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Bonkers Blog April 2015

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30 April (Part 2) - For Erith & Thamesmead, it may be off…

I’m not sure to what extent the average man in the street has been aware of the party election campaigns across Bexley’s three constituencies. Only two have resulted in a knock on my door. One was by councillor Danny Hackett on behalf of Teresa Pearce and the other was Anna Firth on behalf of herself.

But I am no longer a typical voter because all the main candidates know who I am, where I live and the existence of Bexley is Bonkers. This may result in more than the usual number of visits because they hope to influence me or maybe it works the other way around. They won’t want to waste their time with someone who has been trying to keep a close eye on them and may already know more than they would wish. The end result is that, for the first time ever, I remain a floating voter.

For the benefit of anyone in a similar floating position I have put as many leaflets on line as I have been able to find. Seven more were added to the Leaflet Index today and for the first time the British National Party and the Lib Dems make an appearance.

Not as good as speaking to the candidates face to face of course which is why I was very much in favour of organising a hustings when one was first suggested for my constituency on 21st April. I even offered to pay any expenses involved.

However, at the time, I was feeling more unwell than I ever remember being before and when no one took up the offer I was content to let the matter drop. Someone who I know only through Twitter as @ErithLink took on the job but over the past 24 hours things seem to have become a little difficult. In recent years and in other nearby constituencies, vicars have been appointed chairmen but a Sunday evening date tends to rule that out.

EliotMy guess from reading his Tweets is that @ErithLink is not a huge supporter of anyone but he chose to appoint Eliot Smith as chairman. That’s when things really did take a turn for the worse

Eliot has taken a leading role in Anna Firth’s election campaign, even to the extent of being featured in her leaflets.

Maybe I am naive but I can’t see how a chairman can easily contrive to be biased when all he has to do is randomly pick questioners from the audience and limit each speaker to the same amount of time but I concede that if your next five years may be dependent on a fair debate one might not be so laid back about it. There have been objections to Eliot’s appointment.

Quite where you get a truly independent chairman from I do not know. Surely if someone is interested enough to do the job, and do it well, he or she is bound to have his own political opinions.

So maybe the Erith & Thamesmead hustings are off and maybe they are not. Watch this space.

Where else do you look for election news? The newspapers? The Kentish Times certainly won’t help to make up your mind.
AnnaIn the same article the newspaper said that that Teresa Pearce was not likely to lose and Anna Firth was on course to win.

Is the News Shopper any better?

Their new feature on the E&T election was quite interesting and helped me to firm up my opinions of the two biggest party’s candidates but the Bexleyheath and Crayford equivalent was less comprehensive. It said nothing about the UKIP candidate.

UKIPNot being a political strategist I am unsure of the wisdom of Chris Attard’s response but he certainly does have my sympathy.

Having read everything I can find about the elections locally I have to agree that the News Shopper has been more than a little biased against UKIP. Like the rest of the media they have gone out of their way to uncover trivia and make a mountain from it. Not so much in the paper edition perhaps, but on Twitter and on-line.

I think journalists are incapable of recognising their own bias. I’ve said before that my daughter is a journalist for a very much better known organisation than the News Shopper. I regard her employer’s output as very obviously biased to the left and I see my daughter in the same light - I blame her mother! But what is amazing is that she will occasionally complain that her colleagues are all left leaning, as if she was neutral.

I have come to the conclusion that left leaning journalists have no idea how far left they are and cannot even begin to see the bias which ordinary mortals see. Or maybe I am the same but severely biased in the other direction.

Good! That rules me out of chairing the Erith & Thamesmead hustings. News of the latter will appear here ASAP if there are any developments. Meanwhile it is on but its fate may be hanging by a thread.


30 April (Part 1) - Je suis Monty Python

Quite a lot of readers alerted me to one of yesterday’s Daily Mail headlines, presumably long term readers because they compared an arrest in Faversham with what almost happened to me four years ago.
For the benefit of those whose memories do not go back that far, council leader Teresa O’Neill and several other councillors “who did not want to have their names released as complainants” (from police documents) told Bexley police they wanted me arrested for “criticising councillors on a personal level”. (†)

Apparently I was accused of threatening violence and arson when all I did was express agreement with the Maggot Sandwich blogger’s use of a metaphor.

Personally I think we need to metaphorically (††) descend on Councillor Teresa O’Neill with flaming torches and pitchforks, as it would seem that she and her scheming cohorts are impervious to reasoned argument.

O'NeillSo as you can see, the leader of Bexley council, Teresa O’Neill, effectively lied to have a resident (me) dragged through the courts. The woman is a monster in more ways that one but who is really at fault in a case like this and that in yesterday’s Daily Mail?

The Local Government Ombudsman told me that a council is not under any obligation to act in a responsible manner, only according to its own rules and that more importantly in their view, ( I paraphrase) any power crazed lunatic is at liberty to allege any crime they like, imaginary or not, and it is up to the police to reject the malicious and the nonsensical.

I can see the logic in that. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in Bexley where lots of evidence has been accumulated that police officers will lie to protect Bexley council. The Daily Mail reports that things are much the same in Faversham.

DonkeyThe Faversham resident’s ‘crime’ was taking the mickey out of local councillors. It’s only three months since Prime Minister David Cameron marched in Paris to defend the right of free speech. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons were undoubtedly offensive to some but in a rather different league to a picture of a Faversham councillor riding a donkey.

The Faversham case and mine in Bexley probably only prove three things. Local councillors have an inflated view of their own importance and below average intelligence, that David Cameron is a monumental hypocrite, and no one should ever trust a policeman. Not even the ‘nice ones’ who are mates with everyone on Twitter. They are powerless to resist the orders of their corrupt masters.

One of my correspondents asked his local Twitter policeman to comment on the Daily Mail’s report and the reply included a reference to my own harassment warning being similar.

I would beg to differ. In Faversham no one knows for sure who circulated the donkey poster whereas the source of the flaming torches metaphor was well known. Hugh Neal, who applied Mary Shelly‘s metaphor to Teresa O’Neill, has to this day received no official advice about his choice of words, as is only right and proper.

On the other hand the police warned me off of applying the Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s characterisation (The Fat Controller) to Teresa O’Neill. Clearly the abuse of her position has been personal.

Whilst both cases indicate that the Police are Institutionally Stupid, on balance I believe that Bexley police are rather worse than Faversham’s. They knew that Teresa O’Neill’s attempt to pervert justice was exactly that, but jumped at her command nevertheless. The Independent Police Complaints Commission agreed that Bexley police were entirely wrong and had failed to observe every single one of their own safeguards and procedures. But as subsequent events have shown, they learned nothing.

† The police conducted no investigation of their own, hence their incorrect belief that other people were able to post comments which I had failed to monitor.
†† The word ‘metaphorically’ did not appear in the original blog and appeared only on a subsequent edit.


29 April - For Erith & Thamesmead, it’s on…


Erith & Thamesmead hustings on Facebook.

Erith & Thamesmead election leaflets are available for the Conservative, English Democrats, Green, Labour and UK Independence Parties.


28 April - The rabble report

This is the fifth and last of the reports on last Wednesday’s council meeting. The previous four covered what might be termed the ‘popular’ subjects but they have failed to adequately portray the true nature of a Bexley council meeting. The arrogance, the contrived pre-arranged questions, the jeering, the political insults and the tribal voting pattern all have to be seen to be fully appreciated. The webcast is not up to the job because it features only one selected councillor and their voice alone. The antics off and the mayor’s constant procedural errors go unrecorded.

The same goes for my own recording, a week after the event it is not always possible to remember what the rabble was doing while one of their number was speaking. I scribble descriptive notes timed to the recording, so let’s see if they are any good.

The previous council meeting (4th March 2015) was a disaster for any councillor who might be hanging on to the idea that webcasts enhance its reputation and the end was particularly chaotic. The mayor refused to extend the meeting beyond 11 p.m. but then went on to take a vote several minutes later. None of this was reflected in the minutes and councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End)  brought the omission to the mayor’s attention. Here’s his formal written amendment…
Councillor Borella complained that various matters had been left unresolved and neither did he approve of the Leader and Deputy Leader making representations to the mayor around 11 p.m. presumably to influence his decision in their favour.

Councillor Howard Marriner wasn’t interested in minutes that might accurately reflect his incompetent chairmanship and the blue rinsed sheep around him were only too willing to sweep his embarrassment under the carpet. There was no way the Tories were going to vote in favour of honesty and none of them did.

PublicThe large numbers who were part of the Splash Park deputation gasped in disbelief at what had unfolded before them, but to the few regular attendees it was just dirty business as usual.

After the Splash Park deputation and the only public question had been dealt with, councillors were able to put their own questions.

The first came from councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) and his chosen subject was, surprise, surprise, Belvedere Splash Park.

His concern, after Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) had publicly stated that “the Splash Park’s got to go” and made disparaging remarks about its 5,000 Facebook supporters, was whether there was any chance at all that petitions would be seriously considered.

Cabinet member Alex Sawyer began by saying yet again “I do not wish to see the Splash Park closed” but went on to excuse councillor Tandy by suggesting that when he said the Splash Park had to close he meant the filtration system had to close.

Few would believe him but in Tory circles the proverb relating to honour among thieves is paramount. Of the 27 water samples taken last year 18 were unacceptable and some would not respond to chlorine treatment, Councillor Sawyer proudly informed us.

A detailed study of the situation had commenced on November 4th 2014 (after the announcement that the Splash Park would close and three days after the first public protest meeting), the intention being to identify the possible options. Councillor Sawyer confirmed that the technical report is still unavailable and until it is he cannot begin to make a decision. The audience was not happy with his acceptance of the situation and failure to obtain any reason for its delay.

The long awaited report will cover three options…

• Converting the system to a mains fed Installation.
• Upgrading the filtration system.
• Complete renewal.

Councillor Sawyer repeated his refusal to ring fence any donations that may be available from commercial sources.

The next question was from councillor Borella about the possible disposal of the Old Manor Way playground. He wanted to know why it had been favoured with a petition on the council’s website when the Splash Park had not and made reference to David Evennett’s dismissive letter to residents.

Councillor Sharon know-it-all Massey (Conservative, Danson Park), rapidly supported by council leader O’Neill, objected that councillor Borella was asking two questions when only one is allowed. Maybe that was his intention ultimately but at the time of the interruption there was most definitely only one question. Councillor Sawyer said he thought the Splash Park should have been given the same on-line petition facilities evidently having forgotten that he had made it clear early on that he would take no notice of any petition. I was under the impression that that is why the Splash Park people didn’t immediately organise one.

ReadHaving disposed of a couple of genuine questions the first of the time wasters lumbered to his feet. Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham) invited cabinet member Philip Read to brag about the lifting of the Improvement Notice imposed on Bexley council last September. Philip Read “welcomed the question” and repeated his well worn story about how wonderful his department now is.

After two minutes the mayor told Read his time was up but he said he had three more paragraphs to read, so he carried on. More pro-Tory favouritism from mayor Marriner.

The next Agenda Item was Motions which have to be completed by 9 p.m. but as this meeting was exceptional in starting at 19:45 instead of 19:30 the Labour Group asked for an extension while the loud mouthed Sharon Massey could be heard once again in her self-appointed chairman impersonation role.

The request for a time extension was unanimously rejected by the Conservatives and councillor Brian Bishop was invited to present his motion “succinctly” which he did to Tory applause. The detail was reported on 23rd April.

With time running out for Motions, the Conservatives employed delaying tactics and when councillor Borella stood in an attempt to get proceedings moving he was shouted down by the loud mouth Massey.

It is councillor Sharon Massey who is heard yelling “No, No, No” or something similar

His aim was to modify councillor Bishop’s Motion with the totally innocuous words “encouraging the creation of London Living Wage”. As already reported, Bexley Conservatives are not in favour of paying decent wages so unanimously rejected the Labour Amendment. Unbelievable but true.

Read The next item on the Agenda was Teresa O’Neill’s Leader’s Report. She doesn’t usually make too much of a meal of it and this was no exception. Questions were soon invited but before doing so there was a mild reprimand for councillors. “What do our residents think [of what they see on the webcast]?"

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) wanted to know if any compensation would be forthcoming from Tesco following their retreat from The Broadway. Answer: “No”.

Councillor James Hunt had a ‘new’ question for the Leader on Children’s Services who immediately passed it on to cabinet member Philip Read.

He spent two and a half minutes reading from the answer he had printed out in advance. Another well rehearsed piece of theatre from Bexley council.

Councillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked about libraries and we learned that four groups had expressed an interest in taking over Blackfen Library.

Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) made a statement about how brilliant Bexley’s Children’s Services are but it was interpreted as a question nevertheless. Cabinet member Philip Read picked up another of his pre-prepared written answer in which he couldn’t resist including a relatively mild jibe - for him - at his opposition counterpart councillor Mabel Ogundayo.

The mayor told Read he had run out of time after two minutes but he carried on for another 80 seconds nevertheless. So pleased was councillor Philip Read with his written answer to a ’spontaneous’ question that he offered every member a copy.

The meeting moved on to Agenda Item 11 which can be quite ‘technical’ as it looks at the work of various council committees. Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked the first question of note but was again the subject of abusive catcalls from councillor Sharon Massey who simply cannot remember that she is not in the saloon bar of The Charlotte watching oiled men disrobe.

Perhaps because of Sharon Massey’s interruption, councillor James Hunt could not remember what Joe’s question was.

Councillor Daniel Francis complained that the timetabling of meetings precluded some items from being included in the Agenda of this, the last council meeting of the year, thereby effectively preventing discussion for all time.

It was a complex question beyond the intellectual capacity of the mayor but the situation was recognised by councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Cray Meadows) who recommended to him that the subject should not be discussed. The logic seemed to be that if an item was accidentally or otherwise missing from an Agenda the subject matter it might have included cannot be discussed. The hapless chairman councillor Marriner eagerly grasped at the straw. Once again democracy was successfully subverted by Bexley council.

Councillor Francis was rewarded with low level jeering from the muppets opposite but he was not discouraged. He had another Motion up his sleeve for Agenda Item 12. He said that next year’s timetable of meetings would result in intervals of 141, 134 and 132 days between cabinet meetings and the next opportunity to scrutinise decisions. He moved that a cabinet meeting be brought forwards by two weeks and an extra full council meeting be scheduled.

Council leader O’Neill claimed to understand the problem but said “neither idea was a goer”. Following their leader the Tory sheep rejected Daniel Francis’s Amendment unanimously. Once again democracy in Bexley was kicked into the long grass.

Plus ça change.


27 April (Part 2) - Old storm in a new tea cup

It would appear that I have irritated councillor Philip Read. I’m not sure why last week’s blog unsettled him so much, it was only long forgotten stuff I stumbled across in a newspaper archive. Probably he doesn’t like to be reminded of it but it was very typical Read behaviour.

As I am blocked from viewing Philip Read’s Tweets I only see part of his conversations if someone Retweets it which is how my interest came to be aroused earlier today.

