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Bonkers Blog March 2014

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31 March (Part 2) - Carefully chosen words

A new page appeared on the Bexley Conservatives’ website this morning. It puts a political slant on the council’s move to their new Watling Street headquarters which begins on 12th May. Not all of what they say is wrong.

As noted on 26th April 2011 I think the decision to move to Watling Street was probably the right decision but it wasn’t the cheapest option. That would have been to redevelop the existing Broadway site but that might have led to Tesco supermarket on the Woolwich site which is not an ideal spot for it.

The third alternative was to build in Erith but that would have put another £6 million on the bill for which the Conservatives criticise Labour who favoured it. If the Tories were worried about six million why did they turn their backs on the cheaper option which would have saved nearer £8 million? Council officers said a new building would last 60 years compared to only 40 for the refurbished Woolwich. Which was best value?

New HQCabinet member Colin Campbell criticises Labour for voting for a new build Civic Centre in Erith and claims that would have caused the loss of 700 new houses. That is a typical Tory lie - unless you think Tesco was planning a store that would fill the entire Woolwich site. In practice there would be little or no difference to the scope for new houses.

When the plan was approved Colin Campbell said that a single site would save a million pounds a year and it would be funded by selling all the old council sites. That didn’t actually happen, one site didn’t sell and has been leased, so his figures no longer add up, especially with refurbishment costs going above budget. To make the equation balance Campbell now claims that the move will save £1·5 million a year. It’s a figure that is plucked from the air which no one can check; all very convenient.

The Tory’s new web page goes on to compare itself with Labour Newham and an unverified story that Newham spent £111 million on a new Town Hall. They should be careful about comparing themselves with Newham. Bexley’s council tax is 15% above Newham’s, parking permits are free there and £100 a year in Bexley and rubbish like beds and sofas are collected free of charge - £30 an item in Bexley.

On the other hand I could lose my car in some of Newham’s potholes. Councils have to prioritise their spending and in many ways Newham does a better job than Bexley. Not that I would want to live there! My weekly visit is quite enough.


31 March (Part 1) - Conservative election News

The most recent addition to the Tory line up for May 2014 was missed from yesterday’s summary. Scroll or click on image below.

Tory list

The final piece of the jigsaw appears to have been filled in and unless one of them gets arrested for theft again it should be safe to assume this is the definitive list of candidates. The newest candidate is Slava Ibelgauptas hoping to represent North End. Fat chance I would have thought but it illustrates how Tories gradually climb their greasy poles. Next time he might get Lesnes and be in with half a chance, then, like John Davey this year he may slip across to slightly safer Crayford, and from there, like Melvin Seymour this year, to Northumberland Heath.

We have a fine pair in Northumberland Heath this year. Philip Read who made up a cock and bull story about a resident which was enough to convince an obedient police commander to get him put in jail over night - fortunately the judge owed nothing to Bexley council and let him out. And alongside Read is Melvin Seymour who I watched spout nonsense in Woolwich Crown Court in an attempt to get the same resident jailed for six months. Fortunately that judge noticed that the documentary evidence said something rather different and ignored him. Seymour should have been charged with perjury but maybe the electorate can give him four years in the wilderness instead. Unfortunately the electorate may not be as astute as the judges.

Who is Slava Ibelgauptas? Ex-director of several failed companies if Google is reliable. A description that would fit quite a large number of Bexley Tories.

Previous Tory list.


30 March (Part 2) - Election News

The only changes detected during the past week is a new page on UKIP’s Bexley website. It features Harbans Singh Buttar who at one time was deputy mayor of Bexley under a Labour administration. Don’t click on his image on UKIP’s website because it links to Lynn Smith who is up against Mick Barnbrook and Co. in Blackfen.

Labour seem to be relying on their Twitter accounts and door stepping. They poked this leaflet through my letter box this week. Best not to go to their website.

Tories are placing their faith in misinformation and gullibility. It would seem, if Mick Barnbrook’s experience in Blackfen is representative, that far too many people are convinced that Bexley has the lowest council tax in London. The truth is that only eight boroughs out of 32 pay more than Bexley. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud to be on Teresa O’Neill’s team.


30 March (Part 1) - Bexley council’s promises come to naught. Pray a child is not injured

FootpathI 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.

Walking Zone SchoolDuring 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.

Parking ParkingBexley 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.

ImpassableCouncillor 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.


29 March (Part 2) - More lies by senior council staff to protect a lying councillor

I thought the business of cabinet member Colin Campbell saying “crap” in the council chamber had gone away. I am absolutely positive he described Bexley-is-Bonkers as crap, which wouldn’t matter at all, except that he chose to deny it later. If you approach any Bexley councillor apart from the hard core of possibly 20 who are habitual liars and ask if Campbell said “crap” you will get confirmation and, if you are lucky, some comment like “everyone knows it”. I know because I have. Everyone may know it but more importantly, some councillors are happy to tell you so.

Rather to my surprise another council document on the subject has come my way. It relates to a complaint that the original investigation into Campbell’s use of the C word was inadequate. Just as in the case of the lying Cheryl Bacon, no witnesses to the events were consulted. Naturally Bexley’s joke of an investigation and joke of an Independent Person, Rebecca Sandhu, were vigorously defended.
DirectorsIt’s all a bit ‘technical’ and you don’t have study it too hard or even understand it beyond Mr. Alabi conducted the investigation and Mr. Paul Moore, Director of Customer and Corporate Services, the writer of the latest letter, supports his investigation absolutely.

So why bother you with this after all this time? It’s because the incident under discussion took place at a Full Council meeting. Alabi and Moore attend full council meetings. Not only do all the councillors know what Campbell said but Alabi and Moore were witnesses to him too, along with Tuckley and the rest of the expensive clowns. They must know that Campbell lied just like councillors know he lied.

In the Cheryl Bacon case none of the council officers who queued up to say six members of the public were all liars (plus the councillors who have since written to me about it) were witnesses to the events and might be considered to be retellers of lies rather than liars themselves. However in the Campbell Crap Case no such excuses can be made. I suppose when taxpayers are filling your boots to the tune of £156,800 (including the 20% pension contribution) each year then if the council leader tells you to lie, you grit your teeth and lie, however obvious what you are doing is to everyone who takes an interest. Such people have no morals whatsoever.

The money wasted on defending trivia is beyond belief. Perhaps it goes some way to explain the fact that only eight London boroughs pay more council tax than Bexley residents.


29 March (Part 1) - Very little to show for two weeks’ work

TweetIt’s two weeks since the first signs of work were in evidence in Sidcup High Street, a job that supposedly started on 20th January. Unfortunately those two weeks have shown close to zero progress.

There are about ten additional square metres of paving outside Bexley council’s own shop, Sidcup & Co and the area of Hadlow Road that is not a mud patch has doubled - to put it generously. If the next two weeks sees the same advances it may be close to being half finished. The revised and delayed completion date is 14th April. Someone must use a calendar, a blindfold and a pin as their preferred scheduling tools.

Hadlow Road Hadlow Road Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos

It looks like another Welling in the making. Incompetence rules OK!

The traffic at the Station Road junction was jammed solid as usual with the queue from Queen Mary’s Hospital disappearing out of sight, and my bus trip to the station revealed traffic at a standstill all the way back to to Longlands Road. How much damage is being done to the Sidcup economy by this dilatory progress? The photographs were taken at 1:15 yesterday afternoon. Seven yellow suited men were in evidence.


28 March (Part 2) - Planning decisions

I attended last night’s planning meeting only because one of the applications to be considered was from councillor Margaret O’Neill (Labour, Erith) who hoped to be able to build a small house at the end of her long garden in Bexleyheath. The application had been featured more than once in the News Shopper and personally I couldn’t see why - apart from the councillor’s involvement. It was a perfectly ordinary proposal, no different to many others and in accordance with the rules would be considered by the planning committee in the absence of councillor O’Neill who is the lone Labour member on the committee. The application was likely to be considered in a straight forward manner and in my view would become interesting only if it wasn’t. I went along to make sure that everything appeared to be above board.

On arrival the doorman, Mal Chivers, asked if I would like to be provided with a table but I declined his kind offer. Once inside the chamber Mike Summerskill, the Committee Officer who organises the planning meeting, was equally attentive making sure I was content to sit among the 30 or so ‘protestors’. Through him I passed a message to the chairman, councillor Peter Reader, that I would not be taking any photographs but I would use my audio recorder as a notebook. This is a far cry from the sort of treatment that used to be meted out by officers working for different chairmen and it definitely helps to make one feel better disposed towards Bexley council. Cheryl Bacon please note. Having said that I find Peter Reader’s chairmanship to be consistently somewhere between the strict and the downright aggressive.

PubThe first item on the Agenda was the demolition of The Woodman public house in Watling Street, Bexleyheath which closed a year ago. The proposal was to build a nice looking small block of flats and a couple of bungalows on the site. There were no objections so it should have been pretty much an open and shut case but that would be to discount the inquisitive minds of councillors Mike Slaughter and Simon Windle who can be relied upon to probe where others fear to tread.

They began by asking for the distance between the new structures and the existing neighbours. “15·3 metres” said the council’s planning officer knowing full well that the guidelines dictate a 16 metre minimum when one is a blank wall and therefore does not have privacy implications. However further questioning revealed that the true distance was only 12·4 metres because no one was considering the existing neighbour’s conservatory. This was dismissed as inconsequential as a conservatory is not a habitable room. Earlier this month a kitchen was ruled to be uninhabitable.

Things then got even sillier. Apparently the new flats do not present a blank wall to the existing houses, for the walls include windows! However they weren’t being counted because they were going to be opaque. Opaque windows in a main living room? That’s a new one on me. Councillor Windle said that allowing such things was a “slippery slope” designed to get around the regulations. That didn’t stop councillor John Waters jumping in with a proposal that the plans be passed which they duly were. I’m beginning to think that John Waters is there only to propose a vote as soon as decently possible and get the business over and done with as quickly as he can. I am also becoming a lot less sure than I used to be that “funny business” does not lurk just below the surface in the planning department.

MapNext up was the main event and councillor Margaret O’Neill left the chamber. Her house in Garden Avenue has a very long garden which extends through to Palmar Road which is a cul-de-sac. The proposed dwelling would have access to the hammerhead at the end of Palmar Road with its own off-street parking. It is a two bedroom design cunningly designed to have a lower than usual roof line and its own rear ten metre garden.

The objections were principally that the new house would restrict sunlight into the recreational areas of the gardens to the rear of Garden Avenue and make parking and garage access difficult for residents of Palmar Road. Concern was also expressed for the local sparrow population.

The supplied map was a puzzle to me as it showed the new house to be north (NNW for the pedants) of Garden Avenue and I failed to see how it could block light to the south. Even if the map had been misinterpreted the elevation of the summer sun would be high enough to get into all but the far end of existing gardens and as they are very long the simple solution would be to move the sun loungers.

Few of us likes change and probably I would be apprehensive if someone tried to squeeze an extra house into my own small cul-de-sac but I just couldn’t see any legal reason for this application to be refused.

The councillors had similar views to my own regarding sunlight and were not at all interested in the sparrows. There was some debate about parking in Palmar Road sparked off by councillor Slaughter but photographs suggested that residents might be expecting to park where they shouldn’t and it was agreed that it might be better to slightly move the vehicle access to the new building. With that in mind councillor John Waters proposed approval and everyone raised their hand. Thanks John, I was home by nine o'clock.

Probably my report will not be popular in Garden Avenue but however high the emotions may be running, the planning process is a largely statutory affair and there was nothing in the long list of objections (page 65 of the Agenda) which got anywhere near being a show stopper. “A colony of sparrows is suspected of nesting in the vegetation” and “the proposals may affect my pond which is home to various animals” are not going to win the arguments. Next time make it Avocets and Great Crested Newts. That might do the trick.

Yesterday’s News Shopper report. Today’s News Shopper report.


28 March (Part 1) - Mrs. Jackie Evans

EvansMrs. Jackie Evans has sadly died after a long and distressing illness. Mrs. Evans was one of the three councillors for Sidcup until December 2013 but had been too unwell to perform her duties from a much earlier date. She had been cruelly retained as a councillor by council leader Teresa O’Neill who was intent on avoiding a by-election and was allowed to resign only when the election was within the statutory six months during which one could be legally avoided.

We offer our sympathy and condolences to her friends and family.


27 March (Part 2) - Dear Bexley council

It’s the time of the year to start paying the council tax bill. The council would like me to pay by Direct Debit but I won’t. A Direct Debit implies a level of trust with the payee and that simply doesn’t exist.

The only instructions on my tax demand is to send a Direct Debit instruction to my bank or “Please visit our website for details of alternative ways to pay your council tax bill”. So I went there expecting to find a bank sort code and account number so that I can set up a standing order. But no, there is nothing there apart from an online form to pay by debit card. Can’t they get even the simplest things right?

I was on the point of sending a letter but fortunately I found last year’s bill and that has the necessary details clearly printed on the reverse. Let’s hope they haven’t changed their banker within the past 12 months. The numbers I have are Sort Code 51-70-14 and account number 21101183.


