no lift at age 94! Thank you Sir Robin Bloody Wales.

Ok, so I have impersonated her on the web and set up a Newham account but it’s not really acceptable. I’m half a mind to get their Social Services to spend some of their saving on looking after an old lady instead of me adding to the pollution at Blackwall Tunnel every few days.

If it wasn’t for Teresa O’Neill and her ’we are in favour of more crossings but we got Boris to cancel the only one on offer’ my aunt would only be three and a half miles away. A bridge to Rainham isn’t going to be much good.

Note: For technical reasons the image above may require a browser refresh (F5 on Windows) to force an undistorted display.


27 July (Part 3) - The leader’s report. More whimper than bang!

LeaderA fixture at full council meetings is Teresa O’Neill’s leader’s report which on paper is generally ten or a dozen pages which she fortunately chooses not to read out in full. However last Wednesday she said she would be a little more expansive because she felt the need to brag a little about winning the recent election and how popular she discovered she was when knocking on doors.

Ominously she immediately referred to “statutory minimum services” which is probably all there is to look forward to apart perhaps from the council tax rise hinted at in the Bexley Magazine. The leader then returned to her old theme of reducing the call for those statutory services referring to the need for growth and the provision of infrastructure which is code for Belvedere, its bridge and her belated realisation it could be a nice little earner through the Community Infrastructure Levy.

The leader said there were scare stories in the press about council job losses as though it was the press that made up the numbers and not her. She seemed to think that if those 300 odd people went through natural wastage the council would continue unaffected. If close to 100% natural wastage can be achieved, then good for the staff involved, but it may not be good for those reliant on council services.

It was confirmed that proposals had gone to City Hall and government for a bridge at Belvedere and for Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfleet, As the northern branch becomes an all stations stopper out to Shenfield it does not seem too far fetched to expect that any extension of the more important line to Abbey Wood would stop at least once before it gets to Dartford. (Note: This is my comment not madam O’Neill’s.)

After about seven minutes, questions were invited. Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) remarked on the relative lack of traffic chaos during the rebuilding of Manor Road, Erith and suggested it might be a good idea if the temporary parking restrictions were made permanent. This bright idea will be referred to the usual place for consideration.

LeaderCouncillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) complained about Labour councillors suggesting that the council had sucked money out of the Howbury (Slade Green) redevelopment. She thought they were scurrilous. “Does the leader agree with me?“ “I certainly do councillor Clark” came the inevitable reply.

Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) said she was disappointed that the leader didn’t mention Bexley’s housing crisis and asked what she was doing to eliminate it. Councillor O’Neill said that she had achieved her housing targets although the loss of sites like Larner Road while it is rebuilt had obvious negative effects. To a second bridge related question the leader trotted out the newly agreed mantra of always being in favour of more crossings so long as they weren’t in Bexley were in the right place. TfL will be speaking to councillors on 2nd September. (There is no public meeting scheduled for that day.)

The supercilious ass, councillor Rob Leitch (Conservative, Sidcup) decided to continue his pathetic vendetta against councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) and his opinion, shared by many, that the Sidcup regeneration should have been handled rather better. Teresa O’Neill took the opportunity to say that the Conservatives had spent more money on Sidcup than Labour did. Boris’s money of course.

Another young Conservative, David Leaf (Longlands) was also keen to make his mark in the way long favoured by those with no original ideas of their own when seeking to become teacher’s pet. “Would the leader join with me in…” blah, blah, something to do with unemployment figures. Teresa O’Neill was “happy to”.

Councillor Colin Tandy (St. Mary's) adopted a similar crawling technique asking why the leader thought the electorate were so keen on having a Conservative council. She said it was because they thought the council tax was low (24th worst out of 32) and because Conservatives are trusted with the finances.

Councillor Borella was unhappy that the People Scrutiny Committee filled the chamber to bursting point and was supposed to monitor the very important subjects of Health, Education, Children’s Social Care, Adults’ Social Care and Housing all in one quarterly meeting. He knows of course that that is the whole idea and put that forward as a possibility.

Without pausing for breath Stefano moved on to Thames Crossings and said he had seen Boris Johnson on the Parliament channel earlier in the day making it very clear he wants to build bridges at both Gallions Reach and Belvedere and possibly a tunnel under Woolwich too.

The leader said she had watched the People meeting and “thought it was a very good thing … because it takes away duplication”. On bridges she said, you guessed it; “we have always been in favour of more crossings but not to the detriment of Bexley.”

The mayor then said that time was up which on balance was probably a good thing. The webcast has to be paid for by the hour!


27 July (Part 2) - e-mail e-xcuses

I am hopelessly behind with answering email. I used to tidy up the Inbox every Saturday morning and answer and file any email that had not been dealt with straight away but I haven’t had a spare Saturday for ages. The mail will have to be filed eventually but I doubt anything more than two weeks old will ever be answered now. Some of those missed really should have been answered and I regret and apologise for not doing so but it isn’t really practical to spend any more time at the keyboard, you should see the mess that needs clearing up after a simple DIY job this morning!

Even when time is available I often simply cannot face even another five minutes in front of a screen.


27 July (Part 1) - Sidcup deserted by BiB and this morning, everybody!

Sidcup High Street has not been featured here for a month; first Crossrail took over the schedule and then when Sidcup managed to get on to the itinerary the hot weather got the better of me and I bypassed the town as anyone who didn’t actually need to be there has been doing all year.

Since then I heard Mrs. Richardson tell the Places Committee that things are coming along quite nicely now, and it is true, it is possible to imagine it might all be finished within the two months she promised at that meeting.

The area outside the cafe and Sidcup & Co. (Photo 1) is finished but various places that perhaps could have been are not yet completed. Outside the library (Photo 2) it’s still a mess and Hatherley Road awaits the planting of trees. Materials and machinery still litter the main road and and electricity generator is keeping some premises alive after a contractor damaged a cable.

I can see that Hadlow and Hatherley Roads look nicer and some of the new shop fronts (Photo 6) are particularly attractive but I fail to see how the new paving improves things dramatically. It’s much the same as the old but cleaner.

Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup

Outside the gym and the library are signs that Bexley council has learned nothing following the installation of granite benches in Welling. Wet and cold bums must be in vogue.


26 July (Part 2) - PCs gone mad. CI and CS too

I’d just about finished writing the third blog of 17th July when Mick Barnbrook phoned and it seemed only natural to read some of it to him since it related his ongoing dispute with the police following their blatant deviation from the truth in order to offer support for the lying Cheryl Bacon.

I had written that Mick had been “suckered” by Chief Inspector Ian Broadridge who had submitted a complaint to the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) on Mick’s behalf. Mick made me change it because he felt sure that the CI had not deliberately tried to undermine his case.

Things moved quite fast over the following days and the situation is now clear. Mick Barnbrook now believes he was indeed suckered by Chief Inspector Ian Broadbridge.

On 16th June 2014 CI Broadbridge, knowing what was in Mick’s mind, invited him to make a criminal allegation against PCs Kelly and Arthurs and the Borough Commander Peter Ayling. Four days later the CI told the DPS that Mick was going to make a complaint about the two PCs. He didn’t have to but he chose to head off what Mick had planned. He said nothing about the Chief Superintendent and nothing about any allegation of crime.

The DPS referred that complaint back to Bexleyheath police station for investigation of misconduct and has refused to accept Mick’s bundle of evidence against the officers. However thanks to Ian Broadbridge not including his boss’s name in the complaint it looks as though the allegations against the Chief Superintendent may be allowed to stand.

Having fully considered the situation and in particular Broadbridge’s contrasting communications of 16th and 20th June, Mick concluded that Broadbridge is party to Perverting the Course of Justice. I strongly suspect that the PCs and their CI are all victims of a cosy deal between the Borough Commander and Bexley council, but guess whose name went to the DPS on 23rd July with another allegation of crime?

Meanwhile the DPS has acknowledged receipt of Mick’s allegations against Will Tuckley and the lying Cheryl Bacon, however in a telephone conversation they told Mick they wouldn’t be looking at it because the appendices are too extensive. If they stick to that line it will go straight to the IPCC.

Mick may harbour nostalgic recollections of a bygone age of policing but my own view of them is entirely uncompromising. I always assume that there is not a single serving officer who is not corrupt, at least in the sense that none can possibly stand up against the corruption that permeates down from the top.

In the more than twelve months since the Daniel Morgan enquiry panel was formed by the Home Secretary and to which I have family links, the police were supposed to have handed over 750,000 documents for examination. Their shredders, as is well known, have been working overtime and only 700 documents are so far available for inspection. That is not an unauthorised leak, it was reported by one newspaper, but it is true.

Corruption is unfortunately the norm within the Metropolitan Police.

Mick’s latest allegation is a useful summary of the current state of play and is relatively simple to follow, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t go on line. I’ll ask the man himself. Watch this space.


26 July (Part 1) - Turkeys vote for deferral of Christmas

There’s not enough time to do it every day but I do read some of the other London based council inspired blogs when I can. I am frequently put off by the rabid left wing anti-Tory propaganda one can find out there. Why offend half your readership and finish up preaching only to the converted?

I get the impression that no one but me blogs from a basically right wing perspective. You may find it surprising but it is a fact that I more often sit at a council meeting quietly nodding in agreement with the Tories than I do with the opposition. The real problem I have with this particularly ugly bunch of Conservatives in Bexley is that their leadership and too many of their followers are thoroughly dishonest. Spin and deception, lies and occasional criminality are their stock in trade. I was extremely annoyed with Theresa May when she labelled the Tories the nasty party at their 2002 conference but she was dead right about those who occupy it now. Absolutely no compassion, no sense of tradition and David Cameron does something to annoy the hell out of me every single week. The man is totally clueless and will kill his party if he hasn’t already.

Getting back to Bexley, I have often inwardly fumed at the Labour councillors who to my mind dabbled with irrelevancies and allowed themselves to be outmanoeuvred by conniving, ruthless, self-serving, law-breaking Tories. How was Geraldene Stripshow-Hennis allowed to get away with her licencing breach or is Labour still snapping at her heels?

There are signs of improvement under Labour’s new leadership and there is no doubt that their members are much easier to like than almost any Tory and their MP Teresa Pearce is a good ‘un while I have never come across anything to persuade me that Evennett and Brokenshire are not total wastes of space.

MayorOver the past few years I have come to appreciate the local Labour party’s caring side, generally friendly disposition and willingness to help residents but they haven’t completely wiped away my right wing bias when it comes to politics; all of which is a prelude to me saying I think the Tories got the better of them at last week’s council meeting, on Agenda Item 6 anyway.

Item 6 was the Motion put forward by councillor Seán Newman which aimed to reduce the number of councillors in Bexley by a third. This in my opinion was a masterstroke because Teresa O’Neill has supposedly been kicking the idea around since 2010 but done sweet Fanny Adams about it. She rabbited on about it before the last election too and would surely have done sweet FA about that as well if it were not for Seán’s intervention.

Would we see the Tories vote against the spirit of their own election promise? Well yes we would but the News Shopper’s headline (“Bexley councillors vote against plans to slash their numbers by a third”) failed to tell the whole story. The Tory sheep did indeed do what the barking dog dictated and immediately voted down the motion but they popped up with one of their own.

They amended…
I’m inclined to think that the amendment is a worthwhile refinement of the original.

Several Conservative councillors wanted to show off their oratory to do the other side down. Why the bearded buffoon should think he has any talent in that direction I have no idea but he chose to embarrass his own colleagues nevertheless.

The recording of Davey’s typically juvenile comment about Stalin or Marx being cheaper than democracy was unfortunately spoiled by audience chatter.

