I think I am going to have to compile a list of what Bexley Conservatives have done for us. It will probably start with ‘closing all the public toilets’ but today I shall content myself with ‘deliberately putting your child at risk’.
Ignoring bad parenting has been the norm for Bexley council. Twice in recent years it has led to children dying needlessly, but it is not only bad parents whose children are put at risk of death as the parent of a child at Bedonwell Infant & Nursery School discovered. Yesterday he brought the story up to date on his own website; his original piece having been posted last December.
The problem is the dangerously narrow footpath flanked by parking bays which does not allow safe passage to the school entrance. The parent currently pursuing a resolution is Chris Attard, the Lesnes ward UKIP candidate for May 2014, but he wasn’t planning on being a councillor when the situation first came to light.
The problem was first mentioned on BiB 13 months ago and most recently on 17th December 2013 but is said to have been a thorn in the side of school and parents for around 20 years. I have access to correspondence going back at least five years. Councillor Peter Craske is one of several to have looked the other way.
During those five years Craske was far from being the only uninterested person at Bexley council and needless to say Lesnes councillor and Bedonwell School governor, John Davey, was every bit as useless as we have come to expect. He has done a runner to Crayford hoping his record will not follow him.
Nevertheless, with a 439 signature petition and his MP behind him, Chris Attard attracted the attention of The News Shopper and eventually the support of cabinet member Gareth Bacon.
Parking was prohibited adjacent to the road crossing point by the addition of yellow lines, improving sight lines and losing one car parking space in the process, and, after a meeting or two, the cabinet member agreed that the only sensible course was for the footpath to be widened.
The proposal was that the school boundary fence should be moved to allow a wider footpath and the work was supposed to be done during the 2013 Summer holiday. It wasn’t. Then it was supposed to be done at half-term, and finally Christmas came and went with another promise broken.
Bexley council has now decided not to widen the footpath at all. The Department for Education asked, not unreasonably, why Bexley couldn’t solve the problem by removing the parking bays. All the nearby houses have off-street parking facilities and it would encourage the walk to school campaign which Bedonwell School already supports - see the notice taped to a lamp post in Woolwich Road. Would Bexley council cooperate for the benefit of the children? Of course not.
Mr. Frizoni, £131,000 per annum including pension contribution, and the man who puts his name to all the road planning disasters that threaten to bring the borough to a standstill, has told Chris unequivocally that he absolutely will not now widen the footpath which cabinet member Gareth Bacon thought to be essential for the safety of school children.
Councillor Bacon has young children of his own and is concerned about their safety en-route to school. He was happy to tell us that at the last Public Realm meeting, the one which his wife failed to chair last month. He is however not going to do anything to ensure the safety of other people’s children.
Chris Attard decided to become a UKIP candidate after seeing Gareth Bacon and his ilk at work. Ironically that decision has probably deprived the children of Bedonwell School safe passage. There is no way that a Bexley Conservative would allow a UKIP man to claim a success, they would rather see a child injured than lose a political point.
To avoid that possibility, parents in Lesnes ward are going to have to vote UKIP; although in the interests of political balance I should mention that Teresa Pearce, Chris’s Labour MP, was prepared to put politics aside and back her constituent.
Note: The first and final photographs are from Chris Attard's collection. He has kindly provided a larger version of his graphical description of the past and current situation outside the school than is available on his own web page.