27 March (Part 1) - Another Adonis

BridgeThis time it is Lord Adonis, the last Labour government’s Transport Secretary, rather than the bare bottomed variety. He has said that building a Thames crossing between Beckton and Thamesmead is a ‘no brainer’.

I’m inclined to agree if only because I cannot imagine this outpost of Greater London remaining relatively isolated for the next 50 years. A bridge is not a totally problem free solution but sooner or later one will have to be built, so why not solve the problems and get on with it now? If it were not for Boris Johnson and his favourite council leader it would have been finished last year.

Lord Adonis refers to both the Nimbys currently running Bexley council and the fact the last public survey showed that 68% of Bexley residents polled were in favour of a bridge - a higher proportion than backed Bexley council’s latest round of budget cuts.

At the moment the only party acknowledging that the north of the borough needs better transport infrastructure is Labour. UKIP said they were against it last year but have more recently indicated they are reconsidering. UKIP’s Bexley manifesto is due out next week.

As usual. Bexley Conservatives are not very interested in anything more than half a mile north of the Barnehurst to Welling railway line.


26 March (Part 1) - Geraldene strips to the bare essentials for a well oiled 15 minute routine

The last General Purposes Committee meeting I attended lasted half an hour and I spent twice as long as that on the bus getting there and back. So when I was presented with an alternative attraction last night I asked Nicholas Dowling if he could possibly take my place at the Civic Centre. Fortunately he responded with very little arm twisting, this is his account of what happened.

Stripper GeraldeneMalcolm was lucky I had nothing better to do than wander up to the Civic Centre for seven thirty to watch local democracy in action. It started well because I was particularly impressed by the seating arrangements in the Council Chamber. For the first time that I recall - comfy seats! Perhaps they’d been acquired from the nearby Boardroom and it’s a pity they aren’t proffered more often. I and the other two members of the public present could rightly consider ourselves spoiled.

Despite there being only two items on the agenda, both of which looked inconsequential to me, councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis had dragged herself away from organising strip shows at her Charlotte public house in Crayford. Like me she probably thought the meeting was likely to be over and done with quickly.

The proposed ‘Diversion to Part of Public Footpath 2’ was considered in virtually no depth at all; and perhaps rightly so.

Footpath diversionFootpath 2 runs close to Crossness Sewage Works and has a long, if less than exalted, history. Mr. Dave Green, Head of Engineering Services, informed the committee that the question was one of simply regularising what the public has already put into effect.

There was only one question and it came from the ubiquitous Labour councillor Alan Deadman. He enquired how the public could follow the current route of the path. Mr. Green conceded that it was currently impossible for them to do so, thus revealing how Bexley council had clearly been remiss in its duty to maintain a public right of way. Neither should they be too proud of the fact that it has taken them so many years to regularise the fait accompli. The amended route and alterations to Bexley’s definitive map were duly agreed.

It was an intriguingly transparent process regarding a public right of way. Not at all like Mike Frizoni, Deputy Director of Public Realm Management and his decision to close the bridleway running through Mount Mascal stables. Perhaps Dave could give his boss Mike a session or two on how to correctly deal with this sort of affair. Best practice should be encouraged rather than deciding to deliberately exclude residents while concocting dodgy deals and perhaps seal it all with a secret handshake.

The second and final item related to the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 2013 and the statements of policy about exercise of discretionary functions. Pretty much enough said; and thankfully the committee members had little appetite for it either.

Councillor Deadman wanted Bexley council to ensure that ‘member level appointments with flexible retirement options’ agreed by members (that’s councillors to me and you) should be discussed by the full pension committee. It was the first instance that I can recall in my four years of attending council meetings that a Conservative cabinet member (Colin Campbell – Finance) largely agreed with the opposition and an amendment was duly tabled and passed. Shock, horror it appears democracy can be meaningfully practised in Bexley after all.

I am not sure that Colin’s glorious leader will thank him but as he is not standing for re-election in May perhaps her displeasure will not overly bother him.

Why the fuss I hear you say? Well I can only assume that councillor Deadman had the infamous duo of Nick Johnson and Ian Clement in mind and wanted some sort of guarantee against overly cosy and unscrutinised deals being far too easy to accomplish amongst dishonest and corrupt individuals. Well done him, and it would be unfair not to personally thank the chairman Geraldene Lucia-Hennis and her fellow Conservative committee members Maxine Fothergill, Graham D’Amiral and Aileen Beckwith, who also fully backed the amendment. I’m sure that you all will have made your leader proud!

Well with that brief moment of Bexley’s political history rapidly receding the clock reached 7:45 p.m. and the meeting was duly closed. Thankfully it had indeed been a very quick one.


25 March - 24th place confirmed

Tweet Not much time and not much news but yesterday the last of the outer London boroughs to post its new council tax rates on their websites did so. It confirms Bexley’s 24th position overall and in the bottom half of the outer London boroughs. Click to see the 2014 list.

Bexley’s nearest neighbours, financially speaking, Barnet and Merton, both managed to reduce tax levels. Bexley Conservatives merely froze them at their traditionally high level.

If you are thankful for small mercies, spare a thought for this poor fellow.

I have just received my council tax bill for this year. I am a disabled retired person who two years ago did not have to pay any due to the benefits received. Last year my tax bill was £63.63p due to new government legislation. this year, and nothing has changed, it is £126.90p. Yet there has been an overall reduction across the board of 1·6% to the Council. This is an approximate increase of just over 100%. surely this cannot be right?

Unfortunately it is right. Here’s Bexley’s web explanation - in need of updating for 2014.

Note: Tweets for amusement only. The message is getting around!


24 March (Part 2) - Nobody loves him

Barnbrook Mick Barnbrook didn’t only apply to be one of Bexley’s Community Champions, he thought he could make a valuable contribution to the fledgling Bexley Safer Neighbourhood Board. This is the successor to the Bexley Community Policing Engagement Group (BCPEG) which ran occasional public meetings but which the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) decided to do away with, and it advertised for volunteers, hence Mick Barnbrook’s interest in becoming a member. He was rejected of course and on 22nd February 2014 Mick asked BCPEG for a copy of “MOPAC’s guidelines setting out the criteria for membership of the Board”.

When three weeks later he had received no acknowledgment he sent a reminder to Joyce Sutherland, the chair of the BCPEG, and added that if she continued to ignore him he would seek the information via a Freedom of Information request to the Mayor’s Office. Three days ago Ms. Sutherland deigned to reply, not that she answered Mick’s question of course. She also went further than that by defiantly stating that she wasn’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

As an organisation fully funded by the Greater London Authority via MOPAC I think madam Sutherland is in for a rude awakening. The Information Commissioner’s Office makes it pretty clear who is subject to the FOI Act and you don’t escape it just by being not totally included in the parent organisation. General Practitioners doing NHS work are subject to the FOI Act as are governors at publicly funded schools. Madam Sutherland being fully funded by MOPAC is unlikely to be any different.

MOPAC have been happy to accept Mick’s FOI request. We shall see. Will it be another case of councillors interfering?

The BCPEG will cease to exist on 31st March 2014.


24 March (Part 1) - Desperate measures

ChampionsA couple of months ago Bexley cabinet member Gareth Bacon announced a ‘Community Champions’ scheme. The idea is that residents should be officially encouraged to report graffiti and fly tipping as they go about their business - as though people are not able to volunteer such information anyway.

It’s a job that might appeal to retired people and Bexley’s waste contractor, Serco, were prepared to sponsor the scheme by issuing mobile phones to the selected ‘champions’. Mick Barnbrook thought he’d apply. As a retired police Inspector he should have had as good a chance of being selected as the next man. Except of course that Bexley council doesn’t like his constant exposure of their dishonesty.

The fact that his application was rejected was far from unexpected but as always, it is the excuses that Bexley council dream up to justify their decisions that provide the interest.

So what was the excuse this time? Is it that he doesn’t own a dog that needs walking, is it the fact that he doesn’t wear a William Hague style baseball cap as shown in the council’s announcement or does he live in an area that might be oversubscribed with would-be champions?

No, it’s none of those. It is because he plans to stand for election as a councillor in Sidcup and Lamorbey. It sounds as though Bexley council could find no good reason not to accept Mick’s application so they had to make up something Barnbrook specific. Currently the Conservatives have no candidates standing for election, they only have Action Team Members. It’s a neat trick that confers several electoral advantages, including to be able to claim that they have not lost a candidate when one of them is caught thieving.

Now Mick will have to go through the FOI procedure to see what the criteria for selection were and who sat on the selection panel. My money is on the panel being chaired by a councillor, probably Gareth Bacon himself.

Click first image for Bexley council’s Community Champions announcement.


23 March (Part 3) - Not exactly a mini-Holland

It is sometimes quite amazing how quickly readers respond to blogs, a little over a month ago a councillor emailed me about something I’d written only 14 minutes after I’d posted it but I had better not go into that for fear that St. Teresa explodes; yes it was a Conservative councillor.

Today I have had three such emails. Two to tell me that I had made a mess of dating the Part 1 photographs - and I had - and another from a cyclist to tell me I had told only half the story in that same blog. He urged me to get back down to Knee Hill and look at the situation through a cyclist’s eyes. So, dodging the hail storm, I did. And things are every bit as ill-thought through as you would expect from Bexley council’s £100k plus managers.

You will see from the first photograph that Bexley council encourages cycling on the footpath, starting at the Knee Hill junction, and along the southern side of Abbey Road. I’d never noticed before but underneath the viaduct there is a much faded ‘bicycle’ painted at another dropped kerb.

Cyclists who have come from Abbey Road are expected to cross Knee Hill at the point marked out for them while totally hidden from traffic coming around the blind bend.

Cyclist's crossing Cyclist's crossing Cyclist's crossing Cyclist's crossing

Maybe it would be better not to have the green screen after all.

Is it just me or are the angles shown on that direction sign post (picture 4) all wrong? The A206 to Plumstead goes off at a normal right angle does it not?

Note. Mini-Holland was the grandiose £30 million plan for Bexley that is not going to happen. We are going to get three million quid’s worth of paint instead.


23 March (Part 2) - ‘Putting Bexley First’ and putting Lesnes last

Action Team Tweet
The Lesnes Action Team poses with Boris in front of their ‘Putting Bexley First’ slogan at their manifesto launching party. ‘First’ when measured against what has not been made clear. Not first in the low tax tables because Bexley Conservatives have failed to rescue the borough from the 24th position achieved eight years ago by the Labour administration. Where does all that extra tax go, not to mention the £7 million a year additional stealth taxes? Management inefficiency is very obvious when the Public Realm is involved but how much more goes on behind the scenes? Why do so many people have to be paid in excess of £100,000 a year when so much incompetence is on public display?

In my corner of the borough I really cannot think of any improvements for which one can thank the present council. I’ve heard council leader O’Neill claim to have brought Crossrail to town and nearly everyone thinks it will prove to be a good thing, but it is ridiculous that Teresa claims any credit. Strictly speaking the only part of it in Bexley will be the pedestrian access from Harrow Manorway and a single track extending towards Belvedere to provide a link to the existing North Kent line.

I can think of two things that have come to Lesnes ward during the Conservatives’ time in office. A £74,995 railing around Lesnes Abbey park supposedly to stop motorcyclists getting in but at only nine inches high in places it was effective mainly against wheelchairs. Installed in 2009 cabinet member Gareth Bacon blamed it on Labour who left office more than three years earlier. And there was the narrowing of Abbey Road and the installation of a cycle track on the pavement, something which the current cabinet member for Public Realm says is a bad idea. In 2009 councillor John Davey blamed TfL. So if left to the Conservatives there would be no change in Lesnes ward, for better or worse, at all!

This is what John Davey said on 10th May 2009…

Due to the inherent slowness in the way that local government works, it is indeed the case that appalling traffic schemes that are costly and useless and were designed a couple of years ago by TfL have just come to be installed.

Fence FenceSome people might say exactly the same about the Bexleyheath Broadway and Sidcup changes.

Maybe Lesnes has been blessed with too many complacent councillors. John Davey must know he has not served Lesnes well because he has done ‘the chicken run’ to Crayford and his intended replacement, Kerry Allon, seems to be cast in the same mould.

Of course he doesn’t live anywhere near Lesnes ward which is probably why he was against an ASDA store in Belvedere which I find to be so crowded at times that I’ve had to queue both for the self service tills and to get out of the car park. Maybe that explains why he describes the fence you see here as “a big improvement”. It may be an improvement but it’s nothing to be proud of is it? Maybe it really is time for someone different to look after our interests. Eight years have provided Lesnes ward with nothing but a silly fence and more parking restrictions.


23 March (Part 1) - More unexplained neglect of what councils call the public realm

Crossing Crossing CrossingWalking away from unfinished road projects is not confined to major reconstructions like Welling Corner, it happens even with minor jobs which one might expect to be completed in half a day.

The first of the associated photographs shows the pedestrian crossing outside the notorious Harrow Inn site in Abbey Wood. Note the black and white striped pole and beacon on the central reservation.