It might have been cheaper if Stalin or Marx was given control of democracy.

DaveyJohn Davey reckoned that Seán Newman’s motion was both “a knee jerk reaction” and a plot to ensure an unspecified political advantage for Labour. So it’s both a back of a fag packet job and a carefully considered Machiavellian plot to get one over the Tories. If any motion is to give an advantage to Labour it could be the Tory one. If the Boundary Commission does its job properly and the Tories’ forecast that new infrastructure in Belvedere will attract growth in the north is correct it will be their motion that might hand an advantage to Labour. Davey should get himself a better speech writer.

Read Councillor Philip Read is a much better speech writer and although I know I shouldn’t because it contributed nothing of relevance, I couldn’t help but be amused by it and supportive of his message.

That was that Labour governments through the ages had been an unscrupulous bunch of gerrymanderers. If only councillor Stefano Borella had not prompted the mayor to bring councillor Read to order he may have got around to reminding us how that scurrilous breaker of promises Nick Clegg reneged on his agreement to a review of Parliamentary constituency boundaries because the spoilt brat lost out on the Proportional Representation referendum that Cameron gave him as part of the Coalition Agreement. How in God’s name does Clegg’s poll rating reach the giddy heights of 7%?

CraskeCouncillor Peter Craske made a number of good points in his speech, basically saying there are too many politicians at every level and acknowledged that Bexley Conservatives had promised to look at a reduction in councillor numbers. He was not alone in suggesting that Labour had stolen the idea from UKIP but I fail to see how the fact that UKIP got their May 2014 manifesto out before Labour proves anything of the sort. He said that the Boundary Commission must be allowed to do their job, assess population trends etc. and get a plan ready for 2018. It seems fair enough on the surface at least.

Massey I think councillor Sharon Massey may have been alone in speaking up for three member wards and the status quo.

And so it came to the vote with Labour fairly obviously wrong footed; whispering among themselves as to what to do next. They voted against the Conservative’s amendment but sanity was restored when the opportunity arose to vote on a composite resolution. Just for once Labour and Tories were in unison. What UKIP were playing at I don’t really know, they faced all ways by voting for and against with one abstention.

So what next? Nothing much I expect. Teresa O’Neill was not the only council leader to speak of fewer councillors in 2010. In Bromley they actually got on with the job but they found a way of kicking it into the long grass just as councillor Newman said Bexley Tories will. There is more about Bromley backtracking here.

Anyone who expects Bexley council to stem the gravy train by 2018 couldn’t have been paying attention these last five years.


25 July (Part 2) - Full council - Full circle

I’d hoped to write another section of the Full council report today but there is not going to be enough time, however I promised a picture of Paul Moore on his way to reprimand Elwyn Bryant for speaking to Kevin Fox. Paul Moore is the tall fellow with the gangling gait on the right of the picture.
Paul Moore
As you can see, Elwyn (just out of shot to the left) was not holding up the meeting. From left to right, Dave Easton was still chatting to Stefano Borella, Edward Boateng is deep in conversation with Gill MacDonald, Alan Deadman (pink shirt) is trying to get UKIP on board for his motion and Mick Barnbrook is chatting up Lynn Smith, the UKIP candidate who beat him in Blackfen and Lamorbey. Several councillors’ seats are still empty. To call the new Deputy Chief Executive a silly sod for telling Elwyn he couldn’t speak to Kevin Fox was probably a little too mild. Absolute prat perhaps? Liar? The choice is yours.

Having stupidly brought himself to my attention more than once recently I thought a little Googling might be in order.

Harbour BoardIt would appear that Paul Moore is member of the Whitstable Harbour Board and on a web page dated September 2011 it says he has been a resident of Whitstable for the past eight years.

If you have an account with you can check a Paul Moore’s address in Whitstable and who shares the house. Confusing the issue somewhat is an undated entry on the Harbour Board’s website. (Below.)

Harbour BoardIt’s a bit odd that Paul Moore is supposed to have lived in Whitstable for eight years up to 2011 but once appointed to the Harbour Board they give his home address as Dartford. Maybe he has recently moved, maybe he has two houses, maybe someone fibbed.

And who shared the Whitstable home? A certain Julie Keith and if you Google that name it brings you back to Bexley council. A Julie Keith used to be their Head of Democratic Services. Now a Julie Keith is doing the same job for Medway council. A coincidence? Probably not.

Government is delightfully incestuous isn’t it and you can see how it is so easy for one to fix things for another?

Paul Moore is going to be very annoyed when he gets to read this, I may get another ill tempered email if I am really lucky, but today’s blog is not casually provocative, it is deliberately so. It is not only Elwyn and me who Moore has annoyed recently and maybe one day I will be able to share some detail with you. Some Bexley council officers deserve respect, Paul Moore is not one of them. Far too big for his boots.


25 July (Part 1) - Full council - The questions

Bexley council almost achieved its goal of no scrutiny by members of the public on Wednesday having rejected three questions submitted eleven clear days earlier for being too late, however Chris Attard, the UKIP candidate for Lesnes Abbey ward in May spoiled their day by renewing his campaign for safer access to Bedonwell Infants School.

The footpath outside the school is ridiculously narrow, flanked on one side by the school fence and on the other by around a dozen parking bays.

Under pressure from Chris the council had hatched a plan to take a strip of land from the school but the Department of Education said the obvious solution was for Bexley council to use its own land for its own footpath and do something about the parking bays. Bexley council refused, preferring to encourage children to be driven to school and retain its hazardous footpath. However one parking space was removed to improve visibility for the school crossing patrol.

Clearly Chris’s patience with a council that puts children at risk was running out.
MasseyCabinet member Don Massey immediately adopted an aggressive tone. His summary of the situation is no different to mine except that he failed to mention why the single parking bay was removed, thereby implying it was of more relevance to the footpath than it is. He was particularly aggrieved about the amount of officer time expended as a result of Mr. Attard’s campaign for child safety.

Councillor Massey assured fellow members that the school headmistress was happy with the present situation which is a little odd because it was the school that organised the 439 signature petition and the footpath situation is the same now as it ever was. Councillor Massey rammed home the point by saying there was a good highway safety record at the school.

Mr. Attard was allowed to respond and he asked why the council didn’t remove the parking bays as it was the simple solution. Councillor Massey said it was a matter of value for money and weighing risks and the council was still not in receipt of the petition and claimed the school had never seen it either. His main excuse for inaction was that Mr. Attard’s “perception of risk is very different to everyone else’s”, but naturally he respected him for it.

In my files is a more than three year old letter from the school to councillor Peter Craske, the cabinet member for Public Realm before the police traced obscenities to his phone line and arrested him on suspicion of Misconduct in Public Office.

The school’s letter does not make clear whether or not the petition was enclosed but it certainly referred to it and the footpath problem which had been reported for “over 20 years”. Councillor Massey’s assertion that the school is unaware of any problem is obviously a nonsense manufactured for the benefit of the webcast audience.

What has Bexley council achieved in the 40 months since the school sent Craske that letter? Absolutely nothing bar the incidental improved sight line to the school crossing patrol. Chris Attard is understandably angry, not helped by the fact that councillor McGannon’s (UKIP, Colyers) request for a follow up question was ignored. Councillor Massey clearly felt he had won the argument because as he sat down his visage was overwhelmed by a broad grin. Mr. Attard asked Massey what he found so amusing but got no answer.

In case you haven’t noticed; Public questioning in Bexley is nothing like fair. The questioner submits a short question in advance which the council may reject on a whim. The cabinet member is then allowed to speak uninterrupted for up to 15 minutes, spinning whatever line he likes, exactly that has happened. At the end the questioner is allowed to make one further comment. They call it democracy.

Following the only permitted question from a member of the public there were 50 questions from councillors to get through though only five of them were lucky.

Councillor Amaning (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) referred to the £1 million cut from the highways maintenance budget and asked how it might affect potholes. Councillor Massey said he expected to be able to repair 6,000 potholes and further details are available on the council’s website. Councillor Amaning also said the number of potholes was rising steeply, how was Massey going to tackle the spiralling problem. He blamed the deteriorating situation on three bad winters rather than the number four picked at random my Mike Frizoni but through a system of inspections he was “keeping our road network safe”. Councillor Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) was allowed to ask a follow up question.

SawyerCouncillor Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked how the £800,000 cut would affect the council’s remaining libraries. Cabinet member Sawyer said he was planning a meeting to discuss handing over more libraries to community groups, implying that that is how the money would be saved. Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) was allowed a follow up question.

Councillor Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) asked how a Thames bridge at Belvedere would benefit Bexley residents when, by implication, one at Gallions Reach wouldn’t. Councillor Massey repeated the new Tory buzz phrase “we need the right links in the right places”. He was “very pleased to see the Belvedere option on the table bringing fantastic opportunities for that area”. Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) was allowed a follow up question which elicited, “there are enormous growth opportunities for the borough as a whole”.

Why didn’t Bexley council suggest a Belvedere bridge long ago if it is such an obviously great idea?

O'NeillCouncillor Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) asked if there were enough school places for September 2014. Cabinet member John Fuller took the opportunity to repeat his usual good figures on school place choices before saying he was happy that there were no problems in 2014. Councillor Amaning was allowed to ask a follow up question from which we discovered that demand should continue to be within capacity until 2017 beyond which no reliable figures are available.

Councillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked if the council leader was going to start paying senior salaries in line with the recommendations of the Secretary of State. The council leader said that future appointees will be paid less than those currently in post and her plans included total savings of around £1 million.

The leader really is for turning. It’s not all that long ago she said that huge salaries represented “value for money” and absolutely refused to countenance any change of direction.


24 July (Part 3) - Still not yet going places

My north London family connections have dictated an interest in Thames crossings from long before BiB came on the scene. In the early 1990s when I owned a video camera I made a documentary film illustrating the problems poor cross river communications caused.

MagazineThe local Conservatives have always been against a new bridge, Knee Hill, the A 2041 described on TV by a lying Tory as “a narrow country track” being the official reason but we all know that the real reason since 2006 has been the extra traffic which might cross Teresa O’Neill’s Brampton ward. But suddenly the Tories are in favour of a bridge and they have got together to invent and rehearse a uniform slogan which they can all use when their U turn is questioned.

“We have always been for extra Thames crossings so long as they are in the right place.”

Against the bridgeIt doesn’t stand up to examination. In the whole of their last period in office no Tory has spoken in favour of any bridge anywhere. They have backed the Silvertown Tunnel, there was little support for former councillor Munir Malik’s ambitious plan for a new bridge in Woolwich (Bacon once let slip he might not be against it) and when the local population looked like voting in favour of a bridge councillors Teresa O’Neill and Gareth Bacon stood on Brampton Road for the benefit of the Spring 2013 Bexley Magazine with the slogan “Don’t let the bridge back in”.

Not satisfied with that they spent your money on a propaganda sheet sent to every household. “The implications [of a new crossing] would be devastating for the people of Bexley” it proclaimed. All change now; the Summer 2014 issue has “River crossings and opportunities for growth” emblazoned across its front page and inside speaks of 10,000 new jobs.

In a conversion of Byzantine proportions, Bexley council is now in favour of a bridge. They say that putting one in Belvedere will make all the difference. Is Belvedere a new town recently reclaimed from the Thames marshes and ripe for expansion or is it and neighbouring Erith an ancient industrial area famed in the past for its cable and arms manufacturing plants and more recently for warehousing and food processing and distribution?

