As I have said many times before, it never seems worth putting a lot of effort into
the last day of the month blog when it is going to disappear next day, and the
fact is that anything more significant is still at the ‘research’ stage.
Plumstead police want to interview me next Thursday and I shall have to find some time to assemble relevant documents and I am looking into a case which may put Bexley’s inadequate child care services in the firing line again. Bexley council has just recruited someone from OFSTED to sort them out. Maybe the Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care who has overseen all the recent calamities and persuaded friends to do the Serious Case Reviews will be rumbled at last.
So all I am left with is a few recent photos which are never now likely to find a decent home. There is the misspelt sign to Harrow Manorway, The finished exit to the Gayton Road car park which was ready for use at the beginning of the week but is now more firmly barricaded than ever, and finally an example of Bexley council selling film locations in Crayford. Maybe it‘s a documentary on the renaissance of strip pubs.
All of the photographs demand sight of the larger version - and maybe 20/20 vision - (just click) if you are to see what little interest there is in them.
Third photograph by Brian Barnett.
The Leader of the Lib Dems in the London Assembly is Caroline Pidgeon and
she has been looking into the number of children who go missing from council run
As everyone knows, Bexley’s record on child care is appalling, ranking worst and close to worst in London in far too many performance areas so Caroline’s report should make interesting reading.
You may get it by clicking here. (PDF)
However you might be disappointed. Bexley council refused to give Caroline Pidgeon any information. Not really surprising I suppose, they wouldn’t want to be bottom of yet another league table.
One parking story tends to attract another
but this is a bit different because it highlights a point I would never have
discovered myself. That’s because I have never paid for parking in Bexley; well
not strictly true any more unfortunately because I went with friends to
Northumberland Heath earlier this year and when we got to the Mill Road car
park, I was the only one with change in my pocket. I know little of the
practicalities of paying for parking, I even managed to put too much money into
the Mill Road machine and of course it doesn’t give any change.
Oh yes, the story sent to me…
I had to park in Greenwich on Sunday. The meter was not taking coins so I succumbed to the phone option. It was pretty good. You register, then through a series of options book your parking. Included in the standard fee you get a text confirming what you booked and a text reminder about ten minutes before your parking fee runs out.
Stupidly this encouraged me to try the Bexley version. With that you go through the same procedure but if you want the text confirmation and/or the reminder there is an extra fee. So I decided not to request those options.
I was therefore pretty miffed when instead of the fee for phone parking being the same as for coin parking you get charged a ten pence admin. fee! I know its only ten pence but by paying by phone I save them the money on meter maintenance etc. but I pay more.
If you are parking all day ten pence is not a lot but if you need to slip into the local shops and the minimum charge is 80p then that's a huge percentage. So it’s typical of Bexley; pay more and get less service.
What I find interesting about that message apart from the fact that it came from a name you might remember, a former councillor, is that it indicates that Greenwich council absorbs the parking contractor’s fee and Bexley doesn’t, which makes Bexley council’s lie that it had the cheapest parking in South East London when it last raised parking charges, an even bigger lie than I knew it to be at the time.
Paying more for a worse service will be the new norm. The figures for recycling garden waste look like going the same way to me.
The website featured in
the previous blog,
is probably not a serious campaigning site. When I noticed it was complaining
that Bexley council had withdrawn its list of
land for sale from its website and wouldn’t let the Wildlife people have a copy, I used
its web Comments section to provide a link to the document.
After an hour or so for moderation the link duly appeared at the foot of their page but overnight it disappeared. I thought I should find out more about the site and soon realised that I had previously been asleep on the job. It is run by the same person as www.erithquarry.org; Jonathan Rooks. Only two days ago the implied criticism of Bexley council was removed from that site too. I think it would be fair to assume that any campaign against Bexley council run by a former Tory and contractor to Bexley council will have one hand tied behind its back and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
I doubt I will be devoting much space to campaign sites with such mixed motives again.
Campaigning against crooked councils is a time consuming business and not for the impatient. The Peter Craske business is still dragging on three and a half years after the obscenities were first sent up his phone line. Former mayor Sharon Massey’s dalliance with naked oiled bodies in The Charlotte pub still rumbles on too. Councillor Stefano Borella has been pushing for the pub’s licence to be reviewed; just because it is run by a councillor is not a good reason to look the other way.
The News Shopper has a report on recent developments.
Something that has not been reported for a long time and ought to be wrapped up is Bexley council’s illegal closure of Bridleway 250. It was established that to close a bridleway because of crime a council must first obtain the permission of the Secretary of State. Bexley council didn’t even ask and the reason was fairly obvious. Far from being a crime hotspot, the locality is almost crime free. It was another case where Bexley council connived with the police to hide the truth. The case should have gone to court, it’s an easy enough process and at one time Michael Barnbrook thought he might do that himself.
However he is not personally affected by the closure of the bridleway and he argued that it would be much better if the local residents who had alerted him to the problem in the first place took out the summons. However after months of to-ing and fro-ing during which time The Bexley Action Group offered to pay their expenses, they backed off. So once again Bexley council is able to break the law and get away from it because no one really cares.
Bexley council gets its way it will strip away every bit of spending on anything that is not a
statutory requirement. If you switch your brain off for a moment it may sound like an attractive
ambition but only if you want to see the borough reduced to a sterile environment devoid of
anything interesting to see or do. The idiots even considered selling off all the car parks.
Bexley council reminds me of someone from my distant past who every winter would burn his wooden front door to keep warm (the council would replace it eventually) and repeat the following year. The mentality is not very different. Cash everything in and sacrifice your future wellbeing.
Bexley’s mentality is anything but conservative. They wrecked the William Morris fountain and did their best to dispose of the council’s historical records to save a pittance. If you visit the web page linked from the Tweet above (click the image) you will see a report on the withdrawal of funds from Danson House and Hall Place. This is what the Cabinet said about it at their last meeting.
The council’s figures on visitor numbers are not easy to reconcile with the web page. 15,000 visitors according to Bexley, 107,000 say the Wildlife group. Something can’t be right.
The Wildlife web page says that the council is to withdraw all funding and the Cabinet papers confirm that it will be progressively taken away until by 2018 it will be all gone. Historical monuments rarely survive without public support but Bexley is not only going to withdraw support it is going to kick the Heritage Trust up the backside by whacking up the parking charges at both sites.
If you explore the Bexley Wildlife website further you may stumble upon their page about the council’s sale of 27 pockets of land. The sale of Erith’s Playhouse has been mentioned before, but the Wildlife people are naturally more concerned with Bexley council’s Philistinism’s effect on the natural environment. They are not happy with the council withdrawing the list of 27 sites they plan to sell from its website and refusing to give then a copy, so it’s a good job I nicked a copy isn’t it?
Next Spring we will have to endure council leader Teresa O’Neill lumbering to her feet to tell us yet again that as she was elected she knows best and because 99·9% (literally) of the population said not a word about her slash and burn policies, then she has a mandate to carry on regardless. The council’s current budget consultation web page is here.
Thanks to a couple of councillors Tweeting about it, we know that Bexley council met in secret last night to discuss the proposal to build houses in the long abandoned Erith Quarry. That shouldn’t come as any great surprise, we know that all public meetings in Bexley are rehearsed beforehand, it was admitted during one meeting a couple of years ago and I have an email in the files from a councillor which confirms it, and not through an accidental slip of the pen.
I said to a councillor very recently that I hoped that webcasting will be abandoned after the trial period because councillors now curb their tongues. You can see the sort of thing we are missing from councillor Hackett’s Tweet. “Sod the affordable housing” said councillor John Wilkinson.
Whether any more information will leak out is hard to say, probably not, councils hate the idea of honesty and transparency. Another quarry not far away is also to get the redevelopment treatment and the council there has slapped a Court Injunction on a councillor who wanted to let his electorate know what is going on.
The erithquarry.org website has been updated.
The man you see here is Mike Frizoni whose
job it is (among others) to suggest how Bexley council should implement its parking policy, and after it is rubber stamped implements it with gusto. Hence the constant
imposition of more yellow lines and the
eradication of any remaining
free spaces close to popular destinations. His motive is to maximise income
which will help him cling on to his £9,469 special allowance which boosts his
salary to well over £100k. The way he acts you could be forgiven for thinking he
would encourage Bexley’s parking contractor NSL to issue more penalty notices by
fair means or foul. Let me give you an example which I see several days a week.
Because Crossrail took away a lot of parking spaces near Abbey Wood Station Frizoni converted two long Residents’ Parking Bays in Abbey Road to mixed use, i.e. Residents’ and Pay and Display. Circumstances are the same on both sides of the road but I usually pass on the northern side so what follows relates only to that.
Until last year there was a single long bay for residents with an 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. restriction. It was and still is around 150 yards long and a Pay and Display machine was installed close to each extremity. However Pay and Display users cannot park anywhere within those 150 yards, the Pay and Display section is not very long and delineated by a white dividing line.
Non residents who pay the £3.80 fee are not given any information about where exactly they can park and only those users fully aware of the despicable deviousness of Bexley council would give the situation a second thought, they just park close to the machine and go to work; what else would any reasonable person do?
If they were to look for a dividing line they may not find one because a residents’ permit holder can park anywhere which includes letting a 4x4 straddle the line; not that that exacerbates the problem a great deal because as you can see in Photo 2 the line is barely visible anyway.
So very often an Abbey Wood station commuter will pay Bexley council an extortionate £1.90 an hour to park in a bay within spitting distance of the ticket machine and be entirely unaware of the smudge in the road or its significance. The crooks who run Bexley council might consider it to be to be a legal white line but few others will.
When I first spotted the ticketed Mercedes yesterday the smudge was entirely obscured by a vehicle but by the time I had returned with a camera it had gone. Not far away was a second vehicle which had suffered an identical fate as the Merc.
At last week’s Places Scrutiny Committee meeting, Mr. Ben Stephens said he doesn’t bother to put the full set of instructions on parking signs because it would be impractical to do so. I can understand that he might expect some common sense from motorists but it would appear that it is a very one sided argument. Whatever the IQ of Abbey Wood commuters they are unlikely to work out where they might be safe from persecution. They probably will have more success in working out that Bexley council operates a scam.
For the record, the white line at the other end of the 150 yard long bay is in very much better condition, but it is still usually hidden under a resident’s vehicle.
Before it was tarted up with £3·5 million of Boris’s money, Bexleyheath Broadway was drifting towards shabbiness but now it would be hard to find anyone that doesn’t think it looks a lot better. Not everyone likes a roundabout preceded by T junction signs (Trinity Place), or a roundabout that is impossible to negotiate while remaining in lane (Albion Road) or junctions where traffic flowed perfectly well before the council’s meddling which now jam up far too frequently (Church Road), but to look at, Broadway is clearly much improved. But can the same be said for Sidcup now that more of Boris’s millions have been poured into the short High Street?
I’m inclined to think that if you have not been there for the past year and drive through today you wouldn’t notice a scrap of difference. For now the road surface is nice and smooth and you might notice that close to the Station Road junction a short section of road is now made up of grey cobble stones, but that is about all that can be said for it. I can see shoppers flocking to admire those cobbles, can’t you?
Just what was the point? The new footpaths are indistinguishable from the older ones and as these photographs taken in the dreadfully harsh light of yesterday afternoon illustrate, with the children off school for half term, the place is still close to deserted.