Last Tuesday nine orange suited men (there were more at their van parked out of shot) turned up and removed that central beacon. The larger view (click second image) shows it lying on the ground in front of the takeaway. Then they just left the island barricaded and in the mess one has come to associate with Bexley council.

It is just the same now. Is anyone taking bets on how long it will stay like that?


22 March - The Welling time warp

A contractor working in Sidcup has dug up a time capsule from 1846 but I decided to visit one closer to home today. It’s in the centre of Welling and anyone can see it at any time. Here’s a few photos to show you what is going on there.

Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling Corner

Chaotic as you can see but I am not being entirely honest with you, the photos above were taken ten months ago; today’s are below…

Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling Corner

How can a simple job go on for a whole year? I suppose Sidcup residents will know, they’ve seen how their High Street can be closed and nothing happen over two months.

A few more photos will show that the disruption is for pedestrians and drivers alike.

Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling Corner

Surely a year to get not very close to finishing the job can only be due to mismanagement? And what will be achieved at the end of it all?

I’m not very familiar with the history of Welling Corner so I asked a reader who lives nearby if he had anything he’d like to say…

Marble benchesThe roadworks at Welling Corner are now entering their twelfth on and off month. In that time Bexley council has ripped up a bit of paving and replaced it with shiny new slabs and some very nice but impractical curved marble effect benches - guaranteed to give you piles on a cold day - and a bit of funky looking metal work that has been bashed about by the green plastic temporary barriers that have blighted the area for far too long. New pedestrian refuges that are much wider than before leading to what used to be two lane sections of road being barely one and three quarter lanes now. I’ve seen more than one wing mirror lying on the pavement.

Welling CornerTen months of temporary traffic signals were finally replaced two months ago with portable signals. The portable signals have led to even worse traffic congestion. Upper Wickham Lane is frequently backed up all the way to the roundabout at Lodge Hill. This has led to a lot of rat running down streets like Elsa Road and Somerhill Road, Including idiots who have tried to race down our back alleyway. Didn’t get them very far as it’s a cul-de-sac. Getting through Welling Corner along Bellgrove Road is no picnic either. That can take 15 minutes to get through at times. To top it off there is no pedestrian crossing indication so you take your life in hand when crossing as there is no clue as to which direction traffic will be coming from next.

Why the portable signals? Well it looks as though who ever dug everything up last April forgot to put in new cabling and ducting for the replacement signals. Now we have the situation where massive sections of the shiny new paving has been ripped up along with several bits of the pedestrian refuges in order to put down new lengths of wire for the traffic signals. On top of that it now looks like they’re going to be repaving Welling High Street and Bellgrove Road again. Bits have been done already but if memory serves they are the same bits that were repaved around 5 years ago.

Bexley is truly bonkers. (plus a few other words that aren’t suitable to print).

Click any image for enlarged view.


21 March - An accident waiting to happen

I am going to give in. Give in to the requests for comment on the recent accident at the Trinity Place roundabout that is. When I first heard of it I considered it to be unremarkable, there have been accidents there before, this time a vehicle had run into the back of a motorcycle that had stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross. The difference was that this accident found its way on to the News Shopper’s website and has been subject to much comment. Nearly all of it unsympathetic to Bexley council. “Whoever came [up] with the new design for Bexleyheath should be sacked. It’s madness” being typical.

A Bexley council spokesman would not accept that their road design may have contributed to the accident preferring to blame the motorist. “If a stationary vehicle is hit from another vehicle behind, it is normally the person driving the moving vehicle, rather than the road they are on, that is to blame.”

That statement may well have some truth to it but the road looks like a roundabout until you raise your eyes to read the signs which announce a T junction. And although the road surface at the exit points are reminiscent of a Zebra crossing legally it is not, although if you look at the footpath mounted signs it is a sort of pedestrian crossing.

A flashing nine foot high beacon would warn approaching motorists that there is a possibility they may have to stop abruptly. A two foot high sign hidden by the vehicle in front doesn’t.

Bexley council will never accept blame especially in a newspaper report. It wasn’t their fault when the News Shopper reported a lady had died when Bexley failed to adequately staff its emergency centre. “Our lack of response was not a factor in the death” was Bexley’s callous response. Again that may be true but she didn’t have to die alone, that was due entirely to failures by Bexley council’s senior managers.

Trinity Place Trinity Place Trinity Place Trinity Place

Bureaucrats are never likely to accept that they might occasionally get things wrong and certainly not after accepting awards for their expensive handiwork. The Broadway regeneration scheme won the ‘Excellence in Walking and Public Realm’ category at the London Transport Awards just a few weeks ago and the judges said it was “well-thought out and comprehensively transformed Bexleyheath shopping centre”.

The award was presented to project directors David Bryce-Smith and Ashis Choudhury who were assisted by Bexley’s road design team, Dimitri Araj, Andrew Bashford, Dave Green, Rupert Cheeseman and Ken Woodhead. Why are we still employing these people after councillor Peter Craske handed £4 million pounds to the transport consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff? Wasn’t that supposed to reduce the number of road planning disasters in Bexley? I wonder what we ever got out of Parsons Brinckerhoff apart from a couple of abusive emails.

Note: Will non-English speakers know what the words ‘Stop, Look, Listen’ mean?


20 March - Bexley council. Above the law

Three weeks ago a complaint sent by a horse riders’ group to Bexley council about their illegal closure of Bridleway 250 was briefly reported here. It listed the legal precedents, the fact that the Crime and Disorder Act expressly forbids its use to overturn other Acts and that closing a bridleway as a crime prevention measure requires the intervention of the Secretary of State.

Almost needless to say, Bexley council rejected the complaint out of hand.
They are happy to ignore the provision of the Crime and Disorder Act and take the advice of a police sergeant Alison Bateman that the bridleway should be closed despite there being only one overnight crime around Mascal Stables in the previous five years. Among the many requirements to be satisfied before a bridleway closure can be legal is “the premises adjoining or adjacent to the highway are affected by high levels of crime and its existence is facilitating the persistent commission of criminal offences”.

So Bexley council’s excuses for law breaking fall on every conceivable point but they carry on regardless. The reason is that they consider themselves above the law and while they have the police in their pocket nothing will change. Another example of the latter came to light this week which will probably find its way to these pages before too long. Two former borough commanders are currently under investigation for Misconduct in Public Office. Will they ever learn?


19 March (Part 2) - Shops in Bexleyheath feel the squeeze

ShoppingThe regeneration of Bexleyheath has made it look considerably smarter than before but the smaller shops are still too often closing only to be replaced by the modern equivalent of pawn shops. A two year old report from marketing consultants CACI may shed a little light on what the underlying problem might be.

Click image for the source website.


19 March (Part 1) - Oh no! More regeneration

Bexley RoadIf you use the shops in Northumberland Heath and have been unimpressed by the regeneration of Bexleyheath and Sidcup, Bexley council’s promise to do the same for Northumberland Heath may not be what you want to hear.

Northumberland Heath seems to me to be one of Bexley’s better small shopping centres with a good variety of traders but a council press release yesterday announced ‘public space improvements’. The proposals include ‘renewing street furniture, minimising street clutter and new planting’. Much the same wording used to describe previous street disruption.

There will be a display to illustrate the proposals at North Heath Library from next Monday through to 11th April and work is scheduled to commence in the summer with the money coming directly from Bexley’s taxpayers.


18 March (Part 3) - Silly blogger

It’s a little bit embarrassing to encounter a shortage of blog material at a time when the number of site visitors has been increasing quite steeply but I shall have to fall back on a reader’s report. I thought it was mildly amusing and just what I would expect from my own local councillor.

I saw councillor John Davey in Crayford yesterday; in the charity shop and I spoke to him!

I mentioned Bexley is Bonkers and he said it was “all lies and silly”. I suspect that is his leader talking. Like Campbell and his “crap” remark. I asked if it was him [John] who came up with the Bonkers name! He never replied to that.

Then I went into to the betting shop and who was sitting there? Councillor Melvin Seymour. I said to him “John Davey’s next door” and when I turned around he was gone, maybe joining his mate? Two idiots together!!!

I never had Melvin Seymour down as an idiot, John Davey certainly, but whenever I see Melvin Seymour I can only see a man in a Crown Court witness box calmly saying something that simply wasn’t true. The Tweet on which the whole case was based said otherwise and two dishonest policemen ‘forgot’ to correct their councillor friend.

I cannot help wondering why if Bonkers is ‘all lies’ that no one ever tries to correct it. I must have written councillor Cheryl Bacon is a liar fifty times but all I have had from those who saw the events unfold is confirmation that she has lied over and over again. No one has ever said the Bacon reports or any other are a lie. Another thing that isn’t a lie is that the Bonkers name really did come from a conversation with John Davey relating to Bexley’s road planning. Presumably he remembers it as well as I do.


18 March (Part 2) - Crossrail developments

The Crossrail works at Abbey Wood are notching up a gear and today a lot of concrete blocks destined for the construction of storm drains have been delivered. Lorries are waiting in Gayton Road and Knee Hill, click any image for a better view. Note how councillor Kerry Allon’s new Harrow Inn ‘fence’ is held up only by a convenient signpost.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Abbey Wood FlyoverThere is similar work going on on the North side of the station too and the Harrow Manorway flyover has work going on, though whether that is preliminary work for the new footpath is unclear. Probably not, the parked vehicle appeared to be a drain sucker.

More Crossrail related blogs.


18 March (Part 1) - RSS feed

RSSIf you noticed the orange coloured symbol next to the Twitter icon above and were wondering what it is, it provides quick access to the RSS file which catalogues changes to the website and when each was made. Browsers provide access via their Toolbars but sometimes it is very well hidden so the new icon is no more than a simple alternative.

Internet Explorer and Firefox implement the facility best and they account for more than 40% of Bonkers’ visitors so it’s probably a worthwhile extra, it causes me no extra work anyway! Chrome (25%) doesn’t implement the facility but plug-ins are available and Safari (also 25%) fails to report the date of the change but as always, if the facility is no use to you, you don’t have to click on the orange icon.


17 March - Rewriting history

Tax increasesThere is nothing new to read here to today but there are a few additions to local election related websites which may keep you amused.

The Tories continue to thrash Labour with their 17·5% council tax increase eleven years ago (click image to visit their website) but contrive to change history in their favour too. The historical figures on the GLA website show increases of 17·5% (2003), 7·5%, 4·9%, 5·8% (Labour) and 3·5%, 2·8% and 2·0% (2009) Conservative.

Notice how Labour’s rises are exaggerated and the Conservatives are craftily reduced. They put up taxes by 0.08% in 2010 too - not even mentioned. Are Tories careless or dishonest? Maybe it is both.

Their website quotes Labour councillor Munir Malik… “if elected in May, Labour will present voters with two choices, municipal bankruptcy or a 40 per cent council tax hike.” and attribute those remarks to a News Shopper report on 25th October 2013. If you take a look you will see their date research is no better than their percentages.

The UKIP site has added three more candidate profiles since I last looked and there are now six in total.
Blackfen & Lamorbey : Lynn Smith
Barnehurst : Mike Ferro
Belvedere : Catherine Reilly
Brampton : John Dunford
Falconwood & Welling : Pamela Perrin
Lesnes Abbey : Chris Attard

Lesnes Conservatives have profiles on their Action Team. They mean prospective candidates but not declaring them as such means that no one has to check on their expenses.

There’s an extra page at Bexley Action Group which looks a bit familiar to me but Labour seem to have turned their back on websites. Some activity on Twitter though.


15 March - First signs of progress in Sidcup High Street

I saw a rare species this morning. Men in yellow jackets working in Sidcup High Street. Three of them.

Hadlow Road is now scheduled to be open again in mid-April instead of the beginning of March and now sports a short length of new paving.

There is no footpath at all outside the Box Shop Sidcup and Co. and pedestrians are directed across the road. The council is giving priority to its own business venture by paving outside Sidcup and Co. before anywhere else though the amount of actual progress was barely discernible compared to last week.

Sidcup & Co. was accessible from the west only by walking in the road and was difficult from the east too. There were three people inside when I looked, whether customers or traders I didn’t stay long enough to discover.

Further west paving slabs have been dumped in the road and a man was moving them from one position to another for no obvious reason. The traffic congestion at Station Road was worse than ever but that was probably due to a northbound queue that extended all the way to the railway station. I got there expecting to see an accident or a broken down vehicle but if the queue was due to anything it wasn’t apparent. Probably high traffic volumes and not a long enough green light at Longlands Road.

Hadlow Road Hadlow Road Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos

Page 14 of Bexley council’s Spring magazine says the project is due for completion in “late summer”. It was originally scheduled to take eight months beginning last January. A quarter of that time has elapsed with almost nothing to show for it. More info at Bexley’s website.

All photographs taken within a few minutes of 11:00 a.m. Last week’s pictures.