My research reveals that Belvedere and Erith and the A2016 which runs through both of them have all existed since before 2006 so why didn’t Teresa O’Neill notice Belvedere on the town map long ago? Surely it cannot be down to her party’s traditional neglect of the place, even they must have known it was there. So the conclusion must be that their sudden enthusiasm for a bridge from Belvedere to Rainham is a face saver. Boris is determined to do it anyway so they have no option but to change tack. But to say now that Belvedere is the right place and they have always been for a bridge in the right place stretches credulity a bit too far.

If they seriously wanted a bridge all along I think they may have stumbled upon Belvedere before now.

Consultation ConsultationTfL ran the first of their new bridge consultations in the Broadway Shopping Centre this afternoon and I went along to see what I could see. Some friendly and helpful staff were kept quite busy with enquiries and were dishing out a nice well written booklet.

I asked why people wouldn’t want a bridge and was told that some people said Bexley used to be a nice quiet backwater within a sprawling city and they wanted to keep it that way. I have news for them, that horse bolted a long time ago and if it’s a nice sleepy backwater you hanker after then buzzing off to the sleepy countryside is the only option now. I bet they would soon miss having a bus every ten minutes.

My choice is going to be build both bridges and do it quick before I snuff it but Bexley council still has other ideas. They are going to run rival road shows to try to get you to vote against a Gallions Reach Bridge. They’d rather gum up Erith totally than share the load more equally and perhaps see an extra lorry in Brampton ward. Nimby O’Neill.

The only people consistent about the need for new Thames crossings has been the Labour party, sticking to their guns even when the idea was supposedly unpopular.


24 July (Part 2) - Going Places

Melvin Seymours As already noted, the Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting went off in an OK sort of way and my slightly negative opinion is probably down to the problems with the chairman’s microphone or his misuse of it. My recording confirms what my ears were telling me at the time, that he alone required extra effort to follow.

It was a good idea to allow the senior officers present to tell the new committee members, i.e. most of them, first hand what their responsibilities are and that master of microphone technique Jane Richardson led the way.

From her we learned that she is now Acting Chief Executive of the Thames Innovation Centre but nothing else new.

David Bryce-Smith has been in charge of the Bexleyheath Broadway Regeneration and he reminded us that Phase 2 is now in the design stage.

Chairman Seymour next introduced “Mrs. Ainge” who is in reality Mrs. Ellershaw, Peter Ellershaw being her boss. She looks after parks, all 104 of them. Lesnes Abbey is to have £4 million of lottery grant spent on it soon. I’d love to know where she got her over 400,000 visitors a year from, it probably includes people like me who cut across it to get to New Road and the B11 bus stop. Another figure revealed that Bexley has 33 children’s playgrounds with assets worth about £8 million.

Mr. Frizoni is responsible for all the yellow lines and the frequently inadequate parking signs but he began his interesting talk with recycling. 57,000 tons of waste goes to the Belvedere incinerator at £103 per ton. He was less informative on the 60,000 tons of compost but only paper makes any money. He claimed the recycling rate in Bexley was best in London, a prize also claimed by Bromley council. His aim is to drive recycling up further, how, he didn’t say.

Mr. Frizoni confirmed the 2012 announcement that Serco’s 50 strong fleet of refuse vehicles must be replaced next year at a cost of around £6 million.

On road maintenance Mr. Frizoni blamed the four consecutive severe winters for the deterioration in road surfaces. My measure of a severe winter is if my garden pond freezes over and it definitely hasn’t during the past two years although maybe at only 30 feet above sea level this part of town has a different climate to the southern uplands of the borough. On average Bexley council repairs about 3,000 potholes a year. In my experience the road surfaces in Bexley are not at all bad, in Newham I could easily damage my small car in their many mini-quarries. Because of budget cuts there has been a reduction in planned maintenance of roads, street cleaning and grass cutting.

Around 400 lamp posts have to be changed each year and they are being switched on later and off earlier to save energy costs.

On parking Mr. Frizoni said the the next step would be to have a single shared parking enforcement contract with Bromley so it would appear that either NSL (Bexley) or Vinci Park (Bromley) is for the chop.

Later on the meeting produced several more useful snippets of information. Mrs. Richardson revealed that the Sidcup regeneration project had hit another snag, or more to the point, a contractor had hit a major power cable, and the completion date is now put back to the end of September, not far behind the original planned date. It will be good to see the high street “transformed”, as councillor Slaughter said it would be, and the traffic chaos reduced to normal levels.

Surprisingly, Mr. Bryce-Smith said the shops in Bexleyheath (more pedantically, the Business Improvement District) wanted the buses removed from the Clock Tower area because they tended to divide the town in two. Maybe they could ask for restoration of the arrivals indicator for buses going in the opposite direction (the Furze Wren stop) which were removed as part of the regeneration scheme more than a year ago and not seen since.

Bryce-Smith also said the cracks that had developed in Arnsberg Way would be investigated during the school holidays to see if specification or workmanship was to blame.

Councillor Stefano Borella challenged Mr. Frizoni over his assertion that not locking parks at night would not cause problems because only a minority have ever been locked with the implication that cancelling the Ward Security contract represented easy money.

Stefano suggested that Bexley could do the job more cheaply itself, maybe using volunteers. Mr. Frizoni did not think the job could be done on the cheap because Ward Security had to patrol with dogs to counter the problems they met. No one seemed to notice that Frizoni had thereby undermined his own case that not shutting parks was a trouble free no brainer.

Councillor June Slaughter said it was reported in her newspaper that more people were moving into Bexley than any other London borough so it must be a good place to live. I would suggest the reason is more fundamental, it offers the cheapest housing in London.

Councillor Nigel Betts thought the opening of Erith College, next door to the railway station, justified more trains, obviously oblivious to the fact that South Eastern are having to cut services because of the rebuilding work at London Bridge.

Readers with long memories may recall that £1·8 million was spent on a second hand pavilion from the Olympic Park to install at Sidcup & Chislehurst Grammar School. Councillor John Waters said that installation had not gone smoothly because it arrived as a flat pack with no instructions.

I must have missed an earlier meeting at which the subject of water meters cropped up but both councillors Seán Newman (Labour) and Don Massey (Conservative) were in full agreement that the Thames Water representatives were supremely arrogant. The councillors, as presumably will many of Bexley’s residents, seemed more than a little delighted that Thames Water had largely failed to install meters that didn’t leak and didn’t make a mess of the council’s footpaths. The whole project is now on hold with only 9% of the job done and unlikely to restart until next year. Thames Water will be invited to address the Scrutiny Committee at the February 2015 meeting. They would be well advised to wear their hard hats.

The meeting ended just after 9:30 p.m.


24 July (Part 1) - The power has gone to his head already

It is with a sense of relief that I announce the end of the current series of council meetings. Seven were crammed into two weeks and now all that has to be done is write something about the final two.

They all went off at least reasonably well and last night’s full council under new mayor Howard Marriner particularly so. Anybody who watched the webcast would find it hard to believe that not long ago a bad tempered shambles was the norm.

As mayor, Councillor Val Clark knew exactly how to work up both opposition and public to a frenzy; now it is all sweetness and light. Last night councillor Craske came across as a perfectly decent sort of chap who would never in a million years resort to homophobic blogging and councillor Philip Read can make an entertaining, if irrelevant, speech which bears no resemblance to his cock and bull designed to put residents behind bars. Four years of reporting and latterly the webcasts has tamed the brutes and thank goodness for that.

Paul MooreWhilst councillors may have learned to keep out of trouble some of the council officers haven’t. The new Deputy Chief Executive Paul Moore seems to be intent on making a spectacle of himself. He’s the overpaid chump who told me I must delete a blog that revealed that a friend of Mr. Kevin Fox had worked at 10 Downing Street, something I had picked up from the friend’s own blog. What sort of cretin gets into a tizzy over revealing something that is already on the public record? A cretin like the new Deputy CEO presumably.

Last night (and it isn’t the only recent example) he was in full on ‘I’m looking after my friend Kevin’ mode. Elwyn Bryant found himself sitting quite close to Kevin Fox and took the opportunity to ask him if his recently rejected question would be considered for the next council meeting.

Paul Moore crossed the council chamber (picture coming later in full report) to say “Stop bothering Mr. Fox” as if Kevin Fox is a spotty school kid unable to answer for himself and when Elwyn looked at him in disbelief added “The meeting is waiting to start”. There were fully four minutes to go. Paul Moore: how did we come to have a silly sod like him as Deputy Chief Executive?


23 July (Part 2) - The old and weak suffer first

A reader sent me details of what he said was another example of a Bexley council cut which goes largely unseen, but I doubt that Bexley council is the number one villain in this case. It’s more like when they brag that they’ve driven down the contracted price for agency care workers with the result that they aren’t paid for travelling time or any extra for working Christmas Day and bank holidays. Then Bexley council can stand back and say it is nothing to do with them. Cutting the Avante wardens’ pay in half was nothing to do with them either.

This reader says that he has seen two elderly people moved from their homes to single bedroom apartments following withdrawal of the spare bedroom subsidy, commonly known as the bedroom tax. Neither had any issues with that in principle. One was moved last December and given help with the costs involved and the new place, the condition of which is described in far from flattering terms, was cleaned up by the housing association.

Social housingSix months later the second person moved to another single bedroom property in the same block which is described by my contributor in two words the second of which is hole. However the same housing provider has made no contribution to the expense involved and refused to do anything about the state of the accommodation. I’ve been sent photographs but I am reluctant to share them because they would identify the old man involved, so instead the image is of how Bexley council left a lady of my acquaintance, she has some mental problems, when they moved her from one home to another.

When I protested to Bexley council I was told she was getting no help because the poor woman was a nuisance. There is some truth in that comment but it’s not what you expect from Bexley council social services - or maybe it is.

It always seems to be the weakest in society who are attacked first.


23 July (Part 1) - Not the Place report

Last night we had the Places Scrutiny Committee attended by, at its peak, four members of the public and about 21 councillors. With committees of this size Teresa O’Neill will never be able to reduce the number of councillors to 42 as she keeps promising voters at election time.
Places Committee
The new committee is close to being the old Environment and Leisure combined with Public Realm and the chair has passed from a woman for whom lying is a way of life to a man who can happily stand in a court witness box making up a story he knows, and the documented evidence showed, is just a figment of his imagination.

The chairmanship fell a little short of the standards set by James Hunt (People) and Steven Hall (Resources) but at least there was no sign of the aggression that characterised Public Realm meetings in the past. It was unfortunate that from the public area everyone was clearly audible except for chairman Melvin Seymour. He usually remembered to switch his microphone on but made no consistent effort to speak into it and there may have been technical problems too. A pity because in other respects the meeting ran well enough with some interesting facts coming from senior council officers.

However those facts - assuming they are, I have difficulty reconciling Toni Ainge’s 400,000 visitors a year to Lesnes Abbey with what I see by living opposite the main gate - are going to have to wait until tomorrow because there will not be time to produce a full report today. I have a dental appointment, there’s another council meeting this evening, and I really must gather some fruit from the garden before the parakeets nick it all.


22 July (Part 2) - Want a job? Ask a friend

General PurposesAs councillor Peter Craske’s General Purposes Committee meeting droned towards a conclusion, a conclusion that would see the public flung out while, I think Peter Ellershaw’s Golden Goodbye was up for discussion, I scribbled a note to Mick Barnbrook sitting alongside. He had just raised his hand intending to comment on the inaudibility of most of the speakers but Craske steadfastly ignore him. I was struggling to hear too and my ears aren’t showing their age too much yet. There didn’t seem much point in staying.

Something that caught my eye at that meeting and which came up for discussion just before we left, was the proposal to get council staff to recruit their friends and family to jobs at Bexley council. It seemed a bit odd that on the one hand they are looking to cut jobs and save money and on the other are planning to hand out £250 to any current employee who entices his mate or mother into the fold.

