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Bonkers Blog May 2014

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31 May - Next step, rename Clocktower Times Square?

CenterAt least the Civic Offices sign is pointing in the right direction but who let the Yanks in?

Bexleyheath will lose some more parking spaces at the end of today. The Civic Centre car park will close to make way for Tesco and that’s the second significant loss of parking amenity in central Bexleyheath in the past couple of years; the other loss being the NCP park behind the Central Library.

For those who mourn the loss of the Civic Centre car park here’s a few pictures as a memento.

Car park Car park Car park Car park

 

30 May - Another month gone

There will be no proper blog until June which isn’t long to wait but I suspect even then there will be nothing really interesting to report before Bexley council gets back to business on Wednesday week. Today I really must get down to writing to the police. I may be overly suspicious but their latest letter has given me the impression they are trying to downgrade my allegation of Misconduct in Public Office against two former Bexley borough commanders which I sent to Commissioner Hogan-Howe on 22nd January 2014 to a complaint that they merely made a bit of a mess of the Craske case.

The Metropolitan police is corrupt to its core - I feel I am entitled to say that given that murdered private eye Daniel Morgan’s brother is a family member and no one knows it better than he does - and I’m not going to make it easy for them to sweep more corruption under their massive carpet.

bishop Bishop Hurt HurtIn other news, Bexley council has finally moved out of the Civic Offices. I expect today’s Press Release will go on their website eventually but for the moment it is not available in any web friendly format so here is a PDF I made myself.

It is pleasing to see that Bexley has employed a half decent photographer to update their pictures of councillors new and old. You may see the 2014 complement here and if you want to see how they have aged over the past four years, look here. Some of course are vain enough to stay with the four year old pictures, the liar Cheryl Bacon naturally, but some are more honest. Razors and hair dye appears to have been vanquished!

Note: The Press Release is now on Bexley’s website.

 

29 May (Part 2) - Only one sore thumb?

Looking back on those 2010/2014 voting figures a couple of fairly predictable patterns stand out. If one excludes Barnehurst and Blackfen & Lamorbey where the two established parties faced competition from three newcomers, UKIP and Mick Barnbrook’s Independents respectively, the patterns emerge reasonably well.

The Labour party increased its share of the vote everywhere except in Brampton where the multitude of O’Neill’s proved that Teresa was talking out of her ample backside when she suggested her electorate couldn’t read.

The Conservatives share of the vote elsewhere was either near to static or tended to fall except in the extreme south where it rose. Given the circumstances it was a strong performance by the Tories. Crime and dishonesty must pay.

It is in Barnehurst where three UKIP candidates threw their hats into the ring and Blackfen & Lamorbey where the Independents stood where there is more of a puzzle. Why was the per candidate UKIP vote in Barnehurst noticeably lower than its immediate neighbours when it was Barnehurst which was the party’s main focus? If they had achieved what was done in next door Christchurch for example it would have pulled the Tories down enough for it to be a UKIP win. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Blackfen & Lamorbey saw by far the biggest Conservative percentage share fall. 22.5%. The Independents and UKIP gained a 37% share between them so it looks like they must have robbed the 2010 ‘Others’ fairly comprehensively as well as Craske & Co.

This electoral analysis lark is far too complicated for me.

 

29 May (Part 1) - Election comparisons made easy - or maybe not

Across the borough, election candidates and their agents have been producing graphs that might explain what went right or wrong last week and how lessons can be learned for the future. I’ve seen some of them and I think they are trying to work out where they should concentrate their efforts next time around.

That’s their business not mine but I was curious to see how things may have changed since 2010 and if any part of the borough had gone off in some other direction than the rest in 2014.

Bexley council’s web presentation is far from ideal for what I had in mind because it requires a million clicks to get from the 2014 results to 2010 and back. It requires too many clicks to get from one ward to another too so I have tried to remedy that; I have placed all the ward summaries on a single page. It’s not very friendly to those viewing on a tiny screen but at least those using proper computers may now see the whole borough’s 2014 results with no additional clicks at all. For good measure the 2010 results have been given the same treatment and to help comparison you may click on any ward summary to flip from 2010 to 2014 and back again. That’s another million clicks saved compared to Bexley’s website.

Because the aim was to check for patterns across the borough the ward summaries are arranged in North to South sequence because that is perhaps the borough’s most obvious pattern and it may show a gradual transition of fortunes from the neglected north to the favoured south.

I was not intending to dig too deeply because the political anoraks will have done that for themselves but neither was the plan to be totally superficial. That would mean stopping at Bexley’s inability to spell UKIP’s Danson candidate correctly in both 2010 and 2014. Sharing his name I can confirm that the variations on the correct spelling I have encountered over the years can be weird and wonderful. I think Melcumb is my favourite. Neither was I going to make a fuss over the fact that the St. Michael’s and Sidcup 2014 summaries miss out the Rejected Ballot Papers count.

Rather more important is that the official 2014 summary totally omits any Percentage Turnout figures which is a minor nuisance. I’ve made a rough and ready estimate that relies on rather too many assumptions. As such it is no more than a best guess but it suggests that the 2014 turnout was not a lot better than half the 2010 figure.

A superficial analysis confirms that the oft repeated wisdom about names nearest the top of the ballot paper scoring higher than those with surnames from the bottom end of the alphabet is by and large confirmed, although both Conservative and Labour voters in North End were apparently following a different set of rules.

In Blackfen that alphabetic preference saved Peter Craske his seat which is a shame and perhaps Chris Taylor should adopt his mum’s name if he is looking for re-election.

Finally I was going to offer some explanation of what caused voting patterns to shift in one way or another but found that some of the obvious arithmetical explanations did not pass the test of political considerations. Is it likely that 2010 LibDem voters would all move to UKIP in 2014 for example? It made for neat arithmetic but is improbable. I shall have to look at things with a fresh mind later to see if any reasonable conclusions can be drawn.  Meanwhile, since the investigation has taken up too many hours, I’m not inclined to let it go to waste so below is the summary of how the borough has changed politically - or didn’t - over the past four years.

Note: The official results round each candidates percentage of the vote to a whole number. Summing these and comparing them with the previous election can produce errors in the region of 3% and for that reason they have been recalculated to one decimal place in the summary below.
The percentage of the vote for the major parties is expressed as an average of the (usually) three candidates.
Because the aim was to examine Conservative, Labour and UKIP shifts - if any - all other parties have been lumped together as Other. Apart from the Blackfen Independents because Mick Barnbrook is too valuable a source of information and I don’t want to upset him!

Don’t forget the 2010 results and the 2014 results are conveniently available on those links. There’s no longer any need to navigate the nightmare which is Bexley’s website.


For the Conservatives and Labour parties the figures below are the average of their (usually) three candidates share of the votes cast in each Bexley council ward. The UKIP figure is the achievement of their single candidate, except in Barnehurst (three candidates) and East Wickham (two candidates) where the figures are an average.

All other parties are listed as Other and the figure shown below is a total.

Thamesmead East
2010: Conservatives 9·2% each, Labour 18·3% each, Others 17·4% total. Turnout 54%
2014: Conservatives 9·5% each, Labour 24·0% each, no Others competed. Estimated turnout 28%.

Belvedere
2010: Conservatives 14·7% each, Labour 15·5% each, Others 9·1% total. Turnout 62%.
2014: Conservatives 9·9% each, Labour 16·8% each, Others 7·1% total. Estimated turnout 34%.

Erith
2010: Conservatives 13·4% each, Labour 16·1% each, Others 11·4% total. Turnout 59%.
2014:  Conservatives 10·0% each, Labour 18·9% each, UKIP 12·9%, Others 4·2% total. Estimated turnout 30%.

North End
2010: Conservatives 10·7% each, Labour 16·0% each, Others 20·0% total. Turnout 58%.
2014: Conservatives 9·5% each, Labour 17·1% each, Others 20·0% total. Estimated turnout 30%.

Lesnes Abbey
2010: Conservatives 16·0% each, Labour 14·4% each, Others 9·0% total. Turnout 66%.
2014: Conservatives 12·5% each, Labour 15·6% each, UKIP 12·5%, Others 3·1%. Estimated turnout 35%.

Northumberland Heath
2010: Conservatives 18·3% each, Labour 10·3% each and Others added up to 14·3%. Turnout 70%.
2014: Conservatives 18·4% each, Labour 12·3% each, Others 7·8%. Estimated turnout 39%.

Colyers
2010: Conservatives 14·5% each, Labour 11·2% each, Others 22·8% total. Turnout 62%.
2014: Conservatives 14·1% each, Labour 12·0% each, UKIP 14·3%, Others 7·1%. Estimated turnout 32%.

East Wickham
2010: Conservatives 13·7% each, Labour 8·0% each, Others 35.0% total. Turnout 68%.
2014: Conservatives 12·6% each, Labour 8·7% each, UKIP 10·8%, Others 12·3% total. Estimated turnout 37%.

St. Michael’s
2010: Conservative 16·5% each, Labour 9·1% each, Others 23·3% total. Turnout 70%.
2014: Conservatives 16·2% each, Labour 10·0% each, UKIP 16·3%, Others 5·2% total. Estimated turnout 33%.

Brampton
2010: Conservatives 21·2% each, Labour 8·6% each, Others 10·8% total. Turnout 75%.
2014: Conservatives 20·0% each, Labour 8·1% each, UKIP 13·0%, Others 2·7% total. Estimated turnout 39%.

Falconwood and Welling
2010: Conservatives 17·4% each, Labour 7·5% each, Others 25·5% total. Turnout 71%.
2014: Conservatives 17·5% each, Labour 8·7% each, UKIP 14·2%, Others 7·0% total. Estimated turnout 36%.

Danson
2010: Conservatives 18·2% each, Labour 6·6% each, UKIP 4·1%, Others 21·6% total. Turnout 68%.
2012: Conservative 18·3% each, Labour 8·6% each, UKIP 13·1%, Others 6·1% total. Estimated turnout 34%.

Christchurch
2010: Conservatives 18·6% each, Labour 7·2% each, Others 22·3% total. Turnout 71%.
2014: Conservatives 17·4% each, Labour 8·7% each, UKIP 12·5%, Others 6·1% total. Estimated turnout 34%.

Barnehurst
2010: Conservatives 19·4% each, Labour 7·5% each, Others 19·3% total. Turnout 70%.
2014: Conservatives 14·8% each, Labour 6·7% each, UKIP 11·5% each, Others 0·9% total. Estimated turnout 40%.

Crayford
2010: Conservatives 17·3% each, Labour 11·9% each, Others 4·4% total. Turnout 64%.
2014: Conservatives 17·6% each, Labour 13·6% each, Others 6·2% total. Estimated turnout 35%.

Blackfen & Lamorbey
2010: Conservatives 21·3% each, Labour 6·9% each, Others 22·3% total. Turnout 64%.
2014: Conservatives 13·8% each, Labour 6·1% each, UKIP 13·7%, Independents 7·9% each, Others 4·9% total. Estimated turnout 37%.

Blendon & Penhill

2010: Conservatives 22·4% each, Labour 7·3% each, Others 10·9% total. Turnout 72%.
2014: Conservatives 19·8% each, Labour 7·2% each, UKIP 14·6%, Others 4·4% total. Estimated turnout 35%.

St. Mary’s
2010: Conservatives 20·8% each, Labour 5·3% each, Others 21·6% total. Turnout 75%.
2014: Conservatives 21·4% each, Labour 5·9% each, Others 18·1% total. Estimated turnout 40%.

Longlands
2010: Conservatives 17.3% each, Labour 5.4% each, Others 3.2% total. Turnout 69%.
2014: Conservatives 19·0% each, Labour 8·1% each, UKIP 12·7%, Others 6·0% total. Estimated turnout 34%.

Sidcup
2010: Conservatives 19·6% each, Labour 6·0% each, Others 23·2% total. Turnout 71%.
2014: Conservatives 20·1% each, Labour 6·7% each, UKIP 9·5%, Others 9·9% total. Estimated turnout 37%.

Cray Meadows
2010: Conservatives 18·8% each, Labour 7·3% each, Others 21·7% total. Turnout 64%.
2014: Conservatives 19·0% each, Labour 9·0% each, UKIP 13·3%, Others 7·2% total. Estimated turnout 31%.

The above summary is also available as a separate page accessible from the main site Politics menu. (Election Results 2014.) The data on the dedicated page comes from a common source so must be identical to that above.

 

28 May (Part 2) - Farce about Ace

That's the name of John Kerlen’s website. John used to blog as Olly Cromwell and he was the last straw that caused Teresa O’Neill to march to Bexley police station, flaming torch in hand in March 2011, to demand that CS Dave Stringer bent the law in her favour.

I’m not a huge fan of John’s language (†) but I usually have a lot of sympathy with his message. Today I have no complaints on either count. He has put a new blog on his website, Farce about Face.

† Hypocrite alert! Actually John often makes me laugh with his way with words but no one is supposed to admit to that sort of thing.

 

28 May (Part 1) - Business as usual

So we’ve elected another corrupt council which was always inevitable, only the size of it was in doubt. At present only a tiny proportion of Bexley residents have any idea of the extent of their council’s dishonesty, the majority are happy to swallow the Tory lie that Bexley is a low tax borough so long as their bins are emptied on time. A lot more effort must go into exposing the cheats over the next four years.


TweetIt is easy to be wise after the event but I was both hoping and expecting Labour to gain a few more seats than four and that UKIP would do a bit better in the North. It looks as though Labour is back in charge of their strongholds despite what councillor Philip Read may have said, and in retrospect one can see that the huge immigrant population in the North will have done UKIP no favours. They will have learned from that.

In my road which is not in the depths of Thamesmead by any means, and for up to 30 houses away at least, there are only two households which are occupied solely by ‘White British’; which isn’t to say they are bad neighbours or bad people, it’s just fact, and that must be hard for UKIP.

My analysis of the real election numbers has been minimal so far but if I cut this blog short I hope to go some way towards remedying that today.

The election drew quite a lot of extra visitors to B-i-B so perhaps I should attempt to justify labelling Bexley council dishonest and corrupt.