14 March - The worst council tax record in London

With the help of the data manager at the GLA the errors in the historical council tax rates have been fixed and Bonkers’ ‘league table’ now runs from 1999 to 2013. I don’t think the changes make any significant difference to the recent analysis. In broad terms Bexley has made a mess of things from the beginning of the millennium but is now extremely pleased with itself for freezing taxes at their highest level. Bromley at Band D is £120 lower than Bexley but 13 years ago the discrepancy was only £67. Twenty years ago Bexley had the advantage.

The best performing outer London boroughs have risen up the league table by five places since 2000, Bexley has fallen by eight places. No outer (or inner) London borough has fallen more than Bexley.

Over the next two months, Bexley’s Conservatives will continue to loudly proclaim that council tax is not going up in April but ironically the achievement is largely due to four years of Labour rule. Their 17·5% increase in 2003 was followed by increases of 7·5%, 4·9% and 5·8%. From £938 at Band D when Labour arrived to £1,315 when they left, a cool 40% increase. And Bexley’s Conservatives who complained it was far too high have since raised Band D taxes by another £117. Aren’t they lucky that Labour put taxes up so much? But not nearly as lucky as to have residents ready to believe the propaganda that the Tories are doing a good job. Better than Labour ten years ago but underperforming nevertheless.

Note: Council tax data going back to 1993 is said to be available on the central government website but unfortunately it gives a ‘404’ error. It has been reported.


13 March (Part 3) - Council tax again

Another anonymous request I’m afraid but an entirely reasonable one which may need a more effective way of displaying the data.

The request is for information on how Bexley’s council tax level compares with other outer London boroughs.

In terms of yesterday’s blog, in 1991 Bexley was just one pound a year from having the lowest tax level in outer London. The budget before Labour was elected in 2002 saw Bexley drop to ninth place. Labour actually improved the position by one place in their first year but by their final year were three positions worse (12th) than where the Tories had left us (9th).

The Conservatives improved matters by three places by 2008 but dropped the ball the next year and Bexley has been in 12th position ever since. Whether the whole of London is analysed or just the outer boroughs, Teresa O’Neill has very little to brag about. Bromley, by contrast, has been in first or second position for more than ten years.

Twelve positions down in total and nine of them due to the Tories. In terms of places dropped per year they have an advantage over Labour but not as big as one might imagine. Bexley froze their tax while in the bottom half of Outer London boroughs. A far cry from when the borough was consistently at or very near the top.

Council tax data has been provided on Bonkers since 2011. Additional years are now provided but 2004 and 2005 are unavailable until the Greater London Authority corrects its historical records.

I suppose someone will now ask for a report in percentage terms judged against inflation. I suspect the Tories will win that race too but if you have a child with special needs, an aged relative who needs care, or are a resident with a car but no off road parking space you will be paying the price. And for goodness sake, whatever you do, don’t die.


13 March (Part 2) - Getting the wrong idea

I never intended or even dreamed when starting occasional blogging in 2009 that some people would assume I was some sort of political pundit but that is what I sometimes read into messages received.

As the election approaches I find myself pressed more and more to give an opinion on various subjects. Ramming opinions down throats is definitely not a primary motivation, I am much more comfortable reporting facts and letting readers draw their own conclusions. My own may well be easily deduced at times but I hope I will never get near to blatantly saying vote Labour or vote UKIP or anyone else.

I have admitted before that my lifetime voting record has been 100% Conservative except for one aberration when a friend stood in Aldershot for the Liberal party circa 1969. And I have voted in every election for which I have been eligible except the European Referendum in June 1975 when I was away on holiday. I would probably have voted ‘yes’, but beyond that I admit nothing. I’m certainly not going to get drawn very far into answering questions like…

What are your thoughts on the EU? Do you believe the EU effects us locally? I do not wish to ask who you are voting for, just your views on the EU effect on local councils.

Apart from the rather generic, ‘the EU gets into every aspect of British life’ I would not claim to know much detail. UKIP Bexley’s Tweets too often ask other party representatives for their view on various issues. I find it rather annoying. UKIP is a political party and should be spouting its own policies not feeding off those of others. I am not a political party and have no intention of joining any or pushing any particular policy, well maybe honesty and transparency, but nothing more. For the record I was an inactive member of the Conservative party until 1992 or thereabouts.

Someone sent me me a video about the EU and local councils. It’s UKIP ‘propaganda’ but it may well be true. View it via the associated image and make up your own mind.

Whilst the anonymous EU question was probably entirely innocent others may not be. There was the suggestion that councillors Hunt and Taylor were the authors of Bexley council’s obscene blog which was totally untrue and I now suspect came from the councillor who knows exactly who was responsible for those obscenities.

More recently, two anonymous messages assured me that councillor Colin Campbell didn’t say “crap” in the council chamber. I am absolutely certain he did and so are some councillors - they’ve told me so. Mischief making messages are inevitable but those like this are more worrying, it seems to suggest I am taking political sides…

Your support for Teresa Pearce MP is very misguided. Be careful.

Well thanks for the advice but if my words have been mistaken for support for Ms. Pearce I have been very careless with them. All I thought I had done was accurately report what she has done. I don’t personally agree with all she stands for but that doesn’t stop me reporting what she has done for me, a constituent. A constituent who has never ever voted Labour. My politics haven’t influenced her and I hope mine will never influence what I say about MPs.

If Teresa ever sends me an email anything like…

I understand that you left a telephone message relating to Bexley Council. As I hope you will appreciate, the operations of Bexley Council are entirely independent of my role as one of the borough’s local Members of Parliament. Complaints relating to the London Borough of Bexley, its functions, governance and administration should be addressed directly to the Council, with further potential redress available through the Local Government Ombudsman.

…I’d be telling you how useless Teresa Pearce is, but that one came from James Brokenshire to one of his constituents. You may safely assume that my 100% Conservative voting record hangs by a thread, but what you do is none of my business. And I still wish that circumstances had not dragged me into the awkward position in which I now find myself.


12 March - Council Tax analysis

Councillor Malik (Labour) grabbed my attention at the last council meeting. He said that the biggest council tax rises had been made by Conservatives and I have spent a lot of time researching whether that can be true.

One of the biggest reasons for me moving to Bexley 27 years ago was because its Rates, as they were called then, were low. I am as sure as I can be after all that time that only two London boroughs charged less.

Over the weekend and subsequently I have managed to track down the charges made by every London borough for 16 of the past 23 years. Presenting them in a simple way is proving to be time consuming and there is unfortunately a very obvious error within the GLA supplied data for 2004 and 2005. Critical years if looking into Labour’s record in Bexley.

Many of us will remember how Labour put up Bexley’s council tax very steeply during their term of office (2002-2006) but how spendthrift were they compared to London as a whole? Were they perhaps not a lot worse than the other 31 boroughs?

So far I have established that in 1991 only three London boroughs levied lower taxes than Bexley and one of those was only a pound a year lower.

By 2001 fourteen boroughs were charging less than Bexley and that was unchanged just before Labour took over in May 2002. Labour dropped us three places relative to the rest of London in their first year and was no worse two years later. However they did rather blow it in 2006 when they allowed six more boroughs to get in front of Bexley.

So did the Tories ride to the rescue? Absolutely not. For all their eight years of cuts and trumpet blowing, Bexley Conservatives have made no progress whatsoever. Bexley remains stubbornly in 24th position.

Conservatives dropped us one place for every year they were in power, then along came Labour and made it nine places in four years, but Teresa O’Neill has absolutely failed to make things better.

Note: Because of the mistakes discovered in the GLA source data this report may be subject to change but the obvious errors are unlikely to affect it.


11 March (Part 6) - Which way will they jump?

Bexley TimesJust a year ago, 21st March, the Bexley Times featured UKIP in Bexley. Here is a brief extract.

Today, prompted by an earlier blog, UKIP is not so sure. Maybe they have actually been talking to real people.


11 March (Part 5) - Slowly does it

BridlewayBexley council’s excuse for illegally closing Bridleway 250 is that it is a crime prevention measure. Such an excuse cannot be legally valid but is it even based on anything truthful?

Mick Barnbrook, as always, asked the police for details of any crimes committed along the bridleway. He was refused on the grounds that knowing if there had been any crime or not might reveal personal information. How was not explained but after repeated requests he discovered that crime levels had been low and that Bexley council claimed the closure had been recommended by Sergeant Alison Bateman.

Whether she had done so or Bexley council put words in her mouth as they may have done with the police officers who responded to the liar Bacon’s call is still unknown. When asked for her recollection of the meeting she had none, or more accurately, she had destroyed her notes.

The information Mick was really after was when the crimes took place, during gate closing times or not. This the police absolutely refused to give so the Information Commissioner had to be dragged into the argument. He has ruled in Mick Barnbrook’s favour.

During the five years preceding Bexley’s decision to approve an illegal gate there were four reported crimes in and around Mascal Stables. Three involved petty pilfering of horsey items, two from cars, one not, and all taking place while the stables were fully open for business. Additionally there was a ‘non-dwelling’ burglary in March 2008 at an indeterminate time spanning both gate open and gate closed times. Assuming that the latter is most likely the bridleway closure was justified on the basis of one burglary in five years. Every time you poke it another Bexley council lie or illegal act is exposed.

I think I understand why Bexley police were so reluctant to admit the truth on this one. How much money did they waste trying to hide it?


11 March (Part 4) - Rubbish policy

Bin The News Shopper carried a report a couple of weeks ago about Refuse Rage. Bexley council has been trying to edge up the proportion of waste recycled by refusing to collect the real rubbish whenever it can get away with it. Their newest bins are stamped with symbols confirming they will not be emptied if not fully closed, nor will any extra sack be taken away.

What with this and the £30 for collecting each item that won’t fit in the bin, fly tipping is encouraged. In my road we share the bins, my neighbour with young children fills my green bin and I use her brown one. I recommend it.


11 March (Part 3) - The wheels come off

Bike standSomething that will probably not get the Bexley Press Release treatment is their bid for mini-Holland status, for Boris’s £100 million is going to Kingston, Enfield and Waltham Forest. Thirty million each. With the last two adjacent that may open up interesting possibilities. Bexley’s bid “strongly impressed the judges” and will be offered some crumbs from the table.

With the small change out of the £100 million being shared between Bexley, Ealing, Merton and Richmond it is hard to see how “TfL will work with them to take forward substantial parts of their bids to improve cycle routes and facilities”. Even so, £2·5 million can buy an awful lot of green paint.

GLA Press Release.


11 March (Part 2) - Across the divide

On a day when I have to be north of the river a reader’s question…

Any ideas what political parties stand on what side of the Bexley river crossing debate?

Labour for, Conservative and - from a Bexley Times article - UKIP against I think.

When the people were polled they came out fairly strongly in favour of a bridge. Reported in some detail last May.


11 March (Part 1) - Let the back slapping commence

Shop shut The ‘revitalised’ Bexleyheath Broadway has won some award or other and resulted in “a 55% reduction in the number of vacant units”. I’d love to see the actual figures. Has the number of vacant shops really halved?

Motorists and pedestrians alike who have just got used to the changes and the absence of daily gridlock will be pleased to know that preliminary planning of more of the same from Church Road towards Crook Log is underway. Well it is undeniably scruffy looking there.

This you will note is a case of TfL planning and funding a scheme and then running a fancy party to give themselves an award for doing so. Can there be any wonder that taxes are so high?


10 March (Part 3) - If at first you don’t succeed…

Sidcup & Co I don’t know what went wrong with councillor Linda Bailey’s ‘Box Shop’ idea but something must have gone badly wrong because it closed down about three months after it was launched with an expensive fanfare.

Last Saturday the only possible excuse for Sidcup High Street being one way was because a heap of paving stones was parked in the road just to the west of the old Black Horse Inn and just one shop was benefitting. This morning the reason became clear. Bexley council issued a Press Release to tell us about its latest wheeze; Sidcup & Co. From the council’s blurb I can’t see any obvious difference from the Box Shop but it has been entirely refitted.

After almost two months of disruption Sidcup has gained just one small advantage, 20 metres or so of new paving outside a council owned shop.

I dread to think what Linda Bailey would have to say about this if it had been a Labour party idea. Speaking of which, how many millions have gone down the Thames innovation Centre drain?

TICFor another joke, has anyone used the new Google Maps? It suggests you try it out by asking it where you can buy a cup of coffee. I had a play with it and asked where to buy coffee in Erith. It told me the place to go was the Thames Innovation Centre.

Why is that funny? It’s a bit funny because I once sat through a three day hearing before a judge in which councillor Colin Campbell swore that the TIC coffee bar was not open to the public despite the notice outside begging for business and the fact I’ve been in there for coffee.

It helped Bexley council win their case but only because they lied before a Tribunal judge who not long before was herself part of Bexley’s legal team. What was my correspondent saying about corruption this morning?


10 March (Part 2) - Jammed and rammed. Parking free and money tree (it’s supposed to have cost nothing)

Tales from the doorstep suggest that quite a lot of people are still avoiding Bexleyheath following the ‘regeneration’. For those lost shoppers here’s a small selection of pictures from around mid-day last Saturday.