There was another reason for believing it wasn’t a terribly good idea for which I have to indulge in a little of my personal history.

About 30 years ago I was in charge of what I shall call a factory for want of a more detailed description and it employed more than 1,300 people. I also had an interest in some smaller units dotted around the country which didn’t get as much attention as they probably should. One day I got a rocket from the Department of Work & Pensions or whatever its equivalent was in the 1980s for employment practices at one of the provincial units.

It turned out that the local management had decided to save money by ignoring London’s instructions and stopped advertising for new recruits and merely asked existing staff to tell their friends of vacancies instead. There was no monetary payment involved, it was just an informal attempt to keep things in the family and save spending money on wider advertising.

Things were rapidly put back on to a legal footing and my company narrowly avoided prosecution. Things may have changed in 30 years but I do wonder whether Bexley council knows what it is doing here. But there again we have seen over and over again that Bexley council is immune from the consequences of criminal activity so probably they have no reason to be concerned.

Note: I try to be pedantically correct with meeting reports and it is possible someone with access to the Agenda will point out that the employment bribe proposal is on the very last page of the Agenda so I couldn’t have left before the Golden Goodbye came up for discussion. In fact chairman Craske altered the running order so that the public would not have to wait outside and then return for the final agenda items. Considerate of him eh?


22 July (Part 1) - What next to tax?

With 40 million pounds to be cut from the budget more service cuts in Bexley are inevitable. Four years ago Bexley council singled out the disabled for special treatment, chopping the provision of transport to SEN schools ‘saved’ the best part of a million and they severely cut the time parents were given for respite care too. Most people will not have noticed which is of course the name of the game when councils make cuts. A list of such cuts was provided just before the recent election; it’ll be a more difficult trick to pull off second time around, you can only vandalise the William Morris fountain and sell off the public toilets once.

Little of the detail has yet to be announced but the big one so far is the loss of the equivalent of 360 full time jobs which will probably translate into something like 400 people. Losing nearly a quarter of the staff is bound to have some effect if only on morale but it will perhaps allow everyone to sit down at the same time in the new Civic Offices.

Lesser announcements so far have included…

No more park gate shutting and no more park patrols by Ward Security.
Opt out from the London wide Open Weekend scheme.
Abandoning the Bexley in Bloom competition.
Curtailment of History and Archive services.

But things like that are mere fiddling around the edges, just about enough to pay for Will Tuckley’s salary, car and pension. 360 people on the dole will of course go a long way towards making up the shortfall but contrary to popular myth most of them do have a job to do.

I couldn’t help but wonder how long it took to collate the information for the Public Cabinet Agenda last week, let alone type it out and check its 358 A4 pages. The staff time must be enormous and the job cannot be cut, it’s a statutory requirement to publish agendas and tomorrow’s council meeting will be the seventh public meeting in under two weeks.

There can be little doubt that with the election safely out of the way and in many respects the electorate successfully deceived, some severe cuts and price hikes cannot be far away.

It’s pretty safe to say that car parking charges will be increased with some concessions possible for Bexley residents and Teresa O’Neill would not have mentioned a council tax increase in the Bexley Magazine if it wasn’t on her mind, but the pain must go further than that. There will be another round of price increases for everything that moves and probably even more for things that don’t. Bexley has gone out of its way to increase funeral costs.

Clutching my crystal ball tightly I would say that Nicholas Dowling’s long held conviction that the savings associated with the recycling services were in considerable part a fraud and Bexley’s place near the top of the recycling tree was maintained by the free compost removal service will prove itself justified. It costs a fortune to run but as the stuff is heavy it distorts the recycling figures upwards. Glory for Bexley and perhaps more importantly, for Gareth Bacon.

Most weeks my bin is half filled with compost from Bromley because Bromley council charges residents for compost removal. With the two councils increasingly sharing services, how long can it be before Bexley adopts the same charging regime? Give councillor Gareth Bacon his due, he masterminded a very good refuse and recycling scheme in Bexley, no fines for minor misdemeanours, not at first anyway, we’ve recently seen the imposition of the ‘lids must be fully closed’ rule, but my suspicion is that things will get much less friendly before too long. £40 million is a lot of money when you have already creamed off the easy targets. There will be a charge before long.

Then there is Bury council’s bright idea. Three weekly bin collections but I had better not give Bexley any ideas.

For the record, the compost removal service in Bromley costs £1.60 per sack or £60 a year (normally 26 collections). Soon it may be gardeners who resort to slash and burn, not just Bexley Tories.

Note: Can anyone explain how it is that Bexley council’s Strategy 2014 document from four years ago set out to save £35 million and the council leader is now constantly bragging that she has saved £61·5 million? Probably it’s because I am no accountant but on the surface it just looks like she is a big fibber again.


21 July (Part 3) - Seven into eight won’t go

 BarnbrookA small number of people have commented on the idiocy which led to Bexley council ruling that the period between the weekend of 12th/13th July and 19:30 on the 23rd does not represent seven clear working days. As a result they were able to reject a question from their nemesis Michael Barnbrook. Some have offered a solution, however the one that Mr. Barnbrook has pursued is based on Section 243 of the 1972 Local Government Act.

The Act apparently includes the phrase “the requirement or permission shall be deemed to relate to the first day thereafter which is not one of the days specified above”. The days ‘specified above’ do not include Sunday but can include Saturdays, though not in this case because the question was received by email late on Saturday 12th so cannot be considered to be a clear day.

The National Association of Local Councils published model Standing Orders less than a year ago to make the above rule clear. Needless to say Bexley council is ignoring them preferring to impose more draconian - and in this case indefensible - rules. I doubt we have heard the last of it.


21 July (Part 2) - No manners in Manor Road

Manor Road Manor RoadInconvenient as it must be for local residents the rebuilding of Manor Road, Erith is in principle just another of Bexley’s interminable road regenerations with the bonus this time of it being obvious to some at least that the job needed to be done.

Whenever I have been there I see nothing exceptional, just a dozen or so men watching one or two getting on with the job. It may be different if you live there and can observe events more closely and for longer as does Hugh Neal of Maggot Sandwich fame.

Hugh has taken some far more interesting photographs than mine some of which were shown on his blog yesterday. There is another on the Erith Neighbourhood Watch website and Hugh showed me another of a black BMW driving on the pavement between a hedge and a temporary barrier. Madness. He sent it to the police so maybe it shouldn’t be put on the web just yet.

Manor Road
All photographs taken today.


21 July (Part 1) - Two prize plonkers

I spent the weekend in Hampshire where it was hot and sunny and returned yesterday evening to gloomy skies, puddles and not too many emails. One told me that Mr. Barnbrook has at last completed his allegations of Misconduct in Public Office against Will Tuckley and councillor Cheryl Bacon and sent them off to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner on Saturday. They totalled 96 pages, weighed 510 grammes and cost £8.40 to post.

Two pratsBexley council has defended its rejection of a public question sent in eight days before a full council meeting when it only asks for seven clear days by saying it imposes an arbitrary cut off time of midnight two Fridays before their Wednesday full council meetings. It seems like another nonsense to me made up on the spur of the moment to deflect another criticism. Why not midnight two Sundays before the meeting? It would still be well within their requested seven day schedule and couldn’t possibly make any difference to the council compared to the preceding Friday, except of course if they had pulled the Sunday midnight time out of their hat it would not have excluded Mick Barnbrook’s question submitted by email on the Saturday.

The picture shows the pea brains responsible for this situation. Kevin Fox who created it and Akin Alabi who defended it.


19 July - Teresa’s empty promise rumbled

So forty million must be saved and paying for a new Deputy Chief Executive post and making handsome payments to 56 year olds who want to go and spend more time with their building companies does nothing to plug the black hole. Guess who is going to pay the price?

The public consultation has not even started yet and now that the electorate has been successfully bamboozled into thinking Bexley is a low tax borough there is already talk of council tax going up by 2% (Page 7 of Summer 2014 Bexley Magazine) and parking charges being raised. You can see how desperate the council is to slash and burn when they opt out of Open House Weekend to save five grand and cancel Bexley in Bloom to save next to nothing.

We all know that the Danson Park Festival has gone for ever for reasons few believe, parks are to be left open at night, and what happened to the Civic Parade this year? It just didn’t happen and nor did the Erith River Festival although that is not so much council sponsored as council discouraged - by mountains of red tape.

When Will Tuckley was going on at the General Purposes Committee meeting about everything needing to be cut I felt like shouting out “what about the number of councillors”. It’s been something the Tories have been promising around election time for the past four years.
Election promise
Such a change will take a bit of time to get through the Boundaries Commission so there is no time to lose, presumably Teresa O’Neill is already pushing hard for a change and if she is an honest woman will be making an announcement at next week’s full council meeting. But don’t bet on it, I can see no evidence that she has got off her backside to help the borough through a financial crisis, but all may not be totally lost…
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) has realised how busy the council leader must be and come to the her rescue - or maybe not.

This could be interesting, Labour have put forward a motion that the Tories put to the electorate as a possible vote winner but with every intention of doing a Nick Clegg on it. It would be interesting to see all the bent Tories vote against it but it’s more likely it will be talked out.

If you look at their tabled questions as well as the motion it seems clear that Labour have no intention of giving the Tories an easy time, as, I am tempted to say, happened under their previous leadership.


18 July (Part 1) - James Hunt. People person

People is the name of a new Bexley Scrutiny Committee and is one of three enormous unwieldy vehicles created by Teresa O’Neill to make things more complicated and probably less transparent. I should have counted the number of people sitting around the huge doughnut shaped assembly which effectively blocked any chance of a decent view by any of the three members of the public present but a helpful councillor told me afterwards that it was 41. The picture below deliberately excludes the invited guests on the bottom table.

The new council chamber is a characterless cavern and a mixed blessing from the public’s point of view. Maybe better acoustics but a much poorer view and harder seats.
James HuntI have no recollection of being at a meeting chaired by councillor James Hunt before but I thought he combined all the right qualities. Firm, fair, efficient and even entertaining at times; and no mumbling either.

James has always been a friendly enough guy so far as I am concerned but usually when I say that I’ll get an anonymous comment to say I don’t really know him; which is true.

In the 165 minutes of this meeting I don’t think I learned anything fundamentally new and sometimes I think councillors are blessed with rather short memories. Very little stood out as particularly interesting and we have heard about the Romanian gangs wrecking Bexley’s burglary statistics at least three times before. This has allowed Sutton to be the lowest crime London borough. We were also told yet again that a radiotherapy facility is due to open at Queen Mary’s in 2016. Don’t they have any new news?

Councillor Alex Sawyer said that he had asked Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling at the Crime and Disorder meeting exactly three months ago how many crimes were committed by people born outside the UK and despite being promised an answer by Ayling was still none the wiser. No meeting is complete without someone complaining that Peter Ayling doesn’t respond to, well anything really.

Labour councillor Brenda Langstead asked a similar question. What proportion of crimes are committed by Bexley residents? There’s nothing like a bit of good honest balance.

To my mind only a couple of new questions showed signs of relieving the monotony and the first of them came from councillor Alan Downing. It became apparent that Bexley’s grammar schools are not full of Bexley children and the places are filled by residents of boroughs far and wide which prompted councillor Alan Downing to suggest that Bexley schools are only interested in good SATS results and care little for the Eleven Plus. He referred to the antipathy of left leaning teachers; is there any other sort?