Bexley TimesIt is now well over two months since Mick Barnbrook went back to Chief Executive Will Tuckley with more evidence that councillor Cheryl Bacon is a consummate liar. Not one councillor or other witness has backed Bacon’s version of the events of 19th June last year. Several witness including councillors from both parties have certified that Bacon lied in an attempt to cover up her law breaking - not that the law breaking matters, it was relatively trivial and maybe the result of incorrect officer advice. The important issue is that we now know that many of Bexley’s highest paid officers are all prepared to lie in Cheryl Bacon’s defence.

You would think that faced with overwhelming evidence that his officers and councillor Bacon have been lying, Tuckley would be keen to get to the bottom of the matter, but no, he has completely ignored the 17th April letter. None of the councillors who told the truth, the names of whom Tuckley now knows, have heard a word from him.

So if not seeking the truth what has this quarter of a million pound waste of space been doing? It could be that he has been repeating a trick that worked before. Getting the police on his side.

News ShopperThe statements allegedly made by what I described at the time as “two jovial bobbies” have been declared a secret but we are led to believe that they support the council’s version of events. i.e. That I and others refused to leave the Council Chamber and had to be ejected by the police. No one can explain why we were not arrested and why the initial police reports confirmed that no offences had been committed. Now when that story doesn’t match Bexley council’s lies the police are trying to retract it. Difficult when a copy exists on the News Shopper’s website.

Bexley police are once again well and truly embroiled in trying to defend their crooked friends. Mick Barnbrook has been informed verbally that one of the council witnesses has changed his statement, in what way is not known. The fact is that in all relevant respects Bexley council’s story is a lie from beginning to end which unravels very easily when subject to detailed examination. Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling is now boxed into a very difficult position; it is perfectly obvious to anyone who reads through all the papers that he is being asked to defend a story that cannot possibly be true. His two predecessors were placed in a similar position by Bexley council and are now being investigated for a criminal offence. A hat trick looks ever more likely.

And that reminds me that the police are asking more questions about CS Stringer and CS Olisa and I’ve got to find the time to answer their letter.

Index to related blogs and documents.

 

27 May (Part 3) - The Wizard of Oz

Probably not many readers are nerdy enough to have noticed that every change to Bexley is Bonkers is announced via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) but not everyone understands it or subscribes to an RSS news reader so for the past ten months a Twitter announcement has gone out too. Probably I am old fashioned but it seems rather intrusive to push everything under everyone’s nose so Tweets are restricted to blogs I arbitrarily consider ‘significant’. However for die-hard Twits there appears to be another way.

Some clever clogs ex-Bexley resident now living in Sydney, Australia is running a script which regurgitates my RSS announcements as Tweets allowing 100% of site changes to be picked up via Twitter.

You need to Follow @Mario426 so I now risk losing my meagre 200 followers to the man from down under.

 

27 May (Part 2) - One for the train spotters

There are no council meetings scheduled until 11th June so news will be hard to come by for a couple of weeks. Today I resort to the old standby - Crossrail, which comes to Bexley’s threshold but doesn’t quite come in. And even with that I have cheated, there is nothing new to be seen at Abbey Wood station but the line to Plumstead is coming on fast, so seven of these photographs were taken on the wrong side of the border. The risks I take to avoid a blogless day!

While some people may have got away to enjoy the Sunday sunshine those who might have used Abbey Wood station over the weekend had to contend with the half hourly bus service. The holiday sacrificed to the good of the community and Crossrail.

The track bed to the south side of the existing Abbey Wood to Plumstead track is taking shape and appears to be a steel reinforced concrete job. When I commuted on the Southampton to Waterloo line in the middle 1960s and witnessed the electrification beyond Brookwood, Alight Here For The Necropolis, the old track bed was torn out to a great depth and filled with drainage pipes and several feet of ballast material. Obviously they don’t do things that way any more.

It will be fascinating to see the old tracks moved to the south and the platforms at Abbey Wood realigned without seeing the train service interrupted for weeks on end. Maybe it will be.

Lorry Lorry Vans Train Railway Train Railway Railway

 

27 May (Part 1) - Labour of love

Perhaps the most unedifying aspect of the election count was the sound of Tories booing the Labour results in Brampton ward. They were quite happy to see the British National Party get 3% of the votes (268) but when a quarter went to the three Labour O’Neills they showed their true colours.

Unlike Teresa O’Neill who went crying to the Evening Standard when she saw the candidate list for Brampton, the Labour candidates discretely kept their thoughts to themselves - until now!

© Every aspect of this song; production, vocals, lyric and tune is the work of Paul O’Neill.

Note: This is the first time audio has been placed on Bexley is Bonkers. The player above works for me in recent versions of the five best known web browsers. There is not a hope in hell of it working in old browsers.

 

26 May (Part 2) - Tory cuts. First sign of things to come

TweetSomeone mentioned that Bexley had cut funding for Open House while I was at the count on Thursday. I forget who made the comment but it must have been someone from Labour as none of the Tories engaged in more than social chit-chat. I would probably have forgotten the comment totally if it wasn’t for Penny Duggan’s Saturday Tweet.

I know what Open House is, it’s the one day of the year when tourist attractions affiliated to the scheme allow free admittance. Presumably it raises awareness of attractions generally and we have quite a lot in Bexley. Crossness, Red House, Hall Place, Danson House etc. And it isn’t likely that visitors go away without spending money on something or other. They may even become members of the Crossness Trust or whatever. But not this year.

There is very little hard information to go on at present but I think I have worked out that by turning their back on this annual initiative Bexley will save the £5,000 subscription to the Open House organisation.

This is taking Tory cuts to a new level.

Presumably we have councillor Don Massey to blame for this. First he plans to lose the borough’s history in a cupboard in Bromley. Then it was the permanent cancellation of the Danson Festival and now there is no reason for tourists to come to Bexley on Open House Day. They will go to any one of the other London boroughs who participate instead.

Penny Duggan is Secretary of The Bexley Historical Society.

 

26 May (Part 1) - What Tyler?

poll cardWhilst the election count in Bexley seemed to be pretty efficient it was not without its opportunities for fraud but I saw nothing to suggest it. When I noticed what I thought was a weakness in the system the Head Counter was happy to demonstrate that in practice nothing had gone wrong.

Perhaps the biggest weakness was that several hours were taken up sorting and shuffling papers and getting the European ballot papers out of the way. It was 4 a.m before the actual count began and it didn’t finish until around 8 a.m. with the most complex procedures taking place at the end of that period when counters had been without sleep for at least 24 hours. But Tower Hamlets it was not!

Whatever the system, mistakes will always happen which reminds me that a few weeks ago a reader sent me a polling card; click the image above to see it. You may think that his name is Tyler but you would be wrong. Tyler is his son and he is looking forward to being two next August. Daddy had read him the warnings on the back of the card so he wasn’t allowed to take his crayons to the Polling Station.

The Polling Card has been rendered almost anonymous for the casual viewer but the reference number will mean something to Bexley’s Electoral Services and allow a correction of the records.

 

25 May (Part 3) - New councillor list

I received an email earlier today pointing out that Bexley council was still listing former councillors on its website; that may be a bit harsh given the staff were up all night and the new photographs won’t be available for a while, but never mind, an updated list is available here. It currently assumes that re-elected councillors will take on the same jobs as before so it is subject to change.

The 2010-2014 list remains available and both are listed in the amended ‘Politics’ menu which appears on the ordinary. i.e. non-blog pages.

 

25 May (Part 2) - Mick is back

The Part 1 blog went on line at ten o’clock last night because I was hoping to get a day off, but since then, this morning probably, Mick Barnbrook has been restored to his rightful place on the winners and losers list and his 10% of the vote has been clawed back from the top four candidates.

Cock up or conspiracy, who can tell but if the purpose was to falsify national databases it probably worked.

 

25 May (Part 1) - Hiding their embarrassment

It took a long time for me to escape from ‘Zombieland’ after nearly 40 hours without sleep and Friday’s blogs look every bit as badly written as I thought they might be. Unfocused and rambling! I could have sworn I wrote some things that are just not there now. Probably just as well, I think I speculated on whether or not the UKIP councillors would stand the pace. They are sure to be given a hard time by the old guard.

The count was little but hard work for the staff but in part a social event for the rest of us. I met John Kerlen for the first time since we left Woolwich Crown Court together on 17th August 2012 following his acquittal on charges made up by Bexley councillor Melvin Seymour.

Seymour was at the count obnoxious as ever and he was keeping a tally of the Blackfen & Lamorbey votes as the counters flicked through the ballot papers. It was right at the beginning of the night and us newcomers had yet to get up to speed on the procedures. Nicholas Dowling asked Seymour why he was counting the X's. Nick then admitted that he “couldn’t see the point; what will be will be”. “That’s because you are a prat“ said the councillor to a resident.

I must be a prat too because I cannot see much point either. The only purpose I can think of for wanting to know the result early is to decide if mischief is necessary if things look too close for comfort. Have I missed something?

Blackfen candidate Peter Craske never once ventured over to the Blackfen counting tables, presumably too shy to risk seeing me and Nicholas “kissing in a tree” as someone with access to Craske’s land line phone alleged in 2011.

Councillors Craske and Seymour are two of many who never speak to me but several do. If I include those Conservatives who did no more than make a grudging nod in my direction on Thursday night the list would include both Beckwiths, both Slaughters, Alex Sawyer, Colin Tandy and Howard Marriner. Apart from Craske, always quick to dodge out of the way, others who consistently adopt the same technique include Linda Bailey, Val Clarke, Alan Downing, Philip Read, Peter Reader, Chris Taylor and John Waters and if you think that is rude they have nothing on their leader.

I was walking behind my MP who was looking glamorous in an outfit possibly just a little too reminiscent of UKIP colours, and the rather less glamorous Teresa O’Neill when I thought I heard the big one say to the smaller one something unbelievably catty. When I caught up with Teresa Pearce later I asked if my ears had deceived me. They had not. Teresa O’Neill is not just spiteful and vindictive to nobodies like me but enjoys dishing out the same irrespective of the target. The comment was far too personal and possibly hurtful to be repeated here.

Blackfen resultsThe Labour people were universally friendly which I suspect might change if the vote ever goes the other way. I congratulated young Danny Hackett for becoming my councillor and asked if I could have my vote back as his 273 majority meant he didn’t need it. It was the first I had ever given to his party. I thought it might make me feel uncomfortable after 50 years of Conservatism, but it didn’t.

I understand that Bexley Labour will choose its new leader next Tuesday and I am hoping to see some rather more spirited opposition than we have had in recent years.

I was always disappointed that the outgoing Labour leader believed that Will Tuckley should be paid even more than he is and decided against making any political capital out of the Craske and similar scandals. Only Seán Newman (Labour Belvedere) made any attempt to support Elwyn Bryant’s 2,219 signature salary petition which went in the bin with the proposal not discussed.

When it was announced early on Friday morning that Mick Barnbrook had taken 884 votes from the Tories, councillor Alan Downing looked visibly shocked. It must be a serious embarrassment to Bexley Conservatives, so serious that they seem to have decided to remove Mick’s name from the official election results. It was there on Friday but not any more which means that when the newspapers went around gathering data for Sunday’s editions they learned nothing of Mick’s near miss. The numbers are neatly readjusted so they still add up to 100%.

Never underestimate the extent of the corruption for which Bexley Tories are renowned.

Click image above for source.

 

24 May - No change at the top

Today’s blog has been wiped out because of a succession of visitors not to mention the odd domestic chore, but there is time to report that despite her failure to achieve “the whiteout”, there were not enough critical Tory councillors to see Teresa O’Neill deselected from the leadership. So that’s my hopes for a quiet life gone for another four years.

 

23 May (Part 3) - The rise of UKIP - How to succeed in politics without really trying

The plan was to get a few hours sleep and then see if there was anything worth saying about the statistics that came out of the overnight count. Half a dozen badly timed phone calls put paid to that and nearly 40 hours after my head was last on a pillow it is probably not in any fit state to play with figures. I fear I am in danger of getting this all wrong.

If there is one lesson to be taken on board today it is that the party machine is hard to beat. Teresa O’Neill can call on a three line whip to get her people on to the Brampton doorsteps while at the other extreme one man, Mick Barnbrook for example, must do everything himself. There is no way that one candidate can speak to enough people with little or no support and he gets the postal vote data far too late to do much with it.

Despite that he rakes in best part of 1,000 votes. Money was not the problem as was suggested to me several times last night, the problem was time and resources, pure and simple. The only easy way to become a councillor in Bexley is the same as it always was. Join the Tory party.

UKIP must have found the same problems. Now that the election is over I can give up attempting to sit on the fence and say my piece. In my opinion UKIP Bexley is not big enough or experienced enough to seriously threaten anyone yet. Yesterday I said that I saw no evidence that UKIP had done anything over the past month and and have since found a few others who felt the same; where were they, yet they got so close to total success and as I understand it, achieved about half the UKIP gains in London. All from doing not a lot. Maybe that is a measure of Bexley’s discontent with Teresa O’Neill. Maybe there is a connection with the daily ration of Bexley scandals to be read here. 40,000 page views a month should have some effect but I often think I am preaching to the converted.

Except in Lesnes Abbey UKIP came second to the winning party - or better - in every ward they contested. It translated into only three seats and the reason for that was lack of candidates, which UKIP Bexley would acknowledge, and wrong tactics, which they might not. It shows the potential though. Three Independents robbed the sitting tenants of 2,100 votes. Each single UKIP candidate was stealing away only around 1,000. Their efforts should have been more concentrated on fewer wards. Allowing their candidates to do whatever they please is laudable but it has its price.

The Blackfen Independents set out to damage councillor Craske and they succeeded. His vote is down by more than half (on a smaller turnout) and he now has the support of only one in seven voters instead of one in five. In the event the casualty was cabinet member Chris Taylor, now £90,000 the poorer. Not a bad return for a few hundred quid and a big cobbler’s bill for the Independents.

I’ll leave the few items of tittle tattle picked up yesterday for another time. A time I hope when my brain will have recovered to the point I can avoid the worst indiscretions. Apologies for no pictures. Blame Bexley council.