TweetThat and similar comments showed that councillor Philip Read doesn’t like people knowing that he was as petty and spiteful four years ago as he can be today.

He had written to not one local newspaper but two to complain that Teresa Pearce had missed a vote in the House of Commons.

I doubt anyone but Philip cared very much but no opportunity for political assassination must be missed in councillor Read’s little world.

As you will know, I cannot see any redeeming features in Philip Read. It’s hard to forgive someone who sets out to get bloggers arrested and indeed succeeded in one case with a story that a judge in Bromley dismissed as nonsense.

More recently councillor Read has made concerted personal attacks on councillor Mabel Ogundayo, (Labour, Thamesmead East) repeatedly trying to humiliate her and relishing broadcasting his barbs via the webcasts. He knows exactly how to get himself featured here and I don’t like to disappoint him.

Some councillor ogres from the past have learned to modify their behaviour since social media has been around to expose their excesses. The name Peter Craske springs to mind. I can’t bring myself to really dislike him any more, but Read never learns.

Late last night he asked Teresa Pearce to check her diary, presumably because he has convinced himself that his letters to newspaper editor were the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They were nothing of the sort.

Teresa cannot check her diary any more because she is currently cut off from her Parliamentary electronics so maybe the following will jog memories.

Below are the letters that were published in the Bexley Chronicle and the News Shopper at the end of February 2011.

 I hardly knew Teresa at the time but I sought clarification from her nevertheless…

I am writing up small piece for my website, having a go at Bexley councillors as usual. As a makeweight I shall mention Philip Read's letter in this week's Shopper where he says you “wimped out” of a vote in the Commons. I think I read somewhere you were otherwise engaged in the constituency and there was little or maybe no whip, but I can't find the reference now. Is that right? If so I shall comment adversely on Read's letter.

I make no apology for kicking Read as hard as I reasonably can, my only concern is that I have the reference to you spot on.

Teresa replied as follow…

Yes I read it too!

Was sad about that. I had been at an event at Erith School on Friday with Cllr. Read and he did not ask me about it… maybe he wimped out!

The motion was a back bench motion put up by Jack Straw and David Davis. It has no effect on the law at all. It’s just so the Commons can have a debate.

So I had the choice to either sit in Parliament all day or to be in Erith & Thamesmead doing a four hour surgery followed by a huge postbag. It was a no brainer which was more beneficial to the constituents.

If the time comes to actually vote on the issue of prisoner voting where the vote will be binding then I have no doubt I’ll be there. There was no whip that day either.

Thank you - and we probably don't agree on a single political point!

I’m not sure Teresa’s last comment is absolutely correct but maybe I have mellowed over the past four years.

What is apparent now is that when I wrote that four year old blog I confused the Erith School event with the one that caused the absence but I don’t think that changes things very much.

I can see no reason for writing those letters apart from trying to denigrate a Labour MP - not even Read’s own MP. Maybe excusable if the facts were correct but he failed to mention that the MP was busy with her constituents or that the vote could have no effect on the law. Philip Read was simply being mischievous as well as barely truthful.

The available evidence may be seen in full above. Readers will make up their own minds as to whether Philip Read is the injured innocent party or not. But let’s call a bit of a truce. I won’t refer to Philip Read in particularly virulent terms any more if he stops having a go at young female councillors. It was strongly implied by Bexley Tories that young females are by definition incapable of drafting their own Motions. Now I’m being a wimp. “Implied?” No they actually said it didn’t they?


27 April (Part 1) - No Right Turn

No Right TurnBexley council’s plan to penalise motorists for minor traffic indiscretions was given a few seconds over three minutes at last week’s council meeting and most of that was taken up by councillor Stefano Borella checking if the mistakes that littered the original schedule of affected sites had been corrected.

There had been no debate on the subject at the Cabinet meeting either as is to be expected of a one woman dictatorship.

Councillor Borella briefly made the obvious point that the scheme was a revenue raising exercise and as it was first announced as part of the budget proposals it would be silly to deny it. Nevertheless council leader O’Neill protested that it was not.

Councillor Sharon Massey disagreed with councillor Marriner’s chairmanship and called out guidance - she forgets that she is no longer mayor - but apart from her, no other councillor spoke during what passed for a debate.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill rounded things off with two comments, both equally dubious. She said that every resident agrees with (so called) MICE cars patrolling school entrances - maybe they do but this new measure has nothing to do with patrolling around schools for which traffic orders exist already - and that "we are not saying we are going to do it but we are giving ourselves the option to do it”. Well believe that if you like!

Only the three UKIP councillors voted against the proposal which is scheduled to come into effect in August.


25 April (Part 2) - Election trivia and council meetings

For collectors of election leaflets, three new ones…

English Democrats : Erith & Thamesmead.
Labour : Old Bexley & Sidcup.
The Christian Party : Old Bexley & Sidcup.

This website
BexleyOn 19th February a ‘Meetings’ icon was added to the menu system above (not on the Day only blog pages) which provided a pop up list of forthcoming council meetings. It was introduced at the suggestion of a BiB reader and I hoped it might reduce the number of requests for the date of the next council meeting.

In that regard it has been a failure and all it has done is provide extra work keeping the list up to date.

From today that system is changed. The ‘Meetings’ icon is still there but when pressed it will interrogate Bexley council’s webserver and extract the dates of the meetings and display those scheduled for the current month and the following month. Click a listed entry to visit the relevant council web page for the Agenda etc. when available.

As the council’s year is near its end the list of meetings is currently short. That will change soon.

It will not always respond instantly because Bexley’s webserver appears to use a Z81 processor powered by an elastic band.

Note: The memory usage considerations which led to the facility not being provided on the ‘Day only’ pages do not apply to the new system so ‘Meetings’ will be applied to those pages soon.


25 April (Part 1) - Lots of questions, few answers

The last time there was an opportunity for residents to ask a Cabinet Member a question was on Guy Fawkes night so it was disappointing to see that there was only one such question at last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting. It came from the Head Boy of Trinity School, Belvedere.

Councillors, however, had been saving up questions as if they were their only source of information and the possibility of a quick email across the council’s intranet did not exist. Their list was extensive, 55 of the things!

HuntCouncillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham) was first in the queue of attention seekers keen to give cabinet member Philip Read his opportunity to sing the praises of Bexley council’s Children’s Services which, despite the improvements, remain among the very worst anywhere.

A purple faced Peter Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) preferred to attempt embarrassing the opposition rather than inflating the ego of a cabinet member. He indulged in a spot of fantasy by asking Linda Bailey the likely consequences had the the recent budget vote been lost. Nor was he satisfied with the simple taunting of the opposition, he felt the need to undermine their Parliamentary Candidate’s election campaign too.

When I spotted that question in the Agenda I asked Teresa Pearce if she knew why it had not been weeded out under the election ‘purdah’ rules. She felt it most certainly should have been but I can’t possibly tell you what else she may have said. With no comment from Teresa I can only refer you to yesterday’s comment about senior officers being paid over the odds to buy loyalty.

The intellectual pygmy was obviously on a roll because yet another of Peter Craske’s questions asked if the opposition party had submitted any budget proposals in October 2014. Ditto, November and December 2014. And for good measure January and February 2015 too.

Craske Craske also invited the Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services, Eileen Pallen, to congratulate her staff who were recently short listed for an award. When it comes to talking trivial tripe the man still has few rivals.

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) is another councillor without the gumption to ping off an email to the Leader but instead asked her if the council’s achievements should be applauded. You will instantly recognise the talent on display at the average Bexley council meting.

Councillor Steven Hall who used to be a nice bloke but has realised that there is no future in Bexley council for men of integrity asked the Leader to deliver a lecture on the importance of Business Rates. The Leader’s is not a backside one would willing choose to crawl up but there is no alternative for aspiring cabinet members at the moment.

Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) didn’t think Philip Read had been offered sufficient opportunity to bleat on about his achievements so he highlighted the well known fact that the 40% permanent staffing levels had been improved by 50% - to an abysmal 60%. He asked Read how that was going to be pushed higher. Everyone else has heard the stories about Irish newly qualified social workers being bribed to come to Bexley, how come Dourmoush didn’t know about them?

Genuine questions were few and far between but Eliot Smith from Trinity School was genuinely concerned about the absence of any safe crossing point outside those premises. His question was addressed to cabinet member Don Massey who was also genuinely concerned - about spending as little money as possible.

Councillor Massey was quick to imply that any problems were the pupils’ fault. “The bus driver involved [in the recent accident] has not been charged with any offence.” In the previous three years the only accident nearby was between two cars with no pedestrians involved. In the known circumstances improvements do not appear to be “an appropriate measure”. Parking patrols had been increased “to approximately once a week” and not for the first time recently councillor Massey quoted the words of one of Bexley’s two remaining Road Safety Officers at the Transport User’s Committee. “There are no safe crossings, only safer crossing.”

EliotMr. Smith referred to the average speed of vehicles outside his school which when last measured were in excess of the limits. Councillor Massey said that speeding was a police matter but he might refer the issue to the Borough Commander.

He was clearly of the view that the answer lies in improving road users’ behaviour. And that was it. The answer to road safety is the Highway Code and “Look Right, Look Left, and Right Again” or whatever the modern equivalent of the old slogan is.

To the best of my knowledge, Eliot Smith remains a Conservative supporter.

Photographs 1 and 2 by permission of Brian Barnett.


24 April (Part 2) - Bexley council Splash Mobbed

These Splash Park people are pretty astute. “Teresa O’Neill is their queen bee. She says jump and they all jump.”

FacebookSally Arnold saw right through Bexley council on what was probably her first attendance at a council meeting. She got it in one. Bexley council is there to look after itself. They can do what they like because it is basically one big protection racket. One councillor breaks the law but he knows he is safe because he knows too much about the others. “If I go down, you’re coming with me.”

They have to pay their senior staff top whack to buy total loyalty. One whiff of disloyalty and Teresa & Co. will hold a Kangaroo Court to humiliate and eradicate any perceived streak of integrity.

Teresa O’Neill has to be protected, the council job is the only one she admits to having. If she should fail to maintain ‘Queen Bee’ status the personal impact might be considerable, so a degree of ruthlessness must be expected. In Bexley it is always the money that counts.

The Save Belvedere Splash Park deputation was sponsored by Labour councillor Daniel Francis (Belvedere) and delivered by Faye Ockleford. The lady had done her research well and claimed a professional involvement in the water industry.

She began by stating that there was no good reason for the park to be closed this year. The so called ‘nasties’ found in the water are no different to those found in all public water facilities. Bexley council has never shown otherwise, it merely speculates in the absence of any formal report.

No site survey was conducted when the initial closure decision was taken and even at this late stage no survey result is available. Instead, misleading and contradictory information has been circulated. The Belvedere Forum was told that the plumbing was damaged but it transpired that only some ancient Victorian park features were damaged and that was by tree roots.

The warranty information has been incorrect. First reports were that the previous (Labour) administration hadn’t bothered to get any sort of warranty but that has been shown not to be true. However the current administration authorised third party ‘improvement’ work on the Splash Park in 2010 and 2012 which in effect invalidated the warranty.

Faye reminded the councillors opposite who are so keen to blame the Labour administration for the current state of affairs that they had been in charge of the ten year old water park for all but a small handful of months. All the initial ‘snagging’ work was done after Labour left office. The Tories desire to blame Labour for every mishap was neither helpful nor justified. The Splash Park had not been built “on the cheap” as councillor Colin Tandy and others had claimed neither was it essential that “it has to go”.

Faye“Where is the public consultation in [statements like] that?” Faye wanted to know. The survey was supposedly commissioned in November 2014. Where is it? The Splash Park is the only new public infrastructure created in the north of the borough in the past ten years, it must be kept going.

£160,000 has been identified that could be spent on the Splash Park but the council refuses to include a potential donation from Cory Environmental. Instead the Conservative members of the council have all agreed the park has to go.

When Faye’s allotted five minutes had elapsed the mayor asked if any council members had any questions.

Councillor Francis had two. He wanted to know the likely effect on local businesses if the Splash Park should permanently close and how would it affect children with disabilities.

The independent shops will suffer Faye said, it’s where the children go for ice creams and fathers go to the pubs.

The water facility is ideal for children in wheelchairs because they could be taken in and around the water features by their friends and siblings.

BarnbrookCouncillor Seán Newman’s question (Labour, Belvedere) allowed Ms. Ockleford to confirm that the continued delay to the council’s technical report was making it more difficult to put forward the case for preservation. Residents had been kept in the dark about the supposed Splash Park problems since 2013 and the delay is just more of the same. Danson Park at Easter was no substitute, too small and too crowded and smaller children had to be withdrawn because they were being knocked down.

Cabinet member Alex Sawyer then launched his well rehearsed routine which hasn’t really changed in the last six months. He would prefer a mains based solution that will not cost any money. He also fell back on the old old story about ‘nasties’ found in the water.

Ms. Ockleford reiterated that they were mere traces as found in any water facility which children might enter with dirty underwear or wearing shoes that had trodden pathways and grass and “in fox poo”.

They are not a problem in a well run facility but Belvedere Splash Park was not such a well run facility following the Conservative’s decision to cut back on supervision staffing levels. Proper maintenance would result in no risk to public health. Bexley council appears to have made no provision for ongoing maintenance that every public water feature demands.

Councillor Sawyer didn’t know why the technical report was so long overdue and almost unbelievably made no reference to chasing it up, presumably because he had not bothered to do so.

Seymour Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) decided to throw his hat into the ring by asking if Faye Ockleford thought that the Labour members should be offering the council an apology for the present state of affairs. The prat has little interest in anything apart from passing the buck.

Faye told the prat that that question had already been answered but added that in 2010 three extra water features were installed contrary to the advice of the original installers and just as she was about to say that the same mistake had been made in 2012 the mayor told her that she had said enough and ended the debate.

In summary, the situation remains pretty much as it was before. No one really knows the truth because the technical report is still unavailable six months after it was commissioned. No one at the council seems to be much bothered by the delay. Alex Sawyer won’t spend any extra money on the project, no Conservative councillor is prepared to break ranks and speak up for a facility based outside their heartlands and there is no way Bexley council will do anything to stop Belvedere’s Splash Park rotting away for another twelve months.

After the meeting, Anna Firth the Conservative’s General Election candidate, let it be known via social media that she was more optimistic about the park’s future after the meeting than before it. Maybe Anna knows something that we don’t and she has found a well heeled sponsor. On the other hand we know something that I doubt Anna has yet fully appreciated. Bexley council is run by a ruthless bunch, of what may be debatable, but nothing pleasant, that’s for sure.

Note: The above is not a verbatim account of what Ms. Ockleford said but rather a brief summary of each of her main statements presented in the sequence as delivered. Her full address may be heard via the council’s webcast recording.

Although the mayor ended discussions as indicated above, several enterprising Labour councillors contrived to reintroduce the subject later in the meeting. These interjections will be reported in future reports.

Splash Park campaign on Facebook.