“Why aren’t the primary schools in Bexley educating children to the standard to gain entry to grammar schools? When the headmaster of an academy invited all the heads of primary schools to a meeting to discuss the possibility of their children coming into a grammar school, not one turned up”. He suggested that the council might do more to educate the head teachers.

Councillor Chris Beazley, UKIP, said much the same thing. As a parent he has found that primary schools are interested only in SATS. “What parents want and what the schools want is not necessarily the same thing.”

Towards the end of the meeting the normally placid councillor Roy Ashmole brought up the matter of Bexley council being lumbered with all sorts of legal costs for not carrying out the instructions of a High Court judge. He wanted to know what was being done about serious mistakes of this kind.

Chairman James Hunt tried to argue that a question linked to the OFSTED report on children’s services was not a matter for his People Committee. If it is not People related could Resources or Places handle it? Seems unlikely and Roy Ashmole, placid as he might normally be was no pushover. However in a sudden flash of inspiration a rather ruffled James Hunt remembered that the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services was a member of his own committee. So councillor Philip Read was asked to answer councillor Ashmole’s question. The answer was that the monumental cock up which has been reported in several legal journals was a one off, and there was no need to do anything about it. Despite the severe monetary losses to the council you may safely bet that no heads have rolled.

Councillor Ashmole may have persuaded me that the Hunt critics could have a point when they say I don’t really know him.


17 July (Part 4) - Craske’s General Purposes

I don’t propose to cover yesterday’s General Purposes Committee meeting in any detail, it trod much the same ground as the Resources meeting and the Cabinet meeting. Slashing jobs, grabbing money and rearranging the deck chairs at board level.

General PurposesIt was chaired by councillor Peter Craske slowly clawing himself up the greasy pole after his unfortunate brush with the law caused him to lose his cabinet post three years ago.

The committee officer Sandra Baxter had responded to the criticisms of last week (Audit Committee) by arranging the tables in a U fashion so that the public could see and she did what she could to let people hear by placing small boundary effect microphones on two tables.

There were no loudspeakers so they didn’t help me and if they were connected to the loop system in the chamber next door it didn’t help my deaf friends Elwyn and Mick. I keep forgetting to look for the Hearing Loop symbol in the new offices, there’s not one in the main chamber.

Chairman Craske doesn’t help by whispering all the time. Maybe it’s deliberate, he has a chequered history when it comes to microphones, but for now he gets the benefit of the doubt.

When Elwyn Bryant asked Mick Barnbrook in a low voice if he could hear and Mick whispered back the councillors complained that they were interrupting the meeting. The noises created by members of the public can be a bit of a nuisance when one is already straining every sinew to hear, but being reprimanded for not being able to hear seems just a little too typical of Bexley council to me. I said nothing as usual but I did resort to scribbling notes at one point.

CommitteeSomewhat to my surprise councillor Aileen Beckwith voiced disquiet at the effect of so many planned job cuts but she was soon put down by councillor Sharon Massey sitting alongside her.

Will Tuckley sought to justify his plans which involve more pay at the very top but fewer people at the level below. He didn’t think anyone would be worked too hard, quoted Bexley staff’s better than average sickness levels and in response to a comment about pay said that Bexley’s total pay bill is less than any other London borough.

At one point he spoke of everything having to be slimmed down but I have yet to hear anything about the recurrent election promise to cut the number of councillors.

I don’t know where he gets his figures from but given that Bexley has privatised everything from council tax collection to (some) libraries his claim seems all too believable even if it is a worthless statistic.

TweetChris Beazley the UKIP member of the committee reminded Tuckley that pay in excess of £100,000 has to be approved by full council and with all the changes of personnel in the offing the opportunity should be taken to do that. This was of course lead balloon territory and Tuckley dismissed it saying the council had approved high salaries yonks ago and that was good enough. And I thought we were entering a new era of cut backs.

What is going on at the top is very complicated. Councillor Hackett put forward his interpretation at the meeting and Will Tuckley told him he has it all wrong.

As far as I can work out we are going to have a Chief Executive (Tuckley) and his deputy (Moore) doubling as a director on increased pay. Then there will be four more directors and six deputies. Four are currently under Ellershaw who is getting a Golden Goodbye and the other is Graham Ward who is taking half his new empire from the retiring Finance Director, and Tony Allen (IT) and Tariq Bashire (Property) now under Mike Ellsmore will go to… No I give up. I have obviously followed the intricacies no better than the General Purposes Committee. Probably councillor Beckworth has it about right when she said she has concerns for it all.


17 July (Part 2) - The lady is for turning

Not for turningAnyone who went to last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting expecting to hear what cuts are planned for the next four years will have been sorely disappointed, this was a meeting concerned only with generalities. Having said that no one apart from a contingent from the Bexley Action Group and one other member of the public had bothered to turn up subjecting only web viewers to that possible disappointment.

There was however a good turn out by the opposition parties, 14 out of 15 Labour members and 100% UKIP turned out for the spectacle. Only four Conservative councillors though, presumably the others had picked up all they needed to know at their various watering holes.

With the web cast archive available for those who care, this report will do no more than highlight the main theme, summed up by the leader who said the new budgetary plan to save another £40 million was based on “growth in our borough, growth brings income, prevention, so stopping the need for services that cost taxpayers money and about efficiency”.

Despite the lack of detail councillor John Davey made a cringe inducing speech in praise of the plan to save money about which he knows almost nothing, just like the rest of us, because if the leader is to be believed it all depends on the public consultation. That will take place during the holiday period following which decisions will be made or more likely confirmed.

Little was said about services that cost the taxpayer money and we already know what the council means by efficiency savings. Chopping staff numbers by up to 400, creating a new Deputy Chief Executive post, giving another director early retirement - last time that happened he went off with £300,000 in his pocket - and hiring new fat cats. This left growth as the most important discussion subject.
Cabinet meeting
Mr. Tuckley expanded on the theme of expansion and it would appear that Bexley council has at last recognised that some of its old policies have been throttling the borough. As the new Bexley magazine acknowledges on Page 11, Teresa O’Neill’s stance on river crossings has cost “around 10,000 new jobs”.

It is well known that Bexley council has been the obstacle in the way of improved transport infrastructure since it changed colour in 2006. Who can forget the propaganda sheet they put out at your expense barely a year ago calling for a ferry not a bridge? Only Labour has been consistently in favour of better transport links until now, even UKIP sat on the fence during the election. The Labour view has triumphed and why is that?

The reason is probably not unconnected with something called the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This is a new tax on business and could be a major revenue stream for the council while government grants dry up and Bexley council struggles to maintain its lie that it is a low council taxing borough. It is close to the bottom quartile of all London boroughs, 24th out of 32. Not that that stopped councillor Philip Read repeating the lie at this Cabinet meeting.

The Erith and Thamesmead political constituency has the longest river front of any London constituency and not a single crossing place; how do you attract businesses to Bexley and in particular the ripe for growth industrial north if business has to pay a high CIL and get very little in return?

NonsenseAfter wasting years to protect her own back yard (Brampton Ward) the sleeping giant has woken up. She has decided we need a bridge after all and it should be in Belvedere. Apparently that is good and Gallions Reach is bad. Belvedere is good because the bridge would set foot on the A2016 and Gallions Reach is bad because a bridge there would set foot on the, err umm, A2016.

Labour leader Alan Deadman had seen councillor Gareth Bacon lying on BBC TV about Knee Hill and suggested what anyone with half a brain can see. If lorry drivers are stupid enough to want to climb Knee Hill, put some sort of height, width or axle weight restriction on it. He slipped in an extra comment to illustrate how Bexley council is no good at infrastructure. “300 odd new dwellings and one shop in Slade Green”. Soon to be no doctor in Slade Green either.

Councillor Don Massey fought a valiant but doomed attempt to persuade everyone that nothing has changed, his party was always in favour of a new bridge, just so long as it was in the right place. i.e. as far away as possible. The aforementioned propaganda sheet doesn’t help his case.

Massey said the last TfL consultation may well have shown Bexley people to be in favour of a bridge but it was of no consequence because only 0·5% of the population responded. Someone should have reminded him that that is half as much again as the last budget consultation response (663 responses from a population of around 232,000) which led to the council’s claim that residents were fully in support of the most recent round of cuts, but no one did.

My own personal view is that if you live in a city you get certain conveniences and some not so pleasant things, but a city, or even part of it, with poor transport links is not viable. The people of Greenwich have done their bit with river crossings since I used to walk through Blackwall holding my grandfather’s hand and return on a double deck bus. It is time for Bexley to share the burden. We need both bridges in order to share the load more equably. Who wants to suffer the A2 and M102 to Blackwall or a Silvertown tunnel a moment longer than they have to?

LeitchWhilst this was a Cabinet meeting, other councillors are allowed to speak and the only new one to do so was councillor Leitch of Sidcup. A personal bug bear of mine is the way that councillors throw political mud when it doesn’t help the current situation. I suppose blaming Gordon Brown for many of our financial woes is fair game but attempting to belittle the local opposition always strikes me as a step too far. They have their views genuinely held and I see no need for ridicule in the council chamber. That’s bloggers’ work!

In my view, and maybe I am being harsh, newly elected councillor Rob Leitch crossed my threshold between ‘untested’ and pompous supercilious ass by his reaction to Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bexleyheath and Crayford, councillor Stefano Borella who had the temerity to suggest he had yet to meet anyone in favour of what Bexley council has done to Sidcup.

The Sidcup regeneration according to the gospel of St. Leitch “ is incredibly popular” so will those Sidcup residents who keep asking me to pop down there with my camera please shut up and listen to what the fount of all wisdom has to say.


17 July (Part 1) - On a high

I may not always agree with them politically but I’m finding that Labour councillors representing Lesnes Abbey ward has one big advantage for me; they actually answer questions whereas my previous councillor, Conservative John Davey ignored me so successfully that I was driven to creating this website. The man has a lot to answer for.

Davey eventually realised that too many people shared my opinion of him and fled to Crayford allowing new brooms into the north west corner of the borough and until I annoy them once too often, they aren’t running if I head in their direction.

Before AfterI aimed a quick and somewhat casual question at our youngest and possibly most enthusiastic councillor, Danny Hackett. Had he seen the rather poor attempt at repairing the gate next to the derelict old Threshers off-licence next door to the separate Harrow Inn site for which planning permission for flats may one day be granted?

Danny was on the ball and knew all about that, he said the premises had been used for drug related activities and he and his colleagues had leaned on the owners to repair the gate. I’m not sure that cheap flooring panels would be my material of choice but at least Danny and Co. didn’t need an election date to be approaching to get something done, unlike the Conservative who ignored the similar problem next door for years until an election beckoned.



16 July (Part 4) - Crossrail info

CrossrailAs predicted there is no way I’ll be able to summarise last night’s two hour Cabinet meeting within today’s crowded schedule, for one thing I wanted to ask some questions at the Crossrail event in Abbey Wood.

I discovered that the concrete columns to the west of Bostall Manorway are indeed piles and they have been bashed into the ground until they reached something solid. They will eventually be chopped off at ground level. Remember this is, or hopefully was, the Thames floodplain and is basically marshland.

The huge drain in what was Abbey Wood station car park is the accumulation vessel for the many 60 centimetre pipes that have been laid alongside the new tracks to cater for unexpectedly heavy rain in a way that Bexley council never did in Wilton Road which frequently floods.

The temporary station and the new footbridge will appear soon. I am not sure I followed absolutely correctly but I think the footbridge will be part of the permanent structure and only the access to it will be temporary.