 

23 May (Part 2) - The experience

I went to the count in support of the Blackfen Independents and for ‘the experience’ and I am glad I did. The count was fascinating to watch and an impressive performance by 270 Bexley council staff led by Dave Easton, Head of Electoral Services. His plans appeared to be meticulous and flawless.

It must be fairly obvious to anyone who gives the requirements a moment’s thought, that if everyone voted in neat, party aligned, sets of three; three Conservatives, three Labour etc. (known as ‘Block Voting’), counting is easy. Just stack the ballot papers and see which pile is biggest. Voters however are not that cooperative and commonly vote in the most staggeringly inexplicable ways. Two Labour plus one Tory. UKIP plus BNP, Mick Barnbrook plus Peter Craske and no one else - yes really! A single vote for UKIP. Every imaginable combination. It may defy logical thought but a huge proportion of voters seem to be hell bent on being as awkward as possible. Simple piles of paper will not do.

Non-Block’ voting slips are painstakingly transcribed to a grid on a large sheet of paper which when completed allows a simple arithmetical check that should reveal any mistakes. It’s not absolutely proof against human error but no system will be.

The amount of specialised ‘check’ stationery and input forms required, each tailored to its ward and the candidates standing there, is very considerable and must be the product of very clear minds and expert planning. All the forms (but not the ballot papers) were printed ‘in house’.

I suggested “you must be used to it” to explain away the smooth operation but Dave Easton said no, it was a new system. He had ‘borrowed’ it from another council and tweaked it for local use. Mr. Easton said it was a little slow to deal with Non-Block votes but had the merit of improved accuracy. Unfortunately there was an unprecedented number of Non-Block vote which explains why the count ran well behind schedule.

It would have been nice to have some photographs to provide an idea of the vastness of the operation, unfortunately photography was forbidden. John Kerlen (Olly Cromwell) was jumped on by Chief Executive Will Tuckley for fiddling with his mobile phone. For reasons that were not explained, Conservative councillors and their friends were not subject to this rule.

 

23 May (Part 1) - Home from the count

The election declarations at Bexley’s Crook Log Sports Centre were not complete until just after eight thirty, some three and a half hours later than anticipated and you will all know the results by now. It took 25 minutes to get out of the car park.

There was a nice bonus at the end of an otherwise fairly dull and predictable night when cabinet member Chris Taylor was kicked out of office in Blackfen and Lamorbey thanks to the Independents who took 2,104 votes from the Conservatives; I bet he wishes he hadn’t done the Chicken Run now.

Those 2,100 votes allowed UKIP to slip into third place. Ironic when you consider that the Independents were at work for 34 days and the UKIP candidate didn’t knock on a single door and, according to one of her colleagues, found time to leaflet only eight roads.

There will be a blog later describing the eleven hour experience and eventually an analysis - if that is the right word - of the voting numbers plus some of the more gossip-worthy incidents. Meanwhile there is nothing to stop you doing the arithmetic yourself, just follow the link at the end of the first sentence.

 

22 May (Part 4) - It’s been a long day and it’s not over yet

PollingBy mid-day my local polling station had notched up a 5% turnout. Over in Blackfen the Independents reported figures between 14% and 19% by late afternoon. It must be a long day for the Polling Clerks especially for those stuck in temporary accommodation with no toilets, but probably the pay is some compensation. 20 miles away in Waltham Forest my cousins and their spouses have turned elections into a family business that pays for a decent holiday or two.

One is Presiding Officer who additionally hand delivers the Polling Cards for a whole ward by himself. In Bexley they come via Royal Mail. He is paid close to two grand for two long day’s work. Another cousin is paid £25.75 an hour for the count. That’s him and his wife for tonight and next Sunday (the European Election). A far cry from the £6.19 an hour Bexley will be paying, through its agencies, the all night care workers. The council will pay Will Tuckley (Returning Officer) several thousands of pounds for each day’s work, as if his £250,000 plus salary package doesn’t really cover a few extra hours of overtime.

I shall be attending the count tonight as the guest of Nicholas Dowling (Blackfen and Lamorbey Independent). Nick must have more of a mischievous streak in him than I would have credited to an accountant type. He has invited John Kerlen who used to blog from Crayford under the pseudonym Olly Cromwell, to be his Counting Agent. Mick Barnbrook is convinced that the Tories will stop at nothing to win in Blackfen and we are all under instructions to keep everything under close scrutiny.

My understanding is that the count is some sort of closed community where no electronic gadgetry is permitted. No pictures, no Tweeting, no fun. Just several hours in the same room as Teresa O’Neill. The bad councillors will avoid me and the good ones will stay away for fear of attracting the boss’s wrath for saying Good Evening. It will be a strange night but I’m told it’s ‘an experience’.

If I am not dead on my feet there may be some news soon after the sun comes up.

 

22 May (Part 3) - Tory manifesto 2010. Save Queen Mary’s Hospital and park free!

Save QMH Free parkingWhile probing the nether regions of my Bexley archives I found Bexley Conservatives’ 2010 election manifesto.

There is a nice picture of the whole bunch of reprobates holding up a ‘Park 4 Free’ slogan. I wonder what happened to that idea. There is another proclaiming ‘Stop the QMH cuts’. Didn’t they do well?

Conservative 2010 manifesto available from this page.

 

22 May (Part 2) - My prediction for Blackfen and Lamorbey

Mick BarnbrookDuring the election campaign I heard from Mick and Elwyn and Nicholas several times. Over the past 36 days only two (Good Friday and Easter Monday) have not seen them campaigning on doorsteps and in shopping centres. If effort is translated into votes they will be elected with ease but alas it doesn’t work that way.

Mick Barnbrook, as reported earlier, saved an old lady with a quick 999 call but a handful have told him to **** orf in a posh upper class voice. Rather more told the three of them to **** off because it was the third time they’d been approached in Half Way Street.

Of the many hundreds spoken to, only two said they were Labour supporters, one in a strong Newcastle accent, adding that they could never do anything else. Not even stop and weigh up the issues presumably.

Apparently most votes were won over by the story of the rejected 2,219 signature petition, the proposal to rein in excessive salaries, which Bexley council chucked in the bin, proposal undebated.

The cancellation of the Danson Park Festival ran it a close second, you’d have thought most people would know about it already but apparently not. The state of the roads and parking costs and penalties was another hot potato. Politicians never seem to realise that one unfair parking ticket can mean alienation for life; and the numbers are adding up fast.

Quite a lot of people were under the impression that their current councillor Peter Craske had been found innocent of obscene blogging and they were were suitably disillusioned.

What will happen in Blackfen and Lamorbey is anyone’s guess, there is a huge mountain of Tory votes to climb but if even half the people who promised to vote Independent are true to their word, Mick and Co. will have made their mark. The one thing that can be predicted with some certainty is that if any upstart party or independent takes a seat from the Conservatives in Bexley the latter will report them to the police for some imagined or otherwise breach of electoral law. Actually that is not so much a prediction as a leak, it came to me from someone very close to one of the Tory agents.

Given that Bexley police have been prepared to risk their careers to save the skin of Bexley councillors, that one, if it comes to fruition, should be fun.

That the Tories would play dirty was one of the Bexley Action Group’s first thoughts and from the very beginning the Blackfen Independents have been in regular contact with the Electoral Commission for advice and guidance. As a mere reporter, I am hoping Craske and Co. will be true to form and do something spiteful, I need another story like that to maintain the old site strapline, ‘Dishonest, Vindictive, Criminal’ through to 2018.

 

22 May (Part 1) - Last fling from UKIP

UKIPTo be honest, I thought UKIP might have made a bit more noise in Bexley than they have, or should I say more than I have noticed? They were out on the streets a fair bit up to a couple of months ago but since then I have not seen anything of them. On the other hand I’ve not seen much activity anywhere although I keep reading on Twitter that East Wickham Conservatives are on the streets every day and are confident that everyone loves them. Councillor Philip Read claims to be similarly well received in Northumberland Heath and even down in Lesnes where the Conservative majority was as small as six in 2010 they seem to think they are still in with a chance. But the only party to knock on my door and talk to me has been Labour - apart from UKIP on one occasion several months ago. Last year I think.

However at the eleventh hour UKIP has come out with something new. A statement has appeared on their website which includes the words…


We ask you to consider putting your trust into UKIP just this once. Unlike the media reports, we are all normal hard-working people from all over the political spectrum, all campaigning for the same goal – to make the political elite take notice.


I suspect those ‘media reports’ were artificially orchestrated because much of it was trivia that would be ignored if any other party was involved. If the press has underestimated the British inclination to back the underdog it will prove to be a big own goal.

“Make the political elite take notice” is an almost exact repeat of what my 94 year old aunt said to me on Tuesday about Europe but Bexley Conservatives need the same lesson whether it be from UKIP, Labour or ‘Other’. My aunt still thinks of her nephew as the five year old taken to see her on the trolley bus on alternate Sundays and who needs to be told how to behave and what to do!

What begins to unfold in 24 hours time remains unpredictable but some Bexley wards may produce a few surprises. By Friday I think the strength of the arithmetic must mean the Conservatives will see their achievements and their lies paying off but it would be nice to see the three O’Neill’s take the fourth one down a peg or two in Brampton and if councillor Craske’s majority is severely dented it will be the icing on the cake.

 

21 May - Last minute desperation

TweetFor four years no one was interested in the dilapidated state of Abbey Wood but in the days before an election even the collapse of a fence is important. Where was councillor Kerry Allon when the problem first arose? Ah, yes; he was campaigning against the area having its only supermarket. Obviously a man of the people.

If Bexley council had looked more favourably on plans to build flats behind the Harrow Inn the problem would not have arisen. One suspects that no one at the council was very interested in the area, their ignorance was such that the Harrow Inn was given listed building status more than a year after it was demolished.


Fence CrossrailPhotographs taken at frequent intervals suggest that vandalism (as stated by councillor Allon) was not the principal factor in the demise of the fence, if at all. It’s been falling from the moment it was erected. But one panel is fixed, which is good, even if taken as a whole it remains a big mess.

While in limbo waiting for the election to come and go I scoured this morning’s News Shopper for inspiration. You can tell an election is coming by the hot air escaping from Teresa O’Neill. In today’s copy she thinks Crossrail should take a branch into Bexley - and then she complains when people says she favours the south of the borough.

If Crossrail had naturally terminated in Bexley would she have campaigned for a branch to Abbey Wood? Her idea is pure pie in the sky. The route to Ebbsfleet is already reserved and mapped out. New flats and houses have just been built alongside the existing line in Bexley.

The Shopper’s letters page reveals that residents don’t seem too keen on parks being left unsecured at night but for me the most interesting contribution is from J. Colegate. A ‘plant’ if ever there was one. The name appears whenever Bexley Conservatives need to boost Teresa O’Neill. This time the leader “keeps council tax down (†) and puts residents first”. Labour are “capitalists”. Last time the poor deluded woman was complaining that those who put questions to council are “time wasters”. Teresa thinks so too, hence her plan to stop councillors from asking too many questions and more than halving the opportunity for scrutiny.

Speaking of boosting Teresa O’Neill, the Conservatives put on a three line whip on Monday to get as many of their councillors as possible out in Teresa’s Brampton ward delivering a special leaflet. I’ve not seen a copy but a special leaflet went out in Blackfen and Lamorbey ward too. Perhaps the Tories are running scared of Independents as well as UKIP down there.

In the Blackfen leaflet councillor Peter Craske has the cheek to say he protected school crossing patrols from the cuts. The truth is that immediately after he was elected in 2010, councillor Craske proposed getting rid of all the school crossing patrols. It didn’t happen because of the public backlash but now he claims to be their protector. Tories in Bexley cannot be trusted, especially councillor Peter Craske, the one with an internet connection with a mind of its own.
Patrols
Labour have new leaflets too.

† The Conservatives have not kept council tax down at all, they have kept it at the highest level, compared to other boroughs, that it has ever been. 24th worst out of 32.

 

20 May - “A challenge to democracy in Bexley”

Teresa O’Neill’s proposal to dramatically reduce the opportunities for the public, and even councillors themselves, to keep tabs on what she and her gang are up to, provoked comment from more than one councillor. They backed my conclusion that the intention can only be to place another veil between the leader’s inner circle and the electorate.

But is it right to simply blame the Great Dictator?

Whilst it is probable that they were told in advance what to come up with, on paper at least, Teresa’s proposals were “reviewed” by a committee comprised of the lying Cheryl Bacon (standing in Cray Meadows), Colin Campbell (not standing), Peter Craske (Blackfen & Lamorbey), Graham D’Amiral (Blendon & Penhill), Ross Downing (Cray Meadows), Eileen Pallen (Barnehurst), Philip Read (Northumberland Heath) , Alex Sawyer (St. Mary’s), Brad Smith (Christchurch) and Colin Tandy (St. Mary’s).

It was additionally recommended that a “pre-meeting should occur following issuance of agenda papers” and before scrutiny meetings are held in public. The rehearsals that have always been suspected.

Training would be given on how to run an “effective overview and scrutiny committee session for political purposes”. i.e. Never forget that the main objective is scoring points off the opposition.

The training manual includes an instruction to councillors that they should ask questions at council meetings that “highlight the good work”.

Apart from Brad Smith, who I do not know because he has never said a word at any meeting I’ve attended, all the members of Teresa O’Neill’s review committee are firmly in her yes ma’am camp. It will be interesting to see if there is a single honest Tory in Bexley when the subject is voted upon at a council meeting.

Note: Blog title © Bexley Conservatives. Image - illegal threat on Bexley council building.

 

19 May (Part 2) - Will Bexley throw out its rubbish this week?

With Bexley councillors out vying for attention alongside the pizza vendors, no one should expect any very interesting news to be reported here. Both Labour and Conservatives were out on my road this afternoon. I gained another Labour leaflet, the Conservatives ignored me. It was the other way around in 2010. Presumably the Tories know I am a lost cause now and my 100% Conservative voting record is likely to take a bashing on Thursday.

With no significant blog to write I went out on photo reconnaissance and here is some of what I found within less than half a mile of home.

Fly tipping is a crime but encouraging it with a £30 a pop removal fee for large items of domestic rubbish may not be economically sensible - depends on how much the removal costs are I suppose.