Traffic was very light despite the High Street being the new diversionary route because the utility companies (Water and Gas) decided to dig up Station Road and close it totally as soon as the High Street was reopened. At last week’s Scrutiny Committee meeting David Bryce-Smith, Bexley’s Deputy Director of Housing and Community Safety said that he had reached an agreement with the utility companies not to dig up Sidcup High Street during the next two years. Cross your fingers there is no gas leak.
For collectors of buses on unsuitable routes, a couple of photos for your collection…
probably needed a little more explanation. The newly elected Labour
councillors have attempted to negotiate improvements with the owner of the
Harrow Inn site, so far without much success, obviously. A major problem is that
the Conservative administration in their shiny new palace in Bexleyheath has refused to exercise any of its powers.
See extract from the Town and Country Planning Act below.
Within the next few days Bexley council will embark on a multi-million improvement programme for Lesnes Abbey, no more than 150 metres from the Harrow Inn site. Visitors arriving by train are directed past the eyesore. It’s a great advertisement for the Tory’s neglect of anything north of Woolwich Road.
Photo 1 is of the view through one of the many holes in the existing fence. It’s a pity that Bexley council killed the plan for flats on the site. We would have some nice new flats and the ancient Harrow Inn may have been preserved.
Photo 2 shows the Welcome to Bexley sign (geography is not Bexley council’s strong point) opposite the ‘bomb site’./p>
before the May elections the fence around the site of the demolished Harrow Inn was
the subject of much controversy as it is a major blot on the landscape of Abbey Wood.
The Conservatives bragged that after four years of ignoring the problem they had fixed it by getting the fence replaced. Not it turned out, by a proper fence as Crossrail and Cross Quarter have put around their sites but a bit of plastic held up by thin strips of wood.
Not surprisingly it soon fell down and no one seems to care any more. The Conservatives are still in charge at Bexley council. When’s the next election?
Note. The green fence was installed at the beginning of the year and repaired in May. Photo above taken December 2013.
week an email suggested that people living close to the Erith Quarry site
weren’t too happy about the prospect of additional traffic and I made my own
enquiries. It would seem that there is some concern and some people who were in
a secluded spot are going to be overlooked.
Yesterday I came across www.erithquarry.org and the site was saying that Bexley council is to meet in secret this evening to… well you tell me. To hatch some plan they don’t want you to know about presumably.
I wasn’t on my own computer at the time or I would have taken a screen shot. By this morning the page (www.erithquarry.org/secret-meeting-of-councillors-to-discuss-erith-quarry) had been pulled. It had been written by Jonathan Rooks who is a friend of Bexley council in the sense that that he was once a Tory councillor and is now part of the consortium that runs the Howbury Centre and Community Libraries. The page made specific references to councillors John Davey and June Slaughter.
Probably Mr. Rooks was leaned on by Bexley council who wouldn’t want to see any more of their dirty laundry washed in public. Nor would Mr. Rooks want to get into Bexley council’s bad books. Very nasty people if riled.
station has been a hive of activity all week; outside, the new Gayton Road car park exit is ready for use and inside the new bridge was being
finished off so that the new station can open. Well not quite finished off, the
footbridge roof won’t be added until 2016 because it is part of the main station contract.
This morning the new station opened with the regular staff in evidence alongside Network Rail staff there to see that all was running well. Although some whispered that there were teething problems, which is why it opened today and not on a Monday, as far as the public were concerned it all looked like business as usual, complete with a succession of cancelled trains and crowded platforms.
However I can see those any day of the week, the interest today was the new station, and very good it looked too. There are lots of information boards working, the photo booth is there as is the coffee shop and the cash machines are back. The only downside I can see is that the days of arriving at the very last moment, running up the slope and jumping into the last carriage are gone. There is long entrance passage and 42 wet steps (no roof) to climb and 35 back down again. Leave an extra minute or two for your journey tomorrow.
For now at least, the north side entrance remains open.
I was impressed by what I saw, it is far from being the flimsy temporary structure I once envisaged. It has everything except that I could not see where the newsagent was going to go.
If you are a railway vandal, do not even consider practicing your crimes there. It is festooned with Bosch CCTV cameras, probably the most advanced CCTV available at present. They can take colour video in the dark without the aid of infra red.
While I was lurking under a camera I was approached by a local historian also keen to witness the occasion. His grandfather had been station master at Abbey Wood almost a century ago. He said he had a photograph of him sitting on a station bench and was presented with the bench when the old station was replaced in 1987.
He has a website illustrating his researches into the history of Abbey Wood. I shall have to find the time to take a good look at it and provide a more permanent (menu) link. †
Index to past Crossrail blogs.
† Now on Main Site Menu (i.e. not Blog) under Links>Other local sites.
I’m not at all sure I believe this but a story leaked to me by someone claiming to be in the know at Westminster council says that Will Tuckley has been interviewed for the top job there. I can understand Tuckley wanting to get away from Bexley but a vacancy at Westminster does not seem very likely to me. Their current Chief Executive Charlie Parker has only been there for about a year.
If it is true let’s hope Westminster don’t notice that Mr. Tuckley is under investigation for Misconduct in Public Office. On the other hand councillors will probably highly value his experience in hiding criminality.
Incidentally the police have asked to interview me about his role in the Cheryl Bacon affair next week.
Would be MP
I am going to have to be more than usually opaque with this one but an acquaintance who lives out of the borough told me that he finds Bonkers interesting. This is because the old friend has links to a Bexley councillor’s family. He says of the councillor concerned that he has aspirations to be an MP but was the black sheep of the family and isn’t very bright. Is that opaque enough? It’s a description that could probably be applied to most councillors, and not just in Bexley.
When Chris Taylor was a councillor I was able to remind you from time to time that he bragged more than once that Bexley council had screwed the care agencies into the ground more than any other nearby authority and through a disabled friend I was able to see how this affected the care workers who found it difficult to provide the level of service they would prefer to give.
A month ago I reported how Bexley council let down a sick friend who needed care at home after a long spell in hospital. When it was eventually provided the staff proved to be pretty good although punctuality has again been a weak point. However it does mean that I have heard all over again that care workers are blaming Bexley council’s lower pay rates for Bexley residents tending to get a poorer service than those in other boroughs.
council has obtained Heritage Lottery Funds to make changes to the Lesnes Abbey
Park which it says will “improve the visitor experience, conserve historic
features and deliver modern park facilities. Preparations have been made
over the past summer and more noticeable works are imminent.
An informative brochure has been produced by Bexley council which may be viewed here.
The proposed gateway (Photo 3) leads straight out on to the southern end of the Harrow Manorway viaduct which is close to being inaccessible to pedestrians and puts those who dare at considerable risk.
Some local historians and heritage groups are concerned that a more high profile park will attract even more vandals than it does already. Bexley council no longer patrols any of its parks overnight and the female screams that are frequently audible after dark are interesting to say the least.
Photo 4 : Public Notice. Click to enlarge.
The final item from Wednesday’s scrutiny meeting which should be of widespread interest is the Waste Management
Strategy for 2015-2020, it’s something that affects every household. Most people
would agree that the present system, developed while councillor Gareth Bacon was
running the show, has served residents well but there are ideas around to change it.
It’s amazing how services vary from one borough to another. I know that friends in Bromley are asked to pay £60 a year (but they don’t) to have their garden waste removed and across the river Newham allows paper, plastic and metal to all go in one bin but won’t take glass jars at all. They expect my 94 year old aunt to carry them half a mile to the nearest roadside collecting point so I’m afraid they end up in Bexley.
Recycling opportunities are increasing with better technology and along with changing costs and taxation it is obvious that things must be reassessed from time to time. Mr. Frizoni provided the review update.
Bexley has looked at radical proposals like separating paper from card and tins from plastic because as a general rule separating materials at source increases its value. The downside is that the number of bins and boxes becomes unmanageable so such a scheme is unlikely to be adopted.
Not being able to dump the occasional bit of sheet glass along with the bottles and jam jars is a nuisance and it is possible this could change dependent on costs and trials by the contractor.
It has always been a puzzle to know what sort of plastic is suitable for recycling and as my chemistry qualifications stopped at A level in 1961 I tend to regard all plastic as being the same but apparently the hard stuff isn’t and should go in the green (rubbish) bin. It is now possible to recycle plastic film so it may be possible to put it in the plastics box before long.
Processing mixed garden and food waste costs £53.33 a tonne but pure garden waste is only £30, the saving would be £444,000 a year if residents could be persuaded to separate the food from the grass cuttings. A substantial cost saving. It does not seem unreasonable to put residents to a small amount of inconvenience to save that sort of money but the big question is why Bexley plans to do that and additionally levy a hefty charge on the residents who cooperate with their money saving scheme? The council is hoping that 30% of households will be paying for garden waste collection by 2016.
Mr. Frizoni appeared to be talking good sense overall although he did allow himself to talk crap for a moment or two. 10%, some 10,000 tons a year, of Bexley’s waste is babies’ nappies. The report confirmed that Bexley is no longer London’s No. 1 recycler.
Recycling has been a priority ever since the European Union first stuck its nose into the subject, it must have been at least ten years ago, and I was very much against it at the time but now I am a bit of a fusspot with the recycling. Only this morning I ‘told off’ a visitor who threw her supermarket till receipt into my general rubbish bin and I am still seriously miffed about Bexley council removing all their Electrical Appliance recycling bins from my end of the borough.
The EU is probably not always wrong, vacuum cleaners over 1,600 watts may be an example. My father spent several years of his life developing the fans in Concorde’s engine and he once saw me with a vacuum cleaner in bits which I was attempting to mend. It boasted a 1,000 watt motor, pretty big thirty years ago but not now. Dad knew a thing or two about fans and he said that a 1,000 watt motor spinning a vacuum cleaner sized fan was a total waste of electricity. It could never absorb all that power.
That is a rather convoluted introduction to the next point. When Mr. Frizoni referred to the European Union early on in his report it apparently irritated the UKIP representative on the Committee. Councillor Lynn Smith responded with this…
Despite the vacuum cleaner anecdote I am no enthusiast for the European Union myself, far from it, but surely there is a time and place for everything? Perhaps Blackfen and Lamorbey voters should have put their cross against Mr. Barnbrook’s name instead.
Some bits of council meetings are very boring and time can drag but the item on
Strategic Planning and Regeneration holds no such fears. It includes interesting
facts, is delivered at a cracking pace, is not hard to hear and the main speaker is
easy on the eye. At least she used to be, on Wednesday Deputy Director Jane
Richardson was hidden from my view.
Using a totally inappropriate equine reference Mrs. Richardson said she would “canter through” and so we soon learned that the end of chaos in Sidcup was “within touching distance” and that during daylight hours two way traffic has been in force since the weekend. The over night resurfacing will be completed within days. Traffic disruption will however come back to Sidcup next week when water and gas works commence in Station Road. Presumably too sudden an introduction of free running traffic might give Sidcup a land based version of ‘the bends’ so any improvement must be incremental.
Next on Bexley’s hit list for traffic disruption is Broadway West and after Christmas, Northumberland Heath. How much such things help traders is a matter for conjecture. Bexley council will only say that footfall in Bexleyheath since the regeneration has shown “a modest increase”. Given that a lot of people stayed away last year and the population will have risen slightly that cannot be a good result.
The western end of Broadway will be regenerated on the cheap compared to the more favoured end. The raised shared space will be outside the Esso petrol station and be asphalt based rather than blocked and the Lion Road junction will be revamped. Looking further into the future Mrs. Richardson will be badgering Boris for more money for the Abbey Wood station area with particular emphasis on Wilton Road.