The single Crossrail track extending half way to Belvedere will, as stated previously, mainly be used to store broken trains so that they don’t seriously impair the service. That track will join the North East Kent line, and similarly near Plumstead, to allow diesel tugs to run around and haul failed trains away. There is no possibility of passenger carrying trains dodging any track problems via alternative routes if for no other reason than a 25,000 volts AC overhead supply is incompatible with 750 volts DC on a third rail.

AttendanceThe house at the end of Florence Road that I have been watching is not due to come down until the end of the year.

While I was there councillors Daniel Francis and Danny Hackett called in to show their interest. They were happy to talk about this and that and took my recent dig at DF in good part which was a relief. The same of course could not be said of three earlier visitors one of whom reported me to her friends in the police for rather less. “Criticising councillors.”

As I entered the Community Hall at a minute before official opening time I had to stand well to one side, the hall doorway is notoriously narrow, while Teresa O’Neill, Linda Bailey and Don Massey filed silently out; my camera unfortunately packed away.

However it is not often that I am invited to sign the same piece of paper as three democracy deniers.


16 July (Part 3) - Rancid Bacon

From the audio correspondence I learned that one reader is not interested in the sound files, well each to his own I suppose. I wonder how many people listened to councillor Gareth Bacon dismissing the lack of scrutiny as far as the 2 minute 58 second mark where he drops his voice and mumbles something. I was sitting close behind councillor Bacon and was a little shocked by what I thought he said, so I have picked out a few seconds of the sound clip and bumped up the level of the last word spoken.

I thought at the time that deputy council leader Bacon said “Councillor Francis is a member of the council” and then muttered the word “regrettably”. The recording seems to bear that out.

Do you agree it is what Gareth Bacon appears to say?


16 July (Part 2) - Sounding off again

My thanks to several people who provided screenshots from their i-Pads etc. and apologies for conducting the discussion in public, too many contacts refuse to reveal their email address presumably because they are councillors or council officials.

Having seen the problem a possible fix has been introduced. When the BIB site is accessed the browser loads up and remembers for later use, literally hundreds of instructions on how to display text, graphics and more recently audio files. The latter instruction has been modified to tell the browser to give its media player some elbow room both above and below the player. Under test on Windows 7, all browsers, even the dreaded Safari are accepting the instruction. The margin is currently set at six pixels whether BiB is set to 960 pixel width or 480 pixels (Mobile mode) but they may be set independently of each other. Maybe the commentators, especially the anonymous one, can let me know if more is needed.

Because browsers remember the instructions on how to display web pages it is more than likely that it will need to be refreshed to make sure the latest set of instructions is loaded. Sound file displays will be affected retrospectively because they all take their instructions from the same place.


16 July (Part 1) - Sounding off

There has not been any comment on the recent inclusion of sound files on the website, until last night that is. I had half expected a complaint from someone with an old computer running a very old browser because web audio depends on a modern HTML5 compliant browser being able to generate its own player and find a sound file format that it is happy with, not all browsers accept the ubiquitous MP3.

When it comes to displaying images and text what comes out at your end is tightly controlled by the HTML code placed on the web server, but for audio things are different. Basically the code says “Here are some audio files, do with them whatever you can”. Under test, this is what I see.
Internet Explorer
The only instruction given to the browser is that the sound player should be displayed at full width. As you can see, Chrome and Opera do not do what they are told and I am aware from personal experience that Chrome on the Android operating system (I normally use Windows 7) displays the media player left aligned and only half screen width. The browser decides how to provide access to an audio file and there is very little I can do with the code to change that.

It has been reported that Safari is overlaying the text with its media player. I’m prepared to believe anything of the Safari browser but it is not something I am seeing here. If anyone can provide screenshots and browser version number it may be possible to introduce some sort of workaround.


15 July (Part 2) - Police dragging their big flat feet

It’s a long time since I mentioned the Peter Craske affair. For newcomers, some obscenities were posted on the web in my name in May 2011 and the content made it crystal clear that the culprit must be within Bexley council.

The police told me three months later that there was no hope of tracing the originator. Later on it was discovered that was a lie so in June 2012 Elwyn Bryant (fellow victim) and I complained that Bexley police under its then borough commander Dave Stringer had not taken the investigation seriously as part of their protect Bexley council at all costs policy.

After six months Sergeant Michelle Gower of the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) ruled that no one at Bexley had done anything wrong. Her report was riddled with inconsistencies and nonsense so Elwyn and I passed the papers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Nine months later they said they agreed with us and that the DPS’s investigation was unsatisfactory.

By that time the obscenities had been traced to councillor Peter Craske’s phone line and the police had admitted that their investigation had been crippled by political interference. Evidence of the truth of that statement emerged.

I wrote to the IPCC to give them the new information which they accepted but only as a new complaint. The two complaints by then in existence approximate to one against CS Stringer and another against his successor, CS Victor Olisa.

In January 2014 Teresa Pearce MP following a seven month tussle with the police, obtained some documents on my behalf that to my mind showed criminal activity by both borough commanders. I sent an allegation of crime to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe shortly afterwards.

Since then a number of letters have been exchanged between myself and the DPS. Last month I became irritated by the number of questions and their possible motives for making things more complicated than necessary. I suggested that despite its size someone should read the original file, anything less would guarantee a further complaint to the IPCC.

I have just received this letter…
That’s all of it, just three lines.

Well perhaps not quite all for I received three identical letters, one with the 2012 reference number of the first complaint, another with the 2013 reference of the second complaint and a third bearing an entirely new 2014 reference number.

I don’t really know what that 2014 one is about. One might guess that it refers to my criminal allegation which was acknowledged by a Deputy Assistant Commissioner on 30th January but under a different number. I’ve heard no more under that reference number since February and was about to ask Hogan-Howe what he was playing at. I think I probably still should.

However what is really interesting is that 25 months after making the first complaint the police have finally decided that they ought to dig out the original file. As Elwyn said to me at this evening’s cabinet meeting, “I think they are dragging it out until we are all dead”.

Incidentally, too many commitments tomorrow probably preclude an early report on this evening’s cabinet meeting, not that you will be missing much.


15 July (Part 1) - Bexley’s Democratic Deficit. (© Cllr. Hackett)

The Resources Scrutiny Committee which held its first meeting last night has more members than any similar predecessor and last night’s went on for three whole hours while the last similar meeting was all done and dusted in 50 minutes. Maybe the lack of scrutiny planned by Teresa O’Neill will not be as severe as she may have hoped and the Labour opposition seemed determined to play a role in that.

HallThe new chairman is councillor Steven Hall who has been promoted from Audit where he always did a decent enough job of running the show. I often feel he’d like to be more open with the public than he actually is; he’s an expert in polite conversations that reveal absolutely nothing.

It is tempting to categorise Bexley councillors into the good (some) , the bad (quite a lot) and the indifferent (far too many) and at this stage of the electoral cycle, the untested too. Steven Hall is blessed with a committee which is not marred by a surfeit of ‘the bad’ so he is almost guaranteed a fairly easy ride and probably the advent of webcasting is going to calm things down a peg or two as well. The only really bad egg on the Resources Scrutiny Committee is the liar Cheryl Bacon.

Ellsmore MooreThe first half of last night’s meeting took the form of a training session because only four of the new committee members had been a member of the Finance Scrutiny Committee which is a big component of the new fangled Resources. The two Directors present, Finance and Corporate Services, had produced a neat little booklet to explain their roles and the always helpful Dave Easton (he’s in charge of the electoral roll and elections) let me have a copy. Webcast viewers will not have been so lucky.

Director of Finance Mike Ellsmore’s spoken summary of his role was uninterrupted but Paul Moore (Customer and Corporate Services) was not so lucky, his account becoming fragmented by questions. Mr. Ellsmore’s ‘lecture’ may be of wide interest (and he speaks more clearly than his colleague) and so is reproduced here.

More than an hour and a half went by before the real meeting began and some of the subject matter can get quite ‘technical’ which does not make for interesting reading, or I suspect web viewing. Mr. Easton’s report on the new electoral registation system was interesting but perhaps too long to find a place here.

At the two and a half hour mark councillor Danny Hackett representing Lesnes Abbey ward for Labour threw a spanner into the works by reminding the committee and me of what had been obvious at the full council meeting more than a month earlier; that the Cabinet were likely to put forward a vitally important budgetary proposal this evening (15th July) and let it go before the council next week for a vote without the Resources Scrutiny Committee having any opportunity to voice any concerns it might have. Surely everyone could see there was something wrong there but apparently cabinet member Gareth Bacon isn’t bright enough to do that and waffled on with blinkers firmly attached saying it was good enough that every councillor could cast his vote at the full council meeting.

Maybe the dictators who run Bexley council are not satisfied with reducing the scrutiny committees from seven to three and are aiming to do away with them altogether, for that is what is proposed in this case, and on a decision that is going to lead to around 400 people losing their jobs. The Bacons take around £100k. from the public purse each year so probably the fate of lesser mortals is not something either of them want to be questioned on.

TweetCouncillor Daniel Francis (Labour Belvedere) did his best to explain to the cabinet simpleton that a vote at a full council meeting was no substitute for proper scrutiny but Gareth Bacon is impervious to reasoned argument. He knows that the Tory sheep will back the cuts 100% and believes that an opposition party is just an unnecessary encumbrance.

Fortunately the chairman is not so daft and formally recognised the good point that councillor Hackett had made. Not that it did any good because this “democratic deficit” as Danny Hackett had called it had been approved unanimously by the Tory majority at the council meeting on 11th June. When it comes to punching democracy in the face Bexley Conservatives have few equals.

The meeting ended with thanks to Director Mike Ellsmore who will not have to suffer any more three hour meetings because he is to retire in September and Bexley council is about to close down for its long summer recess.

Among the several negatives that could be heaped on public meetings at the new Civic Offices is the much greater distance from both free parking spots and bus stops so I was grateful to the driver of the 229 at the end of Mayplace Road West at 10:35 who waited for me to cross the road and run to the bus stop and then get me home to Lesnes Abbey almost non-stop in a record breaking 15 minutes.


14 July - Bloody minded Bexley council can’t even count!

There is to be the first of the new style Scrutiny Committee meetings at Bexley Civic Offices this evening, new style because the former seven meetings have been compressed into three. Scrutiny meetings have always been long drawn out affairs so unless the new ones go on until two in the morning and have twice as many members as the old ones, scrutiny will be carried out by far fewer inquisitors than before with less time available for it. That of course is the whole idea, the leader will have less fixing to do in advance of the meetings and be even more likely to get away with her schemes.

The public is not allowed any say in scrutinising cabinet decisions but they do have 15 minutes at four council meetings a year to ask questions, always assuming they are not squeezed out by Tory stooges anxious to lick a few backsides or Teresa O’Neill in full filibuster mode.

Over the years the oppressive Teresa O’Neill has tried several other tricks to suppress public scrutiny. There was her decision to restrict questions to policy, so you aren’t allowed, for example, to ask why year old roads are breaking up. And then there was her scheme for publishing the private addresses of all questioners on the council website until the Information Commissioner caught up with her unlawful decision.

Kevin FoxThen if you do tread on sensitive ground with a policy question, Bexley’s policy will likely be redefined as a protocol and protocols are defined as operational matters so nothing is a policy and your question will be thrown out. Any excuse will do.

These however are from the ‘hi-tech’ end of the art of question rejection, sometimes Bexley council will fall back on something really simple.

The next full council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 23rd July and Mick Barnbrook emailed a question last Saturday. Early this morning he was told his question was rejected and when he asked why he was told he had failed to allow the council seven full days to process it. Most people would think they have five whole days this week and three whole days next week before the meeting at 19:30 on the Wednesday evening, but Kevin Fox, for it is he again, is not a reasonable man as I found out when he told me I could take a photo at any meeting as long as I asked permission, and then always refused permission.