Rubbish Rubbish Rubbish Fence

On the lower section of Knee Hill, around the site of the demolished Harrow Inn, the new but inadequate plastic fence didn’t even make it through to polling day; it has fallen down. It’s only six weeks since councillor Kerry Allon gave it top billing on the last election leaflet I received from him. I suspect his vote is likely to collapse too.

 

19 May (Part 1) - Planning for the ‘Whiteout’?

Note: ‘Whiteout’. The term used by council leader Teresa O’Neill to describe her ambition for a totally blue council in Bexley.


Not for turningIt would be a political earthquake if Bexley was not still in Tory hands next Friday morning. By my reckoning if Labour took every seat they might hope to get and half the UKIP candidates were elected it still wouldn't be enough to rid the borough of the scourge of Teresa O’Neill. Nor with UKIP having no whip system would any form of coalition be viable. Teresa O’Neill must have had similar thoughts because she has been busy planning her next council and looking for ideas to reduce the possibility of public scrutiny.

To this end the number of Overview and Scrutiny Committees will contract from its present seven to three. This will reduce the number of reports that can appear here and with it the opportunity for criticism.

The three new committees are expected to cover, and likely to be called, Resources, People, and Places.

The cabinet member for Finance and Corporate Services will report to ‘Resources’.

Four cabinet members will report to ‘People’. Adult Services, Children’s Services, Community Safety and Leisure, and Education.

‘Places’ will embrace Economic Development and Regeneration, and Public Realm, Environment and Leisure.

This contraction will reduce the opportunity for the public to check on what may be going on but a small bonus is that the amount spent on councillors extra allowances will fall from £88,001 to £56,889. £10,644 will come (disproportionately on 201 figures) out of opposition pockets.

At Full Council meetings, councillors have typically put forward two dozen questions. The Tories take the opportunity to boost a cabinet member’s ego and the opposition tries to embarrass them. As they only get the left over time after the public has taken up to 15 minutes of the 30 allocated for questions, no more than  handful of councillor questions are answered in public. I understand that Teresa O’Neill proposes the following change…


No change to timing (up to 15 minutes for members of the public with the remainder up to 30 minutes for Members) but there should be a maximum number of questions allowed (as all those submitted that aren’t asked require a written answer) to be determined by proportionality.


This may look innocuous but if applied to the present outgoing council it would mean that the Tories could ask five questions to Labour’s one. And if Teresa O’Neill gets the “whiteout” she hopes for it would mean the opposition could ask no questions at all. But there wouldn’t be an opposition anyway.

She may not achieve the ‘whiteout’ but you can see the way Teresa’s mind works. Cut out as much public scrutiny as possible and try to stop the opposition asking questions.

 

18 May - Sidcup High Street. An open and shut case

Hadlow Road is sort of open today, for small vehicles anyway, larger ones would have difficulty turning right without falling down a hole. Masochists who enjoy chaos and disruption will not be disappointed for long, adjacent Hatherley Road is to be shut for seven weeks starting tomorrow.

The driver of the black car seen emerging from Hadlow Road wound down his window to say he was pleased to see Bexley council’s incompetence recorded and added a few choice words about the state in which the council had left his town.

Bus diversions Road open Road closing Big hole Bus diversions Road open Road closing Big hole Cyclists Road open Road closing Big hole

Big hole Not only is Hadlow Road still full of holes eleven weeks after it was supposed to be fully reopened, various other sites that were supposed to have been completed long ago are still in a dangerous state. Outside Sidcup & Co. and the gymnasium the footpaths are still littered with barriers protecting holes in the ground. On 22nd April Bexley’s Deputy Director for Public Realm said the work outside the gym was in progress and would take two weeks to finish.

Approaching Weatherspoons from the East there is nothing to say the footpath is not open. Right outside their door the conditions are absolutely disgraceful.

Bexley council’s publicity leaflet (from which the text about the B14 bus was extracted) says that the project will be completed in three stages and their street signs all refer to eight months of work. The closure of Hatherley Road represents the start of Stage 2. We are are exactly half way through those eight months.

I have a question…. with four big holes remaining in Hadlow Road and Hatherley Road due for closure tomorrow, where will the B14 bus go?

All photographs taken 18th May 2014.

 

16 May (Part 3) - Hadlow Road Sidcup. Shut

Road closed Road closedAccording to my spies in Sidcup, Hadlow Road did not reopen today as promised at councillor Cheryl Bacon’s most recent Public Realm meeting. One trader nearby is reporting a 30% loss of business.

Considering we have a mayor who is expert at arranging celebrations in breweries I find this further failure to deliver by Bexley Conservatives, very disappointing.

First 3rd March, then 14th April, finally 16th May. Maybe by election day?

 

16 May (Part 2) - Sidcup Hospital. They’d rather you forgot it

Gym Road works Hadlow Road Hadlow Road

TwitterYou can blame Labour’s PFI scheme if you like but there is little doubt that it was the Conservatives who promised to save Sidcup’s Queen Mary’s Hospital if they were elected in 2010 and when they were, promptly closed a lot of it.

The Maternity Unit looks like it is about to be demolished. Funny that all the pictures of pre-election protesting Bexley councillors seem to have disappeared from the web.

In the 2010 General Election John Hemming-Clark stood on a ‘save the hospital’ ticket and got nowhere. James Brokenshire (Conservative) 24,625 votes. John Hemming-Clark 393 votes.

Bexley people believed the Conservatives, maybe they will again, too many are happy so long as their bin gets emptied on time and are uninterested in the wide picture. John H-C has given up his electoral ambitions. This year his website merely says ‘Vote UKIP’.

Sidcup matters
In case anyone is in any doubt, Sidcup Hospital’s A&E was temporarily closed on 24th November 2010, not “under the previous Government”. Total closure was confirmed by Andrew Lansley (Conservative Health Secretary) in February 2011. At the time Bexley was the only London borough not to have an Accident & Emergency facility and thanks to the successful campaign in Lewisham, that remains the case.

News Shopper report on closure.
Relevant previous blog entry.

 

16 May (Part 1) - Themsmad East Conversatists

DianaDiannaI am pleased to report that some people actually look at the gallery of political leaflets. Maybe I am not so pleased to note that at least one is more observant than I am.

The Thamesmead East Tory leaflet which couldn’t decide how to spell Irene Reader’s name was equally confused about another of their candidates.


CrossnessMy theory is that it is a planned distraction for the large annotated map featured in the leaflet. Of the 34 ‘boxed’ achievements listed few are not either untrue, deliberately misleading or nothing to do with Bexley council. You don’t really think Bexley council dug deep into its pocket to fund “Improvements to the Crossness Pumping Station” do you?

Having attended all the council’s Finance and Public Realm meetings I know that Crossness has never had a mention. Not a single BiB meeting report includes the name and it only shows up four times when searching Bexley’s website. In short, Bexley Conservatives are lying again. Most of the ‘achievements’ listed in Tory leaflets distributed across the borough are not their achievements and would have happened whoever was in power. Some are not even true.

As Bexley council is now effectively at a standstill I am tempted to take the weekend off. Some kind soul has given me a ticket for Lords.

 

15 May (Part 3) - Bexley’s historical land grab

A little light relief from today’s political dishonesty. Delving into the history books suggests that in Bexley nothing much has changed…


Footpath Footpath FootpathAt the end of the insignificant footpath off St. Augustine’s Road, Belvedere shown in Photograph 1, lie some Bexley council allotments and they have an interesting history which reveal that law breaking at Bexley council is not a new phenomenon.

The story begins more than 100 years ago which means it mainly concerns Bexley’s predecessor, Erith Council.


ActThe records show that at the very beginning of the 20th century the occupier of 18 St. Augustine’s Road made a speculative purchase of the waste land behind her house and over the immediately following years it was used as an unofficial children’s playground.

Then in 1915, with the Great War sapping the country’s manpower and agricultural effort, Erith Council used their powers under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 to temporarily use the land for food production in the form of allotments until the emergency was over, a move that the land owner was content to see.

In 1922 with the food emergency on the way to full resolution, another Act of Parliament (see image) demanded that the commandeered land should be handed back to the rightful owners unless they were happy to forfeit it.

Minutes


PetitionErith Council took steps to fulfill its legal obligations, hence the document above, the minutes of an Erith Council meeting.

That document goes on to list the land owners who were prepared to continue to lease the land to the council for a small rent. It does not include the occupier of No. 18 St. Augustine’s Road.

A month after the decision to abide by the law and return the allotment land to the owner of its title, another minute records that the council considered a petition bearing 50 signatures. It requested that the land should not be handed back to the owner of the title deeds because children might play on it and cause a nuisance.

Continued possession against the owners’ wishes was illegal under the Act of 1908 and its several updates through to 1922.

Nevertheless, Erith council stopped its arrangements to hand back the land and ownership arguments have been going on ever since.

Over the years various affidavits and sworn statements by the people involved all confirm that Erith Council had no right to the land and any that it may have claimed were the result of an illegal act. Even after Bexley council came into being, oaths were being sworn to that effect by people with long memories. See below…

Title

…but in November 1975, after a Registry decision the Chief Land Registrar wrote…


The council was granted Possessory Title to the above site but were not granted title to the rights of way surrounding the same, though the passages and ways surrounding the allotments and gardens giving access to it may have been used in connection with the gardens there is no reason to assume that such user has amounted to possession as opposed to the exercise of a right or privilege. The council cannot claim to have had exclusive possession in connection with the allotment gardens.


So the council triumphed over the little man as they usually do, and their right to confiscate the land was recognised by the authorities - but not their right to the surrounding paths. On 2nd July 2007 Bexley council was forced to admit the true position under a Freedom of Information request. Referring to the paths etc., it confirmed “that we do not have any land registry title in our possession”. It was of course quick to claim within the same response legitimate ownership of the allotments themselves.

And that would appear to be the present situation. The council ‘owns’ the allotments because its predecessor flouted the law 90 years ago and the owner of No. !8 St. Augustine’s Road, owns the surrounding paths and access routes. Despite that, Bexley council has allowed garages and workshops to be built on land it does not own and when occasionally the owner stakes his claim in order to reduce the chances of Bexley council assuming full possession in years to come you can guess what Bexley council does. They call out their uniformed branch to arrest the elderly owner.

I imagine this is a battle that will run and run, the documentation already fills several suitcases. I suspect the land owner will not be pleased to see his claim labelled “light relief’ from the dishonesty of our present council, but I fear that after so many years of trampling on his rights, Bexley council is not about to become an honest institution.

Map of site.

 

15 May (Part 2) - Welling Corridor improvements claim another victim

AccidentOnly a month after the last one there has been another serious accident barely 100 yards away on the ‘improved’ Shooters Hill/Bellegrove Road this morning. It involved a motorcycle and the air ambulance attended.

What was it the (then) EU Committee Chairman on road safety told me in 2009? Oh, yes. If you make a road narrower or introduce obstacles without careful remodelling of the entire road all you do is rob drivers of the space in which to recover from an emergency; something like that anyway.

So here’s the result. Let’s hope it is not as bad as it looks. News Shopper report.

Welling Corridor Improvement Scheme - a weekly diary from 2012.

 

15 May (Part 1) - Election leaflet liberated

The Liberal Democrats have put up 14 candidates across nine wards in Bexley and at last one of their local election leaflets has drifted in my direction - retrieved from a recycling bin which is where most election promises end up. Something to read today while I decide if I can find the time for something more substantial. Inevitably there is little going on while councillors and would-be councillors stomp the streets and rescue little old ladies. Mick Barnbrook (Independent, Blackfen and Lamorbey) told me that one who lived alone came to the door for him, didn’t look at all well, was promptly sick and collapsed in front of him. He called an ambulance and the lady’s son and spent half an hour waiting until both had arrived. Maybe he will get a couple of votes out of it.

Index to leaflets - all parties.

 

14 May (Part 2) - If you don’t like Teresa don’t blow your XXXs

I’m pretty sure that most readers, the local ones at least, keep their eye on local news outlets so no one is likely to have missed two recent items on the News Shopper’s website, and in one case, in today’s paper edition.

There is ‘the whitewash’ over deputy mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis unlicensed strip show at her Crayford pub - was she ever likely to be prosecuted like any ordinary publican? - and the supremely arrogant Teresa O’Neill is reported to have said about the forthcoming elections “we are hoping for a complete whiteout win, taking every seat in the borough”.


UKIPWith her 52:11 majority she has only ever had one voting hand go up contrary to her demands, she’s never lost a vote or got anywhere near it; but now she wants no opposition at all. It sums up Teresa O’Neill’s attitude up so very precisely. She’ll countenance no criticism in the council chamber and none without. Stalin would be proud.

To those ends she will happily abuse her relationship with the police to arrest residents who, to quote the police’s threatening letters, “criticise councillors”. If the result is that police officers find themselves on the wrong side of the law, it’s a necessary sacrifice to Teresa O’Neill’s dictatorial ambitions.

The News Shopper quotes a deluded Teresa O’Neill as seeing herself as “trustworthy” when that is the very last thing she is. Few will not have read the Cheryl Bacon saga, so the fact that lying is a way of life for too many of Bexley’s Tories is not a secret any more. They buy support and loyalty with almost the highest senior staff salaries in the country - 6th highest according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The News Shopper says of the Tories, “the best hope of breaking their stranglehold is UKIP” but on a purely arithmetical basis surely that cannot be true? Labour is fielding 63 candidates to UKIP’s 19. It is true that in the south of the borough the party of 63 probably has little hope whereas it might be foolhardy to rule out all of UKIP’s 19. If the noise on Twitter is a reliable guide UKIP will surprise and shock us all.

I don’t believe what the two big parties say on Twitter; apparently Bexley residents are gushing with praise for the Tories and at the same time cannot wait to see Labour back in power. The Conservatives Tweet their optimism every day, maybe it helps to keep their spirits up.


TweetTheir reception might well be warm on occasions. “I had a canvassing visit from the Tories last week and made it quite clear I won't be voting Conservative again. He went away with the sound of ‘You’re a bunch of corrupt bastards’ ringing in his ears!” is extracted from a recent email. I’ve also had a few comments from those in the thick of it - not Tories obviously - and the expectations of the other parties may be a more realistic guide to the future.