The Agenda listed some of the things wrong with Lion Road that had to be corrected…
Street clutter, collision hotspots, sub-standard street lighting, poor quality paving, badly designed central reservations, a sterile environment, barren walls, inconvenient crossings and inadequate bus shelters so it shouldn’t be too difficult to effect an improvement, but who was responsible for all the original poor designs?
As regular road users will know all too well, there is no sensible alternative route for Broadway West. No convenient Albion Road to take the load.
In Welling Tfl have agreed to remove their traffic light control gear so that it does not obscure the historic cannon. It looks likely they will have to cough up the money too.
Cabinet member Don Massey, the recent convert to the cause of integrating Bexley into the rest of London, spoke enthusiastically in favour not only of bridges here there and everywhere but tunnels too. A Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham would be “a good thing” as would extending the Overground to Abbey Wood and various points south. “Any crossing would help” but the Overground goes north and not to central London, he said. Councillor Seán Newman reminded him that it crossed all the East/West lines so remained a useful option.
Councillor Massey went on to say that he is lobbying very hard for Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfleet and he was supported by Paramount who are planning the nearby theme park. Massey, who had spent the day talking transport with the GLA and others, said of the proposed Silvertown Tunnel that “it looks set to go ahead” (I thought the consultation hadn’t ended yet) and a lot of people high up seem to believe the other things will happen too but he has not seen much of it documented yet.
All the audible transport related questions came from councillor Seán Newman who was invisible to me so his Labour colleagues must take the photo limelight. I think councillor Val Clark may have asked a transport question too but she was near inaudible to me as well as invisible.
Note: The comments reported above are not in the original sequence and some elements have been taken from outside the Regeneration Update - Section 7 of the Agenda.
It’s a good job that councillors have given themselves a free coffee dispenser
at meetings in the new chamber because it means that every so often you get a
clear view of the top table. The pair of goons you see here have probably caused Bexley
residents more pain, anguish and misery than any other persons. On the left is
Ben Stephens who runs Bexley’s parking regime from his Bromley office and Mike Frizoni
(Deputy Director of Public Realm, £104,000 a year plus massive perks and
nearly seven weeks holiday a year) who takes pride in painting the borough
yellow. Maybe that is not an entirely accurate comment any more because central
Sidcup is to lose all its yellow lines, replaced with an inconspicuous sign on the
way in announcing that parking is banned everywhere. The more traps there are for the
unwary the more quickly the depleted coffers are filled.
It was Mr. Stephens who nearly had me in hysterics. He was at pains to tell everyone what a caring individual he is, waiving the fines of anyone who presented a reasonable excuse. It’s not long ago that a high profile voice within Bexley council was telling me how Stephens says no to everything. He doesn’t bend to sob stories even if they involve genuine medical emergencies. However it needs to be said that last year 9% of Bexley’s PCNs ended up waived one way or another and the total number of appeals to PATAS are down - but defeats for Bexley up.
Stephens went on to show his innate contempt for the public by circulating a brochure on the organisation of his department; but only to committee members. That is borderline criminal because the law demands that public meeting agenda material must be made available to the public. It’s not fair on live webcast viewers either.
Stephens effectively confirmed that he aims to be a tyrant when he announced that he had recently re-employed Greg Tippett. Tippett was widely seen as the wholly obnoxious Bexley parking manager for his policy of rejecting all appeals at the initial stage. Perhaps he was merely carrying out the cabinet member’s wishes. Perhaps too he has returned because there is no room for despotic skills such as his in the productive sector of the economy.
We learned from Mike Frizoni that the amalgamation of Bromley and Bexley’s Parking services will be completed in October 2016. At the moment they use different parking contractors and not all of the borough rules are the same. Bexley lets Blue Badge holders park in residents’ bays for example and Bromley doesn’t. You may speculate on how discrepancies such as that might be resolved.
Councillor Danny Hackett suggested that Frizoni should take account of the Crossrail induced problems around Abbey Wood station and in particular the huge difficulties imposed on traders in Wilton Road who really do need the provision of Business Bays.
Mr. Frizoni indicated he would take all of that on board but no one should believe a word he says. Earlier the same day he had publicly announced (see Legal Notices in the News Shopper) that he had stumbled upon some free parking spaces just three minutes walk from the station so he was going to remove them. (See composite Photo 3.)
He is not likely to install Business Parking Bays either because as you may see from Photo 4. he has only just removed them, confirmed by Page 38 of the meeting’s agenda. I suspect that councillors present swallowed Frizoni’s line, hook and sinker too. Scrutiny. What scrutiny?
Frizoni then droned on along a path familiar from previous years. Bexley issued the fifth lowest number of penalties in London. What he didn’t say is that he plans to increase that substantially by training his cameras on moving traffic offences and getting more Gestapo Wagons on to the streets. However he did admit that the emphasis has been on upping the number of tickets that attract the highest fines and taking less notice of minor transgressions like a wheel over the white line.
White lines crossed my mind again when Frizoni referred to the number of parking spaces in various places. The written report provides all the numbers but how does he count them? Around this part of the world there are no dividers between bays. It’s just one long space. Being vague allows Bexley to tell a lie that isn’t quite a lie.
The Agenda revealed that the number of Residents’ Parking Permits now stood at 2,618. It was over 3,000 before councillor Craske spun us a dishonest yarn about each one costing £240 to issue and whacked up the price three fold.
Councillor Borella (Labour) asked if there was any chance of Residents’ Parking Permit Holders getting additional benefits. Cheaper off street car parking charges for example, some other boroughs do that, but all he got by way of a response was a repeat of the multi car park and probably £1,000 plus season ticket promise.
Councillor Borella also asked about CEOs wearing video cameras, what effect has it had? It seems there have been a couple of prosecutions and it has helped with CEO training. Councillor Cheryl Bacon felt moved to make a positive comment about recording situations. I struggled to contain my mirth.
Recording is good she said because your memory of events soon goes and a record of what really happened is essential. Is this the same Cheryl Bacon who banned recording in June last year and a couple of days later couldn’t remember what had happened and had to make it all up?
I had overheard a rather noisy individual sitting not far from me ungallantly remark on the girth of councillor Bacon’s rear end when she passed by on her return from the coffee or water dispenser. What has always bothered me far more is the increasing length of her nose.
If you missed last night’s Scrutiny Committee meeting you are going to have to
wait until 4th February for another scrutiny opportunity. Not that you can do
anything other than watch a selection of your elected representatives ask a few
questions if they can be bothered so a public audience of five that quickly fell to two is understandable.
As I somehow digressed into a critique of the chairmen when reporting the last two scrutiny meetings I suppose I should do the same for ‘Places’ chaired by councillor Melvin Seymour. There is not a lot to say, his chairmanship is entirely unremarkable. None of the showmanship to be seen at ‘People’ and totally free of what looks like an unnatural display of unbending discipline to be seen at ‘Resources’.
The proceedings were not entirely humourless and there were occasional glimpses of what might be termed ‘the common touch’ for the meeting is in no way ‘The Melvin Seymour Show’. The councillor manages to be in charge without imposing his own personality on it so if anyone is interested, I am going to rate him the best of the bunch. Plain and simple and not being subjected to cringeworthy moments suits me. It wasn’t the chairman’s fault that the meeting went on for three hours and eighteen minutes; it was a very full agenda.
The public are however still treated with contempt. There is no clear view of proceedings because seats are no longer tiered as they were in the old chamber but it is entirely unnecessary because seats were tiered for the first couple of meetings in the new chamber. The promise to use a horseshoe layout to improve sightlines has been abandoned even though the Places Committee numbers would allow it.
Audibility is a problem too. I have noticed it before but when sitting immediately behind a speaker the sound is blurred because what is heard directly precedes that which comes from the public address system by enough to make the effect disturbing. And then there are the microphones which appear to turn themselves off at random. Noises from nearby members of the public don’t help either but maybe there is not a lot that can be done about that.
At the ‘People’ meeting I was tempted to use a close up of Alex Sawyer’s ears to illustrate the meeting, maybe last night’s view is a small improvement.
The first hour was taken up with a presentation by Peabody Housing who took over Thamesmead about a year ago, followed by questions. All of them were answered favourably and no one offered any criticism but neither did anyone learn a lot beyond the fact that Peabody have great plans. Schools, shops, banks, jobs are all in prospect. Unusually, the chairman allowed a Thamesmead resident to ask a question. Now that’s a first, although public questions are not forbidden under the council’s rules, never before have any been allowed.
I might have been more impressed by the Peabody presentation if their Tavy Bridge site had not been a pile of rubble for the whole of the past year and more. Planning permission was granted two years ago.
The remainder of the meeting was mainly concerned with parking, recycling and the next round of regeneration plans. There were two things about which I struggled to suppress laughter. More of that anon.
It doesn‘t look as though anything interesting will come along to fill today’s space so I nipped out
to see if the new Crossrail footbridge had opened.
It had, see below.
An email expressed surprise that I had not covered the proposals for Erith Quarry. A pedant might claim that I did six months ago but it was passed to Hugh Neal (Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich) who picked up the story on the following Sunday.
Hugh and I have never discussed any formal cooperative links, we both value our freedom too much but I regard BiB as covering the more questionable aspects of Bexley council, with a bit of local news thrown in to fill the gaps and at the risk of putting words into Hugh’s mouth, he covers local news and history with the occasional pitchfork (sorry, ancient joke for long term readers) pointed in Bexley council’s direction.
The emailer said that residents living near to the quarry are not at all happy about the extra traffic likely to be generated by another 600 houses, which is inevitable, the traffic and the unhappiness.
I know a couple of people living nearby so I shall ask their opinions, but until the development comes before the Planning Committee I feel the subject is more for Hugh than me; and it’s on his doorstep like Crossrail is on mine.
As you can see from the pictures, the new Church Manorway footbridge has opened and whilst it is totally encased in a heavy gauge wire mesh both sides include a viewing panel. Temporary or otherwise I do not know because there is no obvious reason for it, but it looks like a permanent feature.
As you can see there is not yet any disabled access. Something that one might guess has tripled the overall costs.
Whilst returning from today’s photographic excursion via Abbey Wood station, one of the orange clad staff said we would be seeing a lot of developments within the next few weeks. Once the temporary station opens, possibly before the end of the month, the existing platform footbridge will be removed and the 1987 station will be demolished. He said that might take as long as three hours. Well, it is just an empty brick shell so that’s not too surprising.
Better grab some photos while you can.
Index to past Crossrail blogs.
Crossrail never did reply to my enquiry asking what they were doing
within sight of my front door but it now looks as though they are preparing a
storage compound for equipment and materials.
Site S14 is at the eastern extremity of Crossrail’s overhead electricity supply. Or at least it was when I was last able to look at a plan, they have changed quite a lot since construction commenced.
This weekend has seen another line closure but my photographic jaunt proved relatively unproductive. The best vantage points are the bridges at Abbey Wood station, Bostall Manorway, Eynsford Drive and Church Manorway, but two were inaccessible and there was nothing interesting going on around Bostall Manorway.
There were a lot of people working on Abbey Wood station with the opening of the temporary facility only days away and I could see more orange jackets in the far distance. By the time i got to Bostall Manorway it was apparent that the major track activity was between Church Manorway and Eynsford Drive but when I got there I discovered it was partially closed with little chance of a good view of what might be going on below.
The concrete parapet on which I usually rest my camera had been capped with some sort of metal contrivance which is perhaps designed to stop the local hooligans practicing their electrical skills.
The yellow vehicle visible in the centre of Photo 3 below was occasionally transporting lengths of rail from the vicinity of Bostall Manorway and depositing them under the Eynsford Road bridge.