The Broadway was jammed solid for no obvious reason, the cycling locking post was still a mess but on the plus side the motorcycle only parking bay has been provided with its first eye level sign. Whether a postcard sized picture of a motor bike is a legal warning may be doubtful but it may capture some drivers’ attention it can only be a help and prevent this sort of thing.

And the new Civic Centre is nearing completion. Will it open on schedule two months hence? Has it really cost nothing? Will it really save taxpayers £1·5 million a year - and more every time Teresa O’Neill opens her mouth?

Broadway Parking Metal bashing Watling Street

Currently working on a big research project so no significant blogs today.


10 March (Part 1) - How corrupt are they? That is the question

I suppose it is possible that people send messages anonymously in the hope of getting a public reply. Maybe that is cynical, there are a lot of cynics in Bexley, which is probably a good thing. Cynicism is what Bexley Conservatives deserve. How should I answer this?

Yesterday a young lady canvasser knocked on my door and told me the scandal about my local Tories. Apparently one has run off to another part of Bexley and the other one has moved to Kent; Sevenoaks apparently.

It’s a scandal as she should have been kicked off the Tories side but the lady says she doesn't care and is standing again, pretending to live here. Everyone knows about it but the Tories are ignoring it. is it true?

Her name is Maxine Fothergill. The lady said she also manages some flats around here and tells her tenants to vote for her or else. How corrupt are they! Why has this not come out yet? It’s not right.

How corrupt are they? Is the easiest question to answer. Very. Dozens of examples litter this website.

A lot of Bexley Tories have done a runner to other wards, the leader rewards those who are most loyal by giving them a safe seat. Séan Newman the Labour councillor calls it the Chicken Run on the grounds they have to run away from their reputation. That is sometimes true too.

Companies HouseIs what is described illegal? Probably not. Although Maxine is one of the few councillors in London to claim an exemption due to being in fear of her life under Section 32 of the Localism Act and thereby hides some of her details from public view - only Bexley councillors abuse Section 32 - she does appear to have an address, maybe just a postbox, in Crayford.

This may allow her to legally stand as a councillor in May even if she does live elsewhere. She may have no interest in Bexley residents but legally that is of no consequence. All that matters here is total loyalty to Teresa O’Neill who dictates who stands as a Conservative councillor and who does not. You only have to read the Superwoman  blog to know that Teresa is no stranger to the abuse of power.

Incidentally, I have been able to confirm everything in the Superwoman story thanks to readers. The MBE, JP, MP approved and shortlisted, Children’s Commissioner, LGA, school governor, Safeguarding Children’s Board, NHS Care Trust, Ministry of Justice connected, Bexley Civic Award winning lady was overlooked in the competition to be a Bexley councillor in favour of another lady whose only qualification is to be married to councillor Brian Bishop.

How corrupt are they? Endlessly.


9 March (Part 3) - You will never see its like again

My weekly trawl around Bexley’s political websites revealed no change except by the Independents in Blackfen & Lamorbey. Can Independents ever make a difference in Bexley I wondered in such a strongly Conservative area. Then I stumbled upon this three year old News Shopper headline. Click or scroll to appreciate it in full.

News Shopper

“Councillors trade insults” it said and that’s not likely to be repeated, neither will Campbell’s ‘crap’ remark. And who do we have to thank for that? The Bexley Action Group who pushed their complaints about the lack of transparency and in particular the lack of an independent public record of what goes on in Bexley’s council chamber, beyond anything that had been done before. Never again will serious insults be traded between councillors all thanks to Nicholas Dowling’s Dictaphone. And as an added bonus it proved beyond all doubt that some councillors will lie on a massive scale. Will anyone ever take councillor Cheryl Bacon seriously again?

Note: The above image required a revised style sheet, it may be necessary to refresh the browser - often F5 - to update any that may be cached by your device.


9 March (Part 2) - First it moved, then it vanished

Bin Bin BinA minor blog in July last year featured some of the silly cycle tracks in Bexley. The main contributor was a man who lives in a flat overlooking the waste bin that had been carefully screwed down in the middle of the cycle track in Yarnton Way, Thamesmead.

He has remarked on it several times since but last week it was moved. If you enlarge the later photos you can see the mark of its old position. Do we have Boris’s multi-million pound cycling fund to thank for that? He sent a photo he took yesterday but being a camera snob I went out this morning to take my own as I thought I should get rid of the the luminous yellow the camera phone provided.

As you can see, I left it too late. Bexley council took a year to move the thing, Thamesmead revellers took fewer than 24 hours.

Bexley’s clamp down on taking away ‘side rubbish’ which featured in the News Shopper two weeks ago is having the obvious effect. Where’s councillor Tarrant when you need him?


9 March (Part 1) - Correspondents’ comments

From the postbag…

I’ve viewed your photos from today, quick question … why is the high street one way for 6-7 weeks? I can’t see any works that would prevent it remaining two way in that time.

Nor me. There’s a few paving slabs stacked on the road but they could easily be put elsewhere.

Whilst I generally despise all politicians I have to say that I've been impressed by Michael Tarrant who gets out with his camera taking pictures of pot holes and graffiti and Steve Hall is well known to be a residents’ champion against London and Quadrant housing and the Council. So you should remember that they aren’t all bad. Well done on your website - it has opened my eyes.

I’ve not done a roll call but I would guess that the really bad councillors in Bexley number no more than 15. There are several who never get a mention on Bonkers and another bunch who have never had a bad word said about them, Steven Hall among them. Michael Tarrant can get carried away with his busy-bodying, he finds a bit of litter and can jump to all the wrong conclusions - and someone told me he thinks this website is rubbish - so that’s his reputation trashed! Past references here and here and here.

While on the subject of good councillors the recent council source of confirmation that councillor Colin Campbell was definitely lying when he claimed not to have aimed the word ’crap’ at a member of the public during a council meeting has said I have it wrong about would-be councillor Rob Leitch. All I actually said was that his Twitter account had been locked down which implied he didn’t want to talk to voters. However if I am happy to take the word of one councillor that Campbell definitely said “crap” I have to take his word that Rob Leitch is a good bloke. He shouldn’t have much trouble getting elected in Sidcup anyway - unless the wrecking of the High Street backfires spectacularly.

Don’t ask me why Rob Leitch’s Twitter account is currently not working at all.

Another story on your website about another Bexley child dying. Don’t they have procedures in place? Aren’t Councillors supposed to add an extra layer of protection? Didn't OFSTED already warn them? It’s disgraceful that they go on about MBEs - jobs for the boys and girls. Shame that there is no ‘vote for none of the above’ option! Time for a change.

Don’t forget the old ladies. An old lady died following very bad management decisions by Bexley council. They are all still there on their hundred grand a year.


8 March (Part 3) - Sidcup. Missed deadlines and little progress

The fortnightly trip to Sidcup revealed little new since the last one. Hadlow Road is much the same, just a little less muddy but there is no sign of completion. To save you checking the calendar, 20th January is seven weeks ago.

There may have been more white painted marks on the footpath and there was some new paving going in by the old Box Shop but nothing elsewhere. Shoppers were few and far between and the traffic jams at Station Road were just the same, extending back towards the hospital, the station and towards Eltham. Don’t complain to Bexley council, cabinet member Linda Bailey thinks it’s good for business.

Hadlow Road Hadlow Road Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos

All photographs taken within a few minutes of 11:30 a.m.


8 March (Part 2) - The Metropolitan Police is corrupt

The documentary evidence I have against Bexley police over the Craske case is in my view damning. Knowing who the suspect is and later discussing how I should be told that nothing more could be done ought to be looked at seriously but I’d guess it is still odds on that the Deputy Assistant Commissioner currently taking an interest will be compelled to find a way out.

As long term readers will know I have close family connections to Alastair Morgan, the brother of the murdered private eye Daniel Morgan. The last couple of days have seen that murder linked with that of Stephen Lawrence. My daughter and Alastair have been meeting a lot of very important people recently and Alastair is a frequent visitor to the TV studios. The corruption in the Met. is almost beyond belief. I know enough to shake my head in despair every time I see or hear a top police officer suggesting it is all in the past. Believe me it isn’t.

Recent TV coverage may be seen (but not for long) at…

…and those of you both interested and on Twitter might wish to follow @justice4daniel.


8 March (Part 1) - Superwoman meets Bexley’s Supreme Controller

Why is having a Head of Professional Standards and Quality Assurance with an MBE looking after Bexley’s lamentable children’s services suddenly so important to Bexley council? Cabinet member Katie Perrior couldn’t resist bragging about it at this week’s council meeting either.

I’ve been a cynic about MBEs ever since I was instructed to name a worthy recipient of a gong after initially saying I had no one on my staff who merited one. I decided to do a bit of research on this MBE holder but became sidetracked.

I found an MBE holder who is the Development Manager at a Safeguarding Children’s Board and advisor to MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) for the Ministry of Justice. A Justice of the Peace too.

She holds positions at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Local Government Association and been a non-executive director of an NHS Care Trust. Then the research led me closer to home.

She has been a Bexley school governor, on the board of a nearby children’s hospice, is a recipient of a Bexley Civic Award, worked for Bexley Voluntary Services and has lived in Welling for a very long time. She even worked for Bexley council for a while. But she isn’t Barbara Travanion, chair of Bexley’s Safeguarding Children’s Board or Lucie Heyes MBE the quality Assurance Manager for Children’s Services taken on by Bexley council to rescue their failed children’s services.

You can probably discover her name by Googling some of the employing organisations to find the common factor. I started out with little more than the initials MBE, Bexley and ‘children’s services’ to go on.

I’ve been in contact with a man who might know a little more. He told me something interesting, though unfortunately I have drawn a total blank on the subject on the web. I was told that the lady was passed by Conservative Central Office as suitable MP material. How would she ever find the time?

O'NeillMaybe she felt the same because I have no evidence that the matter was ever taken any further; instead, if my contact is correct, she set her sights a little lower by applying to become a councillor in Bexley in May 2014.

That required passing a selection process too and that of course would be chaired by you know who, Bexley’s very own dictator. What happened? Well according to my informant she was rejected in favour of a councillor’s wife.

As UKIP has noted, choosing spouses to be councillors is a good way of ensuring total loyalty to ‘she who must be obeyed’.

If anyone knows where I can see a copy of David Cameron’s 2009 approved list I would be most grateful.


7 March (Part 2) - A chocolate fireguard might be more use

TelegraphThere’s probably no need to explain what I mean by ‘Obscene blog’ but in case I have acquired new readers from Mars - filth traced to councillor Peter Craske’s phone line, four months later police discuss among themselves telling me they can’t trace anything, allow nearly eight months for evidence to be destroyed, talk of stitching me up as the real culprit, connive with Bexley council and CPS to “resolve Craske’s situation”, ignore CPS advice, wrap up case due to “political interference”.

Nearly all of that is documented and allegations of Misconduct in Public Office against two Bexley Borough Commanders are now being considered by the Deputy Assistant Commissioner following support from the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Elwyn Bryant, fellow victim, and I have worked hard on getting that far along the road to exposing our corrupt council and the police force which aids and abets them and, sad to say, appears not to have learned its lesson going by some recent correspondence I have seen. However we would not have ever got as far as we have without the help given by my MP, Teresa Pearce and Elwyn’s, James Brokenshire. Except that isn’t wholly true.

Right from the outset Teresa stood by offering and giving assistance and more than once taking the initiative. James went through the motions, wrote the odd letter in 2011 but was never of any real help. Teresa accompanied me to meetings, got active behind the scenes and kept me informed. James Brokenshire has refused to get involved and ended up with an excuse, proven to be false, as to why he could not speak to Elwyn - although he did at first.

Elwyn has been pretty envious of me on occasions and suggested I might say something about it here, but I’ve always said he should remain calm; one day he might need James Brokenshire. However having seen the MPs latest response I have come to realise that James Brokenshire MP will never be any use when faced with the corruption that exists under his very nose. Probably he is too closely associated with Teresa O’Neill.

Today’s Daily Telegraph article (linked extract above) sums him up perfectly. ‘Repeated platitudes’ is what I saw in his last letter to Elwyn. Funny that the same excuses don’t seem to apply to my own MP.

Summary of Obscene blog.


7 March (Part 1) - Honey trap?

MayorIt’s probably a nice little earner for Bexley council but they really ought to sort this parking space out. It has been like it longer that the Conservatives have been entirely in charge in (i.e. almost totally neglecting) Lesnes ward and it was mentioned here as long ago as September 2011.

In 2009 Peter Craske and co. made a number of alterations in Abbey Road, Belvedere and promised residents that they would not lose any parking spaces. This proved difficult to achieve because the much narrower road gave buses a problem squeezing between the old parking bays and the re-sited central reservation. So Bexley council took the easy but stupid way out. They reduced the number of residents parking bays by one but never got around to extending the yellow lines. The result was one car length entirely free of of any restrictions and they kept their promise on bay numbers. I believe there are only three free bays our side of the Greenwich boundary, and nearer to Abbey Wood station - and they are pretty much permanently occupied by residents. So the bay shown is unsurprisingly popular.