I could make a prediction based on insider comments but that would not be fair. In any case things get very complicated where the main contenders may be Labour and UKIP. That is new and unpredictable territory in Bexley.

There are fewer doubts about the Conservative’s prospects. Without Gordon Brown on their side their majorities must surely fall and some are small enough to see them lose seats.

Using all three of your votes can be counter-productive. If you are true blue, obviously you vote for three Conservatives and if your colour is red the answer is equally obvious, but if you are out to cause an upset then you would be better off using only one vote (except in Barnehurst and Blackfen). Voting one UKIP (or one anything else) plus two Conservative would be particularly silly for the Tory votes effectively cancel out the UKIP - Green, Lib Dem, BNP or whatever.

In Blackfen things are even more complicated. Probably the best choice if you are really fed up with Peter Craske and Co. is to go for the three Independents. UKIP plus two Independents becomes a bit of a lottery if the intention is to teach the Tories a lesson, because not everyone will choose the same Independent candidate.

I am getting into dangerous territory here but it cannot be any great secret that I believe Bexley council would be enormously improved by the removal of as few as a dozen of the worst Tories. Some have shown themselves not to be at ease with the differences between right and wrong, the public good and their own, democracy and their personal egos. So think of what you are trying to do with your X and remember that splitting your three votes across multiple parties will dilute your intentions. Only dyed-in-the-wool Tory and Labour supporters should absolutely definitely use all three.

 

14 May (Part 1) - Missing the bus?

At the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee meeting on 22nd April, Mrs. Richardson (Deputy Director of Strategic Planning, £103,000 p.a. including 20% pension contribution) reported on the progress, some would say slow progress, being made on Sidcup High Street. She said…


“The public realm works are now accelerating, we were frustrated by the poor weather and the difficulty with what turned out in the end to be a redundant gas pipe but we are now progressing at some pace.

Most of the shop fronts are now in, the work is more or less complete. There are some big tracts of public realm work now which will make some big impact and differences; one example is the area outside the gym where work started today and will take about two weeks.

We do expect Hadlow Road to reopen on the 16th of May. The public realm work may be finished ahead of that but obviously these kind of dates are agreed in advance with the public transport providers, so that's the formal date that we are quoting.


Shop fronts Road worksSo today seemed like a reasonable time to go and see if the Hadlow Road work, originally scheduled for completion by the first week of March, was getting along. They are cutting things fine because the bus diversion signs were changed to say 16th May a week or two ago and Conway’s men were still pouring concrete foundations in two places.

I still have all my father’s old engineering books, whilst most of them are about aero engines one is about using concrete in stressful situations. It’s old but says to allow nine weeks for curing. Maybe that is why Broadway is broken up by passing buses.

The observant may notice that at 10:45 on a sunny Wednesday morning six photographs show fewer than a handful of people wandering by the shops.

Gym Road works Hadlow Road Hadlow Road

 

13 May (Part 2) - Notaproof Reader?

CandidateFour or five more election leaflets have been added to the collection over the past day or two. Perhaps they could be organised better but each party has its own Index - except where no local leaflets have become available.

Conservative - Labour - UKIP and ‘all’ including minor parties.

It wouldn’t be too difficult to pull any of the main parties’ claims apart but it might get repetitive. Thamesmead East Conservatives provide the only amusement, they manage to spell the name of their candidate wrongly.

 

13 May (Part 1) - Bexley council’s reputation in the mud again

Puddle PuddleBexley council is to stop employing Ward Security to keep their parks and recreation grounds secure from intruders overnight but Franks Park in Belvedere has its own form of protection, an obstacle course and a moat. If you are taking your toddler to the swings in a buggy then be careful, the worst of the canyons is a foot deep. Wheelchair users shouldn’t even try. Drive there in anything less than a small truck and you might do it serious damage.

There are not many houses in Parkside Road, no more than 30 and although they pay taxes the same as anyone else, Bexley council has not seen fit to provide them with a proper road.

In 2001 a council report said the road was dangerous with holes in excess of 300 millimetres (one foot) deep and a pre-Teresa O’Neill Listening Council, Working for You, filled the potholes, covered everything with roadstone and rolled it flat. But we no longer have a caring council and the one we have has only two concerns, freezing taxes and staying in power which it sees as two sides of the same coin.


Parkside Road BarrierThe following year, 2002, 175 local residents asked for a barrier to be placed at one end of the road to deter traffic from disturbing the new but fragile surface (at a cost of £4,000) but twelve years on the situation is back to square one. Deep potholes that fill with water in wet weather and a dusty surface that blows everywhere when it is dry.

Another petition is being organised but this time to have the road brought up to the standard that almost everyone else enjoys.

An informal council estimate has put the cost at £450,000, less than half what would have been saved over a four year term if Teresa O’Neill had pursued her stated ambition to cut the number of councillors by a third. Almost the same as what would be saved in a single year if senior staff were paid in line with government guidance.

Bexley council is currently stating that the road cannot be adopted because the situation doesn’t meet its criteria but when asked for a copy of the document that defines the criteria they confess to not having one. As always, Bexley council just muddles along jumping in whichever direction suits them at the time.

The new petition is available online and a paper version is being hawked from door to door. Petitions, as long term readers will be well aware, are not usually welcomed by Bexley council and gone are the days when 175 signatures might be enough.


Parkside Road Parkside Road No accessGetting to the minimum requirement of 1,000 signatures is going to be a struggle given the small number of properties on Parkside Road. For it to stand any chance of consideration it requires the support of park users too. Even better might be sponsorship by a councillor but they are otherwise engaged at the moment. A complication is that Parkside Road cuts across a ward boundary. Those representing the Erith end (where the petitioner lives) have been less than helpful so far, perhaps that will change after 22nd May with new councillors in place. There is experience of sponsoring petitions in the Belvedere Labour camp.

Photo No. 4 is the school featured here last December, another case of Bexley council neglect and the final photograph merely illustrates Bexley council’s usual carelessness with street furniture. Traffic lights obstructing disabled access, waste bins in the middle of cycle tracks and here a warning sign obstructing access to the park. Brain cells are in short supply at Bexley council.

 

12 May (Part 2) - Have I slipped off the electoral fence?

Yesterday’s blog was, compared to the one I originally had in mind, an easy one to do. I was as usual pressed for time and all that was required was a quick scan though the Strategy 2014 document which was published three years ago. It’s 68 pages long so my list of cuts barely scratched the surface. For not a lot of effort the blog produced a decent amount of compliments but the blog, I would guess, preaches mainly to the converted, many of Bexley’s voters will be unaware of what has been chipped away from them.

The Bexley Action Group people who are contesting the Blackfen and Lamorbey ward went a little further than merely saying they liked my list of cuts; could they use it, they said. As I’ve always said that anything posted here may be taken for non-commercial use I could hardly say no but for its new purpose and with more time available I felt it would benefit from a facelift. Below is the new version. Click or scroll to see it all.

Advert

That ’flyer’ will I understand start going out tomorrow or possibly Wednesday. As far as I am concerned anyone else who wants to ‘borrow’ it, is free to do so.

Having prepared the revised cuts list, the blog I had planned for yesterday will be delayed again. Sorry to disappoint a certain person!

 

12 May (Part 1) - Bexley council broke law, sought police support and got none!

Progress towards reopening Bridleway 250 has been slow, one source of information responds only occasionally and Mick Barnbrook has an election on his mind. For those new to the subject, Bexley council turned a blind eye while a landowner erected a gate across Bridleway 250 in contravention of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. See Index to previous blogs.

Bexley council has justified its failure to enforce a reopening on Sergeant Alison Bateman of Bexley police who, they claim, indicated that the gate was a good crime prevention measure. Unfortunately for Bexley council the recommendation, if that is what it was, of a police sergeant is of no consequence; the law requires something more. It requires that there has been a “high level of crime”, “persistent commission of criminal offences” and crime which is “disrupting the life of the community”; and if all those criteria are satisfied the council must convince the Secretary of State of the need to close the bridleway. What Sergeant Bateman thinks falls rather short of that. Click image below for more legal detail.
Law
A resident’s enquiry to the Secretary of State has not to the best of my knowledge been answered but a Freedom of Information request to Bexley council has produced the information that everyone would expect. They have not sought the Secretary of State’s permission.

In March I speculated that Bexley council might be putting words into the mouth of Sergeant Alison Bateman in order to shift responsibility to her. The same FOI response letter gives some credence to that theory. It says the police sergeant did not give Bexley council any form of authority that they could break the law if they felt like it when she met them in June last year.

The problem with Bexley council is that they tell so many lies and contradict themselves so often that it’s not possible to say which of their letters might be truthful.
FOI
It subsequently became apparent (another FOI) that there had been four crimes in the area over five years.

Government guidance on closing bridleways.(PDF)

 

11 May - Can you remember what Bexley Conservatives did for you?

Slogan
They have done quite a lot actually. Definitely some efficiency savings and equally definitely quite a lot of cuts to front line services. And then there are the across the board price increases. Some of them well above the level of inflation.

In case you have a short memory, below is a tiny selection of what was planned and an indication of the likely savings or costs.

Whether these were achieved in every case is unknown but as Bexley council constantly claims to have met its budgetary targets it must be safe to assume that their predictions were about right. In some cases it wasn’t very clear whether the savings were per year or over four years. All topics and figures are extracted from ‘Budget Strategy 2014’ and its annual updates.


• Doubling and some near tripling of various car parking charges.
• Extending car parking chargeable hours to Monday to Sunday, 24 hours.
• Introducing car park charges to Leisure Centres, Sidcup Place, Danson Park and Hall Place. (Hall Place remains free at the present time.)
• Switching parking penalty charges in Bexley, Sidcup and Welling to Band A so that they attract higher fines. (Additionally fines have gone up London-wide.)
• Removing coin operated parking meters, introducing Pay by Phone only.
• Change use of fixed CCTV installations from security operations to tracking moving traffic offences. (Plan not yet implemented.)
• Close the parking office in Broadway switching all operations to the web or post.
• Closed the public conveniences in Townley Road (Bexleyheath shopping centre) and Bexley Village. £40,000.
• Cut provision of school transport for pupils with Special Educational Needs by £750,000.
• Sacked the dog fouling warden saving £15,000.
• Removed facility for cash payments at council offices and stopped sending out receipts. £20,000 a year saved.
• Introduce charge for ‘A’ boards outside shops. £5,000 a year.
• Removed William Morris Fountain from Broadway. £20,000.
• Unprofitable sports facilities closed. £13,000 saved.
• Danson Festival permanently cancelled. (Strategy 2014 said only that it should become cost neutral.)
• Parks to be left unsecured at night from 2014/15. £200,000 a year saved.
• Land search fees increased. £20,000.
• Skip licence fees increased. £7,000.
• Pest control fees increased. £10,000.
• Street Trading licences increased. £50,000.
• Planning office opening hours reduced. £5,000 a year.
• Planning application fees increased. £86,000 a year.
• Planning office staff reductions. £94,000 a year.
• Close reception facilities at outlying offices. £22,000 a year.
• Outsourcing the Registrar Services. £40,000 a year.
• Outsourcing the BELL emergency service. £47,000 a year.
• Reduction in Library Services. Abolition of Mobile Service. £1,025,000.
• Reduced expenditure on Youth Services. £77,000 pounds.
• Spent £95,000 less on the Substance Misuse Service.
• Cut £1,342,000 from a variety of school budgets.
• Took £125,000 from parenting support and anti-social behaviour projects.
• Removed £130,000 from Young People’s Services and the council’s support for it.
• Took £125,000 from Adult Education.
• Removed waste collection services from schools, saving a theoretical £68,000. (Many placed private contracts.)


So what was the practical effect? Here are some sample changes to charges over the past four years.


• Private grave (30 years lease). £1,009 - £1,505.
• Events banners display. £7 a week - £26.50 a week.
• Rat infestations. £90 - £124 in 2013/14. (Not listed for 2014/2015, service understood to have been abandoned.)
• Bed bug infestations. £82 - £173 in 2013/14. (Not listed for 2014/2015, service understood to have been abandoned.)
• Squirrels in domestic premises. Free - £188 in 2103/14. (Not listed for 2014/2015, service understood to have been abandoned.)
• Residents’ Parking Permit. £35 - £100.
• Annual car park season ticket (e.g. Albion Road). £446 - £684.
• Waste collection from charity shops (240 litre bin) . £219 - £268.
• Day care (Learning disabilities). Free - £43.65 per day.
• Overdue library books. 26 pence - 72 pence (per day.)
• Food Safety Certificate. £280 - £329.


The local Labour party has calculated that the increased charges have taken £7 million from Bexley residents.

 

10 May (Part 2) - No repairs at all, running or otherwise

No repairs No repairsI have heard both Labour candidates and the Blackfen Independents say that potholes are near the top of residents’ complaints about the neglect that follows from Bexley council’s budget cuts. Things will only get worse.

Something that annoys me just as much as pot holes is the patchwork quilt of bumps and lumps and dips and hollows that are a feature of nearly every road. As a motorist my little car doesn’t ride them too well and as a pedestrian it means I risk a drenching every time it rains.

But there is always someone worse off than yourself. Count yourself lucky if you don’t live in Parkside Road in forgotten Belvedere.

More on this another day.

 

10 May (Part 1) - Running repairs

Repairs RepairsIn the Broadway there are places without kerbstones which is supposed to indicate that bus wheels and toes can occupy the same space, but preferably not at the same time.

In Arnsberg Way at the entrance to the bus terminus (Geddes Place) and Clock Tower stops there is a great big kerb which is inevitably mounted by a bus from time to time, and equally inevitably the kerb stone doesn’t stay in place for very long. This is at least the second time it has been replaced. First time around I arrived too late but yesterday I was luckier.

Eventually someone will come up with a better idea. Who decides whether a kerb is justified or not and does this one really have to be so high?