Bexley council doesn’t make its rules easily available so I will take their word for it they ask for seven days notice but in Greenwich they are a little more open and transparent.

GreenwichGreenwich council as you can see is a good deal more efficient than Bexley and can organise an Agenda in five days. They like questions to be in by lunch time on a Wednesday so that they have Thursday, Friday Monday, Tuesday and the following Wednesday before their meetings, five days.

Allowing for the fact that Bexley needs two extra days to check that a question doesn’t fall foul of their myriad artificial obstacles, it still means that by Greenwich standards their cut off would not be until lunchtime today.

Kevin idiot Fox says his cut off day was last Friday. He has of course ensured that his mistress’s instruction to restrict questioning of council decisions whenever possible has been successfully implemented but with Mick Barnbrook being the questioner you can be sure Fox’s dishonest decision will cost a lot of money when he is reported to the Local Government Ombudsman for breaking the council’s own rules and he has to answer to them.

Mr. Fox’s name has been mentioned 163 times on this website since it first appeared in December 2010 which is far in excess of any other council officer other than Will Tuckley. On a blog that concentrates on council corruption, wrong doing and general idiocy, there can only be one reason for that.


13 July (Part 2) - Crossrail. A Sunday postscript

I try to write this blog so that it may be understood by people who do not live locally but it would appear that this mornings Crossrail progress report was inadequate in that respect. As the weather improved I decided that a walk to Plumstead station with a return on the Railway Replacement Bus Service to Erith to take in Manor Road might be a nice idea and grab a few more photos along the way.

A leisurely stroll from Lesnes Abbey to Plumstead station, stopping to take pictures and meandering from one side of the track to the other took 58 minutes. The return trip on a bus took 50 minutes. I got fed up with waiting for the Railway Service and eventually took a 180 to Abbey Wood Station so I never did get to Erith. The railway bus went past just as I turned into my own road opposite the abbey.

The hole in the track at Abbey Wood has been filled in as can be seen in the first four pictures below.

One of today’s questions was why does the track kink to the north as it approaches the Church Manorway footbridge? From observation I believe it is because the available spare land lay to the south of the line from Abbey Wood until half way to Plumstead where the situation reverses. Photo 7 shows some of that unoccupied land. The new footbridge (Photos 5 and 6) defines where the four tracks must eventually go.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Gayton Road Florence RoadThe three weekends of activity with a crane appears to have come to an end (Photo 7) resulting in, well, nothing visible. Whatever was being lowered into the ground has disappeared. Maybe something interesting will rise from an underground vault.

As far as I know there is no public vantage point from which the tunnel portal may be viewed but it emerges from the ground to the south (right) of the old railway building in the centre of Photo 8.

At Abbey Wood the road cleaner washes mud from the road between the old station car park where materials to fill the hole in the track were stored and the scene of much activity nearby. The house next to the one about to be demolished is for sale if anyone is interested.


13 July (Part 1) - 2018 will be a long time coming

A third consecutive weekend without trains through Abbey Wood and anyone hoping to see dramatic Crossrail changes would be disappointed. The scene involving a crane (Photos 1, 2 and 3) between the Eynsham Drive and Church Manorway bridges is virtually indistinguishable from last weekend and the weekend before.

During the past week the new Church Manorway footbridge has made noticeable progress (Photo 4) and some mysterious concrete piles have been driven into the ground just to the west of the Bostall Manorway footbridge. (Photos 5 and 6). The redundant centre track has been removed.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Crossrail Gayton RoadThe main reason for no trains beyond Plumstead is just to the east of Abbey Wood station, almost under the Harrow Manorway flyover where a large trench has been dug beneath the tracks most likely for drainage pipes but possibly for carrying cable.

Photo 8 taken after the rain had cleared away yesterday afternoon shows one or more pipes already in situ (click to enlarge) and Photo 9 taken at 8 a.m. this morning, raining again, shows more pipes ready for installation.

Photo 10 illustrates the loss of parking spaces near the station as permitted by one of Mike Frizoni’s Traffic Orders last month.

The next trainless weekend will be 10th/11th August.

There will be a Crossrail exhibition on the Community Hall, Knee Hill, between 3 and 7 p.m. next Wednesday. In my experience they are good at answering questions about the effect on people’s houses but ask a question about track layouts or mysterious concrete columns and they haven’t got a clue.


12 July - What a difference a year’s made

As a small boy I was fascinated by how the buses systematically destroyed the road at the entrance to the local bus station. It was a very busy bus station but probably not quite as busy as the terminus in Bexleyheath and buses have become bigger and much heavier over the past 60 years. Perhaps the highly paid consultants and engineers at Bexley council would have benefited from the same boyhood experience.

The passage of many buses has resulted in what you see below. The new road is breaking up. As is usually the case, click for the larger view.

Arnsberg Way Arnsberg Way Arnsberg Way Arnsberg Way

Arnsberg WayYou may have forgotten how long it is since Arnsberg Way was ‘regenerated’. This photo may remind you. It was taken at the junction with Woolwich Road on 13th June 2013. Looks like it will all have to come up again before long.


11 July (Part 2) - The head that doesn’t roll

Following the reference yesterday to the supposed links between the Deputy Director of Children's Social Care, our esteemed council leader and only lesser heads rolling when Bexley suffers yet another child related calamity, another email emerged from the Pink Palace. It wonders how I know these things, confirms them and goes on to fill in some detail. The fact is I don’t know these things but when several commentators all point in the same direction it is tempting to assume there is no smoke without fire.

It’s possible that Bexley council has an over exuberant gossip machine and everyone has their own pet theory and it’s probably best if I do not reveal this one. It might inadvertently identify the source and in any case the reason for the presumed link is unimportant. The real news is that its existence may contribute to what is too easily forgotten. The number of headline snatching child deaths in Bexley under the current regime is seriously worrying. I may not have been able to hear much of yesterday’s Audit Committee meeting but the problems in that area did not go unremarked.

Speaking of headline snatching, the News Shopper is now reporting that 360 full time jobs are to be lost as Teresa O’Neill wields her rather selective axe, not the 300 in the General Purposes agenda for next week. The same article refers to a four year management pay freeze - with exemptions for jobs given even grander titles presumably. No sign yet of the promised reduction in councillor numbers, just a new handout of £3,000 a piece to six scrutiny committee vice-chairmen.
A £1.5 million saving looks like no more than 60 or 70 jobs to me, not 360. So that’ll be another Tory election lie then.


11 July (Part 1) - The Steven Hall Show

Joe PollardI arranged to meet Mr. Barnbrook at the Civic Offices last night to hand over some of the evidence that he needs to support his allegations of criminal activity, some might call it inactivity, against Chief Executive Will Tuckley and at the same time take in the Audit Committee meeting under its new chairman councillor Joe Pollard. If you find yourself asking “who is Joe Pollard?” that’ll be because he has only been mentioned here twice before; once when his partner Brian Silk branded UKIP supporters homophobes and again when he was given two lines in October 2013.

He’s not going to get much of a mention here either as at such a small gathering when only two councillors said anything, and one of those almost nothing, during the first 45 minutes, the meeting runs itself. No chairman required; but I am getting ahead of myself.

As I passed through the imposing if rather ugly entrance to 2 Watling Street I noted a dozen or more union strike banners looking rather wet and sorry for themselves dumped by a long departed picket line. It crossed my mind that I should photograph them but decided there would never be a need for one; a decision I came to regret.

Audit Committee The Audit Committee has traditionally convened in a back room of the old offices and the only thing going for it was the comfy chairs. The doughnut shaped committee seating arrangements providing poor visibility and the lack of microphones and a hearing loop for the hard of hearing would all be addressed by the £42 million glass and polished wood palace we were told. Was it heck! As Mick and I entered the meeting room, Finance Director Mike Ellsmore in full demob happy mode (he goes in September) welcomed us by name and apologised for the dreadful hard chairs.

There was still no hearing loop and the constant noise from the air conditioning (I assume) ensured that I could hear only when listening most intently and when the subject matter is inherently boring that can be hard to do.

I could hear council officer David Hogan reasonably well but could not see him but it was just too difficult to follow what his colleague whispering Stephen Stuchbury was saying. I’m afraid I gave up.

Apart from Mick and me there was one other member of the public present, assuming he was and not an interested council officer as is often the case. But the public were not the only people not much interested in the Audit Committee; no Labour member showed up, nor for that matter did the people from Grant Thornton the auditors, held up in the aftermath of the accident at J4 of the M25.

The only interesting bit of information I picked up from the meeting was that an audit had found more than 1,100 residents in possession of a Blue Badge allocated to residents who had deceased; which is not quite the same thing as found using them, and that no resident had been spied on over the past year under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Not even me.

Councillor Steven Hall asked a stream of questions as you might expect from the outgoing Audit Committee chairman but few or even none were of any general interest but at least he provided a cheap shot title for today’s blog.

Forty five minutes after the meeting started the Grant Thornton man turned up and blocked my view of the councillors. Mick Barnbrook leaned over towards me and said he had not heard a word so far and now he couldn’t see either felt he might as well go home. As I had to be up at 4 a.m. this morning (long story!) the idea seemed more than usually attractive, so we both did.

TweetWithin minutes of getting home I noticed that one of the missing Labour councillors was busy Twittering about football. I asked him if he had forgotten the meeting and received the replies you can see here. I’m disgusted to be honest.

I can just about understand a dyed in the wool leftie turning up for work and retreating when confronted by a picket line but these two were not trying to get to work and there was no picket line.

Jobsfair The people of Erith and Belvedere elected Joe Ferreira and Daniel Francis to represent their views and concerns at council and by implication their children’s needs too. Bexley council has made an absolute mess of caring for children in recent years with three of them ending up dead as an arguably direct result, and a councillor thinks his loyalty to a striking union is far more important than bringing a failing council - or maybe failed Deputy Director if some insiders are to be believed - to account!

I voted Labour for the first time in my life in May, I haven’t regretted it until now although some do genuinely care about the disadvantaged and do something about it. Nevertheless I suspect I have now blown any prospect of closer relations with the opposition party, but as always telling it like it is must be top priority. Just because too many Bexley Tories cannot be trusted doesn’t automatically make the other lot saints.

I emailed my councillor Daniel Francis at 17:09 on Saturday 18th August 2001 (Mick Barnbrook doesn’t really believe that I never delete email) to complain that the Chief Executive quickly answered easy questions but ignored those suggesting the council’s interpretation of the law was a little suspect.

The email referred to a question posed the previous Autumn and another from May 2001. Councillor Francis merely passed on my complaint to the Chief Executive which was not a lot of help and all I got in return was a letter from Alan Twyman, someone in the Chief Executive’s office, dated 12th October and copied to councillor Francis threatening to label me vexatious if I dared to complain again. Nothing much changes does it? Councillor Francis did nothing in my defence and as you can tell, I remember these things.

Something else that hasn’t changed is that Mick Barnbrook is going to complain about the new building not complying with equalities legislation. He says that he was told it would do and he is getting to be as deaf as a post.


10 July - Top cats have nine lives and take all the cream

It’s probably not a coincidence that the day of the public services strike has produced more than the usual number of messages from council staff, not all anonymous. Bexley council has been considering the changes required to its management structures as you can see from this current statement…
And what have they come up with? Something revolutionary; a Director becomes Deputy Chief Executive with a pay rise! So that’s two fingers up to Eric Pickles the Communities Secretary who doesn’t believe Bexley warrants a Chief Executive, let alone a Deputy.