Personally I’d avoid it as it almost invites a lorry or bus to swipe a car’s rear end but commuters in a hurry are not always the most careful of parkers - and there is nothing illegal about stopping there. However some of NSL’s Bexley Civil Enforcement Officers are even sillier than a commuter in a hurry.

I’d love to know what this one wrote in his notebook and which lines and signs he photographed to prove his case. Maybe he just took photos a few feet further along the road where parking restrictions do apply. We know how they can falsify the evidence.


6 March (Part 4) - The Bexley budget debate 2014

MayorIf mayor Sharon Massey had deliberately set about pleasing council critics she could hardly have done a better job. She allowed photography at her meetings before the new protocol was formally adopted and last night she said nothing about it; just let those with cameras go about their business unhindered. She will be a hard act to follow.

There was something between 20 and 30 people in the public gallery, al lot of them candidates at the next election. After discovering who I was a bunch of Tories got up and moved away.

I left after the budget vote was taken having been asked by Mick Barnbrook to go elsewhere to discuss with him what should be done with the Cheryl Bacon file but although we reached a decision, not being present throughout the council meeting was probably a mistake. I’m told I missed a number of little gems like councillor Linda Bailey suggesting that Sidcup High Street is benefitting from the traffic chaos there because it is keeping people there longer. Yeah, that makes sense.

The meeting has already been reported in brief so this second one will probably turn out to be a stodgy catalogue of quotable quotes. Here we go…

LeaderTeresa O’Neill moved the recommendation to adopt the budget proposals. The budget she said, rather obviously, “dictates what services the council delivers”. She was “disappointed that the Labour party did not accept the motion” but she had “put away something for a rainy day and put something in our back pocket for when the need arose and improved the services for our residents”.

“We could have taken the easy way out and taken advice from the opposition spokesperson who suggested we should put up council tax by 40% or go bankrupt”. That would appear to be a lie based on something Munir Malik said long ago but the 40% will be news to everyone even if Munir did refer to bankruptcy.

“We promised taxpayers value for money and we have taken action to ensure we remain a low council tax authority” - but not as low as other London boroughs.

“We listened to what our residents say and considered their responses. The consultation responses were very clear and most agreed with our proposal”. The leader then went on about the climb down on moving the archives to Bromley which are now to stay at no extra cost. Far from being a success, that proposal must surely have been an enormous mistake if Penny Duggan (Bexley Historical Society) can waltz in and come up with a much better plan.

“We have even improved services” she said without providing specific examples but later the council tax support scheme was branded “excellent”. Schools “improved” and “Queen Mary’s Hospital we can be really proud of”. Waitrose is in Sidcup and Tesco in Erith and all there because of our Conservative council apparently.

The new council HQ is “going to deliver for residents“ and “save vast amounts of money on a yearly basis”. The leader concluded by comparing herself with Lady Thatcher although it has to be said, not entirely seriously. Overall the leader gave a good account of herself with not too many excursions into her council’s customary dishonesty.

Deputy leaderThe deputy leader seconded the motion saying these were “difficult times” but “we are up to the job”. The council has “revolutionised and redesigned children’s services” following the appalling OFSTED report “and we have committed millions to that service”.

Campbell said that some of his investments had gone unnoticed and reeled off a list. The new council telephone system, the web improvements, better IT systems, “they go under the radar but demonstrate our investment in Bexley”.

He taunted the opposition that in 2010 they said the council could not deliver £35 million savings and he assured residents he could deliver the budget “right up to 2018”.

The mayor then asked councillors if they wished to speak. Of course they did.

Labour councillor Brenda Langstead was as always concerned about her own electors and singled out community safety for comment. She correctly reminded the meeting that the more honest among the Conservatives had admitted that front line services would be affected by the new budget. She said that the tax freeze of the past four years had resulted in 50% of services being lost. How that is calculated she did not say but there is no doubt that in principle councillor Langstead is correct.

Councillor Margaret O’Neill (Labour) was unhappy about the lack of affordable rented accommodation and the 8,000 people awaiting allocation. She said that there is nothing in the budget to combat that situation and there was plenty of land available for building especially in the north of the borough.

BorellaCouncillor Stefano Borella, Crayford and Erith’s chosen man for Labour in 2015 referred to the Conservatives’ self congratulatory tone on the lack of council tax rises but said not everyone had benefitted. The poor who previously did not have to pay were now asked to pay a proportion of it. The policy was announced on “the same day that tax was cut for millionaires”. He referred to “the hated bedroom tax” without being hauled over the coals for the use of its colloquial name. “The impact is a massive increase in the use of food banks.  Local MPs have been happy to promote food banks as a new social service. The party opposite should be ashamed.”

Stefano was particularly critical of earlier decisions to run down children’s services to the point they were inadequate and attracted OFSTED’s attention and “now we were having to build them up again yet the cabinet member is still in her role”.

Councillor Alan Deadman invented a new council slogan incorporating the words ‘Statutory Minimums’ and was also critical of children’s services and the increased charges for things like football pitches. Grass was to be cut less often too. Parks being left open all night might adversely affect some residents. He said the costs would be transferred to the police but in the end the council tax payer still pays. Alan put in his regular plea for a small increase in pay for council staff who have had almost nothing extra over the past three years.

Deadman MalikNext we were treated to some welcome fireworks from the Thamesmead Tiger, Munir Malik, who set about savaging Bexley’s record with gusto. “It is an absolutely shameful lie that there has been any suggestion made of a 40% increase in council tax by this side of the chamber. It is an absolute lie that [lost in audience applause] but when we came into this borough there was an awful lot of work to be done and the group took control by a majority of one, not forty something. We really angst’d over how that responsibility would be carried out”.

“In 2003” he said with a grin on his face, “we increased the council tax by a slightly larger margin than [lost in applause again] but that was not the largest increase that this council ever saw. The largest increase was under the leadership of Dan Newton, a Tory member, a Tory leader. You have never apologised for that”.

Rubbish“If you thought that the Labour increase was so big why have you not returned it to the people of Bexley? You say we charged them too much but if you are now saying the freeze on taxes is because of the increase we put in between 2002 and 2006 you should say so and give us some credit. We put one million pounds into the pension fund deficit” Munir was told he was talking rubbish so he turned his attention to that subject. He said that current policy would cause rubbish to accumulate in people’s gardens and the streets”.

“You have decimated local government… we did more in our period in government than you have in these last eight years. You have got rid of the assets at rock bottom prices. Tesco’s [the Civic Centre site] is not even protected; if they were to build a block of flats or a hotel Bexley residents would get nothing out of it. You did not even include an overage clause.”

Davey Councillor John Davey stood to say he had never heard so much rubbish in his life and proceeded to outdo councillor Malik by a very considerable margin. For unfocussed rambling, John Davey takes a lot of beating. “It has always been my general principle that if I do the complete opposite of what councillor Malik has to say I cannot go far wrong. I now know why because I have since learned that he is a director of the Co-op Group with losses of two billion pounds [almost inaudible]. What does that tell you about his financial credibility?”

“We have an excellent record here, we have frozen council tax, we have put about £200 million pounds of investment into Bexley, and are getting that, brilliant investment, and that’s with freezing council tax, what more could you want? They put it up 40%, they’d probably put it up more, there is absolutely no doubt about that, it’s in their genes. They can’t stop themselves, there are three things they will do, they will put up council tax, they will pay themselves more, you can be absolutely certain of it because that is what they do”. Apparently Davey cannot even count.

“In my ward. Lesnes Abbey, we’ve got promised over three million pounds to improve Lesnes Abbey park and woods, fantastic, and improvements going on in Thamesmead and Crossrail. You can go over the whole borough, massive investments coming in and yet magically we’ve managed to freeze council tax and they seem frightened to put forward an alternative. Why is that? It’s because they know we will pick it apart; absolutely no facts behind anything they say it’s just smoke and mirrors so they just refuse to put anything forward. It’s a horrible thought, but if they were ever to win the council, they, I think, the future of our borough would be very dark indeed.

For the record, councillor Malik joined the Co-operative Group after it ran into difficulties and when the Conservatives were in opposition they didn’t produce alternative budgets either. How can a few councillors ever hope to mount the consultation processes and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of accountancy expertise that the ruling party can muster?

NewmanAfter that it was a relief to listen to someone with something useful to say; Séan Newman. Labour for Belvedere. He returned to stealth taxes, seven million pounds of it every year, equivalent, he said, to an eleven percent increase in council tax. “It is a very disingenuous set of leaflets which are going through the doors”. He said that it is not a choice to use many of these services, cemeteries being perhaps the most obvious example given.

Councillor Gareth Bacon snubbed many of the audience by failing to switch on his microphone and had his back to them so I will note in passing only that he said the cutting of grass will be reduced only from twelve to eleven times a year and that not shutting parks will save £100,000 per annum. Isn’t that a wonderful example of how councils must be paying far too much for services? How long will it take for playground equipment to get nicked?

Councillor Chris Taylor repeated his “back of a fag packet” jibe, from 2011, about Labour’s budgeting ability and that proved to be the pinnacle of his short speech.

Councillor and cabinet member Katie Perrior came out with her usual spiel about how much she has improved children’s services and has been able to recruit people with MBEs. Unfortunately she spoke at such a furious pace and far from clearly that even with the help of the recording I have little idea of what she was saying. I heard more criticism of the opposition party and that she was proud of what she had achieved.

Massey Cabinet member Don Massey also launched into an attack on Labour who were “bombastic and scare mongering”. Mumbling along I heard him say something about them “just not getting it”. He bragged about the success of Bexley’s privatised library and the Howbury Centre “coming on stream shortly’. He admitted that service prices had increased and some were now at a premium level. He was “very concerned about the ground conditions in Danson Park. We must have better ground conditions for the festival to go ahead”.

Labour leader Chris Ball made what was in effect a farewell council speech before his bowing out in May. He expressed some doubt that the new budget could last until 2018 but hoped for the best. Cabinet member John Fuller had a few digs at the opposition but we have heard them all before. He didn’t sink to Davey’s levels - who could? - and standards have been raised in schools, but I was a bit disappointed nevertheless.

Finally leader Teresa O’Neill poo poo’d the idea of cutting the number of councillors and took a final swipe at councillor Malik. What will they do without him?

The vote divided entirely along partly lines as it always does. The Labour party will suffer the inevitable questions over whether or not they wanted to raise council tax but there has never been any direct suggestion they would do so although that might be the inevitable consequence of their ideas. There is a council tax cap of 1·99% and there has never been the slightest hint that they would try to crash through that. I don’t think they had anything more in mind than to take a leaf out of Conservative Bromley council’s book.

Apologies for not staying at the meeting past the vote but having spent five hours on this report, right now I am rather glad I didn’t.


6 March (Part 3) - I’m in trouble again

TweetI have been reported to the police but fear not, Teresa O’Neill has not taken leave of her senses again. I am a bad boy for my blog three days ago commenting on this UKIP Tweet.

My crime is repeating what can be read at Companies House and similar websites, the Sidcup address of the Limited company Quintessentially Me. Maybe I should have just linked to the Companies House page.

I won’t embarrass the company owner by publishing their email but you should get the general idea from my reply. I’m pretty sure fair trading laws make it illegal to sell from a website without offering a contact address either.

No one has suggested your relationship with Bexley council is underhand in any way but as a business, small or otherwise, your name and address is public property. How else do you think I got hold of it?

The law on domain name registration is clear. Unless you are a private individual, owners of domains engaged in any trade, must have their name and address published by Nominet, the controlling quango. Mine is there because owners of org domains have no right of opt out. Yours should be there too.

I have no intention of making an FOI request to Bexley council but if you follow the Twitter conversations carefully you may see that others do.

The police will not be interested in your report. You run a business, ergo, the name and address will be put on the web by Companies House and copied to various company registration websites.

Are you sure you are not over reacting? I would agree that the reference to your company was an unimportant addition to the normal fare on my website and adds little to the debate on Bexley council and I could easily remove it, but as you thought the best course of action was to report me to the police I do not feel so inclined.

Please be sure to forward this email to the police, I would be interested to know what they say.

One of Bonkers’ Twitter followers is the Sidcup Safer Neighbourhood Team. I would hope they are more interested in their current difficulties with Romanian burglars.

Follow UKIP; go to jail!


6 March (Part 2) - The fight for honesty goes on

Alabi Mick Barnbrook never gives up. It’s taken him three years, sometimes more, to get MPs put behind bars and whilst I couldn’t even be bothered to make a complaint about it, Mick is still getting stuck into the Colin Campbell cover ups. Campbell described Bexley is Bonkers as “crap”, which harms no one and offends few, but the subsequent lies - he claims he said ‘trash’ turn it into something more serious. Campbell also went on TV to tell everyone, without actually naming him, that Nicholas Dowling shoved a microphone up against councillor Cheryl Bacon’s face which councillors themselves have been queuing up to state was simply not true.

Despite the anonymous messages to the contrary, maybe because of them, councillors are also now emerging from the woodwork to say “everyone knows that Campbell said B-i-B was crap”. Some have obviously reached the end of their tether with Bexley council’s constant dishonesty. All of which is grist to Mick Barnbrook’s mill.