 

9 May (Part 3) - Broadway, Welling and Sidcup. Northumberland Heath is next for disruption

Over the past year or so Bexleyheath, Welling and Sidcup have all been given the ‘regeneration’ treatment. In each case it has taken far too long and caused traffic chaos and business disruption. The end results have been controversial. Nuxley Road shopping area in Belvedere would have got the same treatment but the locals rebelled. Now it is Northumberland Heath’s turn.

New paving, new seating, railings and banners hanging from lamp posts are all proposed; the latter obscuring the CCTV cameras. Plans were available for inspection in the library last month but no one knows how many people looked. Local councillor Phil Read asked at the last council meeting. Some people must have done so because one told me that Northumberland Park was shown as a two-way road when it is one-way. Where does Bexley council find these incompetents?


Pot holes Pot holesThe new benches are of the same sort as is causing a lot of wet behinds in Welling; did Bexley buy a job lot? The present seating is perfectly serviceable and equipped with a back rest. You give an elderly person a place to rest but it’s wet and uncomfortable. Stylish though, that is what seems to count in Bexley.

Replacement of selected parts of the existing pavement is unlikely to improve the overall appearance especially as the existing slabs are not old and in good condition.

Taking away the existing greenery and replacing it with stand alone trees and the risk of damage while they get established seems to be a peculiar use of money when there is a £40 million black hole to plug.

The plan does not include upgrading the car park upon which many shops rely. It’s full of potholes at the moment. Bexley council might do better to spend our money where it is needed rather than give work to some planner who knows the area so well he gets his one-way streets muddled up.

Benches Paving Paving Paving

 

9 May (Part 2) - Hurt the politicians. Kick ’em in the ballots

No sign of BNP, Lib Dem or Green literature is what I said only yesterday but I’ve since found that my neighbours have had BNP European election leaflets - but not me. People elsewhere in the borough have had one too and even sent me scanned copies.

The leaflet indulges in slightly risqué language for an election leaflet as the headline above suggests, but presumably they know their target audience well. It makes it clear enough that the BNP now regards itself only as a party of protest.

Although it is a European Election leaflet it might be the closest I get to seeing what the policies of the Bexley branch is so I have added it to the gallery of propaganda.

Note: My BNP leaflet was delivered on 10th May.

 

9 May (Part 1) - End of an era

As today will be the last that some council employees spend in the somewhat dilapidated Civic Centre on Broadway I went to take a few last minute snaps before Tesco pulls it down and also get some of the ‘new’ building in Watling Street. According to her Twitterings the mayor was due there at the same time prior to her Land’s End to John O’Groats charity drive. Although I was there in plenty of time I saw nothing of her, perhaps she was setting off from the rear car park but I didn’t feel it was worth finding out. (Twitter later said she wasn’t there either.)
Civic Centre
Access AccessDespite it being still surrounded by security fencing it is now possible to go right up the the front door of the new building - well maybe not if you are in a wheelchair because the access shows all the hallmarks of being designed by Bexley’s renowned road planning incompetents. It is obstructed by three posts. A pedestrian traffic light pole, a lamp post and some sort of electrical control box.

The wide angle lens has exaggerated the space available but there is not much more than an 18 inch paving slab between the left hand pair of poles. The blind following the tactile paving are in for a nasty surprise.

Here's some more attractive aspects of the new building for which I have high hopes, after all, no less an authority than Teresa O’Neill has told me it has cost me nothing and will save me £1·5 million a year. I’m looking forward to about £25 off my council tax bill next year.

2 Watling Street 2 Watling Street 2 Watling Street 2 Watling Street

 

8 May (Part 4) - Where’s NSL when you need them?

Blocked Blocked BlockedArriving home after battling the artificially created jam in Penhill Road and an unexplained one at Crook Log I encountered this van (E005 AHP) blocking my drive and that for six adjacent properties. How long it had been there is impossible to say but I found myself stuck for 32 minutes before the crew decided to leave.

I was not terribly surprised to find neither of them spoke a word of English and neither made any attempt to acknowledge the problem they had caused. Probably that is a good thing, if appearances are anything to go by a reasonable discussion might be beyond them.

 

8 May (Part 3) - More junk mail?

In the end only five new election leaflets have gone on line today, one of those sent to me was a duplicate. Four are from the Tories and one from UKIP. Click those links for an Index to all currently available from those parties.

Election leaflets are where you can see the English language stretched right up to the point of being a lie, but generally it stops just short of that. One of the Conservative leaflets appears to claim that Bexley is good at ‘Safeguarding children’ but before you shout ‘OFSTED’ and ‘it’s a lie’, take another look and you realise they are only claiming safeguarding children to be one of their responsibilities without saying whether their performance is good or bad. But they do claim to be No. 1 for recycling; funnily enough, so does Bromley.


ChargesCloser to being a lie is the boast that Bexley Tories have kept council tax low when the truth is that they have kept it relatively high and slowly getting worse by comparison with other London boroughs. “Lowest parking charges in the area” is another lie. Just to pluck one example from many, in Petts Wood (Bromley) the charge is 40 pence an hour, in similar sized Northumberland Heath, Bexley charges twice as much. Tories have the cheek to claim credit for Crossrail coming to the borough boundary and for the improvement made to the historic Crossness pumping station.

The Conservatives are going to campaign for a reduction in the number of councillors; exactly the same promise as they made four years ago.

Smearing other parties is a well known tactic. Labour councillors are said to be planning to reintroduce the Thames Gateway Bridge when no one has suggested such a thing. The Gallions Bridge that is possibly being considered in County Hall is a great deal less ambitious.

I’ve not found Labour’s literature to be particularly inspiring. An hour’s free parking and fighting cuts to libraries and community centres. No other promises I considered significant and if you had ever seen how Teresa O’Neill tramples down any dissenting voice, Labour’s or yours, you’d realise that the need for a more evenly balanced council is becoming desperate.

UKIP have a few original ideas, one is to provide a limited number of free collections for large items of ‘rubbish’. Bexley charges thirty quid an item at the moment which encourages fly tipping. There’s a roll of carpet on Knee Hill at the moment if anyone is interested.

I thought it was ingenious for UKIP to claim that Bexley has “the worst council tax record in London” when it is not actually bottom of the list. 24th out of 32 boroughs. But it’s not a lie, it’s clever use of the English language again. Bexley does have the worst taxation record in London, it has fallen 21 places in the League Table in 20 years. No other borough has got anywhere near to that abysmal record.

No sign of BNP, Lib Dem or Green literature anywhere.

 

8 May (Part 2) - Bexleyheath loses a car park

When Bexley council hands over its Civic Centre site to Tesco at the end of this month the car park at the rear of the building will be lost. Click here for details.

When Tesco opens its doors it will provide 500 parking spaces. See their website. However when I spoke to a Tesco representative in September 2011 she said Bexley council wasn’t happy with their parking plans, so don’t count on it being free. Readers may also be unhappy that the approved plans include the permanent closure of Highland Road which will turn the Broadway from the new council HQ all the way to the magic roundabout at Trinity Place, into part of one enormous roundabout.

 

8 May (Part 1) - Serious politicians

Yesterday I was given six different election leaflets from across the borough which I will attempt to get on line before the day is out but perhaps the least colourful of them is the most interesting - unexpected certainly. It came inside a copy of a news freesheet I had not come across before, The Blackfen Trader, which according to its banner headline is delivered to 6,000 homes in Blackfen.

The Trader doesn’t provide a lot of news but it has found space for Don Massey’s decision to put an end to the annual disturbance to voters on his wife’s electoral patch which is the Danson Festival. Like its bigger rivals, The Blackfen Trader has taken Massey’s initial announcement at face value.
Trader Danson
It repeats councillor Don Massey’s assurance that the Festival has been cancelled for this year only due to more rainfall than usual, something I have my doubts about given that my solar panels produced more electricity January to March than in any of the preceding three years.

Since then we have learned that Don Massey was not telling the whole story but for those fed up with Bexley Conservatives not telling the truth, The Trader offers a solution. Below the Massey/Danson Festival article is a half page advertisement on behalf of the Blackfen Independents. If anyone doubted they were seriously challenging Craske and Co they should perhaps think again.

Advert

It’s the first advert I’ve seen about the local elections and voting Independent in Blackfen could well produce a change. There would be greater transparency and I’m absolutely sure that Blackfen residents could be totally confident that their councillors would be far more careful about what sort of material is uploaded from their internet connections than was their current representative - Peter Craske. The Independents’ original colour brochure may be seen on their website.

 

7 May (Part 2) - The leader’s report

O'NeillThe leader is allowed 30 minutes at a full council meeting to say what she has achieved and councillors’ comments are not time limited. At 20:51 last Wednesday Teresa O’Neill began to speak. She said she had “been banging on doors for a very long time” and residents were telling her about potholes. She blamed the recent weather. Funding has been obtained, from where wasn’t stated, and £568,000 would be spent on fixing the problem. That was it. After less than a minute the list of her achievements was concluded though to be fair there were 19 pages of A4 to be read for those so inclined.

Councillor Philip Read was interested in the twelfth page of that document and the work proposed for the Bexley Road shopping area of Northumberland Heath. In particular he wanted to know how many people visited the exhibition in the local library. Unfortunately no one had bothered to count them. I was not one of those visitors but I have received not altogether favourable comment on the scheme which will no doubt find its way here as soon as I find time to get some suitable photographs. Naturally there were no negative comments in the chamber.

Councillor Mick O’Hare made favourable comments about Lesnes Abbey Woods. I can see it whenever I look out of my window and maintenance goes on constantly but I have yet to see any sign of the significant changes announced at previous council meetings. O’Hare’s speech was the purest waffle managing to say only that “spending £3·5 million on the woods would go a long way towards making it better for our residents”. Pure genius. The money is coming from Lottery Funds.


DowningCouncillor Alan Downing was at pains to contrive circumstances in which the leader could claim that the new council HQ at 2 Watling Street cost the council tax payer nothing. This she was happy to do. She added that it ”provided better opportunities for residents”. I don’t know what she meant by that.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour) asked whether Redrow, the company contracted for the Howbury regeneration, had kept their promise to employ mainly local people. Teresa O’Neill didn’t know.

Councillor Chris Ball’s (Labour leader) first question provoked so much laughter I am not sure what it was. However I did detect that he spoke in favour of raising council tax on the grounds that the small increase that might fix the borough’s financial problems was “insignificant” and “irrelevant” for many people, him included. His theme was that a lot of people in great need were suffering because of Conservative cuts. He asked if the council leader agreed that there was a big divide between the “haves and have nots in the borough”. It was dangerous political territory and councillor Ball made his case well.

Teresa O’Neill said when she knocked on doors people were only saying “Thank you for not raising council tax”. She went on to say that it wasn’t a case of the odd tenner mentioned by councillor Ball but fixing the problems would “take an awful lot of money”. You may interpret that as Bexley Conservative’s having led us towards a calamitous financial situation. Ah, they have haven’t they? It’s called a £40 million black hole.


Waters“Poor people don’t wear badges”, O’Neill said, “they manage on the money they have got. For keeping their council tax down, for that I am really proud”. So that’s a no then. She doesn’t agree with Chris Ball.

Councillor John Waters asked a question but for some reason his voice was the only one of the evening which was inaudible, though the traffic noises through the open windows on a warm evening did not help. Whatever the reason it gave councillor John Fuller (Cabinet Member for Education) the fourth or possibly fifth opportunity of the evening to trot out favourable educational statistics.

Time was almost up and the leader was asked to sum up. She said she had “created more jobs, it’s all about strategic management and this council can be proud, we have changed and produced a much better borough. That strategic management saves taxpayers’ money”.

 

7 May (Part 1) - Confusing revenue raiser

Wilton Road Wilton RoadToday’s News Shopper includes a letter about Bexley council’s frequently unclear and ambiguous car parking signs and only yesterday the one pictured here caught my eye.

If you enlarge the photo you’ll see it says the bay opposite Your Move in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood is suspended and reserved for vehicle number KP63 BZL. The price for reserving a parking space like this I have not researched but the notice is vague to say the least.

Apart from the almost always empty Disabled Bays the parking spaces in Wilton Road are not divided into separate car length bays and without any idea of whether KP63 BZL is a Smart Car or one of the articulated monsters serving the Crossrail development, motorists are left with little idea of what is permissible and what is not.

You can imagine the arguments that would ensue if KP63 BZL is a limo and someone left space only for a Ford Fiesta.

Don’t worry about the 20 m.p.h. sign in the wider view, it’s across the Greenwich boundary and has been swung through 180 degrees.

Note: A reader reports that KP63 BZL is what he calls “a dirty great Mercedes van”.

 

6 May (Part 3) - A hole in the ground, so big and sorta round

To end the day on something a bit more digestible, work on the Crossrail terminus at Abbey Wood is currently slowly progressing across the border in Greenwich.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Crossrail CrossrailFriends taller than me have said the recently constructed storm drain has been full of water at times which will explain the lifebelt. Not so easy to explain are the several notices ‘TREE ROUTE PROTECTION’.

I know there is route protection all the way to Ebbsfleet because I have seen the maps but I would doubt that the sign is anything to do with that. Maybe it is because the Abbey Wood line is one of two eastern branches.

The overhead electric powered track is to be extended as far as the Lesnes Green Chain Walk footbridge and there is some sign of preparatory work already. Some of the Fendyke Road residents who couldn’t have read Crossrail’s literature thoroughly were unhappy to discover that the third rail system has been abandoned. Crossrail will be a full sized railway that just happens to be largely underground; but a tube line it is not.

More Crossrail related blogs

 

6 May (Part 2) - The leader’s “maths lesson”

What happened at last Wednesday’s four hour council meeting would have been forgotten by now if it was not for the recording which contains many unreported gems. One is Agenda Item 6 (a motion about the frozen council tax having “helped residents significantly”) which allowed Teresa O’Neill, even during this period of ‘election purdah’ to takes several swipes at the Labour opposition.


O'NeillShe said they were in need of a maths lesson three times and praised her own freezing of the council tax. The Labour election literature showed they didn’t understand maths she said in her best condescending tone. Labour, she said, planned “to at least double the council tax” which seems a trifle far fetched given that legislation restricts increases to 1·99%. Probably someone so accustomed to law breaking as she is regards that as an inconsequential impediment.