The contrast between the looming service cuts, 300 (full time equivalent) jobs going and the creation of a Deputy Chief Executive is a recipe for discontent. Children’s Services, where Bexley council has been spending millions, literally, on more staff and modern IT systems is not immune from the unhappiness.

I have been reminded that Bexley hasn’t always had a poor OFSTED rating for Safeguarding Children, that is a comparatively recent development. According to Will Tuckley speaking at a cabinet meeting, people lost their jobs (today’s messages name three and claim there were more) when things went pear shaped but no familiar faces from the top of the tree.

Only a few days ago a judge dealing with a family case at the High Court was extremely critical of Bexley council. Nothing goes right and today’s correspondents have no doubt as to where the problem lies. The Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care. Not for the first time someone has been prepared to say that the lady concerned is very good friends with Teresa O’Neill, the council leader, and with the leader “proactively refusing to appoint people with any knowledge of children’s services” the outlook must be bleak.

Close relationships are perhaps the key to holding on to a £131,000 salary and benefits package when everything is collapsing around you. When Rhys Lawrie died on the same Deputy Director’s watch she brought in an old friend to write the Serious Case Review.

In the opinion of at least one Bexley council employee, the way the bosses cover their backs, give golden handshakes on early retirement (Peter Ellershaw has volunteered to go as predicted yesterday) and find pretexts on which to bump up their own pay is “obscene”. I imagine many will agree with him or her.


9 July - Storm clouds gather II

I feel I should apologise for the somewhat superficial coverage of the next round of council cuts but the fact is that yesterday’s blog had to be done within 15 minutes or not at all. Today things can be a little less hurried.

As well as service cuts and price rises being likely between now and 2018, a lot of people seem set to lose their jobs. Not councillors of course, Teresa O’Neill shelved that idea four years ago although it didn’t stop her listing it among her election promises in 2014.
Four years ago 280 staff posts were set for the chop and a new statement like that below can only mean one thing…
…a similar number will leave over the next year or so; 300 full time equivalents according to the Cabinet Agenda - Page 67. Given that almost every service is now contracted out or shared with nearby authorities the trend is not unexpected, but will the top brass go too?

Eric Pickles once said that he saw no reason for any local authority to have both a full time leader, as in Bexley, and a full time Chief Executive. He didn’t see any reason to pay a CEO over £100k. either; well you won’t be seeing any of that in Bexley obviously. You have to pay plenty to ensure undying loyalty.

The council’s directorates in recent times have been ‘Education & Social Care’, ‘Finance & Resources’, ‘Environment & Wellbeing’ and ‘Customer & Corporate Services’. Director of Public Health is a fairly new addition. With the directors of the first two (Mark Charters and Peter Ellershaw) recently gone or about to soon, rearrangements should be simpler than they might otherwise have been.

Bexley has been in constant trouble with OFSTED so it is not too surprising to see a proposal that Children’s Services should get its own director and an aging population may justify the proposed Adults‘ Services director too. The Director of Finance’s post must survive intact at a time of economic turmoil as will Public Health but the fifth department becomes ‘Regeneration, Consumer and Customer Services’. A sort of leftovers and Jack of all Trades dustbin. The five department heads will be supported by more than 20 Deputy and Assistant Directors.

I have always assumed that most director posts require specialised knowledge, experience and qualifications and it seems a fair bet that for Health, Finance and both Children’s and Adults’ Services it is essential. Maybe the old ‘Environment’ and ‘Corporate Services’ could be looked after by any reasonably competent managers (Peter Ellershaw and Paul Moore) but the new look organisation would by this reckoning only have one directorate I might consider ‘not too specialised’, the old one had two. That would leave Peter Ellershaw and Paul Moore playing Musical Chairs for just one job. On the other hand maybe Bexley doesn’t value knowledge and qualifications and my speculation can be dismissed.

It has been reported that the new Director of Children’s Services has already been chosen, presumably Finance and Adults’ can’t be far behind.


8 July - Storm clouds gather

It’s the lull before a short lived storm and I have been trying to catch up with a number of household chores before Bexley council wakes from its slumbers for ten days before returning to them for its long summer break.

Bexley council never meets on Fridays but allowing for that they only miss one day between the 10th and 23rd of July. I’ve been scanning through the Agendas, not easy when their dreadful website can sometimes take several minutes to fetch a single PDF over my 80Mb/sec fibre connection.

Over the past four years Bexley council claims to have slashed £35 million from its spending, the poorer members of society and the lower levels of council employees can hardly fail to have noticed. Some of the consequences were listed here a couple of months ago. Widescale service cuts and price rises.

Next week the cabinet will discuss and then put out for further consultation, another £40 million (a figure of £50 million appears in the leader’s draft foreword) of cuts. Car parking charges will be set to “remain competitive with our neighbours” but reading between the lines an increase is on the cards.

More on this another time as I must attend to other things this evening. Meanwhile, if you would like to read it yourself


7 July - More Bacon porkies

My TV almost never goes on so I was lucky to catch this short clip (audio only) while I was in a neighbour’s house yesterday.

The second voice you can hear is Gareth Bacon on The Sunday Politics Show. The last Bexley councillor to be on TSPS was former deputy leader Colin Campbell who manufactured a story about people setting out to disrupt council meetings and shoving microphones into Cheryl Bacon’s face two weeks earlier. All totally untrue as subsequent events have demonstrated.

A year to the day later Gareth Bacon followed his example and let his tongue run away with him.

Knee Hill Knee HillAccording to Bacon, Knee Hill is a “narrow country track where two cars have trouble passing” which as anyone who uses it regularly will know is quite a long way from the truth. I have seen two double deck buses pass on it because drivers sometimes use it as a shortcut from the Bexleyheath garage to the Thamesmead terminus.

The tricky part of Knee Hill is near the summit where a slight bend causes larger vehicles to cross the white line when descending. Straightening that would cost very little and massively improve passage, but making Knee Hill safer wouldn’t suit a certain Brampton Ward councillor.

If Bacon’s arguments are so good why don’t he and his cronies simply give the plain honest facts? Knee Hill is the A2041, it is too narrow but it is not a country track and two cars have no difficulty passing at all.

The name Bacon has become synonymous with ‘Porkies’.

For those who rather deal in facts and might like to offer their own honest opinion, Transport for London has today issued its umpteenth consultation on Thames crossings. Let Boris know what you think via the consultation and the Roadshows planned for 24th July and 30th August in the Bexleyheath Shopping Centre.


6 July - Not much to show for no trains

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Crossrail CrossrailThe North Kent Line may have been closed again all weekend but there is not a lot to show for it. Compare with last week.

The only activity within sight of Abbey Wood station this morning was a few men (Photo 2) who appeared to be doing no more than filling imperfections in the rendering on the new footbridge at Church Manorway and, same as last week, another group constructing something between the tracks near Eynsham Drive.

During the past week the bridge foundations (Photo 1) on the north side of Church Manorway have made considerable progress, the fence near the approach to the Plumstead tunnel portal (Photo 3) has been removed and the fence at the end of Florence Road, Abbey Wood has gone too.

Tomorrow the Traffic Order allowing the removal of six parking spaces and a bus stop in Gayton Road comes into force.

On 16th July Crossrail will host another of their ‘meet the public’ events in the Abbey Wood Community Centre on Knee Hill. 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.


4 July (Part 2) - Not a joke

Former Bexley cabinet member for children, Katie Perrior stood down as a councillor in May after saying she couldn’t leave until her department was in good order. It wasn’t as OFSTED made clear but Ms. Perrior went anyway, as did her Director Mark Charters.

TuckleyFurther evidence of the disorganised mess that is Bexley’s Children’s Services was presented to a judge in the High Court today.

Bexley council was “contumelious” he said (insolently abusive and humiliating, to save you looking it up) and compared theirs to a similar case labelled “slapdash and lackadaisical”. Bexley’s failures were he said “stark’. Nothing relieved social workers of their responsibility to obey court orders.

If you ignore the impact on the affected family, Bexley’s failures might be seen as funny but the smile might be wiped from your face when you learn that the judge lumbered Bexley taxpayers with the legal bill.

Link including full court report.


4 July (Part 1) - Not a blog

With not a lot going on today I took the opportunity of updating the site’s Home page which summarises the Cheryl Bacon case. The changes are quite minor and unlikely to be noticed if there is no announcement.

Unlike Bexley council and their police servants Bonkers makes no attempt to rewrite history, every previous Home page back to 2009 is archived. See the list at the bottom of the sitemap.

Another change concerns the main Index page which is called ‘Site intro’ on the menu. This page was introduced a couple of years ago after some readers felt it was too difficult to get from there to the latest blog but it had a downside. Google favours sites which have a lot of ‘interesting’ text on their Index (first) page and the new Bonkers page was merely a ‘signpost’ to the blog.

When I was checking which B-i-B pages Google may have ‘forgotten’ I noticed that a Google search for ‘Bexley council’ put Bexley Action Group with its plentiful front page text right under and B-i-B at the bottom of the page. To combat that I copied the ‘interesting’ B-i-B Home page to the dull and functional Index page. It was done only yesterday evening but B-i-B is back at the top of the Google searches already.

And it’s probably time the Salaries Carousel on the site banner was retired too.


3 July (Part 2) - Changes at the top

Griffin BrownIt’s been known for a long time that Mike Ellsmore is going to retire from his position of Director of Finance by the end of the year. Whilst I note that Mr. Ellsmore’s name may be found 49 times on B-i-B I do not recall any that is negative.

If the grapevine is to be believed his replacement is Alison Griffin who has been the Deputy Director of Finance at Camden council. Camden has the second highest council tax rate in Inner London and Alison is no stranger to Bexley, she was a Policy Officer at the Civic Offices ten years ago; so quite likely some of the problems we see today are down to her.

The rumour machine has been working overtime; it says that Deputy Director Tom Brown will replace Mark Charters (Education and Social Care) who has wisely done a runner to the Isle of Man.


2 July (Part 1) - You read it here first

PropagandaCouncillor Stefano Borella (Labour North End) was the first to say that an announcement was coming about the Thames crossing proposals at the council meeting on 11th June.

His brief comment was reported here on 19th June. A few days later Hugh Neal’s Maggot Sandwich expanded on it and today it is in the News Shopper. My speculation that there might be a Belvedere bridge has been confirmed by Mayor Boris Johnson. We are going to get yet another consultation. The BBC reports that TfL has so far spent £43 million on crossing consultations. Bexley council has spent a fair bit on its propaganda too.

It has been reported that Boris Johnson now regrets his decision to cancel Ken Livingstone’s bridge and presumably councillor Gareth Bacon will be apologising for the part he has played in delaying the inevitable.


1 July (Part 1) - Train timetables new and old

There was some excitement on Twitter yesterday - and a blog - about the draft train timetable published by Southeastern covering the first phase of the partial London Bridge station closure which begins next January. The main focus of excitement was the loss of four peak hour trains on the Greenwich line. It’s a long time since I have been directly affected by such things.

When I did commute to London I used to try to catch the 17:28 from Cannon Street to Abbey Wood. It was a ‘fast’ and took only 22 minutes. There were similar services at 20 minute intervals with an all stations service in between.

The 17:28 is still a ‘fast‘ service but takes 27 minutes to get to Abbey Wood but from January will become a stopping service taking 32 minutes. There will be a fast at 17:06 (Abbey Wood in 27 minutes) and not another one until 18:34.

Twenty six years ago ten trains arrived at Abbey Wood from London between five and six o’clock and now there are only eight. Don’t even mention the fare increases.

1988 Train timetable - fromthemmurkeydepths for more detailed comment.


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