24 April (Part 1) - Bexley Council. Twinned with Tower Hamlets

So Bexley council is not the only council to get police protection. One of the men who brought the court case against mayor Lutfur Rahman of Tower Hamlets was on BBC Radio 4 just before eight o’clock this morning boldly stating that the senior police officers in Tower Hamlets are corrupt.

TelegraphI have no doubt whatever that he is right, the borough commander at the time of the last elections in Tower Hamlets was none other than Bexley’s former Commander Dave Stringer.

Whilst here he was manipulated by Teresa O’Neill and at her behest threatened to arrest her critics. It was Commander Dave Stringer who said there was no evidence to allow him to proceed with an investigation into Bexley council’s criminal activities when papers obtained subsequently show that not to be the case.

Councillor Peter Craske was subsequently arrested but a further round of political interference ensured he was never charged.

It was under the same Commander Dave Stringer that a Bexley resident was charged with encouraging the posting of dog faeces through councillor Melvin Seymour’s letter box and supported his statement to that effect through more than half a dozen court appearances without once referring to the documentary evidence obtained by his officers which clearly showed councillor Seymour’s statement to be false.

StringerWhen Stringer left Bexley for Tower Hamlets just over three years ago he was soon followed by his side-kick Tony Gowen, the man who set up a meeting between the CPS and Bexley council to, as he quaintly put it, resolve Peter Craske’s situation. Birds of a feather etc.

If you run a bent council it’s always good to have a police officer like Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer on side.

Dave Stringer has supposedly been under investigation by the Metropolitan Police for Misconduct in Public Office for almost 18 months. I suspect he is being protected by the corruption that goes to the top of the Met.


23 April (Part 3) - Bexley Conservatives. How mean and petty minded can they get?

There were several incidents at yesterday’s council meeting worthy of comment but some are easier to report than others. It’s been a long day so I am going to jump straight to Agenda Item 8 for a relatively simple job. Motions. I’ve never seen so many before at a single meeting. There were nine of them, three from the Conservatives and six from the opposition. Labour, ever the optimists,  wanted the council to deal with rogue landlords, promote the London Living Wage, to protect standards of Home Care, to help the disabled, to note the importance of new transport infrastructure and aim to become carbon neutral.

All laudable stuff, so which in the limited time did Bexley council choose to debate? One of their own of course, it was to ensure that Bexley is a popular place to live, work and visit.

It came from councillor Brian Bishop and the full and voluminous transcript is as follows…

This Council’s ambition is for Bexley to have one of the highest rates of economic growth in London, believing that is the cornerstone to secure the long term economic future of Bexley, attract and secure new developments and businesses which bring investment and create jobs in the Borough.

Major developments like Crossrail and London Paramount offer the opportunity to really go for growth and our colleges, including the Learning Centre for Bexley, will help build our skills base to meet our ambition.

All Councillors commit themselves to working hard together to delivering the growth agenda across the whole of the borough to ensure Bexley is a prosperous and popular place to live, work and visit.

Mayor The mayor reminded the meeting that the business of Motions must finish by 9 p.m. unless members vote to extend the time available. This meeting had been rescheduled from the normal 19:30 to 19:45 so an extension would not be unreasonable. Councillor Ferreira (Labour) requested an extension while councillor Sharon Massey persisted with her habit of injecting advice from the back benches. While the useless Mayor Howard Marriner lets her continue to undermine his authority she is not likely to desist.

Labour’s request for an extension that may have provided them with an outside chance of putting one of their own Motions forward was of course unanimously rejected. Democracy is not the Conservative way.

Councillor Bishop cantered through his chosen subject in just five minutes fifteen seconds. “15 year strategy, Thames Gateway, M25, three railway lines, a nearby airport, sustainable growth, talented council officers, 7,000 businesses, five town centres, investment, it’s the place to come”.

Also mentioned were Paramount Leisure, Crossrail - neither actually in the borough - and Ocado (three times), the Thames Innovation Centre and Erith Quarry. The examples were impressive but added nothing to the store of knowledge but as lists go it wasn’t a bad effort.

Why Bexley council finds the need to put Motions before itself to remind itself how wonderful it is, is anyone’s guess but if it keeps them happy, why not? Who could disagree with motherhood and apple pie? Not the Tories, they applauded themselves to the rafters. Councillor Melvin Seymour was so enamoured of it he felt compelled to stand and amplify the message with politically barbed pot shots. More applause.

The Labour group thought the Motion could be improved still further. They wanted to add the words “and encourage the creation of London Living Wage jobs across the Borough” so that the first paragraph would read…

This Council’s ambition is for Bexley to have one of the highest rates of economic growth in London, believing that is the cornerstone to secure the long term economic future of Bexley, attract and secure new developments and businesses which bring investment and encourage the creation of London Living Wage jobs across the Borough.

It looks pretty innocuous to this old Tory. It’s only encouraging the London Living Wage, not compelling it. It has to be a good thing and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the Tory High Command saying much the same thing.

In days gone by I might have teased you for the probable response to the amendment but you will know Bexley council far too well by now. They did of course immediately and unanimously reject Stefano Borella’s amendment. Whether that is because they can never be seen to cooperate with an opposition party or because they actually prefer people to live below the bread line I truly do not know. The nasty party? You bet!

The Labour group sensibly voted for the original motion. Perhaps they have stopped falling for the Tories’ dirty tricks.

I am a bit late to the party on this one. The Labour Group under leader Alan Deadman has already put out its own Press Release. The Motion and amendment already quoted above are omitted but apart from that the Press Release was as follows…

Bexley Labour Councillors condemn Tory Councillors for voting against the Living Wage

Bexley Labour Group put forward a minor amendment towards a motion by a Tory Councillor at Bexley Council’s meeting last night asking the Tory Led administration to encourage the creation of London Living Wage jobs across the Borough.

All Tory Councillors voted against the slight amendment to the motion put forward by Councillor Stef Borella asking the Council to encourage the creation of London Living Wage jobs. The original motion asked for all Councillors to work together “to ensure Bexley is a prosperous and popular place to live, work and visit” and made no mention to the London Living Wage.

London Poverty Profile’s research shows that Bexley is one of the boroughs with the highest proportion of low paid jobs. Furthermore, research carried out by the National Policy Institute in September 2014 indicated that a third of Bexley resident’s jobs are paid below the Living Wage.

The Mayor of London also wants the London Living Wage to become the norm for employers in the city by 2020 as it would help hard working people make ends meet.

Councillor Alan Deadman, Leader of Bexley Labour Group said: “I am dismayed that every single Tory Councillor voted against asking and encouraging employers and contractors to pay the London Living Wage”.

“This Tory led administration needs to get on board with what the Mayor of London and members of the public want”.

“Tory Councillors should be ashamed of themselves for turning down the opportunity to encourage the creation of London Living Wage jobs across Bexley.”

It would be hard to disagree with what Alan has said. Bexley council is simply mean spirited. There’s nothing in that Motion that would upset their precious budget.


23 April (Part 2) - Eenie and Meanie but no Minie or Moe

Somebody has just told me he knows which way I will vote in two weeks time. I wish I did, I’m still dithering and trying to rationalise a sensible choice.

If Nigel Farage was standing in Erith & Thamesmead there would be less of a dilemma. Teresa Pearce was right to call me a plague on all your houses sort of bloke. I am also utterly sick of the main stream media’s blatant bias, especially the BBC’s, and feel like rebelling against it. Alas there is no Nigel Farage character in E & T. UKIP has been a total let down here so far.

Yesterday I found myself coming to the conclusion I would have to vote for Teresa Pearce and pretend she doesn’t belong to a party whose main policies appear to be still as I have always seen them; based on envy and a desire to bash the wealth creators. I found myself looking at Teresa’s old election leaflets to see if I could bring myself to hold my nose and jump into her pool.

I could take issue with one of them but on the whole Teresa’s leaflets from 2010 were really rather good.
GE 2010
Did she ever hold the annual meetings? If so she forgot to tell me, but even four out of five for political promises is not at all bad.

Teresa was described in one of her leaflets as a down to earth plain speaking sort of woman. There were a lot of good quotes in that one. Click the image below to see the source document.

WordsDid she live up to the hype?

When Elwyn Bryant and I were seriously libelled by the man at the end of Conservative councillor Peter Craske’s phone line, Elwyn’s MP wriggled all around Bexley to avoid helping. True he admitted to being horrified by what had spewed from Craske’s internet connection but would James Brokenshire actually help?

No way, he even had his office staff tell Elwyn he had no appointments left for his surgery but when Elwyn asked a friend to seek one a few minutes later; no problems at all.

James Brokenshire is a career politician, a proven waste of space and not the sort of MP to help a constituent when the going gets tough.

Teresa on the other hand took no persuading to stand by me and sit through difficult meetings with Bexley’s police and was not afraid to give me her valuable and honest opinion of them. Just as promised in Pledge No.5, she will call a spade a spade when she has to.

If it wasn’t for my long memory of Labour government disappointments I know who I would be voting for. I may still do so, you don’t need a very long memory to remember Cameroonian cock ups. I suspect some of what I object to there can be laid at the Lib Dems’ door but that would say little for Cameron’s sense of honour in my opinion. Power for power‘s sake?

The alternative to Teresa is Anna Firth. If I can read between the lines I don’t think her opinion of Bexley council is a lot better than mine. She is too clever to say so but unless I have been totally duped I suspect she would be a much better constituency MP than James Brokenshire or David Evennett.

I can understand why Erith & Thamesmead Conservatives took a trip down the A21 to find their candidate, there is simply no Tory talent any closer but it does put Anna Firth at a disadvantage. Look at these two slogans…
Teresa Anna
Five years ago Teresa pledged to be “A strong local voice for Erith & Thamesmead“ and now Anna is following the same path. “A strong voice for Erith & Thamesmead“. Well she could hardly claim to be local could she?

UKIPOn the other hand choosing local is not always the best thing. Look what UKIP did in Erith & Thamesmead and what has happened since.

It’s not for me to make voting recommendations but I am probably a little closer to the action than the majority of voters having met all three of the E & T candidates mentioned so far today.

Graham Moore for the English Democrats has been on the campaign trail too but, and I wish this wasn’t so and that there was a less demeaning metaphor, but in my opinion (again) , Erith & Thamesmead is most definitely a two horse race.

It’s a shame that Thanet and Nigel are sixty miles away and UKIP Bexley’s former chairman grabbed his kilt and ran away to Scotland. With David Coburn here Bexley Conservatives may have been routed, but they have escaped their just desserts again.

E & T hasn’t even got Chris Attard. He lives here but is trying his luck for UKIP in Bexleyheath and Crayford. If you live there and favour career politicians who steer a careful path rather than offer help when needed, David Evennett is your man. If not both Chris and Stef Borella deserve attention.

Other candidates are available in Erith & Thamesmead…

Sid Cordell, Christian People’s Alliance. Ann Garrett, Green Party. Graham Moore, English Democrats. Simon Waddington, Liberal Democrats.

All original election leaflets available by clicking the extracts shown.


23 April (Part 1) - Full council. First impressions. Not good

I get used to being the only member of the public listening to Bexley council press on with its mission to bring the borough ever closer to a characterless dictatorship and by the end of yesterday evening it was pretty much business as usual. Me, one or two others, and 45 councillors intent on demonstrating how nasty and vindictive they can be.

But the meeting didn’t start that way. It began with me, 50 or 60 Splash Park supporters and 45 councillors demonstrating how nasty and vindictive they can be.

Anna Firth bottom right, Ronie Johnson, UKIP, Erith & Thamesmead PPC, top left

As well as a large deputation of Splash Park supporters being present, so was Erith & Thamesmead’s Conservative candidate Anna Firth who has joined the Splash Park campaign with indisputable enthusiasm. As one of our councillors said to me yesterday “she has played a blinder of a campaign” and while I expect she has upset a few of her rivals along the way, no one could deny she very rapidly became high profile on social media.

Daniel DeputationThe full council meeting was a very good one. Too often I sit at this keyboard struggling for words to adequately describe what I have seen the night before. It would be easier if I more often strayed towards the language of the school bus but to do that too often might dilute the message.

It would be easy to dismiss Bexley Conservatives as a bunch of crooks but I try not to because some of them aren’t - there's err, well believe me, one or two are OK; but more importantly readers who haven’t seen Bexley’s Conservative council on top form might not believe a word of it. Can any council really be that bad?

So last night was from my point of view an extremely good meeting. If I lazily describe Bexley’s Conservatives as a bunch of crooks in future I know that there will be 50, 60, 70, or whatever their number was, of Belvedere based parents who will nod their heads in agreement.

Throughout the meeting there were incidents, of, to borrow the words of a UKIP councillor from last night, pure vindictiveness.

Time after time all the Tory hands went up to block a perfectly reasonable opposition request. The mayor wouldn’t allow an obvious error in some old minutes to be corrected, the Tories voted against extra time to discuss a motion after 15 minutes had been lost due to the meeting starting later than usual and they voted against paying the living wage. The nasty party lives and thrives in Bexley.

Early on in the meeting I felt I wanted to collar Anna Firth after the meeting to ask her if she was proud to be associated with such a disreputable bunch of, what’s the word I am looking for? “Scumbags”, yes that’ll do, but she buzzed off back to Sevenoaks long before the end.

There will no doubt be more on last night’s meeting after I have properly listened to the recording. Meanwhile for the latest news there is always the campaign’s Facebook page and for extra and maybe better photos there is Brian Barnett’s picture gallery.


22 April (Part 3) - Erith & Thamesmead election hustings

They’ve happened elsewhere in the borough but there’s been nothing for the general public in the northern territories. Over the past 24 hours there has been a movement to put that right.

It looks likely that it will be held on the Sunday before the election at The Link, Thamesmead, 6 p.m. until 9.

More news when it becomes available.


22 April (Part 2) - The quarterly yellow onslaught

It’s a whole three months since Bexley council last went mad with the yellow paint pot. 30 odd roads were deemed to be revenue generators. A few people got upset at how their businesses would suffer but Bexley council is on a mission to raise money so whether the concerns are justified or not, they count for nothing.

Today the next batch of roads has been announced for the double yellow treatment. They are…

Picardy Manorway.
Beechway, Blendon Road, Dorchester Avenue, Huntington Close and Ravenswood.
Little Heath Road, Marlborough Road and Northall Road.
Maiden Lane.
Dulverton Road and Telford Road.
Brendon Close, Dickens Close, Erith Road, Lesney Park Road, Pembroke Road, Plantation Road and Slade Green Road.
Blackfen Road, Clarence Crescent, Haddon Grove, Harland Avenue, Harman Drive and St. James Way.
Slade Green
Lincoln Road.

Not content with 26 new sets of double yellow lines, four of those roads are to get single yellow line restrictions too.

Some roads will no doubt benefit from parking controls but the general direction of flow is always the same. An ever greater area must be made available to revenue collection by a council which has no money.