Warming to her theme and apparently forgetful of electoral purdah guidance she said that Labour’s increase would in fact be 108%. She was of course unable to resist laying these plans at the door of former Cooperative Bank Director Munir Malik who had not made an appearance at what would have been his last council meeting. Unless he seeks a come back at some time.

That line of attack being exhausted the leader wandered totally off topic without any word of advice from the chairman mayor into listing the achievements of the other bodies active in the borough. This she said, without giving the purdah restrictions another thought, would help Labour candidates when addressing voters on their doorsteps. She suggested their theme could be “how great the Tories are”. Her list was…


• Regenerating Thamesmead, Tavy Bridge is down.
• The Link and the Sporting Club is open.
• Lesnes Abbey Park and a lot lot more to come in the future.
• We fought for the Crossrail extension to Abbey Wood and got it.
• We have asked Southeastern to make better use of the loopline.
• We are lobbying for an extension of Crossrail to Ebbsfleet but it needs to stop in Bexley.
• New jobs at ASDA in Belvedere.
• Erith now has a bright future.

Note: Conservative councillors campaigned against ASDA and threw out the planning application. This was later overruled but only by a 6:4 majority. Without Labour support there would be no ASDA in Belvedere. (Absolutely packed yesterday afternoon by the way.)
It could be said that Crossrail already stops in Bexley. The council’s welcome signs in the vicinity of the terminus all say ‘Bexley’. Abbey Wood, the area Teresa would prefer to forget.


At this point the opposition party woke up and realised that none of what Teresa O’Neill was saying had anything to do with the motion under discussion. A partisan and thoroughly rude Sharon Massey responded to councillor Stefano Borella’s intervention with “Thank you for your observation, I invite councillor O’Neill to continue”. “OK, we got to Erith didn’t we?” said the Brampton bully.


• North End is absolutely fantastic - and she referred to the new Howbury Centre which has been wrested from residents’ control.


With that Teresa O’Neill ended her list of things that were all funded by other bodies, referring as she did so to councillor Borella’s intervention as “a silly game”.

So that you may judge whether or not the council leader stuck to the motion, it is reproduced in full below.
Motion
The motion was seconded by councillor Alex Sawyer who made an entertaining speech beginning with the mistakes made by Gordon Brown. Obviously Alex is happiest picking on easy targets. I am pleased to report that unlike his boss he confined his comments to the matter in hand.


Mayor He said that the increased charges which Labour said was a 7% Stealth Tax could only translate to a 7% council tax rise if funded any other way, but did not indulge in O’Neill’s 108% flight of fancy.

Labour “bottled an opportunity to put forward an alternative budget” and is “a party that will say anything or do anything to get itself a vote. In fact madam mayor I am starting to wonder if they are not Liberal Democrats in disguise”. Definitely the best council joke of the year so far (Akin Alabi excepted of course) and coupled with the reference to Sharon Massey as ‘madam’ Alex gets my vote for being the brightest Conservative Bexley has got.

Labour is a party, he said, “that spends money like a Lothario out on a singles’ night”. But saying that Bexley is a borough “built on the principles of low tax” suggested that it might be his party in need of a maths lesson just as much as Labour. After four minutes of stand up comedy, Alex Sawyer sat down and the vote, as is always the case in Bexley, split entirely along party lines.

The only point of the motion which benefits residents not at all is to stick one in the eye of the opposition. How very grown up.

 

6 May (Part 1) - None of them wants to face the truth

I am wondering whether I can call this blog entry an update when all it really does is say that nothing much is happening, but on the other hand it reveals a little more detail for dedicated scholars of lying and perhaps more importantly, be useful to let new readers know before they vote, how crooked Bexley council can be.

It concerns councillor Cheryl Bacon standing in Cray Meadows ward and who, all the evidence says, is a great big liar. She insists that she put a public meeting into ‘Closed Session’ because every single member of the public present was misbehaving. Not one witness has been prepared to back her version of events but every member of the public present has been prepared to call her a liar and some councillors have provided written evidence of her lies.

Various overpaid executives right up to Will Tuckley himself, none of whom were at the meeting, have refused to carry out an investigation into Cheryl Bacon’s lies, rather foolishly they have all supported her based only on her own statement. If you need to go over all that old ground it is both comprehensively documented and summarised. Today I am bringing things completely up to date.


Bexley TimesThree weeks ago Mick Barnbrook provided Bexley council’s Chief Executive Will Tuckley with the names of the councillors who have made written statements confirming that no one misbehaved at Cheryl Bacon’s meeting and that Nicholas Dowling was calm and polite throughout and most certainly did not shove a microphone under her nose as councillor Colin Campbell said on BBC TV.

The council’s first press release referred to only one member of the public, it was only after taking advice on the legality of a Closed Session meeting, the term they used when announcing it, that the decision was taken to blacken the name of every member of the public present rather than own up to a procedural error. Only disruptive people can be legally excluded from a public meeting.

After three weeks of silence it would appear that Will Tuckley is still not prepared to conduct a proper investigation into the Cheryl Bacon lies which his senior officers blindly supported and after keeping Mick’s letter under wraps while he considered it I feel it is not too unreasonable to let you see it too.

It is long but I think it makes a number of very good points, among them that the leaked internal papers refer to ‘an individual’ and that the police were called to eject Nicholas Dowling, no one else.

This brings me to how the police are rallying round trying to protect their friends in the council. Why they are prepared to jeopardise their careers to protect bent council officials I have no idea, it was the same with councillor Craske and the obscene blog and for that the IPCC is still pushing for an answer.


ChamberWhen two police constables eventually showed up at the council meeting on 19th June 2013 they were far from being officious. I described them the next day as “jovial bobbies”. You can imagine what I would have had to say about them if they had threatened arrest or forcibly ejected us, but the tissue of lies built by Bexley council’s Head of Legal Services has become so shaky that it demands the support of the police to say that is exactly what happened.

True to form the police confirmed Bexley council’s story that I and others were prepared to risk arrest by refusing to leave an empty council chamber. Why would anyone do that when it was just me and a bunch of Bexley Action Group members sitting there alone, the councillors having long since departed?


News ShopperMr. Barnbrook asked for a copy of the two constables’ statements only to discover there weren’t any. However a helpful Chief Inspector, probably not knowing what he was getting himself into, offered to put that right. A week or so later he emailed that the written statements were now in his possession and that they confirmed Bexley council’s assertion, viz. that I and others refused to leave the chamber and had to be ejected. This does not of course accord with what the police told the News Shopper before the need to lie became apparent. (See associated image.)

Mick Barnbrook and his fellow BAG members do not give up easily as Bexley council and the police ought to know by now; Mick wrote to Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling under FOI asking for copies of the two statements. He has been denied them, so statements which were obtained solely for Mick Barnbrook’s benefit are secret and he cannot see them. Perverse is it not? Perhaps the constables are not prepared to support the council’s lies after all.

Both of CS Peter Ayling’s predecessors are under investigation for Misconduct in Public Office after they succumbed to “political interference” by Bexley council. Mr. Ayling has been formally advised that he is going to be next on that list if he continues to support Bexley council’s obvious lies.

 

5 May (Part 2) - Two questions. One big hint and an answer that may not be all it seems

Two councillors who won the lottery at last week’s council meeting were able to ask questions within the 30 minutes allowed. One was Conservative James Hunt who I hadn’t previously placed in the crawlers’ camp although I know some observers have.

His question was short…


Can the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services update us on the progress made with regard to Children’s Safeguarding Service including the feedback from the recent Peer Review and Department for Education 12 month review?


PerriorThe Cabinet Member for Children’s Services is Katie Perrior who is not standing for reelection in 2014 and James Hunt’s interest in her portfolio is well known. Clearly he has to continue to show an interest if he is to have any chance of picking up the extra £13,197 a year.

Councillor Perrior said not so very long ago that she would not leave her post until Bexley had improved on its appalling record with OFSTED and the fact that she is going strongly suggests things are at least a little better. She said she “was pleased with the performance so far”.

When pressed by James Hunt to say if “she was happy to retire” following her earlier statement about standing down, she said that OFSTED’s report was “not officially out until after the election but I am very pleased to say the hard work has paid off”. Hints and embargo breaches do not come much bigger than that.

Labour’s deputy leader Alan Deadman turned his attention to the cancellation of the Danson Festival. He asked a simple question…


Does the Cabinet Member agree with councillor Pat Cammish that the Danson Festival should be held every other year?


Press ReleaseCabinet member Don Massey did not agree. It is no longer the case that this year’s festival is cancelled because of bad winter weather, the problem has switched firmly to the underlying geology of the “mid-park” which “requires considerable investment annually”. This is a much better excuse because it will hold good even during a drought.


MasseyBiannual festivals “might give a little short term relief in the years it [the festival] didn’t take place but it wouldn’t really resolve the long term and more substantial problems that we have there”.

Councillor Massey went on to refer to the ‘considerable capital investment” required in the park. “Without that investment Danson Park is unable to accommodate the festival whether it be annual or every two years.”

So there you have it, the original excuse that the cancellation was due to bad weather was at best, not the whole story. It’s down to saving money, the £40 million budgetary black hole and the need to freeze council tax to help keep the Conservatives in power.

If there are ‘ground problems’ it is unlikely that the underlying geology of the park will have changed overnight, so one might wonder how the park sustained the Festival for so many years.


CoryWhether the sudden discovery of a subterranean calamity is the truth or just a convenient excuse is a difficult question to answer and Bexley council’s propensity to lie complicates matters.

Whichever is the case nobody seems to have tipped off the Festival sponsor that Bexley council has found it necessary to move away from their original reason for the cancellation. Their website still refers to “exceptionally bad weather over the winter” and the fact that the site “remains saturated with rainwater”. It also refers to the underlying clay and the problem it can cause but nowhere does the sponsor say “No more Festivals ever”.

The sponsor’s website is www.dansonfestival.co.uk but as a precaution against them being instructed to adopt the revised and more convenient official line a copy has been archived here. There is no suggestion of permanent cancellation and you may make up your own mind on whether or not councillor Don Massey has been entirely truthful. If nothing else he is guilty of inconsistency and opportunism.

 

5 May (Part 1) - Beware of candidates bearing gifts

TweetLast Monday, exactly a week ago, Bexley council announced its latest round of generosity towards the electorate. Its car parks would be free on the May Day holiday, today.

Councillor Kerry Allon went on Twitter to announce “We are doing it again”.

Without doing enough research I asked him if this would be a repeat of Easter Saturday when Bexley council’s ‘generosity’ in Bexleyheath turned out to be one of Ian Payne’s Business Improvement District ‘come to Broadway’ promotions and not council funded at all.


Carpark Carpark CarparkKerry told me “it doesn’t take a genius” to work out the answer which is his way of saying today’s free parking is Bexley council funded. And his comment about Bexley council “doing it again” is absolutely correct, for free parking on Bank Holidays is the norm, as these photographs of the only council car park in Mr. Allon’s newly adopted Lesnes ward, show.

It seems more likely than not that the publicity for free Bank Holiday parking has more to do with there being an election due than any new found streak of generosity. Bexley council has doubled most parking charges and tripled some since 2010 and now they hope to fool the gullible that they are giving some of their revenues back.

The photos suggest they are not giving very much away. Gayton Road car park has been empty so far today.

 

4 May (Part 3) - Committee chairman stripped of all responsibility

Conservative councillors are not the only ones to try to embarrass their opponents, Bexley Labour is not above the practice either. I suspect that asking the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee if she had had any discussions on compliance with the Licensing Act was intended to be a little mischievous.


In line with the Committee chairman's responsibilities with regard to Health and Safety enforcement functions under Part I of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974; could she outline what discussions she has had with the Chairman of the Licensing Committee, to ensure that all Designated Premises Supervisors in the Borough comply with their duties under Part I of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Licensing Act 2003?


Lucia-HennisHowever when it comes to sharp practices, Bexley’s Conservative administration is unrivalled. The Chairman of the General Purposes Committee is councillor and Crayford publican, Geraldene Lucia-Hennis, the woman behind the recently staged illegal strip show at The Charlotte. To avoid answering the question she had contrived not to show up at the last council meeting to be held in the old chamber.

The mayor ruled that there was no need to read out her statement, oh no, that might be far too embarrassing.

 

4 May (Part 2) - Damn the expense, it’s a nice shade of green

Cycle track Cycle trackEver since I first spotted these halt signs within a cycle track in Erith I have assumed it must be a hangover from a bygone age when something now gone may have justified it. Maybe that is true because it simply doesn’t make sense and I check if it’s been fixed by someone with a brain cell whenever I pass by on the bus.

If you ever think that the roads in Bexley are designed by someone with a warped sense of humour or would be better off receiving medical help the second photo might confirm your worst fears. One of the silliest cycle tracks in the borough has had a makeover - after Public Realm boss, councillor Gareth Bacon, said that cycle tracks on the footpath are not a good idea too.

You can see it has been given a nice new coating of something green and someone has seen fit to drop the kerb. Presumably not for the benefit of pedestrians because that would have tactile paving; what a mess. Not quite so obvious is that they have stuck a large direction signpost in the middle of the track as well. Click the second photo to get a better view.

Meanwhile Bexley council pleads poverty is the reason for leaving children at risk of injury outside Bedonwell Infants’ School and failing to provide safe access to Franks Park via Parkside Road.

The second photo was taken from Twitter and despite approaching two possible owners I have failed to find the copyright holder. If they turn out to be a Bexley council supporter I suppose I will have to go and take my own.

 

4 May (Part 1) - Crass questions to council

TweetCouncillors’ questions to council are quite different to those members of the public attempt to ask. At least the Conservative ones are. There’s no real need for them to ask a question because all they need to do is grab someone at the bar of the Conservative Club or make a phone call. Probably that is why all their questions to council are of the crawling variety; the only point of them is to curry favour with the council leader and rub the opposition noses in the dirt if they possibly can. Peter Craske will be hoping to regain a cabinet position - assuming he is reelected - after losing his when the police traced an abusive blog to his telephone line.