I crossed to the northern side of the railway and walked towards the Bostall Manorway footbridge intending to cross it and return via the southern route but when I got there found the bridge was closed. It didn’t matter to me except that yet another photographic vantage point was inaccessible but it would have been nice if Crossrail had erected some warning notices. Probably there was one on the other side.
The security guard told me that the new footbridge will be open tomorrow morning. By the time I had retraced my steps to Eynsford Drive the transport of lengths of rail had stopped and there was the strong smell of grinding wheels coming from the men seen in the final photograph above.
I continued on the northern side of the track back to the Bostall Manorway footbridge which was adorned with a ‘Diverted pedestrians’ sign. Who in their right mind, unable to cross at Church Manorway, would ignore the Eynsford Drive bridge and carry on to Bostall Manorway? But it may explain why I saw no notices when crossing at the intermediate Eynsford Drive.
If Crossrail are going to ignore telephone enquiries and close bridges with inadequate diversionary notices, future Crossrail reports are likely to become a little more critical of the disruption they are causing.
If there are any North Kent line commuters unaware of the problems that lie ahead for them in January they really ought to take a good look at From The Murky Depths’ most recent blog. Fewer rush hour trains overall, the loss of 50 carriages of rush hour capacity at London Bridge because fewer trains will stop there and no so called fast trains via Lewisham. For those unfamiliar with the North Kent services ‘so called fast’ because the Lewisham route is longer and not stopping at some stations saves only a minute or two.
But Erith and Belvedere commuters may be pleased, if they don’t mind travelling cattle class. Gillingham trains may be making extra stops.
Back in 1966, when I worked in a building now flattened by the Shard we were under notice that it was going to be demolished to allow expansion of the route to Charing Cross. Nice to know I may with luck live to see it!
Index to past Crossrail blogs.
When cabinet member Gareth Bacon spoke of his front line savings he specifically mentioned
the service provided by the
council’s Contact Centre. He plans to reduce it. Is there
a lot of scope for making it worse?
This was the experience of a reader when he called 020 8303 7777 this week.
• The voice recognition system correctly identified the department and I was connected to it.
• No one answered and a machine asked me to provide a name or ‘box number’ if I wished to leave a message.
• Being a first time caller I was unable to do either!
• While pondering what to do the machine told me that if I did not supply the information my call would be terminated.
• After three more attempts later in the day I eventually spoke to someone in the right department.
• The following week I needed to visit the Civic Centre but required to confirm someone would be there to see me.
• The telephone system correctly identified the department, no answer then voice mail!
• I needed to speak to someone then and leaving a message seemed pointless with an appointment time imminent.
• I made another call and ignored the voice recognition system.
• I was connected to the receptionist who connected me to the required department.
• No one answered.
• I rang the receptionist again and asked for the specific person I had spoken to before.
• After connection the voice mail informed me the person did not work on that particular day.
• Success was finally achieved when I told the receptionist I would settle for speaking to any person in the department.
The reader concludes: What a way to run a business. Surely it cannot be too difficult to revert callers back to reception after a mail box option failure? Why are the general enquiry numbers of a department not covered?
Whilst a 30 month old complaint against Bexley police is stalled,
month old one (†) against Will Tuckley (Bexley’s Chief Executive), Lynn Tyler
(Bexley's Legal Team Leader), Mal Chivers (a doorman) and the lying councillor
Cheryl Bacon is at the beginning of the investigatory road.
This is an extract from an email sent to Mick Barnbrook yesterday by an officer at Plumstead police station…
I have been allocated the investigation into alleged misconduct in a public office & alleged perverting the course of justice in relation to council members and staff. The crime reference number is 3911683/14.
I have been supplied with a dossier of documentation by DC Xxxxxx [DPS investigating officer who sent the letter below] who has conduct of a parallel investigation in relation to the alleged police involvement in the above matter and the alleged subsequent inaction by the police.
I will need some time to review and digest this material. Once I have completed that task I would like to discuss the matter with you. Can you please email me with your availability for dates after Wednesday 22nd October 2014?
That’s a bit better initial effort than has come from the DPS. All my own suggestions that I should meet the DPS DC have been ignored and it is obvious she hasn’t a clue what is going on - well you wouldn't if you haven’t read the case file - and while Mick triumphantly told me that she had agreed to meet him during a conversation with her six weeks ago she is now denying she ever said that.
About Mick’s criminal allegation that the police backed the council’s lie that he, me and others had to be forcibly ejected from the council chamber, the DPS investigating officer is even more confused than she is on mine; the political interference into the Craske case. If she carries on being useless I’ll let you know her name.
Meanwhile, my councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey ward) told me he had a formal meeting with Chief Inspector Ian Broadbridge. He is the Bexley police officer who went out of his way to muddy the waters for Mick Barnbrook and confirmed in writing that the police had decided to support the liars at Bexley council. I asked Danny how he got on and he said he couldn’t tell me so I tried another tack. “Is Chief Inspector Broadbridge now fully aware that Cheryl Bacon and her supporters have all lied from beginning to end?” Councillor Hackett did not disappoint.
† This link is to the allegation against councillor Cheryl Bacon. A similar one against the council officers is not currently available.
three an a half years (May 2011) since someone sat down before the Craske household’s computer and
indulged their own homosexual fantasies. It is two and
a half years (June 2012) since councillor Peter Craske was arrested.
Two weeks before that Elwyn Bryant and I complained to police Commissioner Hogan-Howe that Bexley police were feeding us false information and ignoring evidence and it is two years (December 2012) since they admitted that they had been subjected to political interference and documentary evidence of it came to light. (January 2013.)
It is almost two years (December 2012) since Sergeant Michelle Gower of the Directorate of Professional Standards told me that no one at Bexley police stations had done anything wrong and attempted to justify her conclusions with technically illiterate and obviously false statements. It is more than a year (September 2013) since the Independent Police Complaints Commission agreed that Sergeant Gower’s investigation was unsatisfactory and referred it back to the DPS to do the job properly.
It took six months of correspondence (to July 2014) to persuade the DPS that reading the original case papers might be a good idea and here we are 30 months on from making the original complaint and three months after the DPS agreed at long last to send for the case papers; so the complaint must be reaching a conclusion. Right?
Wrong! This is the what I received from them this week.
Perhaps they are hoping that Elwyn and I will die before they get off their arses so that crooked police officers may carry on being crooked.
I had the time to trawl through the three hour recording of
the People Scrutiny
Committee meeting I would eventually find councillor Danny Hackett commenting on
Tuesday’s fatal stabbing incident on his Lesnes Abbey patch. From memory he may have
thanked the police but suggested it might be about time that both they and
Bexley council started to take Thamesmead’s gang culture more seriously. I
remember that when I first met my MP Teresa Pearce nearly five years ago she said something very
similar about Thamesmead’s drug problem but had been told by the Borough
Commander that there wasn’t one.
Danny announced on Twitter that he and the police were going to be at Thamesmead’s Atrium Community Centre on Thursday afternoon so that residents could drop in with their concerns if they had any. He wandered over to tell me the same thing at the end of the ‘People’ meeting and although it may be a bit outside my usual blogging interests it would be churlish to ignore the invitation. One problem was that I had no idea where the Atrium was. Some research showed that it is no more than 200 yards from my home for the past 28 years.
My excuse is that it is the other side of the railway line and there is absolutely no need to go there. The adjacent satellite image includes both my house and the Atrium Centre. I’ve walked along the Green Chain walk to the left of the image loads of times but the parallel road was foreign territory to me.
The rain had only just stopped and it was getting towards dusk and the atmosphere there felt distinctly threatening. I was too timid to get my camera out of its case which was irrational and stupid; the only sign that there was anyone around was some shouting from an anonymous window.
The brutalist architecture is distinctly grim on a gloomy day; when I returned in today’s sunshine (Photo 1) it looked a whole lot better.
The 200 yards took me twelve minutes to walk because all the shortcuts (escape routes) have been blocked off and I had to go all the way up to Wolvercote Road (the scene of the murder) and then retrace my steps on a parallel path. In doing so I passed houses whose owners or landlords had tried to improve and some didn’t look so very bad. (Photo 2.)
Whilst the 1960s planners were manifestly insane and their legacy remains I wouldn’t like you to think the people are just the same although some may be. When I first lived a literal stones throw away I had my windows broken and two petrol bomb attacks. Other neighbours suffered car damage and burglaries and the culprits would make their escape directly across the electrified railway line. There was obvious drug taking in the nearby park. All of that stopped quite a long time ago. Whoever has been caring for Thamesmead has done a good job but further progress may be slow. As far as I know the area shown here is not scheduled for demolition.
At yesterday’s police display I not only met Danny Hackett, but I saw Teresa Pearce pass through as well as representatives of Peabody/Gallions Housing Association and Bexley council and maybe as many as six policemen.
They weren’t inundated with visitors but there was a steady trickle willing to pass on their views about their area, among them Brian Barnett whose photographs of the murder scene were published in the News Shopper.
When I asked one policeman about gangs he said that tackling them isn’t easy because most of them come from across the nearby Greenwich boundary. That’s not very different to what I was told twenty years ago before the local problems disappeared.
The advent of webcasting has improved the behaviour of Bexley councillors no
end, hence the lack of excitement in
the blog below but behind the scenes they
are as crooked and conniving as they always have been.
A year ago Mick Barnbrook established via the Freedom of Information Act that no member of the public had had a complaint against a councillor upheld in the previous three years.
If you click here you can see what sort of complaints have been made since July 2012. If I counted correctly there were 25 complaints and just one was upheld. A councillor shouted. For that he may or may not have had his knuckles rapped but he would be free to lie and libel without fear of sanction. What else would you expect when the biggest liar of all is chairman of the Standards Committee?
Whoever it was who designed the new council chamber did a very bad job. It’s
a featureless cavern with no sensible provision for public viewing. Last night’s
People Scrutiny Committee meeting allowed me to intimately scrutinise councillor
Alex Sawyer’s ears but it was close to impossible to actually see anyone
speaking. I was tempted to take a picture of the Sawyer lugs but as he is a
decent sort of bloke by Bexley Tory standards I exercised some restraint. With 40
councillors and invited guests around the table the four members of the public
present - it soon reduced to two - were relegated to an alcove behind the loudspeakers. Not good.
About half of our councillors speak up confidently and present few aural problems, but there are rather a lot of mumblers. Mick Barnbrook and Elwyn Bryant have given up on attending scrutiny meetings because they don’t hear enough to make it worthwhile.
Councillor James Hunt takes a relaxed view of chairmanship which is no bad thing. He will chivvy speakers along when necessary but, last night at least, was flexible when speakers strayed a little from the main subject. Neither is he critical of comments instead of questions and once allowed himself to send a message to his wife via the webcast. But the downside is a near three hour meeting. It’s impossible to report every aspect of it, so the following is just the bits that captured my attention.
Councillor Alan Downing returned to his theme of why Bexley Primary Schools don’t seem to be pushing pupils towards passing the Eleven Plus. A high proportion of Grammar School places are still taken by out of borough children.
One of the council officers - it’s impossible to say who, no name plates were visible from my position - attempted to prove councillor Downing wrong using one of those grammar schoolboy formulae that I have long since forgotten that aims to prove that one equals two. (A division by zero came into it somewhere.)