22 April (Part 1) - Making waves on the Civic Offices steps

This evening Bexley council will meet to hear the Leader’s Report, rubberstamp the plan to use CCTV to track errant motorists and ignore - sorry, listen attentively to, a deputation intent on saving Belvedere’s 100 year old Splash Park from the cut throat crew currently in charge of the borough. The Conservatives have already announced their goal, “The Splash Park has got to close”.
Bexley council originally claimed that it would cost up to £500,000 to bring the park up to current public health standards but this was no more than a guess. A properly costed report was promised for February but as yet it has not been forthcoming.

A request that a £120,000 gift from the incinerator owner, Cory Environmental, be allocated to the Splash Park was rejected as was the UKIP suggestion that councillors give up one third of their allowances (around £300,000 a year) both of which may indicate the Conservative members’ preferred position.

The three ward councillors led by Daniel Francis identified another £160,000 which could be made available but Bexley council disputed the figure. It now accepts they were wrong but that is still a long way short of £500,000 if the final estimate proves to be that high.

AnnaCabinet member Alex Sawyer has repeatedly said he will only accept a cost neutral solution or the Splash Park is finished. Neither would he accept any form of petition. What he probably meant is that he would ignore all public protests. Nevertheless he is going to get one tonight.

The council meeting is scheduled for 19:45 but the Save the Splash Park Group will gather on the steps of the Civic Offices, 30 minutes earlier. I am looking forward to seeing Anna Firth waving a banner in support of the public amenity that the husband of her Constituency Association President has earmarked for closure.


21 April (Part 2) - Jobs for the poor little rich girls

I’m a poor single mum from Sidcup was the message…

LetterFormer Bexley councillor Katie Perrior was defending Bexley council’s decision to hire a hotel for a meeting rather than use one of their own rooms.

They don’t do that sort of thing any more, financial pressures and bad publicity have seen to that.

So why bring it up again?

It’s because you may need to be reminded about how Bexley councillors are dishonest or you may simply be interested in how our councillors manage to survive once taxpayers have stopped weighing them down with gold.

Ms. Perrior claimed to need every penny of her £22,650 allowances for being Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at a time when her department was a disaster zone with children at significant risk of harm and one having been killed only three months before she wrote that letter.

The letter portrays the author as a mother who struggled to make ends meet just like the families she was supposed to represent. “Bexley’s residents are not rich and neither am I.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ms. Perrior was a successful business woman running her own PR company. She left the council a year ago to spend more time with her money; a few months before the Department for Communities issued another Enforcement Notice on her department.
That may have damaged Bexley council’s reputation but it apparently did Katie Perrior no harm at all.

On the Department of Communities website you can read this nauseous piece puffery.

PerriorWhy is the Department for Communities interested in Katie Perrior?

It’s because the same Department of Communities who believed Perrior’s Children’s Department had failed miserably in Bexley, has given her a job.

It’s not what you know it’s who you know; once you are part of the in crowd you are pretty much bombproof whether you are a failure of not. The Kinnocks in the EU, Paton at the BBC, Greville Janner not in court, and no doubt many more you can think of.

But not bad for an impoverished mum from Sidcup who wrote pleading poverty to the Editor of the Bexleyheath Chronicle.



21 April (Part 1) - Promises, promises

FirthOne of Anna Firth’s (Conservative Election Candidate, Erith & Thamesmead) early ‘Campaigns’ was for a better train service. Sort it Southeastern she called it. Well good luck with that!

Anna’s campaigning partners at the time were councillor Philip Read and Amandeep Singh Bhogal before he was whisked away to Northern Ireland to be the Tory Candidate for Upper Bann and for his 15 minutes of fame making a monkey of Ed Miliband.

Amandeep has form for claiming to be able to improve train services, he was doing the same four years ago, got his name in the papers for it, the much missed Bexleyheath Chronicle.

The Bexleyheath Chronicle wasn’t afraid to kick back at Bexley councillors and their friends; when they received critical letters they tended to publish them. Like this one.

TwitterSteve Smith was pretty sure that Amandeep’s campaign was all hot air. If electoral promises were not all hot air we would all be living in a much better place by now.

I am still in dithering mode. I had been swinging towards Anna to keep the SNP at bay and then drifting away again and this morning’s Twitter post from Anna confirmed I was right to do so. (See image.)

The Chronicle also carried a letter from councillor Philip Read complaining that Teresa Pearce had missed a vote in the Commons. The paper’s Editor added a footnote to explain that Teresa had a prior engagement. It had been reported on Bonkers three months earlier. Read could have asked Teresa at a constituency event,  where they were both present but he did not. I referred to Read as a piece of filth following his repeated personal attacks in the council chamber, he should never have been elected as a councillor, let alone be in charge of a department that has failed the borough’s children so comprehensively.

What sort of low life petty minded s*** writes to the newspaper about an MP missing a vote anyway?

Sorry Anna, but I really cannot vote for someone who is influenced by such a nasty piece of work as councillor Philip Read.


20 April - Health foods, Bacon and hot potatoes

It’s repetition I know but thank you again for the kind words following my affliction with the dreaded flu bug. It seems I am not alone in suffering it and some have had to be checked over in hospital. It’s not been just kind words either, I can barely believe that health foods and vitamin pills have been left on my doorstep along with get well messages.

I feel my present condition is not unlike Bexley council’s Children’s Services. Signs of improvement compared to the recent past but still a long way from how things should be. Councillor Read might describe me as fighting fit, but as yet I am not.

The grey matter is certainly on a go slow. Today two more political leaflets have been added to the library of such things but with far too many technical mistakes along the way. However Stefano Borella’s (Labour) and Chris Attard’s (UKIP) Bexleyheath and Crayford leaflets are probably now safely on line.

It is quite a long time since the criminal allegations against councillor Cheryl Bacon, Will Tuckley and his legal Team Manager Lynn Tyler were last mentioned here, these things always take ages. It’s four years to the day (†) since councillor Peter Craske’s telephone line mysteriously transmitted all that illegal homophobia to the web - and the repercussions are still rumbling around the pending trays of the IPCC and the Metropolitan Police.

Greenwich police have always been very supportive of the case against Bacon and clearly regard her lies and the council’s refusal to investigate whether of not her allegations were false, as very serious issues. My expectation was that Bexley council would inject some of their well practiced “political interference” but so far at least there has been no sign of that having any effect.

My last communication from the police requested I did not make the details public so all I can say is that my confidence in the investigating police officer is further enhanced and I am more convinced than ever that he knows that the case against the wife of London’s highest paid councillor is well founded.

Whether we will see Cheryl Bacon and her cronies behind bars, or even in court, is another matter entirely of course but the thoroughness of Greenwich police’s investigation and their determination to see justice done cannot be in any doubt. Whilst I have no proof that it was him, I believe it may have been Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling - former Bexley police commander - who had the good sense to pass this hot potato down the road. Pulling strings for Bexley council had already got him into quite enough trouble already. That case is in a pending tray somewhere in New Scotland Yard too.

† It’s three years and eleven months. Told you the brain was not working properly!


19 April - Bexley council. Confusing motorists and me

Thank you to those who sent “get well” messages, unfortunately neither they nor the antibiotics are doing a lot of good at the moment.

Yesterday, a date that had been fixed for some time, I met up with a number of BiB readers who have good reason not to be fans of Bexley council to discover if there were common features, names of jobsworths etc., and consider what might be done to combat and expose them. I was not really up to participating but the feedback has been encouraging. The details must necessarily remain under wraps.

I survived the meeting but began to wonder if I would survive the night, however there are now signs of improvement and there is something I feel I should correct, or at least clarify, or not as the case may be.

TweetThe Cabinet meeting of 8th April convinced me that Bexley council was proposing to spy on motorists who might make a U turn using its mobile CCTV and the fixed cameras which were installed as a crime prevention measure. I said as much when I announced the following day’s blog on Twitter.

A couple of day’s later I read through the Agenda again and began to have doubts. Nowhere did it say that the fixed CCTV system would be diverted from protection to persecution duties.

Bexley offered the excuse that 28 London boroughs were using both Fixed and Mobile CCTV to enforce Moving Traffic Contraventions (MTC) which is perhaps where I got the idea Bexley would follow suit from.

Then the Cabinet laid out the choices it believed to be available to it. To authorise the use of the gestapo wagons to enforce MTCs and recommend that the full council approves it, or to do nothing.
MICE: Mobile in-car Camera Enforcement - a silly acronym which appears to be unique to Bexley
The reason for making this change is of course revenue collection but Bexley council is not going to admit that. It is just a huge coincidence that it proposes the change when it has run out of money. Preventing an illegal right turn may well improve public safety but probably not half as much as watching out for muggers.
And finally came the decision. To ask the council members to authorise the use of gestapo wagons to trap motorists making mistakes.
The cabinet duly approved what had been agreed in advance and the council leader was asked to sign off their decision. There was no reference to the use of Fixed CCTV so fearing a ghastly error in the original blog I went back to the Cabinet meeting report to see how wrong it might be. Fortunately it only implied that the Fixed CCTV would be used so I changed just a couple of words and hoped no one would notice.

Then I went to the Places Scrutiny Committee meeting and it was all change! At least it was in the Agenda, nobody was interested in questioning the decision and nothing was said about it.
It would appear that Teresa O’Neill signed a proposal that made no reference to the use of the Fixed CCTV network to spy on motorists but the Places Scrutiny Committee believes it will. So what does next week’s Full Council Meeting Agenda have to say about it?

Exactly the same as shown above under ‘Proposed Decisions’. Twenty Eight London Boroughs use Fixed and Mobile CCTV but Bexley is only going to use its gestapo wagons and leave the Fixed CCTV to do what originally justified its huge cost. Well that is what the Agenda says. I think I will believe it when I see it and presumably the Places Scrutiny Committee is as confused as I am.


17 April - The cough that carried him off…

There won’t be anything new here today and perhaps for several days.

While at the Transport User’s Committee meeting eight days ago I developed a tickly cough and by Wednesday I was ruining the council’s web cast with ‘noises off’. Since then things have got worse and yesterday’s blog took twice as long to write as it should and probably not all it could have been.

Today the doctor has used his stethoscope and reluctantly prescribed antibiotics. “Cough mixture is useless for what you have”. He is right there. Another £5·99 down the drain.


16 April - Smart water meters but rather dumb meeting

ChairmanThe Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held yesterday evening was not the most interesting on record. The first hour was taken up with a presentation by representatives of Thames Water who embarked on a scheme to install Smart Meters across the borough just over a year ago.

It did not go too well and was abandoned after 4,403 meters were installed. Even so it was estimated that more than half a million litres of water per day were saved which on the figures supplied amounts to 28 gallons of water per day for each household.

Including the (dumb?) meters installed before that programme began, 29% of Bexley households are now metered and the aim is to get that up to 77% over the next two and a half to three years.

The system will transmit consumption data from each meter via repeaters to one of four receiving stations placed around the borough. The frequency employed is one which became free with the changeover from analogue to digital television but at much lower power level, lower than that used by home wireless internet, so not a health issue. (†)

Metering will allow leaks to be monitored more closely and tackled quickly and customers will be able to check their consumption in close to real time on line. Preparatory work will begin in July and customers will be contacted from September onwards.

Unusual for a Places meeting, there was little new said about Public Realm improvements. The £100,000 spent in Northumberland Heath came in for some criticism especially the plastic bollards which soon broke and the lamp post banners which were not very distinctive.

Traffic disruption in connection with Phase 2 of Bexleyheath’s Regeneration, from Trinity Place to Lion Road is likely to commence in July and cost in the region of £700,000. No attempt would be made to improve existing junctions except that some would be raised, and the unsatisfactory situation at Church Road where traffic queues to turn right would continue.

The cost of Phase 1 was more than once given as £3·7 million, a larger figure than any revealed at previous meetings.

The political mudslinging was of a poor standard devoid of any wit. Cabinet member Don Massey thought that Labour spoke “absolute rubbish” and councillor Borella upset the reliably obnoxious cabinet member Linda Bailey by saying that the Broadway regeneration had not been “some magic pill” that made every shopkeeper happy.

The chairman felt obliged to ask members to be civil to each other which prompted Cheryl Bacon into launching a personal attack against councillor Borella.

BaconCouncillor John Davey bore a grudge against councillor Borella too. He was accused of asking too many transport related questions and he should have gone to the Transport User's Committee. The ignorant Davey is presumably unaware that Councillor Borella is a Transport Users’ Committee member and that he was there.

Not to be outdone, cabinet member Linda Bailey had the final dig at councillor Borella’s - or Borello as she insisted on calling him - failure to fully appreciate all the wondrous works created by the £3·7 million regeneration of Bexley’s biggest shopping centre.

The Places Scrutiny meeting usually reveals at least a few interesting facts and figures but this one did no more than reveal rather too much about certain councillors’ addiction to political point scoring. What has Cheryl Bacon ever done for Bexley council other than get it into trouble with the police?

There was no UKIP representation at this meeting. No explanation was forthcoming.

Note. † This from my own research and not from information provided at the meeting.


14 April (Part 2) - Gareth Bacon goes. He explains the timing and the Labour Leader responds

Following councillor Gareth Bacon’s announcement last night that he would vacate his cabinet member and deputy leader roles at Bexley council at the end of the civic year on 20th May, his reasoning is reported in some detail by the Bexley Times.

The following is an extract. Click for source web page.

Letter It must be a strange relationship when one’s wife can go abroad and be totally beyond contact. It was fortunate that the Bacon family did not suffer an emergency whilst Cheryl was away without her mobile phone.

The Bexley Times has also reported Labour leader Alan Deadman’s reaction. His full statement follows.

Leader of the Bexley Labour Group, Councillor Alan Deadman who sits on the Resources Scrutiny Committee was present at the meeting when Tory Councillor Gareth Bacon confirmed he was stepping down from his role as Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services.

Tory Councillor Gareth Bacon announced yesterday (Monday 13 April) at the Resources Scrutiny Committee that he was standing down from his position as Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services.

He was reportedly paid £17,595 for the Cabinet roles, which was in addition to the other salaries he gets for holding other local government positions.

The Evening Standard stated on 26 February that Councillor Gareth Bacon could be London’s highest paid councillor with his combined public salary of £108,174. Despite Tory Councillor Gareth Bacon standing down as Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, he still holds the following local government positions:

· £26,000 for Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority
· £55,161 for sitting on the London Assembly
· £9,418 for being a Councillor
· Claims on top of his large salary for a £2,228 London-wide travelcard from the London Assembly

Councillor Alan Deadman, Leader of Bexley Labour Group said: "I am relieved to see that Tory Councillor Gareth Bacon has finally seen sense by taking into consideration the concerns that I have raised about him juggling these four local government positions.

“It really wasn’t right that he was lining his pocket with £108,174 of taxpayers money, whilst honest decent people in Bexley are struggling to make ends meet”.

“I also had grave concerns as the job of a Cabinet Member for Finance plays a big role with regards to making decisions on which public services to cut and protect”.

Councillor Deadman is out of date in one small respect. An Annual Travel Pass is a £2,344 perk of the job since January 2015.

News Shopper’s similar report.