Craske is so desperate to be noticed he put down six questions at last week’s council meeting…

Question 1


With Bexley’s economy growing twice as fast as the rest of the UK’s and Bexley’s unemployment rates having dropped by more than 30%, does the Cabinet Member think that if we had followed the doom and gloom, dogmatic oppose everything and anything approach of the Opposition then we would not have secured £200million of external investment that is benefitting the entire borough or attracted new businesses to the borough?


Question 2


As this is the last Full Council meeting in this building, has the Deputy Leader reflected on what would have been the impact for Bexley’s taxpayers if the Council had followed the alternative proposals to the Bexley First strategy put forward by the Labour Group?


Question 3


How many residents has the Leader met since 2010 saying they wished that instead of not raising their Council Tax Bill they would have preferred us to increase their bills?


Question 4


Could the Cabinet Member give an update on the Adult Social Care Vision recently been (sic) approved by Public Cabinet?


Question 5


Four years ago, the land in Blackfen and Lamorbey ward between Parish Gate Drive and Norfolk Crescent was just a patch of grass and rubble – now, four years later, it is the fantastic Parish Wood Park, which is full of life, and an asset greatly valued by the residents who joined the Council, ward councillors and community groups in campaigning for the funds to create this new park. Would the Leader agree that this shows what can be achieved when people roll up their sleeves, get stuck in and work together to improve their community?


Question 6


In light of what seem never-ending revelations about the governance of and state of the Co-Operative Bank, does the Cabinet Member have advice for any Bexley residents who may be customers of the Bank?


BiffaCouncillor ‘Biffa’ Bailey replied to the first question saying “Yes I do agree with you” but couldn’t leave it there because this is not really question time it is Tory propaganda time, so Linda went on for another one minute and fifty seconds. She said she was “particularly disappointed” at Scrutiny meetings where “opposition members there never ever praise anything, but we ignore them like we usually do and the success of the borough speaks for itself”.

She had “high hopes for the Bexley Business Website and the Magazine” and there “has been quite a lot of praise for it and it is definitely upping the game for Bexley”.

Councillor Seán Newman referred to the Cabinet Member for Regeneration’s continued resistance to the idea of a Thames Bridge. “When would she stop playing politics and commit to a local river crossing?” Councillor Bailey said she was “never against a river crossing“ and suggested that councillor Newman “became a bit more mature”. Seán couldn’t suppress a smile at Bailey forgetting the mayor’s wish expressed at the beginning of the meeting that members showed each other some respect.

Bailey then indulged in the habitual muddling of the Thames Gateway Bridge, rejected in the 1990s, with the much more recent and less ambitious proposal cancelled by Boris Johnson when he came to power in 2008. This subterfuge enables Bexley Tories to claim the support of a government inspector.

Seán Newman’s smile was by now in danger of erupting into laughter which prompted Biffa to say “you are so rude” to the Labour councillor. Far from the mayor putting a stop to Bailey’s second attempt to provoke councillor Newman, the mayor admonished him for passing a signal to a colleague. Probably because that was not the gravest of sins she decided that a little more mud should be aimed in his direction. She complained about him being a bit late coming to the meeting and told him he “must remain silent and keep his hands down”. Why not stand facing the corner with his hands on his head?

Biffa was determined to have the final say, “he needs to mature a bit more”. Having taken exactly three minutes to say “yes” to councillor Craske she decided that committing more insults to tape might look a little bit childish when reported and she flopped back into her chair.


CraskeCraske’s second question allowed deputy leader Campbell to say “we have got the key to Watling Street this week” and “all the costs have been 100% covered by the financial plans this administration approved and we look like coming in significantly below budget”.

He referred to the opposition’s more expensive scheme in Erith acknowledging that “it was a good scheme”. Watling Street “is not a glory project like the Labour group one that didn’t have any merit to it.” Can you have ‘a good scheme’ which ‘doesn’t have any merit’?

Councillor Peter Craske could not resist extending the discussion across the river to Newham where, so he says, the council spent £111 million on a new HQ building. Unsurprisingly, the mayor did not spot that this is an irrelevancy and allowed Campbell to indulge in party politics. It is perhaps unfortunate that he said that this has impacted on the council tax that Newham residents pay. i.e. 15% less than we in Bexley are charged with free residents parking and bulky refuse removal thrown in for good measure.

After managing to label a Labour councillor “sad” and all of them “a disgrace”, Campbell eventually shut up after six and a half minutes.

Perhaps you will be relieved to know that some waffling by councillor Don Massey about library opening times used up the remainder of the 30 minutes allotted to public and councillors’ questions so you are not likely to learn whether rolling up sleeves and getting stuck in is a beneficial activity or not.

 

3 May - Public questions for council

After Chris Attard, UKIP's Lesnes candidate had his question to Bexley council rejected on the grounds it was considered to be “unfair on the present administration” I was surprised to see Mr. Ndubuisi Ezenwata step up to the podium last Wednesday evening. Surprised because Mr. Ezenwata is Labour’s candidate in Thamesmead. However the two situations are rather different. Whilst Chris’s question might show that Bexley council puts political expediency before children’s lives, Mr. Ezenwata’s question provided an opportunity for council leader Teresa O’Neill to humiliate him.

His question was…


Could the Leader please tell us what the impact of the so called Bedroom Tax has been on the Borough over the past year in terms of freeing up larger properties for families?


O'NeillThe leader lumbered to her feet and said “For transparency purposes I ought to point out because I know it has been raised before as we are actually in purdah that Mr. Ezenwata is actually a Labour candidate in Thamesmead East. Mr. Ezenwata I have to tell you that there is no such thing as a bedroom tax” and with that she sat down again.

It’s true that there is strictly and legally “no such thing as a bedroom tax” but there surely is such a thing as a “so called bedroom tax” which was Mr. Ezenwata’s question. To publicly snub him in that way was totally unnecessary and if Teresa O’Neill really felt his wording was inappropriate she could have rejected his question as has been done so many times before. But no, the opportunity to be rude to a questioner was too big a temptation to pass up.

The woman is a disgrace on every level.

An answer did become apparent later in the meeting. 310 Bexley householders have moved to smaller properties due to the introduction of the bedroom tax.

 

2 May (Part 3) - On the rise

When the Bexley Action Group announced their intention to field candidates in Peter Craske’s ward and knock on as many doors as possible, I asked them if they could hand out Bonkers leaflets for me. They agreed and some were delivered but then they asked if they could take over the operation as part of their canvassing effort. The result is the flyer which may be seen on their website.


StatsIn the couple of weeks the Action Group has been dropping their new leaflet with flyer enclosed through Blackfen letterboxes the number of visitors to Bonkers has been on an upward trend.

It’s a very significant increase bearing in mind that a relatively small section of only one ward has received attention.

Mick Barnbrook’s ‘hobby’ has been walking and he is considering the challenge of walking every street in the borough over the next four years. That’s 300 miles plus more than a few garden paths. Rather him than me but Mick tends to carry though with his ‘threats’.

When council leader Teresa O’Neill thought she could silence a critic by whispering in the ear of Borough Commander Dave Stringer (see below) I doubt she had thought through the full consequences of the lies she told him. i.e. That everyone would get to know what she is like.

New readers may not be aware of how far she will go to stifle scrutiny…

Lies
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said that the police had no legal grounds on which to take any action at all against me (John Kerlen did not complain) and Teresa O’Neill’s suggestion that I was planning to burn down the Civic Centre and inflict injuries on councillors were total fiction.

Unfortunately the Local Government Ombudsman said that councillors are free to accuse whoever they like of whatever they like and it is up to the police to see through false allegations. There is no chance of that happening in Bexley until we have an honest policeman in charge at Arnsberg Way. Present indications are not good. I see no sign that Bexley council does not still have the police in their pocket.

 

2 May (Part 2) - No fun at all

Would Mr. F. who has been split from his wife and child because of Bexley council’s inadequate housing arrangements and is now being pursued by their bailiffs over council tax he shouldn’t have had to pay in full because he is on benefits please contact me again? Your request for help contains no contact details.

 

2 May (Part 1) - Fun Friday

ASDA AllonLast week a failed businessman mocked one who had been hauled before the magistrates and Kerry Allon, Conservative candidate for Lesnes ward, thought it was worth publicising too.

Someone told me there was an element of pot and kettle about it as Kerry had also appeared before the beak for a retailing offence but if that is true I can find no record of it. Maybe one of you knows better?

However it is true that Mr. Allon has retail experience and I don’t just mean campaigning against ASDA. (Click image for his complete anti-ASDA poster.) He was manager of four central London branches of Ann Summers. That may have been a fun job if he doesn’t easily blush.

A magazine interviewed him on one occasion. This is some of what it reported…


Ann SummersIt’s Saturday afternoon and the passion punters are out in force. As manager Kerry Allon points out, you get all sorts in here. “Businessmen pop in during their lunch breaks and coach loads of Japanese tourists reckon we’re a tourist attraction” he says. “Some people feel a bit nervous on their first visit. You can often smell the alcohol they've drunk to summon up the courage. The atmosphere is easy-going and fun, a bit like shopping at Tesco, really.”

“We do attract a dirty raincoat contingent” Kerry warns. “They tend to hang out in the magazine section.” As if on cue, seven rowdy Dutchmen swagger into the shop. Leering at the displays of black lace and blow-up dolls. “No filming, please” says Kerry. (Where did he get that from?)

As for the saucy outfits section, it’s Frankie Howerd, Benny Hill and the entire Carry On films cast rolled into one.

Taking centre stage in the dressing-up department is the good old naughty nurse's uniform, complete with Red Cross apron and headband. “Our best seller” says Kerry proudly. “Last year we sold 85,000” and he doesn't mean to the NHS. Today a buxom 20-something girl is browsing through variations on the same theme. “Fancy dress?” I ask. “No, it’s for work” she replies conspiratorially. “I’m a stripper, it’s for my stage show.”

Linked InMeanwhile, giggling like schoolkids over the crotchless panties is a middle-aged couple from Somerset. “We come to London once a month for this” confides the woman, while her husband slinks shyly to the door. “It’s a real treat for us. We stay at a hotel, go to a show, and buy some naughty knickers for later. We’ve been married for 20 years and this is what keeps us spiced up.”

Goodness! I know a couple who flit between London and Somerset. No surely not!

 

1 May (Part 3) - Last council meeting before ‘school’ breaks up

TweetLast night’s council meeting resulted in four hours of audio recording which will require rather a lot of listening if a report is ever to appear here. Perhaps I shouldn’t bother, News Shopper reporter Tim MacFarlane got very close to summing the whole thing up with the three sentences he Tweeted half way through the meeting.

There was quite a large turnout, must have been close to 50, most of whom were election candidates from three, perhaps more, parties. Nearly all of them left after an hour or so and who can blame them? I stuck it out until eleven thirty hoping things might get better but the back slapping became ever more sycophantic.

The meeting was in three main sections, the standard and well rehearsed question time, the council leader’s report, and then, because it was the last council meeting before the electorate has its say, the ‘goodbyes’. This is the big opportunity for almost every councillor to stand up and say how wonderful councillors of every party have been over the past four years - or even 40 years in some cases. You wouldn’t think that there were two opposing parties in Bexley, they all claimed to love each other.


CraskeThat part of the meeting is quite informal with a fair amount of mucking around which in the circumstances is probably as it should be. Three councillors - just possibly four, I’ll have to check the tape, swore. Councillor Peter Craske said “crap’, councillor Colin Campbell said “bloody’ and councillor June Slaughter mentioned my name. I’m not sure that what she said about me is wholly correct but I have probably given her cause at one time or another. (Not that she was particularly critical.)

Goodness knows when I will find time to review such a long recording but the question time session needs analysis even if the rest of it is barely worth the effort.

There was an amount of political point scoring and silliness from the Conservatives, and the usual signs of political bias from the chairman mayor. Tories who sell fireworks to under 18s are rapped by the Licensing Committee and Labour people who do the same thing are prosecuted. It‘s much the same in council meetings. Tory councillors who abuse their Labour opposite numbers receive no criticism; Labour councillors caught grinning are admonished.

15 councillors are not standing for reelection. At the end of the meeting two of them exchanged friendly words and shook my hand. No surprise there, they are always friendly. Of the other 13 only three have ever acknowledged my presence. If the electorate does its job properly that ratio may improve, but it’s a big if. Most of Bexley will vote Conservative in total ignorance if what their X is buying.

 

1 May (Part 2) - Political leaflets - the collection grows

The election leaflets ‘gallery’ has been expanded, one from UKIP and three from Labour including the notorious Brampton triple O’Neills brochure which upset the fourth O’Neill.
Brampton
All the Labour leaflets accumulated so far are linked from here.

A new UKIP leaflet for Barnehurst has shown up too. There must be others but if so no one has sent in a copy. I’ve seen nothing new from any other party.

I’m not sure the latest UKIP leaflet is entirely up to date. The cost of a parking permit in Bexley can be £100, £120, £150 or even an extortionate £200 per year depending on a number of things, but I don’t know of any £130 price band.

 

1 May (Part 1) - Not so well in Welling

Cannon Cannon“A right mess” is how councillor John Waters described Welling after its latest year long round of disruption, a year that is, if you discount the work that preceded it which started in January 2012. I was a bit short of time to go and take a look so asked a reader who lives nearby if he could take some pictures for me. It’s probably better to have an independent and more expert local view on the subject.

These are his comments with a few of my own…


Photos 1 and 2. The historic cannon and its new companions. The pictures say all that is necessary.
Photo 3. The wide footpaths and narrow carriageways encourage pavement parking.
Photos 4. Poorly designed parking bays prevent the street cleaning vehicle getting to the corners.
Photos 5. Another dangerous sticking out kerb with no warning bollard in Bellegrove Road.
Photo 6. Frequent fly posting.
Photo 7. Cleverly designed stone seats at Welling Corner, being level, prevent rain water from running off.
Photo 8. Islands everywhere but the latest design for Upper Wickham Lane provides no central reservation.
Photo 9. Finally a bollard appears outside Tesco. Kerbstone so badly damaged it has been replaced. See blog of 7th February 2014.

Welling Welling Welling Welling Welling Welling Welling Welling

These photographs have been added to the photographic diary of the Welling Corridor Scheme.

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