Another councillor who consistently speaks up - in every sense of the word, he doesn’t need a microphone - for residents’ educational needs is councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP) who, quoting information provided by Bexley council, complained that one of his ward residents lost a grammar school place because a child from Tottenham scored a point or two higher in the 11+ examination. Desmond Deehan, the headteacher at Townley Grammar school slapped him down by saying he had no pupils from Tottenham. He didn’t have to do it as rudely as he did surely? He was addressing a councillor not a recalcitrant teenager.
Councillor Sharon Massey was also concerned about the lack of interest in the 11+ and to my mind spoke a lot of good sense when saying that learning about tests and how to manage and pass them was a worthwhile life skill. Bexley schools aren’t doing that.
My own prejudice that school teachers are too often motivated by left wing claptrap was amply confirmed by the teacher who spoke against educational choice.
Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling is away again so once more we were treated to the Assistant Borough Commander, Nicola Duffy, gabbling away at high speed, running out of breath and trailing off into near inaudibility. There was very little about Romanians this time around.
Apart from a reference to the policeman shot in the hand a week ago in Welling and the appalling murder in Thamesmead on Tuesday she managed to fill eight minutes with not a lot.
The medical team were more interesting and obviously pleased with themselves for opening the new Urgent Care Centre at Erith Hospital at the beginning of this month. Their efforts (there's been a UCC in Sidcup for some while) have resulted in local A&E attendances bucking the national trend and actually falling, not that Queen Elzabeth Hospital’s A&E facility is out of trouble yet as they readily admitted.
The chairman asked the medics how well they were prepared for Ebola and as luck would have it a lady (Joy Ellery) from Lewisham Hospital had invited herself to the meeting and you may remember Lewisham Hospital had an Ebola scare last week.
This is what she said about it but basically the national newspapers, the Sun in particular, made a mountain out of a molehill.
To summarise; a man from Sierra Leone had a temperature just half a degree up from normal.
He was put in an isolation ward and he and the staff were clad in plastic, masks
gloves etc. and he was allowed a single plastic encased visitor because he had been living with
that person anyway and he was classed low risk. He stayed in his room and within a few hours his tests
came back negative just as the medical staff were expecting. Storm in a teacup.
In what I am almost certain must have been a staged event, councillor Peter Craske asked about the Belvedere Splash Park which is somewhat removed from ‘People’ but cabinet member Sawyer volunteered to answer Craske’s question and the elasticated chairman was happy to allow it.
Councillor Sawyer just happened to have all the Splash Park documentation in front of him which was a huge stroke of luck don’t you think, and was therefore able to go into considerable detail as to why the Splash Park is in trouble. In essence, the filtration system is not up to the job and bacterial infection has been hard to control. At times low level “e.coli and other nasties” have been detected and the council spent £47,000 on disinfectant this year to ensure that there was no danger to the public. Such problems were responsible for most of the park closures and fixing them properly would cost between £350,000 and half a million.
The Conservatives were keen to blame Labour for the unserviceable filtration systems but it would have been council officers who advised them. If the system is no good after only eight years perhaps the manufacturers are culpable.
Whilst not doubting that councillor Sawyer is a loyal part of Teresa O’Neill’s inner circle, his is not a name that I associate with Bexley council’s lie machine and I think it is reasonable to assume that there are genuine problems at the splash park. Alex Sawyer cannot see how it can be preserved given the parlous state of Bexley’s finances but is willing to listen to any man with a plan. I don’t see the point of replacing the splash park with yet another playground as there is already a large well equipped one on the other side of the road.
The Libraries Report was discussed and councillor Joe Ferreira expressed his concerns but may have failed to fully account for the changing nature of the library service. Surely it has to move with the times?
The council’s report refers to e-book readers, low cost books from Amazon, the influence of the internet and the fact that most people these days have their own computer all of which tend to reduce library use and it’s hard to argue otherwise. Councillor Downing thought the Library Report was “a well thought out piece of paper” and not for the first time last night I found myself agreeing with him though why it is only private enterprise that can run a decent coffee bar at a profit I have never been quite sure.
With Libraries out of the way there were only five out of 14 agenda items remaining but the lateness of the hour has a miraculous effect on councillors’ willingness to ask questions so we got through the lot in a mere six minutes.
A subject that got a passing mention was the Adoption and Fostering Services. I didn’t listen too intently because I was reading the much greater detail revealed by the Agenda and trying to get my head around the figures.
How is it for example that the People committee is told this…
…but only a day earlier, Cabinet said something different?
The difference is that the first statement refers to last year and the second to the first half of this one but the target looks like being well missed and Bexley’s children’s care services will still be in big trouble.
While I summon up the courage to listen to nearly three hours of scrutiny
committee recording, you may wish to catch up on Crossrail progress.
The new exit for the Gayton Road car park began construction yesterday because the existing one will be obstructed by the soon to be realigned North Kent line tracks.
The barriers to the temporary station construction site have been removed and the station booking office and footbridge to the existing platforms appear to be progressing well. Presumably the tower shown in Photo 4 is a small lift. No expense spared.
didn’t learn very much at last night’s cabinet meeting, but that will be
because I had read most of the agenda beforehand. Some of Bexley’s
budget proposals have already been mentioned here
but there are a lot more to come. They estimate £51 million must be saved or raised by 2018 and the
current proposals fall a lot short of that. For example, for next year £9·8
million of savings have been identified but that is still £7·4 million short of
what is required. Later years are worse.
I have seen cabinet meetings where the public gallery is occupied by one member of the public and one, sometimes two councillor observers. However last night, whilst the public was as apathetic as ever there was a near 100% turnout of councillors, both Labour and Conservative eager to hear, and occasionally question, the cabinet members who stated their cases. Why the Uninterested; Keep Indoors Party decided otherwise I have no idea but it looked bad to me. Amateurs.
The leader, Teresa O’Neill, reminded everyone that the budget strategy was just the beginning of the process and a public consultation would follow. “People do engage well with our consultations” she said, fooling no one. Possibly more honestly she went on to say that people were pleased with the council tax freezes.
The new Director of Finance spoke mainly in platitudes that you or I could have come out with but she did confirm that the public consultation would start almost immediately and continue for twelve weeks until January.
She and various cabinet members emphasised that the proposals were work in progress. The first was Gareth Bacon who spoke of the “unprecedented and unique pressures” on Bexley and he referred again to the savings he had made for the current year.
Cabinet member Eileen Pallen said that Bexley had the third fastest ageing population in London and went on to refer to the cost implications. Bromley and Havering are the even less fortunate boroughs.
Councillor Don Massey has the misfortune of owning the brief with the biggest public face and therefore most likely to be on the receiving end of public discontent.
He said he was looking at cutting back on maintenance of parks and then enlarged on his plan to charge for collecting garden waste. It became evident that this was connected with the plan to replace the fleet of refuse lorries but in exactly what way he didn’t say. He said that 25% of London councils charge for collecting garden waste and Bexley is usually in the bottom quartile of worst performing London boroughs so why not on this as well? Sorry, that last bit is me thinking aloud, not Massey. Whether the division of compostable waste into food and garden will mean yet another bin he failed to say.
Justifying his decision, Massey said that a lot of people didn’t have gardens and many of those who do compost their own, implying that a free service is not fair on those people. Maybe Massey is thinking of reintroducing the Poll Tax. I don’t have children at school, no longer use the library and my boundary with the road is only twelve feet long so I don’t get my fair share of street cleaning. Should I complain?
He rather ridiculed Bromley council for charging £60 a year for their compost service, he was looking at more like £35. On a personal note I compost as much as I can and have never put food in the brown bin except once some sprouting potatoes. I had decided that if the charge was no more than £30 I would go along with it, otherwise compost is likely to go in a black sack in my green bin which I never get anywhere near filling.
Cabinet member Linda Bailey said she would be contributing to the budget shortfall by bringing more money in and asked council officers to try to get more people involved in the consultation process. She had no ideas of her own and officers have previously stated that they struggle with consultations due to the funds made available to them.
It was cabinet member Alex Sawyer who mentioned the Belvedere Splash Park. He said the problems it was facing were “absolutely horrifying” and there were “Health & Safety risks”. He plans a replacement facility - without water!
Belvedere councillor Daniel Francis responded. He said the closure of the Splash Park was “driving widespread anger, not just the Belvedere community”. He has had “parents from Bexley village, parents from Sidcup contact him”. I wondered how. I do not believe the topic has yet reached the newspapers and few will search council agendas. Maybe they are all Bonkers’ readers.
Councillor Francis said the splash park is still advertised by the maker as “a state of the art facility” and he will be asking questions. “The Earl of Eardley gifted that land and for more than 100 years it has been a water heritage facility”. It has been a boating pond, a paddling pool and a splash park and Conservatives were planning on ending it all. The Labour party will oppose the decision “bitterly, bitterly, and the people of this borough will join us in this fight”.
Teresa O’Neill said that if there were other ideas she would like to hear them.
Councillor Peter Craske was less conciliatory and his address gradually descended towards his stock in trade. Political abuse. He said that the opposition had no ideas other than expensive ones like opposing the recent changes to the senior management structure. He said the Labour group was “lazy”.
The rather pathetic councillor David Leaf took a similar line to Craske and dragged up ancient history when he said installation of the Splash Park in Labour’s time caused the park to be unusable for six months. Well what else did he expect? Idiot! Two meetings in a row. For good measure he said that “Labour’s legacy was a disaster”.
A discussion on the Thames River Crossing went along the usual lines. Bexley council is now neutral on the subject of a Gallions Reach bridge so long as a bridge (or a tunnel) is built at Belvedere first and “effective mitigation” is put in place. Councillor Don Massey believed that Havering council is not altogether happy with the idea of a Belvedere to Rainham bridge, capacity on the A13 being an issue.
Parking was up for discussion next and there was nothing much new there either. Charges up, increased fines in Sidcup and Welling, no free parking period and the only thing I’ve failed to mention here already is that there is to be ‘a universal season ticket’. With single site season tickets already costing £964 a year it won’t be cheap.
The last item of wide interest was the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) which is the ridiculous name for a look at the borough’s health needs. Doctor Nada Lemic spoke for ten minutes and I am afraid I switched off. She spoke in a monotonous and near inaudible drone and I’m not really sure what she was saying. The recording was little help.
I suspect I was not alone because quite a lot of councillors used those ten minutes to visit the water dispenser and others left the room heading in the direction of ‘the facilities’. I sat reading the agenda but Dr. Lemic must have referred to the high obesity levels in Bexley because when she had finished councillor Sawyer applauded “the focus” on addictions, diabetes and obesity and said “I am pretty certain that we all know at least one person falling into one of those categories“. Yes, I am sure we do.
While reading the agenda I was not all that surprised to read that lung cancer is a particular problem in Bexley, significantly higher than the London average. You only have to walk through Broadway on a Saturday to see the reason and this morning the smell as I trailed a commuter to Abbey Wood station was most unpleasant, and he must have been at least 75 yards ahead of me. Maybe Boris’s latest idea is not such a bad one.
What surprised me rather more was that the level of delayed detection HIV in Thamesmead is not only the worst in London but one of the highest in the country. The JSNA report said they need to better understand why A&E admission for under four year old children, winter deaths, alcohol abuse, lung cancer, high death rates in hospital are all worse in Bexley than elsewhere.
I suspect they already have a good idea why Thamesmead’s HIV levels are so bad and it is to be hoped that Rotherham style political correctness is not hampering their response.
Another thing I discovered whilst browsing the agenda was that for all the effort that Bexley council appears to have invested in finding additional foster parents, the net increase this year has been a disappointing two.
On Friday afternoon Sidcup High Street is to be reopened for two way
traffic after almost ten months of chaos around the town. Make the most
of it folks because the following Monday evening it will shut again for resurfacing work.