14 April (Part 1) - Hall Place and Danson Park under attack by Bexley council?

It looks like it.

Councils across the country have been considering the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which can time you in and out of a car park and levy penalty charges on those who overstay their allotted time by a few seconds. Supermarkets use the system apparently prepared to see their reputations trashed by those caught and eager to pass on their stories.

The Under Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, Robert Goodwill, wrote to all councils last September to warn them in a strongly worded letter that to go down the ANPR route using private companies in council owned car parks would not in his opinion be legal. Saturday’s blog summarised the position.

To be sure that no council was under the illusion they could ignore the Under Secretary, his department followed up with another letter four months later.Letter
As usual, click the extract to see it all (33KB PDF).

Bexley council went ahead anyway, they placed an advertisement on the London Tenders website.
It provided a link to the following document.
My guess is that the reference to two busy open spaces means that Hall Place and Danson Park are to be subjected to ANPR whether it is legal or not. Maybe the council has plans to hand over ownership of those two parks to a cowboy parking company. Giving them away would perversely make their proposals legal.

Life under Bexley’s Conservative council gets worse by the day.


13 April (Part 3) - No more Bacon

There was a Resources Scrutiny Committee meeting this evening and I dosed myself up with Benylin, Panadol and Menthol throat sweets and went along to watch and listen. Not a good idea. I alternated between almost falling asleep and barely suppressed coughing fits. I had to leave after about 45 minutes.
Cabinet member Gareth Bacon said as part of his formal address that the coming cuts “will not be very pleasant” and “the prognosis continues to be bleak” and then he went off script. He said this would be his last meeting as cabinet member as he had decided to resign his cabinet post and deputy leadership.

BaconIn a reference to recent press articles on his £108,000 taxpayer funded salary he said that he didn’t want his colleagues and his wife to hear the news first from a journalist. Does he really expect us to believe that he had decided to step down without taking leader O’Neill or his wife Cheryl Bacon into his confidence?

When I left the Chairman of the Bexley Voluntary Service Council had been speaking for about 25 minutes. She was still speaking when I looked in on the webcast half an hour later.

The next item on the Agenda concerned Freedom of Information requests and the responsible council officer Ahmet Latif seemed to be more than a little pleased with himself for getting Michael Barnbrook declared a vexatious requester.

Although Mr. Latif didn’t mention Michael by name there was no mistaking who he was referring to because there had only been two such cases and it wasn’t Michael who asked about female staff names.

Mr. Barnbrook was repeatedly given inadequate responses while he was accumulating evidence for a submission to the Metropolitan Police about the lying Cheryl Bacon. Each time Bexley council contradicted itself he was effectively compelled to seek clarification. The last thing Bexley council would want in that case is clarification.

Blank screen Blank screenCouncillor Danny Hackett who knows exactly what the situation is asked the only pertinent question and discovered that the decision to abuse the Act and mislead the Information Commissioner was taken at Director level. It was always likely that the crooks at the top would be involved in a cover up but confirmation is always welcome.

The only other item of note on the Agenda was The Single Persons Council Tax Discount. This has resulted in 1,154 discounts being withdrawn and an unexpected £328,000 paid into the bank. Just about enough to build a Splash Park.

Is there anyone qualified to fill Bacon’s boots, if that is not a very inappropriate pun in the circumstances? Cheryl Bacon perhaps, to keep the cash in the family? Talent is thin on the ground in Bexley council.

I don’t usually watch the council’s webcasts. Are the cameras and microphones always unsynchronised?


13 April (Part 2) - Crayford child care plans rejected

The amount people pay for childcare services these days is staggering, another area of life where things seem to have got much worse since I had any use for such facilities.

Unsurprisingly it is an election issue for some candidates.

Child CareThis is an extract from one of Anna Firth’s many leaflets. As a Conservative she should know that the traditional way to make something cheaper is to produce more of it but Bexley council is not doing a lot towards making that possible in the realm of child care.

According to Google and Mumsnet there is only one nursery In Crayford catering for very young children. It is the Gaggle Nursery run by Sheonalli Malhotra.

In January Sheonalli applied to Bexley council for permission to build a new nursery on land she owned by the old Wansunt Pumping Station; permission had already been granted in November 2014 for a day care centre at the site. The nursery was in effect a change of mind.

Google mapsWanshunt Pumping Station and the applicant’s land lies alongside the railway line only a short distance west of Crayford Station and hidden from view by tall trees.

Bexley council went through their usual routine, consulting everyone who might be affected by the development. Three councillors, no comment. Transport services, no comment. The Drainage Team, Bexley Natural Environment Forum and UK Power Networks, all no comment.

Was the land contaminated, was it emitting radon gas? No and no.

Did it perhaps offend against Bexley’s Planning Policies?

Doesn’t look like it; so Crayford will soon get additional and improved child care facilities, right? No wrong.

The application was rejected because the proposed building was not in keeping with the open character of the local environment. The applicant was invited to discuss a revised application.

Before doing so the applicant is looking to support the next application with yet another petition! The plans will create 15 jobs and provide much needed child care places in a building to be erected within the owner’s own extensive garden.

Meanwhile the major provider of child care facilities in Bexley remains councillor John Waters’ Bexley Manor Nursery School where he has been director for the past twelve years.


13 April (Part 1) - The Splash Park is back

Splash Park Well not exactly but the Save the Belvedere Splash Park campaign website has come back to life with a lot of new posts but perhaps not an awful lot of new information.

It is reiterated that cabinet member Alex Sawyer admits that he will take no notice of a petition, Bexley council never has so I suppose it is better that he speaks the truth than arouse false hopes. Nevertheless there is comment that a petition has been allowed for the Old Manor Way playground closure - on the council’s own website no less - where Conservative councillors are feigning support.

There is some adverse comment on the closure campaign being dragged into the political arena by parliamentary candidate Anna Firth but it is hard to see how that can do any harm. Alex Sawyer was on the committee of the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association - chairman if I remember correctly - when Anna Firth was selected as their candidate and his wife is still President. Anyone prepared to kick sand in the face of Bexley’s Conservative council can’t be all bad.

The situation remains much the same as it was three months ago. Unless someone can find funds from elsewhere to rebuild the Splash Park, it will close, because Bexley council is not going to dig deep. Its budget is finely balanced and any change of direction will tip them into the abyss. The Conservative cycle is clear. Cut everything possible in the first year of office and hope the pain will be forgotten when the next election comes around three years later. Lying about Bexley having a low council tax rate always helps.

It cannot be said too often that Bexley council is relying on “all the Cabinet’s proposals particularly in respect of savings” to go ahead if the budget is to get anywhere near to making sense, and it has already set the council tax level so there is no realistic alternative to the cuts and extra charges. All this consultation business is the usual sham unless money can be conjured up from external sources.


12 April - New Commander but Bexley police as bad as ever

In recent years Bexley has not been blessed with totally honest senior police officers.

We have had a Commander who took long dinners with the council leader and when that leader was discovered with his hand in the expenses till falsely claimed he was not permitted to accept a crime report that did not come from Bexley council. Bexley council’s first priority is always to protect their own, so that never happened.

Then there was another who twice issued harassment warnings against Bexley residents for no other reason than the equally dishonest Teresa O’Neill told them to. There was no investigation and the police had no evidence and it took IPCC intervention before they accepted that they had stepped well outside the law.

When Bexley council was caught up in criminal activities that same Commander at first claimed there was no evidence on which to proceed with an investigation and when that claim was shown to be false there were continuing discussions about whether they might be able to pull the same trick again. They sat on the damning evidence against a Bexley councillor for at least six and possibly eight months doing nothing apart from giving the suspect time to cover his tracks.

That Commander’s replacement came up with an excuse for his predecessor’s neglect which could not possibly be true and his Detective Sergeant said the reason was “political interference”.

When that Commander left the borough he was replaced by one who allowed two of his police constables to make up stories at the request of Bexley council which once again could not possibly be true. He may even have directed them to do so. All are still under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department of Professional Standards although given that the oldest of the complaints is very nearly three years old you may decide to assume that they are having difficulty in coming up with a defence that holds water.

Jeff BootheBexley acquired yet another Police Commander last month and it will be interesting to see if he is as ready to be manipulated as his predecessors were. Early indications are not particularly encouraging.

It concerns the lady who was charged with common assault and arrested at Heathrow Airport perhaps because the police believed over-reacting to that extent might be good for a laugh. The complainant was a member of police staff so the case was being pursued with the sort of vigour others might never see.

The lady was found not guilty at Bromley Magistrate’s Court and she complained about the way that Bexley police had dealt with her case. The officers involved agreed among themselves that each of them had behaved impeccably. Apparently dragging passengers from aeroplanes is not unusual in cases of common assault especially when they are heading home to Bexleyheath.

Their victim complained to various places including her MP, David Evennett, and the police assured him that every officer is innocent. The letter was signed by the new Borough Commander Jeff Boothe.

This is an extract from his letter…

Chief Superintendent Boothe cannot know if all his statements are correct but like all his predecessors his priority would appear to be protecting his officers rather than ensuring the law is upheld. Click it to read it all.

If I am asked for comment or advice on letters such as that it takes me well outside my comfort zone so I send them to Mick Barnbrook (retired Bexleyheath Police Inspector) who knows a thing or two about bringing down bent officialdom. As I had hoped he was able to pick more holes in the new Commander’s letter to David Evennett than I could ever hope to do.

My gut feeling is that DI Noble put the letter together and Boothe signed it, without knowing or being shown all the facts.

How can Boothe say that the Magistrate did not make any comments about the validity of the witness statements if no police officers were at court and there are no transcripts of the case?

The Magistrate may not have made comments in open court, but that does not mean that he did not have reservations about the evidence being presented by the prosecution, in the form of the three witness statements.

As Boothe is only assuming that the Magistrate did not make any comments or have reservations about the quality of the prosecution evidence he should not use that subjective assumption to reach the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate any allegation.

He cannot say that there is insufficient evidence. The evidence to substantiate your allegation is the three witness statements about which the Magistrate appears to have had concerns.

As you are making a serious allegation, I would have thought it perfectly reasonable for the police to contact the Magistrate to find out if he did have doubts about the three witness statements.

In his letter Boothe states that you are unhappy with the investigation into your allegation. The reason that you are unhappy is due to the fact that there has not been any investigation.

Boothe also states in the letter that “the burden of proof remains on the prosecution to prove matters beyond reasonable doubt and is rightly a high standard of proof”.

The fact that you were found Not Guilty is in itself evidence that the burden of proof was not good enough and the Magistrate could have only reached that decision based on the three witness statements.

Noble found that the Common Assault allegation was correctly reviewed by an Evidence Review Officer. Surely Noble didn't expect Betez to go against his own original decision, when reviewing the evidence.

Why, when the matter was passed to Betez to investigate, did he not tell a supervising officer that he was not independent and on that basis, have no further involvement in the matter?

Both the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service assumed that the three witnesses were telling the truth when they made their statements and signed the declarations on the statement forms. As the case was thrown out, based on those statements, the Magistrate obviously did not believe the witnesses.

He may have reached that decision on the basis that the witnesses did not corroborate each other. That would be good enough reason to carry out an investigation.

This case was not thrown out on a technical matter. In any case where there is a Not Guilty plea, one side or the other cannot be telling the truth. The Magistrate chose to believe your version of the facts, meaning that he did not believe the prosecution witnesses.

Is it any wonder therefore that the police do not want to investigate their own witnesses?

Now that Boothe has got himself involved, you should write to him and make him aware of all the facts, including the fact that Mrs. M was involved with your husband, together with the fact that the police seriously over reacted by dragging you off of a plane and keeping you in custody for a minor offence, when your address was known and there was no likelihood of you absconding.

Boothe has transferred from The British Transport Police and may not have dealt with this type of complaint before.

Other documents suggests that Bexley police’s claimed review of evidence failed to include the witness statements. The accused lady believes that those witness statements were inconsistent. Presumably the Magistrate agreed with her.

Once again we see Bexley police investigating themselves and individual officers being asked to review their own decisions. This case is obviously far from coming to an end so another of BiB’s blog indices has been created.


11 April (Part 3) - Bexley council. Still naturally crooked

Six months ago one or two of the more serious newspapers reported on another nasty trick that had been introduced by unscrupulous councils. They had contracted one of the crooked thieving parking companies employed by the likes of Lidl and Asda to penalise customers who shop too slowly. Last December one of my oldest friends who had been working long hours did the whole of her Christmas shopping in one marathon session in one of these stores and was rewarded with a big fine. She was let off after creating a big scene in the shop but she won’t be going back there again.

These dishonest companies, and they are - I once took a long train journey opposite one of their managers shouting into his mobile at new recruits telling them how to trap motorists into being clamped - have been hawking their services around disreputable councils offering to monitor their car parks with number plate recognition technology.

The reason that the subject had got into the newspapers was because the Under Secretary of State at the Department of Transport had written to all councils reminding them in no uncertain terms that in his opinion to enter such a contract with a parking company would be illegal. “My understanding is that a couple of you may be operating your car parking operation through contract law - I would hope this is not the case.”

“I should warn you that … this will more than likely not be approved because the Council will not be operating as an enforcement authority under the Traffic Management Act 2004”.
Good, I thought, that will stop the bunch of civic crooks in their tracks and surely Bexley has already learned the hard way that when they break the law they are being watched?

When will I ever learn? Bexley council is bent, or at least its leadership is which amounts to the same thing. I should not have fallen for the increased number of smiling faces.

Guess who is pushing the private parking company idea forward? The same people who argued with the government’s directive to publish details of all staff earning over £56,000 a year.

Just when you think Bexley council is beginning to clean up its act along comes a bundle of evidence that clean is the last thing they want to be. More on this soon.

Note: Click letter extract to see it all. (256KB PDF)


11 April (Part 2) - Blisters and bluster

TersaI hope I am not following in the footsteps of a certain Bexley councillor who collects election leaflets as a hobby but I have tried to do as in previous years and post as many as possible on line. Unfortunately my two most reliable suppliers from earlier years seem to have disappeared - I am beginning to think they must be dead - so this year’s collection is not looking good.

Last Tuesday I received a Labour leaflet at exactly the same time as a Conservative one. The former - timed by the front door video camera - was from Teresa Pearce with a lovely personal note attached while the other was plucked from a gutter in Gayton Road after Anna Firth had spent the previous evening selling her policies to commuters at Abbey Wood station.

Both ladies never stop working though their styles are rather different. Teresa is a traditional door basher with feet that must be very sore by now and Anna is more inclined to take a break from the foot work when she can to keep an eye open for photo opportunities.

Anna AnnaI can’t quite imagine Anna with dirt under her fingernails but the blue dungarees suit her just fine and she should be assured of a new career path if she is not elected.

A question you may be asking if you live in the Erith and Thamesmead constituency is “where’s UKIP?”

It must be a dreadful disadvantage to be campaigning on behalf of a party with no established local base when you have full time employment to maintain. I’ve received one leaflet but seen no sign of door stepping or photo posing. It’s probably not a good sign when modern elections are partially fought on social media.

