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Bonkers Blog July 2015

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13 July - Cheats and crooks

Bexley council is built on disinformation and deception and occasionally downright fraud and criminality.

LeafletThe first item on today’s Agenda is a leaflet being distributed in Northumberland Heath where councillor Philip Read is the shameless culprit.

It’s the same situation as was seen two weeks ago when the Conservative message was that Bexley Labour was against Small Business Rates Relief. They aren’t of course but the Tories contrived a situation whereby it was all or nothing when voting on their budget proposals.

This time the deceitful message is that Bexley Labour was against spending money on Children’s Services. A particularly outrageous claim, not because the all or nothing rule applies again, but because it was the Conservative’s cuts and neglect of Children’s Services that led to it becoming by far the worst in London and getting an appalling OFSTED Report.

I imagine councillor Read will be running short of positive messages with which to bamboozle voters very soon. May I suggest he adopts some of the following from the same all or nothing budget proposals?

• Bexley’s Conservative council voted to sell off 27 (since reduced to 26) public parks and open spaces. Labour voted against it.
• Bexley’s Conservative council voted to decrease expenditure on Adults’ Services by 28%. Labour voted against it.
• Bexley’s Conservative council voted to increase parking charges by up to 50%. Labour voted against it.
• Bexley’s Conservative council voted to degrade the recycling services. Labour voted against it.
• Bexley’s Conservative council voted to reduce road cleaning. Labour voted against it.
• Bexley’s Conservative council voted to close libraries unless volunteers come forward. Labour voted against it.

I could go on and arguably it is a silly technique to pick whatever suits the situation from a single composite budget; but it’s exactly what the North Heath Numpty does in his silly leaflets.

As dishonesty goes, that is pretty minor stuff. Let me move on to Agenda Item 2.

Craske and TippettThis is the extraordinary dishonesty to be found in Bexley’s Parking Department. It’s been mentioned before but one aspect bubbled to the surface just a month ago. It concerns Bexley council’s dishonest relationship with the bailiffs who chase unpaid parking fines.

They have been up to no good since at least 2011 when the pair seen here (Greg Tippett and Peter Craske) were in charge of parking. In 2012 the Local Government Ombudsman came down on them like a ton of bricks and ordered their bailiffs’ malpractice to stop. They didn’t. They carried on regardless. They still are.

Other London boroughs employing the same bailiffs and the same dishonest contracts were also told to mend their ways. Hackney and Waltham Forest did, so the bailiffs must know what is legal and what is not.

However it is worse than that. Very senior officials at Bexley council know that their parking department is acting outside the law but have also chosen to do nothing about it. Their Legal Department and their Internal Auditors have said in no uncertain terms that the law is being broken wholesale. The problem is that they have done nothing to ensure their views are actioned.

I have access to the Internal Auditor’s report in the sense that a copy has been made available to the agent acting on my behalf and I can ask in general terms what it says, but I am unable to make it publicly available. To that end I requested a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.

Stevens and FrizoniAn internal report in which one part of Bexley council labels another part a bunch of crooks guilty of maladministration on the grand scale was never going to be handed over without a fight. My application was of course rejected on any pretext that could be cobbled together.

Dave HoganThe man whose misfortune it was to have to cobble together the excuses was Dave Hogan, Head of Internal Audit, pictured right, but don’t blame him, he would be under instructions from the Director of Finance or even the Chief Executive. His job may depend on protecting a totally corrupt council.

My request must therefore go for review and when that is rejected too it will go to the Information Commissioner. My agent has handled a good number of such cases and knows the ropes. Sooner or later the reports get into the public domain.

To be honest I prefer it when Bexley council plays hard ball. I get an opportunity to embarrass them three or four times instead of just once. They never learn.

My agent describes Bexley as just about the most dishonest council he has come across. Many get caught out, most of them then put their wrongs right. Some fight and end up in court and humiliated on TV. But Bexley is the first to have fully recognised the crookedness of their ways - originally in 2012 when the LGO stepped in - but decided against monitoring the situation to see that the criminal activity ceased. My agent calls it “a conspiracy to defraud the public”. He expects heads to roll eventually. Care to nominate some? Mike Frizoni, pictured above with Ben Stevens, has already gone.


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