You will presumably be pleased to hear that the works will be done over night, unless perchance you live within earshot of the work. The following email relates how residents in another part of Sidcup suffered when FM Conway resurfaced Hurst Road a month or so ago.
The road maintenance firm FM Conway has been resurfacing Hurst Road between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. in the morning. A nuisance but nevertheless something I will have to put up with for living on a main road.
However two weeks of works has seen them manage to run seriously behind. This is not for the want of trying: - Shouting abuse between each other as a form of communication at 1 a.m. has strangely proven ineffective.
Smoking and playing on an i-pad whilst trying to merge fully laden tipper lorries with regular traffic has unusually failed to speed up the process. Moving equipment a few hundred yards with low-loaders at 4 a.m. in the morning has also failed to speed the whole process up.
All three issues are unacceptable. I want to sleep at 4 a.m. in the morning. A call to the senior engineer at Bexley Council (who listed two numbers for contact at any stage during the works) proved difficult to make. Once contact was established, the poor Mr. Wood seemed beholden to FM Conway. He understood the problem he said, but was completely powerless to act until Conways rang him back which, he added, they seldom do.
A mischief maker asked me to research who was at the top of the management pile at Thanet council when they made the grant to Melltree Properties who appear to have lost track of £68,000. Before I get misinterpreted again I should explain to those who didn’t follow yesterday’s link that this was not a case of fraud within Thanet council, but perhaps it was neglectful supervision indicative of a poorly managed council.
My research discovered what I suspect the mischief maker already knew.
The grant was made in November 2007 and from at least the beginning of 2006 (the earliest reference I can find) Thanet council’s Corporate Director was Paul Moore; the same Paul Moore who joined Bexley council as Director of Corporate Services in April 2009.
If you think that bringing this to your attention is mischief making you would probably be right. It unintentionally slipped out during a conversation with a councillor a few days ago that Mr. Moore thinks I do not deserve to be represented by any of my councillors because I am habitually critical of Bexley council.
To my mind that is only one notch down the scale from council leader Teresa O’Neill who thinks criticism of her council deserves arrest by the police. Neither will be forgotten in a hurry. Whenever I feel I have had enough of blogging I picture a furious woman marching into the cop shop and demanding they do something which the Independent Police Complaints Commission later condemned. There is no integrity at the top in Bexley council or among their obedient servants in Arnsberg Way.
I still can’t see anything wrong with
what I said last Saturday about the
asymmetrical granite bench in Sidcup (and I have not edited it since) but it
would appear that I convinced some readers that Bexley council had equipped it
with metal studs. The picture shown was no more than an attempt to illustrate a
flippant aside. If you want to experience a real Bexley council seat and
discover for yourself just how uncomfortable they can be, may I suggest a couple of
hours listening to a scrutiny committee and see how wet your trousers get
from too close an association with hard impermeable plastic?
Another blog I am supposed to have got wrong was a week ago when reporting the council’s sell off of unwanted land. The News Shopper covered the same subject the next day but neither report specifically mentioned that Erith’s Playhouse Theatre lease was up for grabs.
Possibly because it is on his doorstep Hugh Neal provided a more comprehensive report at the weekend and speculated about what might happen next. He is worried about the future of the borough as everyone in Bexley should be. £50 million is a very big black hole to fill. If the cabinet approves the full range of cuts and price increases at this evening’s meeting - and they will - another public consultation will begin tomorrow.
As usual, fewer than 0·2% of residents will respond because most do not care so long as their bins are emptied and the council tax doesn’t go up, and the remainder believe - not without reason - that it will all happen anyway. The former category will be getting an unpleasant surprise this time around.
The second category of respondents will not be surprised to be ignored as for the most part happened following the recent parking consultation.
Calls for short stay free parking fell on deaf ears although the minimum chargeable time is likely to be reduced from an hour to 30 minutes. Surveys have indicated that 38% of Bexley parking is for fewer than 30 minutes. The cheapest parking in Bexley is 80 pence an hour, in Bromley it is 30 pence.
Unsurprisingly those who are not in favour of Pay-by-Phone are to be ignored too. So with the possible exception of the 30 minute arrangements, all the council’s serious parking proposals are going ahead unchanged. No one ever believed that they might sell them all, and they won’t.
If Sidcup actually returns to normal this side of the new year, enjoy the borough’s comparative lack of traffic chaos while you can. Bexley council is planning for more disruption by the middle of 2015.
The agenda for next week’s Places Scrutiny Committee reveals that Bexleyheath Broadway is to be dug up again. Not the newly refurbished bit but the section west of the badly engineered pinch point at Church Road. The work will continue until the end of 2015 and then Albion Road as far as Gravel Hill will come under fire. If all goes to plan that will continue for the whole of 2016.
Transport for London coughed up £3,576,000 for Broadway Phase I and another £3,280,000 is earmarked for Phase II but one way or another, its taxpayers who pay.
There cannot be much doubt that these regenerations improve the look of town centres but the disruption is massive and the road design often leaves a lot to be desired. With yellow line creep, junctions unnecessarily restricted to one lane and obstacles placed in the carriageway, Bexley becomes progressively more difficult to navigate.
Click image above for Bexley council’s Press Release on Broadway Phase II. (PDF)
Another Tweet I picked up on - OK, its author referred me to it - took me to
a blog relating to Thanet council. You may or may not wish to read it,
but suffice to say it commented on a fraud which saw a lot of European Union money disappear and now
Thanet taxpayers look like having to foot the bill.
Bexley council has not been immune from frauds either and I don’t just mean the £2,300 odd that the former Conservative council leader got away with while the current leader Teresa O’Neill was his deputy and expected you to believe she had no idea what he was up to.
There is also a more recent one involving Sonia Hewey Healthcare which is due in court about now and perhaps it is not the only one.
Sonia Hewey may prove to be innocent but If Bexley’s procedures are so lax that a company can attempt a fraud in collaboration with a council officer think how much easier it might be if it was a complete inside job.
I was intrigued by this comment at the last Audit Committee meeting. (Apologies for the air-conditioning noises.)
It is from Sue Exton the Auditor referring to the fact that an objection to Bexley
council’s accounts would lead to some delay and thanks to a question from
councillor Daniel Francis (don’t Tories ever ask the right questions?) we discovered that the last time there was such an
objection it cost an additional audit fee in the region of £18,000 plus VAT but this time it is expected to be higher.
In the few weeks that have passed since then my enquiries have provided a few details on what may be afoot that could cause a re-audit and frustratingly I am advised that for legal reasons it would be unwise to go into too much detail. However I think it is only fair to say it is not an insider job in the sense that the Finance Department has been dipping their own sticky fingers into the till, but maybe someone used to fleecing residents has been doing so on a bigger scale than might have been imagined.
The following item in the new budget forecast may or may not be relevant. It refers to a figure of £60,000 or to put it another way, three Splash Parks.
Note: I do try to make these reports comprehensive so that there is at least some chance for readers to research them and see if there might be a valid alternative viewpoint, however thanks to the legal advice I am unable to significantly enlarge on what the auditor said publicly. I suspect that in the weeks to come I might be shown to have been more cautious than necessary and this could become just a little embarrassing. C’est la vie.
I caught Danny Hackett’s Tweet and put the TV on immediately. I’m one of those
people who will tell you that there is never anything worth watching on TV which
is probably not true but I never get time to watch that is for sure - just over
two hours last week. But for Danny I made an exception.
Having followed up today’s Tweet I see that there is not only ‘nothing on TV’, there are ‘nobodies on TV’. Sky News valued Katie Perrior’s opinion on who might appear in any pre-General Election debate. Probably no one else does but on the other hand her website shows her hob-knobbing with David Cameron.
For those who might need a reminder, Danny is my energetic Labour representative in Lesnes Abbey ward and Katie Perrior is the former Bexley cabinet member for Children’s Services. The one who said everything was looking rosy in her beleaguered department after it was on the receiving end of a critical OFSTED report; and on that basis stood down as councillor just in time not to have to face OFSTED’s Improvement Notice.
Katie Perrior first came to Bonkers’ attention after she wrote to a local newspaper pleading poverty as the reason for needing to take £22k a year of taxpayers’ money for failure. The truth was she owned a very successful PR company. Hence the TV appearances and the very groomed and well nourished look.
reader was so intrigued by the pictures of
the new bench with
the misaligned back in Hatherley Road, Sidcup that he made enquiries
to see if he could discover how the mistake came to be made. But Bexley council
doesn’t regard it as a mistake, it is an artistic feature.
Really? And why?
If eye candy is the reason for plonking lumps of granite in the street why not add a few metal studs to relieve the monotony of a plain surface? An etched surface might be even more attractive. Does a wet behind matter when Bexley council is looking for its next Excellence in Public Realm award?
It may have been more sensible not to have the back at all. As it is, users are forced to stare at a wall but without it there would be the choice of playing ‘spot the shopper’.
It has been reported that a second such bench has been graciously bestowed on the good people of Sidcup, this time in Hadlow Road.
Bexley council is easing itself back to work and last night saw the first of their three autumn scrutiny committee meetings.
The Resources Scrutiny Committee meeting is chaired by councillor Steven Hall
who I have always found to be an affable easy going and friendly sort of chap,
but when chairing meetings he changes.
Steven adopts an officious school masterly persona and in my opinion over-emphasises his insistence on rigid adherence to the agenda and his Resources brief which may be a good thing, but to hear him say it over and over again makes him sound like some sort of aloof robot. His natural good natured self barely makes an appearance and I suspect he is acutely aware that his every move is being watched by She Who Must Be Obeyed via a laptop logged into the webcast. Rather him than me. If the webcasting makes it past the trial period you can be pretty sure it will be for Teresa O’Neill’s benefit.
Apart from councillor June Slaughter (Conservative), two Labour councillors (Stefano Borella and Brenda Langstead) and one of their party followers, I was the only onlooker present and normally I would attempt to summarise a two hour 15 minute meeting with the highlights and maybe a few interesting quotes, which gives me some difficulty. There weren’t any, so apologies for any boredom.
As has become the norm since the last election the Labour contingent had done their homework and put the Conservative administration on the spot whenever they could but Tory councillors didn’t have a great deal to say.
A couple of Conservatives made statements and were mildly rebuked by the chairman as he was expecting questions. The two Committee Vice-Chairmen (Maxine Fothergill and Nick O’Hare) and later a Sub-Committee Chairman, read their reports but apart from those only Colin Tandy and Cheryl Bacon woke up more than once.
UKIP contributed sweet F.A. too. Minds away in Clacton and Heywood presumably, but there is always someone intent on making an idiot of himself and last night was no exception.
This is dangerous territory, but if reports are merely type written and read out, Tories don’t ask probing questions, answers to opposition questions are as often as not deferred to written statements later and only one member of the public shows up, what is the point of public scrutiny meetings? All the business could be conducted by email. I’d better shut up; don’t give them ideas.
Cabinet member Gareth Bacon’s report was well focused and mercifully free of political point scoring. He had already begun to combat the council’s unfortunate budgetary situation by asking for a £2 million saving before next April. This he said was already in the bag, £451,000 from efficiency savings and £1·7 million from “front line services”. A 15% reduction from within his own portfolio but another £7 million must be found elsewhere by the new year.