TweetI am still dithering about who to vote for and I really cannot see that changing any time soon.

This morning I was coming around to the view that I would vote Tory as a slightly less bad option than a party whose answer to everything is to tax me more. But then the breakfast time radio news told me that the Tories had absolutely ruled out spending enough to properly defend the country.

If someone comes along and steals your country all the other policies become worthless don’t they? So that’s Cameron out of the running again.

Maybe Anna can save the day as well as the Splash Park, she seems to have all the right connections and more than enough determination.

Perhaps instead of simply taking tea and cakes with the man who would give our country away in order to bribe us with electoral promises, she’d give him a piece of her true blue mind. But what use is a promise from either Right or Left anyway?

Come on Ronie Johnson, where the hell are you?

Your house or Michael’s Anna?


11 April (Part 1) - A meeting of Bexley’s train and bus enthusiasts’ club

ClarkWhen the Transport Users Committee meeting eventually got going with me and my recorder perched on a borrowed chair, chairman Val Clark got close to putting her foot in it. She said that “for the first time ever with these meetings we have a member of the public present” and went on to say “is there anyone sitting around the table who objects to having their picture taken”. Fortunately for councillor Clark none did or we could have been heading for a repeat of the Nicholas Dowling Cheryl Bacon affair now being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service. For the record the photos you see here are all I could be bothered to take.

After the inauspicious start things went moderately well in a rambling sort of way. I found myself wondering what the point of the meetings was. Six councillors (two said nothing) supposedly grilling the police about transport related matters, a man from Southeastern Railway, another from Network Rail, a lady from London Buses and a man who may have been from the fire service. With no agendas provided I did not know who was invited, but the man had LFB embroidered on his jumper. What does a handful of councillors do with the information gained? Very little of it was new to me.

From the police we learned that cycle thefts last year were down to only 34 and that the worst bus routes for crime were the 229 to Thamesmead and the 132 which takes a meandering route to North Greenwich. Sexual assaults on buses were down to six last year.

On Road Safety the statistics were on an improving trend but minor injuries are up. Bexley council has reduced its road safety officers down to only two who are left to lecture and train at all the borough’s schools alone. The Lollypop Lady situation is deteriorating, they are paid very little and compelled to take their own holidays when the schools are shut and thereby have to pay more for accommodation if they go away.

Council officer Stephen Burke said that another 80 cycle stands are to be distributed across the borough, presumably with as much thought as was reported yesterday.

Moving to railway matters there was a brief and rather vague report about the possibility of a lift being installed at Erith station to put an end to the disabled having to go to Dartford in order to catch a train to London.

Cons Various questions were put, mainly by councillor David Leaf, to the Southeastern man about the lack of train capacity. We heard all the usual reasons about insufficient carriages being available and the robbing of Peter to pay Paul to try to equalise the misery. Ditto the Department of Transport’s failure to order enough trains or the right sort of trains and the problems with Woolwich Dockyard and how Greenwich council is absolutely refusing to allow 12 coach trains on the Greenwich line to non-stop through Woolwich Dockyard.

As a regular reader of the excellent From The Murky Depths blog I learned little new of interest except that at any one time only 85 to 90% of trains are serviceable, the others are undergoing maintenance in the depot - of which incidentally there will not be enough if extra coaches can be begged borrowed or stolen from elsewhere. The maintenance teams are being made “to work a bit smarter” in an effort to improve matters.

Other comments amounted to the Slade Green station toilets being closed due to constant vandalism, train punctuality is the best it has been for two years and the temporary lifts at Abbey Wood station are not a good advertisement for the Stannah company.

What else? Oh yes, the new May timetable will introduce all ten car trains on Saturdays on the Greenwich line to cope with increasing demand and the Penalty Fare Tribunal is to be made truly independent. At present the train companies act as judge and jury and the man from Southeastern several times mentioned that his company aims to be more customer friendly. No more admin. charges on refunds is one such move. “Honest mistakes” will not be penalised in future. Mr. Southeastern also said things about his travelling ticket inspector team that he would not thank me for repeating. Something about police service rejects was one of them.

LoopCouncillor Stefano Borella praised the long awaited advertising campaign for the loop line services around the borough - meandering trains to complement the meandering buses one might say - and then Network Rail came in for some criticism over the lack of lighting on the footbridge at Belvedere station.

The lamps had been shot out by a vandal quite a long time ago. However it transpired that that particular footbridge was Bexley council’s responsibility. New lighting has been ordered and should be installed next week ready for Belvedere’s next sharp shooting session.

The bus lady managed to get her microphone working and said that bus usage had risen more steeply in the last year than the four or five previous ones. Up 2·6% instead of the more normal 1·4%.

Consideration was being given to improving bus services to Abbey Wood station to meet Crossrail demands.

Where I live close to Lesnes Abbey there is no direct service to Woolwich and no direct service to Bexleyheath and no direct service to Thamesmead. You can get to all of them on a single bus but they all take you literally around the houses. Before I was given a Freedom Pass and became lazy I would walk from Bexleyheath to Lesnes Abbey when traffic was heavy in the same time as the 229 took and quicker than a 469 (before the route was terminated at Erith).

Councillor Daniel Francis said much the same thing about there being no bus service to Abbey Wood from Belvedere. Good to know that someone from TfL has at last recognised the problem.

BashfordEngineering Manager Andrew Bashford was there defending various decision on road maintenance. I’d not seen him before but he, along with councillors Davey and Craske, provoked me into starting this blog. Bashford was the final straw, he, I think bullshitted me is the correct technical term, when I commented on his plans for Abbey Road, Belvedere.

He probably thought he had pulled a masterstroke by saying that his plans were fully in accordance with Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) reports 641 and 661. He must have expected that to stop me in my tracks because to buy copies of the reports would set me back several hundreds of pounds.

I wasn’t able to reveal the full truth at the time but what Andrew Bashford could not have known is that my son was TRL’s Chief Safety Consultant at the time and those two reports came out of his office. He was also Chairman of the European Union’s committee on vehicle safety. He is neither any more, hence me being able to reveal rather more than I could back then.

As you can imagine it wasn’t too difficult to get hold of copies of the reports and get an on the spot assessment of Bexley’s road design. The words “either malicious or incompetent” stick in my mind, but it was probably both. What I didn’t know back then is that Andrew Bashford is not the only bullshitter in town.


10 April (Part 5) - Parking confusion is a reliable cash cow

Each week I take a look at Bexley council’s Legal & Public Notices - somebody has to. They are frequently less than clear but one from last Wednesday has me stumped.

NoticeThe example is the Cinema Car Park but the same applies to every off street parking place in the borough.

First it lists the tariff, up a massive 50% for season tickets with a discounted rate for Bexley business users. Clear enough if somewhat unpalatable.

Then it tells you where you can park and what you can park and when you can park and how long you may park for. And then it gives the complete tariff. But the only season ticket price listed is the discounted rate. Have I missed something? is Bexley council hiding something, or is there a mistake? Answers on a Penalty Charge Notice to…



10 April (Part 4) - Sidcup. Still annoying people. Not bad for £1·8 million!

When I visit Sidcup I am little more than a tourist passing through, never spending a bean or using any of the services. I am not a typical visitor and Sidcup residents tell me, not unreasonably, that I have little idea how bad things are there. There is no time to look at the new shop fronts which have impressed me if the priority is finding somewhere to park while dashing to the shops or even going there by bike.

So last Wednesday’s trip to Sidcup was provoked solely by a corresondent’s observations, and she was absolutely right. The following owes much to her comments.

The parking trap in Hadlow Road has become well known because of the initial absence of any restriction sign and the excessive number of penalty tickets so caused, but one has been belatedly installed. Not that it stops illegal parking completely.

Car CarThis Ford Mondeo was parked illegally and with one wheel on the footpath for at least 20 minutes while I was speaking to Martin Peaple - the man Bexley council and the police persecuted for warning drivers that there were CCTV cars hiding up side streets near his place of employment.

Martin kindly gave advice to a motorist who parked in front of the Mondeo while I was chatting with him. Bexley council has failed to intimidate him and old habits die hard.

A traffic warden ignored the Mondeo and the reason was fairly obvious. It belonged to the police and its two occupants had popped into the library. (See the photo evidence.)

Forecourt RacksThere used to be cycle racks in the library’s extensive forecourt, but they are not there any more. Instead there are six where you might expect car parking bays to be.

Why Sidcup is deprived of three or four parking spaces when it is widely acknowledged that the town suffers because of its lack of parking provision is beyond comprehension, well almost.

Last night’s Transport Users meeting revealed that Bexley council is going to use cycle stands as cheap street bollards in future. Eighty stands are going in over 52 sites. Nice of Bexley council to use expensive bikes as a substitute for bollards. I wonder how well they will stand up to vehicle impact.

Why Sidcup High Street has ten cycle racks all within 50 yards of each other, there are more across the road, is another mystery that can only be explained by congenital stupidity. More so when you consider that the recently revamped station area, not that far away, has none.

Racks No rackBexley council is keen for people to use their bikes more - something else I heard last night - but in all the time this huge space has existed outside the station and shops no one thought that a few bike racks might come in useful. Not very bright are they?

Maybe a cycling enthusiast made the case more succinctly…

Whenever Bexley council is given money for cycling ends they use it for daft initiatives which fail to benefit anyone rather than making any genuine effort to increase cycle lanes and enable people to use bikes more safely and easily.

The new cycle stands on Hadlow Road, Sidcup are a perfect case in point. Why put these in a location in the road that's better suited to car parking? As a driver I’d rather they were parking spaces and as a cyclist I would rather have parked my bike where the old stands used to be, in the pedestrian area outside the library, under shelter rather than in this exposed area next to the road.

As a motorist I object that the exit from Hadlow Road into the High Street has been reduced from two lanes to one so that it is no longer easy to turn left. Did I not read that a Bexley council priority is keeping traffic flowing freely? They fool no one.

Who designs all this? We’ve effectively lost four car parking spaces where parking is at a premium. Never mind the fact that there are more cycle stands directly across from the top of Hadlow, also exposed to the elements. But no stands at all on the huge expanse of pavement at Station Road, Sidcup. Bad luck if you want to park your bike there.

Actually I think it was probably designed, or at least approved, by Andrew Bashford, Bexley council’s Senior Engineering Manager. He was the individual who spurred me into starting Bonkers by trying to bamboozle me with fake science six years ago. A subject I will briefly return to within the next couple of days.


10 April (Part 3) - Serious accident in Sidcup

I was expecting a visitor around 9:30 this morning and she arrived only a few minutes late but said she was very lucky to have missed the worst of the traffic chaos in and around Sidcup.

Almost simultaneously a text message brought my attention to the same thing and the news popped up on the News Shopper’s website. It said there had been a serious accident between a car and a pedestrian at the junction of Sidcup High Street and Elm Road. This is the central junction by the old police station. So that rules out any connection with the recent regeneration scheme.

Accident AccidentSince then a photo has been submitted said to portray the accident scene. The black car appears to be cordoned off but there is no confirmation that it is the car involved. Why the silver car is stuck where it is I have been unable to ascertain. (See Update below.)

Only last night I heard Bexley’s Road Safety Officer saying how the borough’s accidents statistics were reasonably stable and there was only one fatality last year. Fortunately today’s injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

Awful that the victim had to be taken all the way to Denmark Hill when Queen Mary’s Hospital is only a quarter of a mile away. But I seem to remember the Conservatives reneged on their promise to keep the A&E open.

Update: The photographer has reported that the two markers on the windscreen of the silver car indicate the head impact zone. Whose is unclear. Nor is there any indication of who might be responsible for the accident.


10 April (Part 2) - When the cat’s away…

The coming of webcasts and recording by any member of the public has resulted in sanitized and often dull council meetings with only councillor Philip Read determined to make an idiot of himself. But it wasn’t always thus.

In the good old days when the only witnesses were a few old men from the Bexley Action Group, councillors Craske and Campbell were content to insult them at will safe in the knowledge that any Standards Board (as it was called then) meeting would find them innocent of all wrong doing. Other Conservative councillors would happily aim insults at the Labour “tossers” - sorry, opposition members.

Anyone who has attended council meetings for more than a couple of years will remember those chaired by councillor Val Clark with special affection. Not content with criticising those asking questions she would abuse her position by looking up the addresses of the public present and berating them in letters to their homes. So it was with some sense of nostalgia that I made my way to the council chamber last night for a meeting of the Transport Users Committee chaired by none other than councillor Val Clark.

She was not expecting me.

Empty EmptyShe was not expecting anyone.

Not a single chair was provided other than for committee members. There was no table for any journalist or blogger who might wish to report on the meeting. (Illegal). There were no Agendas available for members of the public which made the meeting very difficult to follow. (Illegal again.)

It was said that the sound system was switched off (probably another offence) so nobody attempted to use it except that towards the end the two Labour members, councillors Borella and Francis, managed to get their microphones to work.

So not the finest hour for democracy in Bexley. The committee had obviously adopted a relaxed attitude free from the public’s gaze and the chairman, for the most part, just sort of sat there and let it happen. The two Labour members observed the tradition of raising their hands to be asked to speak whereas the four Conservatives present (of which only two said anything at all) simply interrupted when they felt like it, cabinet member Don Massey being the principal offender. I wouldn’t say it was bad in the circumstances, it was just a contrast to the usual stage managed meetings that have become the norm.

A few snippets of information were obtained. A brief summary coming later.

Note: The committee officer allowed me to use the chair of a committee member who had not shown up. She was unable to find a table. It’s fortunate that I had not persuaded Mick Barnbrook to come with me or there would be complaints being penned right now.


10 April (Part 1) - New Abbey Ruins

They said it would be demolished on 28th March, then they said it would not be until the beginning of May but it lost its glass facade last Tuesday. Network Rail just cannot get its dates right.

Abbey Wood Station Abbey Wood Station Abbey Wood Station Abbey Wood Station
More Crossrail related blogs.


9 April (Part 4) - Bexley. An increasingly unpleasant place to be

Yesterday’s cabinet meeting had only two items on the Agenda. Schools and persecuting motorists. It should not be left without mention that the public area was laid out perfectly and someone with a clue about setting up sound systems had adjusted it to perfection, or was it just that everyone used the microphones properly? Another good thing was that it was all over in 52 minutes.

LeaderThe schools debate was basically a back-slapping exercise and not totally without reason. Bexley compares quite well under cabinet member John Fuller who does not waste time pursuing political vendettas. In several respects Bexley rates better than similar boroughs both locally and nationally. Unfortunately OFSTED dropped two schools from ‘Good’ to ‘Requires Improvement’ in the past year so there is still work to be done.

The proposal to use the CCTV cars for tracking errant motorists was first touted by councillor Peter Craske before his fall from grace and is back on the agenda because the spy cars can no longer be used against drivers who drop off a passenger for a few seconds and move on. The legislation allows the fixed CCTV system is to be diverted from crime prevention to revenue generation too. How long before Bexley does that? It should have been an interesting debate but it wasn’t. That is because there was no debate.