He recently made a formal complaint of maladministration to Mr. Tuckley against Mr. Akin Alabi, Head of Legal Services, Lynn Tyler, Legal Services Team Manager and Rebecca Sandhu, Independent Person. It’s a bit long winded and needs some knowledge of the subject to fully understand but here are some extracts…

Despite providing evidence by way of two Freedom of Information responses 293164 dated 26th July 2013 and 293165 dated 30th July 2013, together with an email from Nick Hollier dated 9th July 213, informing me that the council's protocol on behaviour at council meetings agreed in 2010 still stands, which all proved that Councillor Campbell was prevaricating when he appeared on the Politics Show, Lynn Tyler still reached the decision that he had not breached the Members' Code of Conduct.

Further evidence of a biased and corrupt investigation by Lynn Tyler is contained in the conclusion of her letter to me dated 11th September 2013, where she states "Even had I formed the opinion that his comments did amount to prevarication, this would not be any breach of the Members' Code of Conduct and is not referred to anywhere in the Code."

The evidence provided by Freedom of Information response 293165 is clear evidence that although audio or visual recordings of proceedings is allowed with the permission of the Mayor/Chairman, that permission has never been granted in the last two years.

The evidence provided by Freedom of Information response 293164 is clear evidence that no public disorder has taken place during the last two years that warranted action by the council by means of ejection or warning letters to members of the Bexley Action Group.

It is therefore obvious from Lynn Tyler's comment, in addition to the the documentary evidence provided by me, that a corrupt investigation has taken place, which was disregarded at the review stage by both Mr Alabi and Rebecca Sandhu.

I am therefore requesting a full investigation into the conduct of all three individuals for conducting a corrupt investigation, both at the initial stage by Lynn Tyler and at the review stage by Mr Alabi and Rebecca Sandhu.

I am particularly concerned at the failure of Rebecca Sandhu to properly carry out her role of Independent Person.

If Cheryl Bacon had said something like “I made a right arse of that didn’t I? I’ll know what to do next time” her reputation would be intact instead of being in tatters and whilst not in the same league few would have cared if Campbell had just shrugged and said “so what?” But no; we must be fed a diet of lies by everyone concerned. It makes no sense.


6 March (Part 1) - Council tax freeze approved

Campbell O'NeillWhat a difference four (almost) years make. When I first attended council meetings they were an utter shambles. Conservative councillors would be aiming personal insults at Labour councillors, Labour councillors scoring political points, Peter Craske being incredibly rude to members of the public, mayor Val Clark picking fights with members of the public who did not cheer her every word and councillor John Davey being John Davey. Rather a lot of councillors were dressed like tramps too.

Now we have a a mayor who never puts a foot wrong and seems to be a well adjusted human being and councillors, who judged on last night’s performance anyway, are all one might wish for in a well run council. Viewed from their respective political positions, leader Teresa O’Neill put over a good account of her achievements with deputy Colin Campbell following suit and Labour councillors made a decent job of picking holes in them. In particular the massive price hikes coupled with reduced services which the Conservatives are so proud of. The Conservatives, both councillors of cabinet rank and below, made polite and valid comments, and John Davey put in a sterling performance as the village idiot.

If Bexley Conservatives had not built their council on so many lies I might be tempted to fall back into my old Conservative ways and overlook Teresa O’Neill’s Gordon Brown style stealth taxes and her abuse, well Chris Taylor’s abuse, of low paid workers. Even during her address to the council yesterday evening she managed to slip in one massive lie. “Bexley is a low tax authority.” Oh no it isn’t. When next year’s tax league table is produced Bexley is unlikely to be any better than in 24th position among the 32 London boroughs. Why that is could be debated at length and councillor Munir Malik made a pretty good, interesting anyway, stab at it yesterday but that, like a lot of other things, is going to have to wait for analysis of the recording. That little box of tricks, not to mention Nicholas Dowling’s broken dictaphone, has probably done more to improve Bexley council’s public image than their Standards Board ever has. The lying Cheryl Bacon has been struck dumb.

The Labour contingent made no attempt to put forward an alternative budget strategy, how could they realistically, and voted against freezing the tax. It’s a superficial view of what is happening in the borough but the Conservatives will be making merry with that on your doorstep soon. While they are there ask them why they find it impossible to be honest.


5 March (Part 3) - Taking secrecy to extremes

 We know they don’t like to admit anything but this FOI response sent by Bexley council a couple of days ago seems to be plumbing new depths. Instead of refusing the request they have just sent a blank line without any content. Clever stuff.


5 March (Part 2) - Another Bexley management failure results in death

How many Rhys Lawries does Bexley need? This time a child died of rickets, an easily preventable disease. The serious case study made these comments and references… 

• A lack of ownership and accountability in practice.
• Newly qualified and/or inexperienced practitioners with poor senior management oversight of the case.
• Poor quality of assessments, influenced by a lack of depth and rigour of analysis and interpretation.
• Poor ongoing assessment of risk with little evidence of considering the totality of events and behaviours.
• Poor compliance and in some cases lack of knowledge of policies and procedures.
• Poor inter and intra agency communication, including inconsistent and at times lack of documentation.
• Limited evidence of the voice of the child in professional decision making.
• An apparent lack of evidence of awareness/knowledge of the impact of maternal nutritional status on the health of either the unborn or new born infant.
• The quality of assessments was poor with little recognition or analysis of risk and therefore decision-making was flawed.
• Professional practice focussed on maternal/parental needs over the needs of the child. There was no evidence of challenge of the parents’ views/representations or of their contradictory behaviours with a resulting loss of focus on the child.
• The ethnicity, diversity and possibly professional status of the family distracted professionals from challenging them. Supporting the equality and diversity rights of the family appeared to take precedence over the voice of the child.
• There was a lack of ownership and accountability by professionals, delegation to junior staff or other professionals was evident and there was no follow up or review of concerns. This contributed to the lack of identification of risk and increasing vulnerability was not picked up.
• There was a lack of senior management oversight, this includes directly to support junior staff and organisationally. Roles were often confused and not understood. The quality assurance function of management oversight was missing and led to continued poor assessment and decisions.
• The role and function of named nurse in acute trust 1 was not utilised as set out in Working Together and led to confusion for other agencies.
• Policies/procedures and guidance were not complied with in particular Discharge planning, DNA management, Core Assessment, rapid response meetings, managing allegations, the LADO role and nutritional guidance. This contributed to the lack of effective risk assessment and planning.
• There was poor Inter and Intra professional communication, leading to gaps in knowledge, misleading risk assessment and awareness of vulnerability.
• The lack of understanding of the impact of maternal nutrition/health on the unborn infant/baby resulted in no identification of risk or management plan.
• There was a consistent lack of professional curiosity and challenge to both parents and other professionals, this contributed to poor assessment, lack of recognition of risk/vulnerability and subsequently poor ineffective management.
• The role of Named senior officers within agencies and the LADO role and process was not used and does not appear to be understood.
• There are familiar learning points identified within this case to a previous local SCR in 2009 which suggest that previous learning has not been embedded into practice.
• The repeated lack of recognition of risk was not recognised as there was no professional who considered the whole picture or challenged previous decisions or lack of them. This lack of identification of increasing vulnerability also appears to have conversely provided reassurance and served to reduce the risk observed by professionals as care unfolded.

The News Shopper reports that Bexley council says “lessons have been learned”. That’s alright then. The News Shopper also reports today that Bexley’s Head of Professional Standards and Quality Assurance has been awarded an MBE for services to children and families. She has been in post only since last August but says the award was for “social workers and managers”.

Note: LADO - Local Authority Designated Officer. SCR - Serious Case Review.


4 March (Part 4) - Quintessentially wrong

NominetOne of the things on my ToDo list was to research the company Quintessentially Me Ltd. which has been supplying Bexley council with various fripperies. Unfortunately, or maybe not, I have been pipped to the post by UKIP on Twitter. However there is one thing I can tell you about the company; it has made a dishonest declaration to Nominet, the registry of uk internet domain names.

It is against Nominet’s regulations for a company to withhold their name and address from the public records. That ought to be reported. Meanwhile the address as it appears on the Companies House website is…

Flat 21,
Cornel House,
Longlands Road,
DA15 7LX


4 March (Part 3) - Well connected on two quid a week

BhogalI’d like to be able to say that the report on the Bhogals was quite long enough already without adding more but the fact is I was so pleased with myself over the credit agency’s (Experian if you must know) comment that I completely failed to look any further. As a reader has been quick to remind me, I should not have been so complacent.

Amandeep Singh Bhogal may be running a company worth only £100 but it doesn’t stop him hobnobbing with top Conservatives. A trip to his political website (why would a British politician choose to host a legitimate website in Albania?) will get you pictures of Amandeep alongside local MPs David Evenett and James Brokenshire, William Hague (Foreign Secretary), Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) , James Cleverly (GLA Member), Damian Green MP (Home Office); second rankers like Colin Bloom, John Waters and Alex Sawyer and third rate politicos like John Davey and Keima Allen.

A more exhaustive search will find Amandeep in the Kentish newspapers where he describes himself as an industrialist, farmer and businessman. I wonder where he grows the grass?

On Linkedin Mr. Bhogal goes further and says he is an Approved Conservative Parliamentary Candidate. It is absolutely amazing what these hard working Indians can do on £2 a week.


4 March (Part 2) - Hill View views

James HuntWriting the report of last week’s planning meeting was not something I was looking forward to and it wasn’t just that it takes more than four hours to go through a one and a half hour recording, picking out the relevant bits, typing them out and then checking to make sure that the quotations are accurate. More worrying was that I knew from messages received beforehand that some people were expecting the boot to be put in in good and hard against certain people seen to be the villains behind the scenes and those correspondents were likely to be disappointed.

If any reputation for integrity is to be maintained only what the recording reveals can be safely reported but sometimes the gossip is interesting, and occasionally, better still (?), it might be mischievous. Nevertheless it may still be worth wider distribution with the proviso that it fails to meet Bonkers’ usual standard of proof and may be bunkum for all I know.

It is entirely possible that some anonymous comments are from those with axes to grind; but I sometimes suspect that concerned Conservatives are behind them, perhaps even councillors. Whatever the case I need to destroy any real chance of the sources being identified so the following message is in reality an amalgam of more than two recent comments about the Hill View planning application, edited into a single message. Every comment is genuine but as will be apparent, not necessarily provided in the sequence shown below.

Excellent report and a good summary of how it was stage managed. It is interesting to note that the third East Wickham councillor, Steven Hall, was not present. I think he tried to warn us how it would play out and suspect he is deeply out of favour with the inner sanctum. He must be odds on to lose his Audit Chairmanship. We would be sorry to see him go but it would appear that East Wickham is now being micro managed by the FC.

Local residents apparently wrote in to try and stop Hunt representing them but the FC overruled everybody. Hunt is in the pocket of the FC and has his sights on the Children’s Services cabinet position (Perrior leaving).

The chairman, leader, a few planning members, and James Hunt got together with officers and planned the entire evening. It was not popular with everyone in the Tory group. Mr. Burke caused massive problems for the Council with his report and will be speaking. It’s why the planning meeting on the 6th February had to be deferred. It put the Bexley First project in danger!

There were some ten Tories canvassing in East Wickham on Saturday - its the only time we see [deleted description] Hunt and he still tries to avoid residents. When he gets to the cabinet I hope he does a better job with the Scrutiny of Children’s Services - no wonder Bexley’s record isn't good.

Some of that rings true, especially the rigging of the meeting in advance. Par for the course in Bexley but I find the criticism of James Hunt hard to swallow. He made a good case against the Hill View scheme last Thursday and there is no evidence at all that councillor Hunt is any of the things alleged in the emails, nor Steven Hall for that matter. I understand from other sources that it was James Hunt who personally contacted affected residents and met many of them. I think you will know who the initials FC refer to.

Gossip blogs are dangerous territory so there will be no quick repeats, but I do rather like the thought of spreading dissension in the council camp.


4 March (Part 1) - Twitter and a twit

Rob LeitchI get the impression that most B-i-B readers do not use Twitter and I am wary of it myself. Since opening an account I have mainly used it for announcing the blogs I think may be of most interest. What I do concede is that it can be a very powerful tool for distributing opinions and information and technically it works exceptionally well; I can see why some politicians are keen users - and some not.

Yesterday I became involved in a Twitter conversation about any ‘biographies’ that those intending to stand for election in Bexley in May may have made available to electors. While searching for an answer I came across the associated image. It is Rob Leitch’s Twitter page and the self proclaimed “commonsense Tory candidate for Sidcup Ward in May 2014” appears to be keen on hiding. All I know about him is that he has been a willing Tory stooge and works for an MP. He wants your vote but he doesn’t want to talk to you.