After welcoming new Finance Director Alison Griffin (pictured above and below) to the fold, cabinet member Bacon said this…
Inevitably more transactions will be forced on-line (and God help the elderly) and it was said that www.bexley.gov.uk is now getting 1·8 million visitors a year. Good Lord, that is just over four times as many as Bonkers. Maybe if I could issue a few PCNs and fail to collect some bins BiB might reach those giddy heights.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour) was critical of the recent budget consultation. Not only was 394 respondents poor - little better than 0·1% of the electorate - but the results held no demographic data. Age, location, sex etc. Sadly his curiosity went unassuaged as no analysis had taken place.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour) asked where the £7 million was going to come from. Efficiency savings and bringing forward savings scheduled for later was the answer.
Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative) advocated councillors going out themselves to drum up support for completing consultations and not leave everything to the communications team.
Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour) complained that the timetabling of meetings meant that councillors were sometimes expected to scrutinise decisions before the cabinet had approved them. Cabinet member Gareth Bacon said that the poor timetabling of meetings was due to this year’s election being held three weeks later than expected - and presumably had absolutely nothing to do with Bexley council taking a three month summer holiday.
Danny Hackett said he and Daniel Francis had been busy in the council offices until after 9 pm last Sunday and he was shocked to see eight or nine contractors working there all day and still there when they went home. They were painting walls and planting trees, which was of course being done before Boris Johnson showed up next day to massage Tory egos. Danny was concerned about the cost, the Tories weren’t, claiming that against the £42 million refurbishment cost a pot of paint was neither here nor there, or as Gareth Bacon put it, the costs were “comparatively trivial”.
It reminded me of when I was a schoolboy in Aldershot in the early 1950s. Barracks outside the town centre consisted of rusty corrugated iron huts and when the Queen came they were all whitewashed - but only up to the roof apex which she might see.
There was a long discussion about a Social Care project which is supposed to save £2,448,000 this financial year but was ‘amber rated’ in September which means it is being closely monitored in case it doesn’t hit the target. Despite council officers assuring councillors of all persuasions that they were confident the project is not wildly off track, most councillors were pessimistic and to me came across as too damned thick to grasp the point. September is only half way through the year for goodness sake!
No council meeting would be complete without a reference to Bexley’s problems with Children’s Services. It is hemorrhaging money and no one wants to work in Bexley. The vacancy rate for social workers stands at 50% making it easily the worst council in London. When asked why, councillor Gareth Bacon said that there was a widespread shortage of social workers, which when you think about it doesn’t even begin to be a good excuse. Other boroughs face the same shortage. Bexley is second to bottom for the proportion of staff who are agency workers too.
For the record Bexley is also worst of the lot for Children in Need passing exams.
The same report said that Bexley was second best for Recycling which is not what the council tells the electorate. (See current Bexley Magazine.)
Colin Tandy thought that Bexley wasn’t like other boroughs so shouldn’t be compared. Daniel Francis begged to differ suggesting Barnet, Havering etc. couldn’t be all that different.
Quite a lot of the meeting was taken up reporting on recent training trips for councillors and arranging more, right down to taking the names of those who might like to go next. All things which would be better done via email.
Daniel Francis was rightfully upset to find that a subject that he was prevented from raising at the last meeting was supposed to be on yesterday’s agenda but it wasn’t. He had a transcript from the last webcast to prove his case. Not surprisingly it couldn’t be discussed last night and the chairman said that the February agenda was already too full so it would have to wait until April 2015. Councillor Francis was understandably not happy with his three month wait being extended to nine. Director Paul Moore managed to find a compromise, grudgingly accepted.
Councillor Francis is rarely happy. When he heard that Bexley council had written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to submit their views on changes to arrangements for Business Rates six months ago without reply he had another reason not to smile.
Oh, the idiot. Who filled the slot this time? David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands). He thought it might be fun to make mischief for Abena Oppong-Asare who was substituting for Labour leader Alan Deadman who was unable to attend.
Leaf said she was offending against Standing Order 62 because Abena was not the approved substitute especially as her senior colleague Brenda Langstead was present as an observer. It was he said “a flagrant breach of Standing Orders”.
Following some rustling of papers and a short conversation between Committee Officer Julie Southcott and Chairman Hall, councillor Leaf was proved to be the one who had fouled up. The first call Labour substitute for the Resources Scrutiny Committee is Abena Oppong-Asare.
Whether she is or not it was a fine example of petty mindedness to bring up just as the meeting was coming to a close.
Raiding motorist’s pockets is not by itself going to plug the black
hole in Bexley’s finances which is now put at around £50 million by 2018/19. They have other ideas up their sleeves, many
of them unwelcome.
The council did to its credit try to discover what residents might be thinking about future budgeting but less creditworthy was its web based approach which I found far too difficult to understand and gave a miss. It would appear that I was not alone; only 394 people responded, far fewer than the number dismissed as inconsequential following the Thames bridge consultation. About half of the respondents favoured an increase in council tax and the other half was against it.
It’s a tricky balancing act but Bexley council is going to take a route likely to please neither group. They expect to raise council tax by a whisker under 2% a year (1·99% avoids a referendum) and they are going to slash quite a lot of services. Here’s a flavour of their shopping list.
• Unsurprisingly, libraries are for the chop with £800,00 a year at stake. The days when I would spend hours browsing the reference library are long gone. When I went into Central Library for a particular volume earlier this year I don‘t think they had ever heard of it. Wikipedia to the rescue!
• The reception desk at Erith Town Hall (council tax queries) will close for two days a week. (£70,000 when fully implemented.)
• The new Contact Centre at Watling Street to be run down with longer response times and some services becoming unavailable except on line. (£50,000 rising to £100,000.)
• Reduced street cleaning (again!) and no litter collection patrols at all on distributor (main) roads. (£64,000.)
• Grass cutting reduced in stages by up to 55%. (£130,000 rising to £225,000.)
• Foots Cray recycling centre to be closed on more days (presently closed Wednesday only) and the same to be introduced in Thames Road - the main recycling centre. (£25,000 rising to £50,000.)
• One of two Graffiti Removal Teams to be stood down. (£52,000.)
• Closing one of the two Citizen’s Advice Bureaux. (£30,000.)
• Sidcup putting green and Hall Place cricket facilities to close. (Up to £45,000.)
• Bexley Voluntary Service Group will suffer a 20% cut to its grant. (£18,000 now with another £25,000 later.)
• Planning committee meetings recently reduced from 15 to 12 a year to be further reduced to ten. (£4,000.)
• Another £300,000 a year of council tax is to be extracted from the pockets of those on benefits via the phased reduction to their subsidy.
That is not all by any means but the extracts are perhaps the most likely to be seen by the general public. Care services are all going to see cuts and price hikes and the council itself is not immune. There are job cuts, some potentially risky such as the loss of the Community Safety and Anti-Social Behaviour Teams, and others of the believe it when you see it variety, such as cutting councillor allowances.
It may be interesting to think back on what the Conservatives have achieved during their eight years in power. Boris Johnson has funded two or three regeneration schemes which have, aided and abetted by the utility companies, seen constant traffic disruption across the borough.
Those eight years have seen Bexley fall from 21st worst council tax rate in London to 24th.
Without Teresa O’Neill and Gareth Bacon we would be using a Thames bridge right now instead of in ten years time - possibly.
Without the mismanagement of social services three Bexley children and an elderly lady might still be alive.
They spy on us more with extensions to the CCTV network.
Bloggers may not have suffered malicious prosecution.
I really cannot think of a single benefit that can be laid at Bexley’s Conservative council’s door. On the other hand we have not seen a 40% tax increase. Isn’t there a sensible middle way?
It was councillor
Linda Bailey who coined that phrase, but it is true.
There will be a council meeting on November 5th, a mere 15 weeks after the last one. Full council meetings are the only gatherings where the public may ask a question. Only 15 minutes allowed for 200,000 odd residents mind, we can’t have democracy getting the upper hand can we?
Some people like to ask questions because they think that the council should be constantly held to account. Most people don’t bother because Bexley council is under no obligation to answer questions, truthfully or at all.
One member of the public who likes to ask a question is Elwyn Bryant. Before the July meeting he asked one which I felt was more than a little cheeky. It said…
Due to the exoneration of Councillor Cheryl Bacon for her wrongdoing when Chairperson of the Public Realm meeting of 19th of June 2013 under the Council’s Complaints procedure, despite overwhelming evidence against her, Councillor Cheryl Bacon is now subject to Criminal Allegations to the Metropolitan Police for Misconduct in Public Office and Perverting the Course of Justice.
Between 5th May 2010 and 26th November 2013, 49 complaints were made against Bexley Councillors of which only one was upheld, that being a complaint from one Councillor against another Councillor.
No complaint from members of the Public was upheld. Does the Leader agree that the Council’s Complaints Procedure is unfit for purpose and therefore recommends that a full scale independent inquiry be held into the running of the Council’s Complaints Procedure?
You may have expected that question to be rejected out of hand, it’s not the sort of comment that Bexley council would want to webcast. However it was rejected for being submitted too late even though by any reasonable day counting scheme it wasn’t.
Elwyn submitted it again for the November meeting and got the following reply a day or two ago.
The Mayor considers it is inappropriate for your question to be put to the Council. This is because the first paragraph of your submission refers to allegations made against a Councillor. In relation to the criminal allegations you refer to, it is a matter for the Metropolitan Police in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with those allegations as they deem appropriate.
I think if I was in Elwyn’s shoes I would remove the first sentence and put it in again. We really ought to better understand how it is that no complaint by any member of the public against any Bexley councillor has ever been upheld. Is it because the Standards Committee is chaired by that renowned liar councillor Cheryl Bacon?
Meanwhile Mick Barnbrook who submitted a question twelve days before the July meeting but also had it rejected for being too late set in motion a complaint about twelve days being whittled down below seven when by even the meanest of anti-democratic counting methods he had given seven clear days of notice.
Mick pointed out that there was no practical difference between a question submitted at five to midnight on a Friday evening (allowed) and one sent in on Saturday morning (rejected). In any case the official guidance says that Saturday must be counted as a working day but Bexley doesn’t count weekends or the day of submission or the day of the meeting.
Mr. Barnbrook eventually got a reply from Paul Moore, Director of Customer and Corporate Services, which is probably as close to being an admission that Bexley council is undemocratic as any you are likely to get. Moore has acknowledged that Bexley’s Constitution does not conform to the norm and entertains the possibility that this may get changed at some unspecified future date. Meanwhile Bexley council’s unorthodox day counting procedure stands. Even seven honestly counted days is longer than other nearby councils demand.
Two extracts from Mr. Moore’s letter follow.
a few months ago, Eric Pickles the Communities Secretary, lost patience as he is
wont to do with councils abusing their powers. This time it was
sneakily trapping motorists that were in his sights and he decreed that mobile CCTV
could only be used to monitor bus stops and school zig-zags. Elsewhere a ten
minute grace time was proposed before penalty notices are issued. Bexley
council has estimated that these changes might cost it £200,000 a year and
naturally it is not going to take that lying down. It will attack motorists in other ways.
You won‘t need to be told that car parking charges will be raised across the borough and the council may be hoping that that is the only change you will notice, but below the surface they will be far more devious than that.
You may not know it but parking fines come in at different levels depending on the seriousness of the offence and the location. Bexleyheath already attracts the maximum level of fine and this will be extended to Sidcup and Welling and Bexley council expects to fleece motorists for an extra £26,000 a year.
They are going to charge you for parking at Hall Place which means I may have to find another restaurant to use when I have guests. The charge is expected to take another £60,000 out of our pockets each year.