As usual the decision to spread more misery must have been made behind closed doors long ago or more likely came as a decree from the Great Dictator herself. Instead there was nine minutes of excuses, or rather the same public relations excuse repeated but dressed up in different ways.

Bexley’s Big Brother is to be given new powers not as a money making exercise but to “improve traffic flow and road safety”. If Bexley council had the slightest interest in traffic flow it wouldn’t have narrowed Abbey Road, or reduced the exit from Penhill Road from two lanes to one. Nor would we have seen the pinch points introduced to Bellegrove Road (see also the associated video) which have caused so many accidents.

I can’t honestly say I see a lot of bad driving in and around Bexley. Failure to stay in lane on roundabouts or direction indicate is too common but on the other hand Bexley council builds roundabouts where keeping in lane is impossible. Such offences are not as far as I can see subject to the new regime so maybe Bexley council won’t make as much money as it hopes but constant surveillance with malevolent intent is another step towards an unpleasant environment.

There is no real excuse for driving the wrong way up one-way streets or ignoring No Right Turn signs but expect to see an increasing number of U turn bans and cycle spaces at traffic lights. Because they are not universal they are easily overlooked. They should be good for a few quid.

Box junctions of which there are ten in Bexley are in a class of their own and frequently impossible to obey. I regularly negotiate one on a roundabout on the Newham Barking boundary and if I obeyed it totally when it is busy I would bring the whole of East London to a standstill.

You can’t see the far side exit and however clear you think it might be for a brief moment, someone will barge in from the left, ignoring the usual roundabout rules, and blocking your exit. I suspect that Newham drivers watch rather too many films and documentaries that remind them of home.

A list of enforcement sites has been created from the council’s provisional list.


9 April (Part 3) - Spoilt for choice

FirthLast Sunday I asked Anna Firth - does anyone need reminding that she is Erith & Thamesmead’s Conservative election candidate? - where she was going to get the money that might save Belvedere’s Splash Park from a council hell bent on cuts. I didn’t think it entirely fair that she should apparently muscle in on an existing campaign to save it.

I had been alerted to Anna’s posters in shop windows in Nuxley Road accompanied with comment to the effect that shopkeepers had been deceived by the lack of any reference to Anna’s political allegiance and some were “furious” about it. Then I became aware of opposing views so I thought the acid test might be to see if the posters were still on display best part of a week later.

And so I found myself in Nuxley Road this morning shortly after seven thirty. It was a time dictated by a tight schedule but a mistake nevertheless. Most of the shops had their shutters down. Despite that I found more posters on display today than I did on Sunday.

The conclusion must be that if Anna Firth has infuriated shopkeepers it certainly cannot be all of them.

As I said on Sunday, far too often when I enter a Twitter debate I live to regret it.

Firth Firth Firth Firth
Anna is undoubtedly an intelligent and well connected lady and I suspect she is not entirely devoid of ideas about getting hold of enough cash to deflect Bexley council from its ambitions. Getting her hands on it within the next four weeks will be a tall order but she has very sensibly arranged a meeting with councillor Daniel Francis who has been pursuing the same aims since November. One must hope some good comes of it.

Erith & Thamesmead is very fortunate to have two hard working ladies vying to represent the constituency. One with a proven track record which I more than most have every reason to appreciate - but with a leader who I personally think would be an unmitigated disaster for the country as Prime Minister.

TweetThe other has campaigned tirelessly for the past couple of months such that no one could doubt her enthusiasm and good intentions - but with a leader whose judgment I believe to be seriously flawed and who has disappointed me with almost everything he has done and not done. What a dilemma!

Maybe Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish Nationalist Party) will help me come to a decision. I flicked on the TV last night after returning - via the pub - from the cabinet meeting and caught the end of the televised debate. The anti-Union, ponce off the English, give up on defence midget was berating David Coburn, the UKIP Scottish MEP and former UKIP Bexley chairman, for something I only half caught. It seems to me that anyone who can wind up the little Commie to that extent must have got something right. Unless someone lands a knockout blow I am going to wander into that polling booth with three marked straws. Never has an election been so important and never have I felt so indecisive.


9 April (Part 2) - Memories stirred

Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare’s Retweet about Bernie Grant, the first black MP, took me back a few years. Nearly 40 years in fact.

ReadBack then I worked in the same department of the same company as Bernie Grant and shared an office with his brother.

One was everything you might expect from a junior member of the office team and the other was constantly in trouble being associated with all sorts of misbehaviour including theft of company property and eventually dismissed for it.

Thanks for the memory Abena, I had almost forgotten the old rogue. You obviously never knew him.


9 April (Part 1) - Philip Read - Aiming stones from his glass house

ReadSix members of the public attended last night’s cabinet meeting at Bexley’s Civic Offices. A Labour supporter who has taken a vow of silence, Eliot Smith, Bexley Youth Councillor and devotee of Anna Firth, the three regulars from the Bexley Action Group (Mick Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant and John Watson), and me. As we left, Mick said to me, “is it my imagination or are council meetings becoming more pleasant and friendly?”

It’s not imagination, he is right, or at last partially so. The number of run-of-the-mill councillors, if I may use that term without appearing to be derogatory, prepared to speak or at least acknowledge my existence has been gradually increasing for quite a while and definitely accelerating in recent months but I am not so sure that Mick’s observation is appropriate to a cabinet meeting.

I have yet to have a conversation with the majority of cabinet members which is probably a good indication of the sort of people who Teresa O’Neill would have working with her. Unpleasant individuals including one prepared to assault bloggers whenever the mood takes her.

IrieneOf the eight members of Bexley’s cabinet five have never ever even looked at me and will take avoiding action when necessary and one who once smiled an acknowledgment when I held a door open. Which leaves just John Fuller and Alex Sawyer.

John, I feel sure, is perfectly OK but Alex is a mystery to me. Pleasant enough and always keen to say he understands people’s concerns but I suspect his only loyalties lie with Teresa O’Neill. She who reports bloggers to the police for “criticising councillors” and fails to expose criminals in her midst.

DianaDianaI could be wrong about Alex Sawyer but I have no doubts as to cabinet member Philip Read’s character. Nasty through and through.

Refusing public questions, insulting fellow councillors and picking silly fights on social media are his forté. There was another one of those yesterday - all over a spelling mistake in a UKIP leaflet. These things happen. There was a spelling mistake in a Labour leaflet that popped through my door last month and who could forget the Tories who couldn’t spell their own names last year?

However that didn’t stop the cretinous Read deciding a spelling mistake was the political issue of the day.

TweetHis comment about revealing more of yourself every time you Tweet is absolutely priceless. Labour councillor Danny Hackett hit the nail squarely on the head with his sarcastic retort.

UKIP was no less accurate when they described Philip Read as “a very nasty unpleasant person” which is a version of my own description.

UKIP Bexley went on to say they would block Read from reading their Twitter comments which I wouldn’t have thought was the wisest of moves.

Read predictably made another of his ill-considered but nevertheless priceless comments about people who resort to Twitter’s blocking facility.

TweetIf blocking “tells you everything about them [UKIP]” maybe Philip Read should look in the mirror. He has had me blocked since he first opened his account to public view. It used to be by invitation only.



8 April - Jam today and jam tomorrow

It doesn’t matter which part of the borough you live in, Bexley’s road network is a mess. Major disruptions are the norm but maybe in this election period Bexley council is keen to show impartiality. It is currently dishing out traffic misery to all three parliamentary constituencies.

Sidcup’s year long nightmare continues with another road closure. I do not understand why a junction (Station Road/Hatherley Crescent) that normally delivers four streams of traffic becomes so chaotic when it is able to deliver fewer vehicles to the same place but presumably there are experts around who could explain it. But not within Bexley council evidently as experts might be expected to come up with a better system of traffic control.

Note that absolutely no one is working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup Sidcup

In the centre of the borough the £3·2 million 2013 Bexleyheath Broadway regeneration is being ripped up where the road surface prematurely failed under the weight of traffic. Once again Bexley’s Public Realm department is found lacking. Fortunately, unlike in Sidcup and Northumberland Heath, progress has been quite rapid and should be completed on schedule.
Bexleyheath Bexleyheath Bexleyheath Bexleyheath

In the far north, as if Abbey Wood had not suffered enough already, Harrow Manorway, the main access road into Thamesmead is at a near permanent standstill. A roundabout is being installed to give access to the new Sainsburys store.

The traffic queue frequently extends back to the foot of Knee Hill. The project is not being pursued particularly vigorously and the traffic lights are not intelligently programmed. They turned red as I approached at seven minutes to midnight last night and in the four minutes I sat there waiting not a single vehicle passed in the opposite direction or came up behind me.
Abbey Wood Abbey Wood Abbey Wood Abbey Wood
Abbey Wood Abbey Wood Abbey Wood Abbey Wood
Partly because of the time taken to get around town there has been no time to put the usual fare on line - but there is another council meeting tonight. Bexley’s cabinet is to discuss how they can make motorists’ lives even more miserable by fining them for minor driving indiscretions. They have to pay for their decision not to cut their generous allowances somehow.

All photographs taken today.


7 April - The Greens get my vote

Bexley is home to three parliamentary constituencies so there should be at least a dozen candidate websites to peruse and if the Lib Dems come out of hibernation maybe even more. Some of those websites can be quite hard to find so they have been added to the Bonkers’ main menu (under Politics) and a few of the candidates’ leaflets are available from the Politics Index page.

AboutThe Bonkers website is hand coded which was a possibly silly decision taken six years ago but it allows total flexibility and there is no going back now.

My interest in web code extends to looking under the bonnet of other sites which as a strange obsession ranks only a little worse than watching Anna Firth take on a variety of anonymous Twitter adversaries keen to blame her for all the ills of Bexley council. I suspect she has worked out for herself by now they are a political breed apart - but back to those political websites.

My first experience with a desktop computer was writing a suite of programs that calculated required staffing levels in my employer’s London office and another that swapped accounting information with a trading partner in New York; all on a machine with 27KB (27,648) bytes of memory. Squeezing quarts into pint pots is a habit that lingers on so when a month of Bonkers blogs started creeping towards 4MB (four million bytes) I found it worrying. Hence the new facility which downloads only a single blog when more is not required.

But no one else is very interested in keeping downloads as small as possible.

The front page of Anna Firth’s website is 5,119,172 bytes. James Brokenshire’s is slightly bigger but David Evennett’s campaign site is only a 1,246,416 byte download. Impressive! His ‘My Local Plan’ page is even smaller.

For Labour, Teresa Pearce gets by on a mere two and a half million bytes, Stefano Borella barely breaks the two million barrier but Ibby Mehmet (Old Bexley & Sidcup) will take you over 3MB for a totally contentless front page. A spectacular achievement!

It's UKIP which take the biscuit though. Their front page tips over the eleven million bytes mark and each candidate adds another four! Don’t go there on a PAYG phone.

Outclassing them all on a data to content ratio are the Greens putting their Eco friendly message into practice with a full description of three candidates in only 439,179 bytes. Clear winners for me. Shame about their policies.


6 April - Belvedere Splash Park. Getting in deep

Yesterday’s report on how Anna Firth, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Erith & Thamesmead was getting busy with her Save Belvedere’s Splash Park campaign got me into a little bit of trouble, not that it was unfair but that I had completely failed to mention that Anna’s, to me, obvious bit of politicking didn’t actually admit that she was touting an election poster on behalf of the Conservative Party. It simply failed to say so.

You know and I know that Anna Firth is standing for Parliament but shoppers in Nuxley Road might not. Indeed there have been reports that some of the shopkeepers didn’t know and were furious about the deception.

Then there was the suggestion that I should go and look at the poster again and read the small print, but there was no need. Blow the photo up big enough and it is clear enough. Bexley Conservative councillor Peter Reader has lent his support to the deception. The address shown is his.

Splash Park
The address link might have been proved to your satisfaction by a reference to Bexley council’s website but it is off air again - see below; so here’s an extract from last year’s nomination papers instead. Are all Bexley Conservatives prepared to pull a fast one when asked? Reader
Anna Firth has said on Twitter that she tried to contact the residents’ Splash Park campaigners via Facebook but received no reply. That may well be true, the Facebook page has been close to dead all year. It might have been better if she had contacted Labour councillor Daniel Francis instead. He knows the local area rather better than a Sevenoaks councillor and is not without his own ideas on how the park might be saved. I’m sure he would have welcomed a pooling of resources.


5 April - Walking in, taking over and having it both ways

When I met Anna Firth (Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Parliamentary Candidate) I found her easy to get on with and her policies appealed to a lapsed Conservative like me. Unlike her, I try to steer away from provocative statements on Twitter. Too often when I post a comment there I soon regret it. Anna recognised its dangers too and wondered whether it was a productive use of time. Whatever her private view of Twitter might be it has not stopped her being a prolific contributor.

If I have commented on it it’s been on BiB rather than Twitter. In particular that Mrs. Firth possibly over egged her photos of piles of rubbish in the street while apparently believing that no one had ever done that before. Today however I stepped into the Twitter fray with a comment about Anna’s Splash Park petition. I have not as yet regretted it.

TweetsAs you will know, I don’t think Bexley council will take any notice of a petition, the only language they understand is hard cash.

Belvedere’s Labour councillor Daniel Francis has been running around for months seeking a money tree and has had some success. Cory Environmental which runs the Belvedere incinerator is always good for a decent donation - hence the Cory Bridge over the A2016 in Thamesmead - and there have been plenty of hints in the council chamber that another £100,000 or so might be forthcoming. Councillor Sawyer has said often enough that if - and only if - the money is found to save the Splash Park it will be saved.

I have no idea from where Anna Firth thinks she might get more money but maybe it helps to have a husband who is a top banker, and I would not entirely discount Bexley Tories deciding they can afford to save the park and attempting to give Anna the credit.

If Anna Firth can find the money it will be well done her but as has been said many times, petitions, deputations and consultations in Bexley are a complete waste of time, so the posters that have been going up in the local shops are entirely political in nature.

The shopping street shown below is Nuxley Road, Belvedere and prominent is Flynn’s Bakery. It has a copy of Anna Firth’s Conservative poster in its window (Small photo 3) and so does the hairdresser (Photos 1 and 2). It’s not very common for individual shops to support a political party as it risks annoying half their customers. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are removed by Tuesday when the owners realise they have been duped.

The ‘official’ Splash Park campaign poster is shown in Photo 4.

Nuxley Road
Splash Park poster Splash Park poster Splash Park poster Splash Park poster
Before the election countdown started, Teresa Pearce (Erith & Thamesmead Parliamentary Labour candidate) expressed the hope to me that that constituency’s campaign would be a clean one. I suppose that would be too much to ask with Philip Read involved. As a still floating voter I am deeply suspicious of a leading member (until very recently a committee member) of Erith & Thamesmead Tories proposing the Splash Park closure while his chosen Parliamentary Candidate works to keep it open and attempts to take over and divide the residents’ petition.