‘Biographies’ are hard to come by and I found only a few…

Chris Attard, UKIP, Lesnes
Cheryl Bacon, Conservative, Cray Meadows
Mick Barnbrook, Independent, Blackfen and Lamorbey
Elwyn Bryant, Independent, Blackfen and Lamorbey
Rob Comley, UKIP, East Wickham
Peter Craske, Conservative, Blackfen and Lamorbey
Nicholas Dowling, Independent, Blackfen and Lamorbey
Mike Ferro, UKIP, Barnehurst
Lynn Smith, UKIP, Blackfen and Lamorbey
Chris Taylor, Conservative, Blackfen and Lamorbey

The concentration on Blackfen and Lamorbey appears to be entirely coincidental. The absence of the Labour party may not be. If you know of more please let me know.


3 March (Part 2) - Cowboys and Indians?

Bexley Conservatives have a weakness for husband and wife pairings of councillors, possibly civil partners too although the next one planned went seriously off the rails when one half hastily disappeared, allegedly after thieving something from his Conservative councillor employer. A case of not keeping it in the family! The latest list from Bexley Conservatives shows quite a lot of new pairings. Pairs are useful because council leader Teresa O’Neill can appoint one half to be responsible for the scrutiny of the other who is a cabinet member. It’s what any tin pot dictator would do.

Among the new pairs being lined up for election in May is Pardeep and Amandeep Bhogal, both standing in Belvedere; and who are they you might reasonably ask.

RSBAmandeep Bhogal is a director at RSB Engineers Ltd, a company founded in India in 1960. Founded is a good word because the company claims to manufacture a wide range of metal products; automotive components to scaffolding accessories, and their website refers to a foundry in Lower Road, London with offices in Westminster, India and the United Arab Emirates.

Lower Road, London is a euphemism for Lower Road, Belvedere, Kent like Del Boy’s London, Paris and New York. Anyone who checks with Companies House can get at the truth.

Pardeep Bhogal is the company secretary; well she was until her appointment was terminated in June 2013 – but then again the company RSB Engineers Ltd (company number: 08266505), London, according to Companies House has only been going since 24th October 2012. Really? What about the claim to have been around since 1960?

A company of the same name, RSB Engineers Ltd (06460154), and with Mr. Amandeep Bhogal as a Director and Mrs. Pardeep Bhogal as secretary, operating from the same address as now, was trading from 27th December 2007 until it was struck off and dissolved without ever filing any accounts on the 18th August 2009.

Just two days later, on the 20th August 2009, a company of the same name, RSB Engineers Ltd (06996582) and with Mr. Amandeep Bhogal appointed director and Mrs. Pardeep Bhogal, also a director this time, trading from almost the same address. 108A Lower Road instead of 108. This company, RSB Engineers Ltd, lasted until 15th November 2011 when Mr. and Mrs. Bhogal jointly signed an application, numbered DS01, which struck off and dissolved this company yet again – and submitted accounts totalling just £100. Not much for a company trading in three countries.

So three times RSB Engineers has become a limited company with three different company numbers but the same company name, same addresses and same director/secretary. And in seven years submitted one set of accounts in August 2010 totalling just £100. No insider information here, all of it is publicly available to anyone with access to Google and a few minutes to spare.

It has been reported that 500,000 companies a year with addresses in England start up and dissolve in order to avoid paying debts and taxes and £16 billion a year revenue is lost. Others simply make themselves insolvent with similar results.

Maybe there is a good reason for RSB Engineers coming and going with such regularity and making so little money and it’s not my field of expertise. So the experts at a very well known credit reference agency were asked if RSB was in any way unusual and they were kind enough to provide some answers.
Which might be summed up as “not bent but very odd indeed”. Odd enough to affect the company’s credit score. Personally I wonder how a company with only a hundred quid to its name can afford all the high tech equipment featured on their website. On the other hand RSB cannot afford a couple of pounds a month for their own web hosting package. Instead they use WIX which offers free services in return for it leaving the WIX name on each web page. Now that is what I call professional!
Very very professional (spelling) and absolutely the right sort of councillors to join Teresa O’Neill’s bunch of third raters.

Note: With assistance from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. The credit agency note may require a browser refresh for it to display correctly.


3 March (Part 1) - Vote blue, go green

Harrow Inn site
Harrow Inn site
Harrow Inn site
Harrow Inn site
Harrow InnWho was it that said the old Harrow Inn site would be boarded up before now, with err... boards presumably? The Conservative Lesnes Action Team. That’s Hill View seconder Kerry Allon, Keira Allen and Elizabeth Anderson. If that is their idea of action it’s not an impressive bid to improve the area.

You might have thought that the thriving car wash facility paying £1,250 a month to the site owner would have allowed for something a bit more substantial than another set of plastic kites.


2 March - A whole lotta rule bending goin’ on

Hill ViewHill View is one of the council office sites to be sold off by Bexley council to help fund its new headquarters at 2 Watling Street. When Bellway Homes agreed to buy it it is inconceivable that the council did not give a firm indication that their plans would be approved. Last Thursday evening the council’s planning committee met to do just that, but there is an election coming and Welling has shown before how fickle it can be at the ballot box, so a particular sort of charade had to be played out. This would consist of various councillors being trotted out to criticise the scheme.

After the planning officers spent 20 minutes giving an overview of the proposals - 47 houses and 14 flats - the two objectors allowed to speak were invited to do so for three minutes each. Chairman councillor Peter Reader had refused a request for one to speak for four minutes and the other for two.

The first speaker was a Mr. David Burke with whom I have swapped a transcript of his speech (PDF) for a copy of my audio recording. I felt it was a big mistake to base his objections on his solicitor’s analysis of where Bexley council had broken the law or their own rules. Long term readers will know all too well that Bexley council has no respect for the law or its own rules. Ian Clement, Petition, Obscene blog, Closed Session, illegal yellow lines, unjustifiable bus lane. Need I go on?

Planning Mr. Burke had been speaking for two minutes and 30 seconds when chairman Peter Reader asked him to stop. Mr. Burke continued but at two minutes 52 seconds (the recording doesn’t lie) councillor Reader began to throw his toys out of his pram and that was the end of that.

The next speaker was Mrs. Baldwinson who was unhappy that the side elevation of one of the proposed new houses looked to be closer to her window than Bexley council’s own rules allowed but she had not been permitted to know the measured distance. She was also concerned that an area already subject to flooding would become worse. The lady said she had previously been assured by councillors James Hunt, Steven Hall and Linda Bailey that none of her concerns would be realised.

Bellway’s representative was then given five minutes to make his case and in contrast to the short changing of Mr. Burke he was told he was “welcome to take five and a half minutes”. Apart from his spiel about how wonderful the development would be he said that Bellway was ready to start building as soon as possible.

Welling councillor James Hunt then spoke for the affected local residents. He spent a few seconds commenting on the legal issues raised by Mr. Burke and then jumped to Mrs. Baldwinson’s proximity problem. He described it as “a serious issue”. Elsewhere there will be “windows looking straight into bedroom windows”.

Councillor Hunt said that the flooding problems are causing “mushrooms and fungus growing up the walls. There is a serious issue of flooding which will be exacerbated by this development. Drainage must be seriously addressed before this can be accepted this evening. If we lived there we wouldn’t want it”. He then moved on to the issue of balconies. The flats are “almost on the boundary line and have balconies on the back which overlook the houses in Sandringham Drive and Marina Drive”. (The second street name was barely audible so may have been Peter’s Close.) He hoped that the committee would take these things into account. “If we don’t we will have all failed in our jobs.”

Val ClarkAfter a two minute break for councillors to read an Addendum to the Agenda the reliably obnoxious councillor Val Clark jumped straight in to say “this is a very good scheme … and that the conditions imposed should allay residents’ fears. What we could put there they definitely wouldn’t like”. In a few short words she ignored all of councillor Hunt’s concerns and threatened residents with something worse.

Councillor Colin Tandy asked questions about the drains and spoke of deferring the scheme under the Localism Act’s Neighbourhood Forum procedure which he accepted might cause a lengthy delay.

Mrs. Susan Clark, Head of Development Control, said that the developer would have to meet all current drainage regulations before being allowed to proceed. The legal advice was that Localism Act considerations should “be given very little weight”.

Councillor Mike Slaughter was “bloody glad that it was not going to be offices” but he was concerned about the drainage and remarked on the credibility of the Environment Agency which was seeing no problems with it. The water table is such “that as soon as it rains you get puddling”. He was “very unhappy about the drainage problems down there”.

Slaughter and coCouncillor Slaughter then turned his attention to “the recreational land around the flats” and the fact that a lot of the two storey houses have “bedrooms in the roof”. “Is that not three storey?” he asked. “It is bending the rules.” The open space for the twelve flats was “mean”.

A council officer said that council policy requires a 45% area for communal use (of what he didn’t say but one might assume of the internal space) and this figure would only be met by including a strip of land on the far boundary of the site. By implication the area adjacent to the flats did not meet the council’s minimum requirement. Councillor Slaughter said that was another example of “bending the rules”. He asked for the figure for the area immediately outside the flats; “it’s nowhere near 45%”. Mrs. Clark accepted the rules were not met but argued that because the flats were mainly one bedroomed it didn’t matter.

A barely recognisable councillor Brian Bishop also expressed concern about the drainage. He asked if any conditions would be imposed on patios etc. which might make the problem worse. He additionally and helpfully asked if Mrs. Baldwinson’s question about building distances could be answered.

Mrs. Clark said the planning conditions would not allow any extensions etc. and large patios have to be permeable. Another council officer then ran his ruler over the plans to ascertain the distance between various boundary walls. The figures varied around the 16 metre mark with the smallest “a shade under 15”, the standard minimum being 16 metres between blank walls and 22 metres when windows are involved. Having mentioned another under 16 metres the council officer rather curiously said he “was confident throughout the scheme all the separation distances are achieved”. Councillor Slaughter failed to say this was another piece of rule bending. However councillor Bishop recognised “it was less than what is required. It needs to be noted”.

Councillor Margaret O’Neill (Labour) was unhappy about the balcony supports which ran straight down to the ground. They represented a security risk.

Councillor Simon Windle had misgivings about the flats too and the lack of recreational area, he asked how much below the mysterious 45% it was. No one knew. He had questions about the separation distances too, the under 16 metres between blank walls in particular. The householder concerned interjected that his wall was not blank, it included his kitchen window. Chairman Reader, rude as usual, said he could not accept a correction from the audience, but the council officer who had been dismissive of the under 16 metre problem earlier said that he had ignored the kitchen window as he did not consider a kitchen to be “a habitable room”. Another bit of rule bending and who does the cooking in his house? Councillor Windle was asked if his questions had been answered and he said “No”.

Councillor Kerry Allon said he had concerns about the overlooking and the drainage but “the plan is as good as we can hope for … it’s not perfect but it is as good as we can get and I am happy to second it”. Councillor Val Clark had earlier proposed approval but what she said was lost to the recording due to the noise of disgruntled voters exiting the chamber.

The sale of Hill View is very important to Bexley council. It needs the money to help pay for its extravagance in Watling Street, the funding of which has not been made public. If Hill View is not sold quickly Bexley council will be in financial difficulties even quicker than forecast. It is a near certainty that council leader O’Neill would be insisting that the plans were approved, indeed the usual pre-meeting council leaks said as much.

Councillor Hunt was chosen to champion the residents but according to them he hadn’t even bothered to show up at their meetings. His comments to the committee were not as half-hearted as I was led to believe they might be but they achieved nothing so perhaps any aspirations to take over Katie Perrior’s Children’s Services cabinet post are not totally scuppered.

The planning committee consists of ten councillors. Four didn’t speak at all, Val Clark was right behind the application from the start as you would expect of someone in O’Neill’s Inner Circle and five councillors had serious concerns about some aspects of it. Councillor Hunt did too but he is not a committee member, so how do you think this faux regard for residents translated into practice? Yes you are right, there was a unanimous vote in favour of what had been labelled “rule bending”. When has Bexley council ever had any regard for rules?

With Welling’s reputation for voting for fringe parties maybe next May that not so fringe party, UKIP, should flood Welling with candidates. That might put paid to councillor Hunt’s ambitions. Not that I see anything particularly bad in James Hunt, there are an awful lot worse, but even the best of them keep very bad company.


1 March (Part 3) - Promises, promises

TwitterImmediately after the eyesore in Abbey Wood was featured here again on 16th December last year, Lesnes Conservatives Tweeted that they had taken action and the site would be boarded up within six weeks of New Year’s Day. The last vestiges of the flimsy plastic sheet that had surrounded the site for more than four years were blown away in the winter storms and local residents looked forward to this ‘boarding’ that the Conservative Action Team promised.

Those local residents know exactly what boarding looks like, a couple of hundred yards away in Greenwich a good example may be seen.
Harrow Inn Harrow InnBut the Harrow Inn site is not being so favoured. The associated photographs were taken today at 11 a.m. and 12:48 respectively. More plastic sheeting.

So what have Bexley Conservatives done for Lesnes ward? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Readers with an interest in this neglected area of Bexley (and Greenwich) should take a look at fromthemurkydepths. Lots of info and interesting pictures there.


1 March (Part 2) - Another week, another shop closure

Closed shop Closed shop Closed shopThree new pictures but only one new Bexleyheath Broadway shop closure this week.


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