Peter Craske’s idea from three years ago has been resurrected. That is that the council’s Gestapo Wagon cameras which can no longer be used to spy on momentary stops on double yellow lines are to be trained on moving traffic instead. They think that might raise another £42,000 every year. How do they know that? Has someone been out counting red light jumpers and made an estimate? Or is it another example of Bexley council’s illegal target setting in collusion with NSL?
Unlike Peter Craske who in 2011 naively but perhaps honestly suggested that spying on moving traffic would serve to get better value out of their spy cars, councillor Don Massey fibs that the change is wholly to do with “Public Safety”.
Usually when Bexley council embarks on a revenue raising exercise they put up an ‘Aunt Sally’ to attract the criticism and on which they can stand down and show they are not the ogres you might otherwise think. Craske proposed getting rid of school Lolly Pop patrols and last year Massey wanted to dump the borough’s history into a cupboard in Bromley. I’ve not seen any obvious ‘Aunties’ in the current plans but probably the one to cut the number of councillors will suffer all sorts of delays.
it comes to crystal balls I am not the most adventurous but it didn’t take a
genius to work out that Bexley council would renew its attack on motorists as soon as it
could and that subsidising the removal of kitchen and garden waste just because it
distorts their recycling rates in their favour was unlikely to go on for ever.
Back in July I cautiously stuck my neck out and sadly I was right.
Motorists are due for a further whacking - details another time - and the brown bin is suddenly out of favour. They are going to charge for it with a saving of more than half a million pounds a year. It’s back to the old bonfire folks.
Extract from Bexley council’s budget proposals…
Voting to maintain Bexley’s risible
24th place in the London council tax league
last May will have far reaching consequences. Some of them are beginning to surface.
Hidden away in Bexley council’s plans is one to save £20,000 a year by closing Belvedere’s Splash Park. It managed to survive eight years of Tory rule so maybe that’s a minor miracle.
The official statement that “The Splash Park will not re-open after the 2014-15 season” is rather confusing. It was only ever open in the summer months so the 2014-15 date must refer to the financial year and the budget statement shows the saving applies to the financial year beginning next April. It is safe to assume that your children can kiss goodbye to a free paddle next summer.
The decision is that of the same councillor who wrecked the children’s summer fun too. What does Don Massey have in mind next?
Note: It later became apparent that the Splash Park decision was not councillor Massey’s.
I’m not sure I ever had any but I have lost all confidence in the ability of
the police to investigate the corrupt relationship between themselves and Bexley council.
It didn't help when the officer investigating my own complaint admitted more
than six months after it was made that
she hadn’t yet troubled to send for the
police file on the matter. As a result she was asking me to guess who may have
been guilty of corruption beyond those I had picked out from the redacted file.
Perhaps by now she has stumbled across the evidence of collusion between Bexley police, Will Tuckley and the CPS who were trying to “resolve the [Peter Craske] situation” and the source material that led a Bexley police officer to tell Elwyn Bryant and me that their obscene blog investigation was “crippled by political interference”.
So when Mick Barnbrook told me that his allegations of crime related to councillor Cheryl Bacon’s fantasies and the official lies designed to protect her were to be investigated by the same officer, it seemed inevitable that a great big time wasting muddle awaited him.
I was not wrong.
The DPS (Directorate of Professional Standards) officer is clearly out of her depth and it is not even certain that the Peter Craske (Obscene Blog) and Cheryl Bacon (Closed Session meeting) cases are being treated separately. My own offers to meet the officer were ignored totally and Mick has been unable to secure a meeting either. His evidence of criminal activity is undoubtedly complex, one letter included 94 pages of evidence, but it would seem that the police would rather remain in ignorance. Two months ago a DPS officer phoned Mick to tell him that he had no intention of reading his file of evidence against Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling.
Probably you will not be surprised to hear that Mick received a letter from the DPS a couple of days ago to say they now have no trace of that particular allegation.
However his allegation of crime against Will Tuckley has not yet been lost and in an unexpected turn of events the police have accepted it isn’t right that Tuckley is investigated by his mates in Arnsberg way. Greenwich police have been given the job.
It looks like an open and shut case to me. On his own admission, Will Tuckley and Co. refused to interview any witness to Cheryl Bacon’s night of infamy, perhaps because he knew that several councillors were willing to testify against her. Only her own lies were taken into account. As a result Bexley council belatedly went on the record to say that five members of the public had to be forcibly ejected from the council chamber after refusing to leave of their own accord. A 100% lie invented by Bexley council and contradicted by their earlier statements and now backed by Bexley police officers who I do not hesitate to call corrupt. Because that is what they are.
Bexley council is facing a £40 million black hole and will struggle to maintain its
24th worst position in the London council tax league. Further cuts
and price rises are around the corner and the generously remunerated Chief Executive has been given a
deputy to make sure everything goes according to plan - or something.
Several major sites were sold off to pay for the £42 million pound Palace of Watling Street, now it is the turn of lesser known property. 26 council owned sites you might never have known existed have been identified for sale. Nothing very big, the whole lot only adds up to seven acres and the responsible cabinet member, Linda Bailey, is hoping it will raise £1,200,000.
Desperate measures but every little helps.
List of identified addresses.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson is in town today
to open the new college in Erith. It was built remarkably quickly and
welcomed its first students only a few weeks ago.
Council insiders have reported that Boris will also formally open the new council offices in Watling Street too; whether it’s today or not was not made clear.
The new civic offices opened five months ago and the two year refurbishment cost more than twice as much as building the college.
An official opening will present another opportunity to bring in the Tory run bar from Dartford so it is fortunate that the man trap outside the new offices has been filled in.
I could have sworn that I heard Mrs. Richardson, Deputy Director of Strategic
Planning and Regeneration, say at
the last significant council meeting (22nd
July) that Sidcup High Street would be back to normal before the end of
September but I saw little sign of it when I
took a look just over two weeks
ago. The opportunity arose to go back there today and it was hard to see any further
progress. So that’s another target date missed and this time the fingers
cannot be pointed at the poor weather and rain which were blamed previously,
September was apparently the driest on record.
Mrs. Richardson answers a question from Sidcup councillor Rob Leitch at the last Scrutiny Committee meeting…
The main feature of Sidcup High Street today was traffic congestion in every direction. It’s been much the same since last January and it’s surprising that more people don’t try to avoid it.
The Hadlow and Hatherley Road junctions are said to have been designed as
town squares and at least one event has already been held there. That being the
case I would have expected the public seating to consist of more than one bench,
but it is a unique one. (Photos 10-12.) Not only is it an unforgiving water accumulating solid
chunk of granite, it also has a back rest which doesn’t line up with the bottom
rest. Clever stuff! Maybe it will win another award for town planning.
All the above photos taken around 13:30 today.
If you have read
Hugh Neal’s latest blog you will know that Pewty Acres was recently invaded by a fox.
It doesn’t surprise me at all. They sometimes walk alongside me while I collect
the morning paper and use my drive for sun bathing when they are feeling lazy.
Probably the one shown was unhappy about his injured foot.
Those of us who live alongside Bexley’s many wooded areas and stare at the night sky at the right time of year will almost certainly have seen a handful of bats darting around. I have often seem them when walking back from the station a few hours after dark. But I have almost never seen them from my garden even though I have looked occasionally.
Last night I was, like Hugh, tinkering with my laptop (Chromebook for the pedantic) and I thought I saw a dead leaf float by on the autumn breeze, but I was wrong. A bat landed on the carpet and made no effort whatsoever to move on. Plenty of time to fetch a camera.
I suppose it couldn’t see me and was bewildered by the unfamiliar sounds. I helped it to the patio door and it immediately flew off in the direction of Lesnes Abbey where it presumably came from.
He was the cutest little creature I have seen for some time.
One up on Hugh Neal’s fox I think but I shall be keeping my patio door shut in future. I had a frog hop in once but as yet, no foxes.
I took the train to London last Wednesday I mistakenly thought the old Church
Manorway footbridge had been taken away but this morning’s visit made it
obvious I was mistaken. The new footbridge may be complete but safe access still
has a long way to go.
There were Crossrail employees with nothing to do sitting in sentry boxes on each side of the bridge apparently on some sort of guard duty. The bridge itself is heavily vandal proofed to prevent idiots dropping metal bars on to the track as used to happen regularly at the bridge close to my home until it was mesh covered several years ago.
Around Abbey Wood station work is concentrated on constructing the temporary station and putting the finishing touches to the footbridge - and painting fences of course.
Posters have gone up on the station platforms confirming the temporary station will open by the end of the month and the not so old (1987) one will start to come down in November.
Bexley council has expanded on
yesterday’s web based announcement about
Thames crossings by making its submission to Cabinet member for Public Realm, Don Massey,
available on line. The section relating to a Gallions Reach bridge is shown below.
Click image above to view the complete PDF document.
First they were against Thames crossings, then they were in favour of crossings so long as they were
in the right place. i.e. not too close to Bexley. Then they were for a new
crossing so long as it was their own Belvedere idea and Gallions Reach didn’t
happen, and then today they were not so very sure of that either.
Bexley council is now neutral on the subject of the Gallions Reach bridge. Knee Hill no longer gets a mention.
Click image above for Bexley council’s statement - but not their submission to the TfL consultation. (But see blog for 3rd October.)
Below. What they said earlier this year. Coloured items from Bexley council’s magazine. Click image to link to the ‘LCCI’ article on the News Shopper’s website.
a new month and I know some people will be quick to look for the appropriate new page, but council news is
still in short supply; the next round of cuts have not really bitten yet.
Libraries are obviously in the firing line
again and it will be surprising if the recently concluded consultation on
parking doesn’t lead to another round of price increases. Will the new cabinet member for Public Realm
lie like the previous one, Peter Craske, and claim that
Bexley has the cheapest parking - and more of it - than any other borough in South East London? Only if
influenced by his wife presumably.
Across the river councils are supporting a scheme to extend the Overground to Thamesmead. Bexley has not joined them preferring the plan it dreamt up for itself, a bridge at Belvedere. A railway line to Thamesmead would do nothing to support the industrial estates which Bexley council must attract to Belvedere and with it the revenue from the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Speaking of Peter Craske, another document on his likely blogging activities three years ago has surfaced. An unknown police officer opines that “I cannot see [his] meetings with constituents being confidential”. It also reveals that previous comment here to the effect that the police traced the obscene blog to councillor Craske’s internet connection was wrong. They traced it to his wife’s internet connection.
Crossrail has recently provided as much correspondence as Bexley council and if comments from workers on site are to be believed the temporary station at Abbey Wood will open before the end of this month. It should be possible to phone Crossrail’s Helpline and get a definitive answer but unfortunately they never know anything.
Phone calls are answered very promptly and in a friendly manner and they say they will call back on the number they have clearly obtained via CLI (Caller Display), but that’s the last you will ever hear of it. So I cannot tell you why a section of Peabody Homes’ land opposite Lesnes Abbey (Crossrail Site S14) has been fenced off. The money spent on fencing must be enormous. Part of the public footbridge near the station has been fenced off too and that is scheduled to be demolished soon.
Further along the line at Bostall Manorway there is no sign of the footbridge being replaced. My own primitive attempt to measure the width of the bridge suggests it doesn’t need to be widened to accommodate four tracks but the current track alignment doesn’t support the theory. The strip of concrete shown in Photo 2 could be the foundation for the disabled access but there is no matching feature on the other side. If Crossrail replied to enquiries guessing would be unnecessary.
Up on the Harrow Manorway viaduct the pedestrian crossing is nearing completion. Four carriageways are now reduced to two. Did the original viaduct planners envisage spending twice as much on a double width carriageway just to support a bus stop?