As yet Anna Firth has not done anything very obvious that might save the Splash Park while, largely unseen it is true, Belvedere Labour councillor Daniel Francis has fought against the “the splash park has got to close” mentality of certain Tories and secured a rethink of the closure proposal and found a few extra quid too. If Anna is the one who finds the money to save it it will be because of an underhand back room deal.


4 April - Battle for Old Manor Way playground taken to council chamber

Old Manor Way Councillor Brenda Langstead was intrigued by the fact that the petition against Bexley council’s proposal to close the Old Manor Way playground was on the council’s website when, for example, the Belvedere Splash Park is denied that facility even though its closure would have much wider implications and it has four times the Facebook support. No one seems to know the answer.

Another question the councillor might have asked is why the campaign was allowed an audience with the cabinet member in the council chamber when others have had to make do with scout huts and public houses. Somebody is running an extraordinarily effective campaign or perhaps councillors are worried for their seats. If as few as 150 people had placed their cross elsewhere last May Barnehurst would have been represented by three UKIP councillors. In fact, those at the count, looking at piles of votes thought the Tories had lost, but something unexplained happened at the last minute.

I briefly considered going to the campaign’s council meeting on Thursday evening but it felt a little too close to being an intrusion and in any case when I offered to carry campaign messages or reports on BiB there was no reply. They are fully able to report progress on their own Facebook page.

In the event a report not unlike one I might have written has been penned by Steve Keene. Everyone interested in how Bexley council operates should read it. The playground is going to close, no amount of protesting will save it. The council has already made it very clear that unless all the cabinet’s proposals and cuts go ahead in full, it will go broke. Bye bye Old Manor Way playground.


3 April (Part 2) - Forgetting one cross to steal another

It must have been around 1971 that some shops stopped observing Good Friday and remained open for business. I remember my mother becoming very annoyed by it and to show her contempt took part in a church organised procession down the High Street for several years following. Now the only thing that is obviously different on Good Friday is that the postman doesn’t call.

Well maybe not just the postman, our Labour parliamentary candidates stopped banging on doors too. But not the lady in blue.
Teresa Anna
My mother would have given Anna a piece of her mind for calling on such a Holy day.


3 April (Part 1) - Scrutinising People again

James HuntThe last time I went to one of James Hunt’s People Scrutiny meetings it dragged on for more than three and a half hours thanks in part to the extensive line up of guest speakers. On Wednesday there was little of that and the Agenda was a mere 45 pages instead of 194 but any hopes I might have for an early night were not realised.

Councillors droned on for nearly three hours and I was struggling to find highlights that might make interesting blog reading. Prospective MPs presumably attend for very different reasons to me. (See Stefano Borella’s Tweet below.)

After 80 minutes the five members of the public present had reduced to just me and as the evening progressed the number of councillors heading for the door went from trickle to procession. I had decided to leave at either ten o’clock or the end of Agenda Item 8, whichever came first. Probably the wrong decision but outside the chamber at ten o’clock I exchanged friendly words with a total of five councillors who were variously, stretching their legs, clutching a drink, heading for the toilets, who were wondering how much longer the meeting could possibly go on for.

TweetI don’t think it’s chairman Hunt’s fault. He doesn’t permit councillors to be too rambling or do anything other than ask a question but answers can be expansive rather than succinct or precise. The longer they are the more likely it is that they are excuses for failure.

The real problem with scrutiny meetings since the last election can be laid at council leader Teresa O’Neill’s door. Reducing the number of committees from seven to three was supposed to reduce the opportunity for scrutiny but meetings go on for twice as long instead.

TweetThe younger councillors have been heard complaining that the minds of their elders begin to drift towards cocoa and hot water bottles by nine thirty. It’s probably true but given a few more years the younger ones may become a little more sympathetic.

Jeff BootheThe new police chief put in a brief appearance. He told us that he had been with the British Transport Police but as if to apologise for that assured everyone he had experience in a number of northern cities too. The borough wide dawn raids last Tuesday had resulted in 57 people arrested and charged, and with that he was gone.

My superficial judgment is that Jeff Boothe seemed to be a decent bloke and I know that some who have met him in a one to one situation have been impressed but the same was said of two out of three of his predecessors and all three of them are currently under investigation for covering up Bexley council’s criminal activities.

Maybe both Bexley council and the local police have learned the error of their ways and we will never see a repetition of such things. One can hope.

15 minutes into the meeting the first question was thrown into the arena, it came from councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) who as vice-chairman was paid £750 for sitting down for three hours. He provided cabinet member Philip Read with an excuse to speak about the recent lifting of the Children’s Services Improvement Notice issued by the Department for Communities.

Read managed to speak for four minutes without any serious attempt at insulting fellow councillors. There was an oblique reference to Mabel Ogundayo - “it gives the lie to some of the things we have heard from other people” - and he revisited his ‘60% permanent staff’ claim without any attempt to deceive listeners that the figure for social workers was not yet that good.

This was not the Read of old and his message this time was very much in line with what was heard at the Children’s Social Care Sub-Committee meeting. The new found honesty from cabinet member Philip Read must be good news for the borough but bad for those who look for entertainment on these pages.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) graciously acknowledged the efforts of the staff who had worked for the breakthrough on the path to a fully acceptable service. Peace in our time?

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) was concerned about schools not meeting the needs of SEN children and asked what might be done to encourage the schools. She was told that there was already a team of specialist teachers working on that problem.

Councillor Ross Downing’s (Conservative, Cray Meadows) question was answered by cabinet member John Fuller with some impressive statistics including the doubled number of companies offering apprenticeships in the borough.

Soon after all the other members of the public had succumbed to boredom and departed, councillor Sharon Massey (Conservative, Danson Park) livened things up by making a bid for the £8,802 job of chairman. She judged that councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP, St. Michael’s) had strayed a little from the straight and narrow and decided he should be stopped in his tracks.

“Don’t identify the public by name”

MasseyPerhaps councillor Massey should hold her tongue more often.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) wondered why Trading Services was carrying out inspections at premises where fireworks are sold now rather than at the obvious time of the year. No answer was forthcoming.

Councillor Langstead was curious about how the Save Old Manor Way Playground petition had managed to worm its way on to the council’s website when other equally worthy petitions, she mentioned the Slade Green Communities and Belvedere Splash Park, had not. No one knew the answer to that question either.

Councillor Brenda Langstead was not at all sure that the council would be able to provide the new legal minimums for domiciliary care at the very low fees Bexley council has been prepared to offer care agencies. The Acting Director of Adult Social Care, Tom Brown, chose his words very carefully. He said the council could not pay more than it could afford and if payments were raised to recommended levels it would cost £2 million. (†)

He was however trying to ensure that care workers would no longer be expected to be in four different places at the same time. Mr. Brown hesitantly said he was working in partnership with the home care providers but he sounded like a man who had no confidence in his own words. He will have been put in an impossible position by the cuts to front line service budgets. (†)

Earlier in the discussion of domiciliary care services, councillor Sharon Massey commented that her company, Supreme Home Care, takes “no work from Bexley council intentionally”, effectively scotching any rumours to the contrary.

Newman Newman SmashListening to the meeting a second time, it was surprising to discover it was less tedious than ‘in the flesh’. I suspect this may be due to the sound quality, depending on the speaker, in the chamber being so poor that the temptation is to give up listening. The recording turned up reasonably loud is less of a strain on the ear ’oles.

Nevertheless is is still tempting to say that the most interesting observation on April 1st was councillor Seán Newman’s decision to abandon Messrs. Gillette and Wilkinson. That and the smashed glass panel just outside the chamber. Who lost their temper with whom?

Note: The two paragraphs suffixed (†) are summaries taken from the webcast as I left 20 minutes before the meeting ended.


2 April (Part 2) - Crossrail - A postscript

I found it difficult to understand why residents around Abbey Wood station would not know the source of the noise over the weekend of 21st and 22nd March. Surely they would have seen what was going on at the end of Wilton Road, but maybe Network Rail does bear a little responsibility after all.

Their circular to neighbouring properties said the bridge demolition was scheduled for 28th and 29th and does not emphasise that the overnight noise would be very considerable.
It was dated 5th March and presumably plans are subject to frequent change. The email notification I received on the 19th March said the bridge span would come down on the 21st and was accurate almost to the minute. On the other hand it said the station building would be demolished last weekend and it is still standing.

I have a copy of Network Rail’s distribution list for their warning notices and I would guess it was prepared by someone who had not taken a good look at the A-Z. In some directions the area covered extends 600 yards or so from the station, in others not even 200. Everyone invited to their Liaison Panel has provided an email address. Using those addresses would at least keep the panel members happy even if the average man in the street is still able to claim ignorance.


2 April (Part 1) - Erith Quarry plans - A postscript

I chose not to go to the Erith Quarry planning meeting on the grounds that the unanimous vote in favour of building over most of it was a foregone conclusion. Another factor was that a comprehensive summary of a council meeting takes longer than the meeting itself even when I have witnessed it and jotted down the times of any interesting comment. That time can be doubled when working from a webcast recording and spare time of that magnitude is simply not available. In any case, I assumed that the quarry approval would be adequately reported elsewhere. In the event it may not have been, hence the following few words.

While I was employed by BT and its predecessors I twice came across situations where councils requested inducements to allow planning applications which has probably coloured my view of planning departments in general, not that I have ever come across hard evidence that that sort of thing happens in Bexley - only a couple of reports from people who quickly disappeared when I suggested they might be viewed as equally culpable. Probably anything remotely like a brown envelope is a hopelessly out of date concept; what you have to do now is offer to build a school for nothing.

This is what is to happen at Erith Quarry. In return for a much needed school Bexley council has turned its back on its aspirations towards 50% affordable homes and conveniently overlooked the need for a Viability Assessment on the site.
Affordable homes
Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare put the case for affordable homes on behalf of the Labour Group of Bexley council. She was ignored as is to be expected. There will be no affordable homes in Erith Quarry because if the house prices are not kept high the developer would not be able to afford to build the school.

As if the school is not a big enough bonus for Bexley council, it is going to take money from it (The Community Infrastructure Levy) and give nothing back. It will not even be adopting the roads which means the householders will pay service charges to a management company as well as council tax to Bexley and all the council will have to do is empty the bins.

Bexley council rarely takes any notice of planning objections but in this case any objectors never stood a chance. The grass snakes in the quarry may be in grave danger but there is no shortage of vipers in the council chamber.


1 April (Part 2) - The Quarry Men

I have spent more time than was probably sensible looking at the archived two and a half hour webcast of last night’s Erith Quarry planning meeting and my prediction of what probably happened was as accurate as I thought it would be. It’s pointless - well there is not enough time - to do a formal report but there is one short section that brought me up with a jolt especially as I had only just read this morning’s Tweet from my friendly neighbourhood Bobby.

He said that there had been no burglaries in Thamesmead (Bexley side) or Lesnes Abbey in the last four weeks.

TweetCouncillor John Davey, once useless in Lesnes Abbey, now plaguing Crayford knows better than PC Chris Molnar.

This is what caveman Davey said. Apologies for the dreadful sound quality provided by Bexley council’s expensive sound system. How can it be so much worse than my tiny recorder ‘miles’ from the speakers?

This short clip has been slightly edited to make it clear that the most important statement does refer to Thamesmead. The original occurs around the one hour twenty minute mark of the webcast.


1 April (Part 1) - Crossrail attempts to calm the masses

Last night presented a choice between a Bexley council planning meeting where the Erith Quarry development was due to be approved without any care for the loss of wildlife habitat, land contamination by everything from asbestos to, allegedly, unexploded bombs and no affordable homes, and the Crossrail Community Liaison Panel. I chose the Liaison Panel only five minutes walk from home over the webcast planning meeting. I’m reasonably confident that my brief blind description of it won’t be too far adrift, I’ve seen quite enough of Bexley’s meetings to know that the result will have been pre-arranged with a few fake objections thrown in by Conservative members who will then vote for anything likely to raise some cash.

LiftThe Liaison Panel was once again chaired by Greenwich councillor Steve Offord but compared to the previous one this was rather shambolic. An hour and a half was spent answering the questions raised at that first meeting and all we really learned was that the central handrail on the station footbridge has run into legal problems. This red tape bedevilled country apparently has regulations about the width of station stairways. Stannah, the lift company, hasn’t been able to equip their unreliable lifts with RADAR key access because they don’t know what a RADAR key is.

The shambolic nature of the first 90 minutes was not really the chairman’s fault, although his comment to the effect that no one realised just how serious a problem parking would be, was really rather startling. Surely everyone local knew what would happen as soon as it was announced that two out of three car parks would close and street parking in half a dozen or more nearby roads was to be restricted or banned?

Neither was it the fault of Ben White (Community Relations Manager for Crossrail) or Jason Hamilton (Network Rail Project Manager) who always listen sympathetically and patiently to the problems they are inevitably creating and do their utmost to solve them. The same cannot be said of the Southeastern Railway representative who fluctuated between not being able to answer the questions and intransigence. No doubt commuters will recognise the management style.

CrossrailSteve Offord’s ‘mistake’, not that there was any real alternative in the circumstances, was to take umpteen questions from elderly residents who have not been paying attention. What has been going on around Abbey Wood station has been no great mystery but people who lived close by were apparently unaware that the concrete footbridge was being prepared for demolition. It was an extremely noisy operation and normal conversation in the adjacent streets was impossible, but to live 200 yards away and remain in such ignorance of what was going on that a site visit at 3 a.m. was called for seems odd to me.

Cross QuarterThere was a tendency for Crossrail to be blamed for the Cross Quarter (Sainsbury’s) development too. It has caused a bus stop to be very inconveniently closed (until 27th May) and it was said that it was forcing people to run across the road. But there is an underpass, although it would put an extra two or three hundred yards on the journey.

Cross Quarter has caused serious traffic delays and I have been caught up in them but to suggest the tail back goes up Knee Hill and along Brampton Road is surely far fetched?

Someone from Bexley’s traffic department suggested that the Wilton Road parking problems should be addressed by a separate meeting, apparently unaware that Greenwich council had taken that initiative two weeks earlier.

Following a brief visual presentation Jason Hamilton (Network Rail) explained what was to happen in the immediate future, some of which will not be news to Bonkers’ readers. Gayton Road will be disrupted imminently for 16 weeks while the utility services are rerouted well away from the new station building and according to Bexley’s traffic representative, two-way working in Wilton Road will be for one weekend only while Gayton Road is resurfaced at the end of the 16 weeks.

The old station building will be “folded in on itself” during one of the scheduled line closures “in eight or nine weeks’ time”.

After the meeting closed I asked Jason what was done during last weekend’s line closure. The answer was that 4,000 tons of ballast was delivered via the North Kent line and tipped over the new track to secure it all within about three hours. By May an eastbound route from Plumstead station will provide direct access to the newly laid Crossrail track so that materials to kit out the tunnels can be delivered by train.

Four Bexley councillors attended the meeting and Teresa Pearce put in a brief appearance before rushing off to see the Erith Quarry proposals nodded through.

More Crossrail related blogs.

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