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Bonkers Blog June 2015

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30 June (Part 3) - Barriers to Boundaries

A postscript to yesterday’s report about the Working Group set up to deal with the Boundaries Commission issues is that a Freedom of Information request for minutes of meetings and similar documents has been rejected by Bexley council on the grounds that it would be “prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs”. My underlining of what looks to be more than a little ironic to me.

Disclosure would also “inhibit the free and frank provision of advice”. Like “for God’s sake don’t let them impose single councillor wards” perhaps?


30 June (Part 2) - Almost lying

LeafletAlongside this text is an extract from the leaflet (click it to see it all) which councillors Read and Reader were distributing when I passed through Northumberland Heath on Sunday. I was on my way to see the Civic Parade; the disrespectful Tory pair was more interested in spreading misinformation.

The Labour councillors did rather ask for it, the Tories are constantly setting electoral traps and the opposition has a tendency to fall straight into them.

It is true that the Labour Group, and UKIP, voted against Business Rate Tax Relief because they were unhappy with the whole of Bexley’s budget. A budget which has seen off-street car parking charges rise by 50%, the removal of concessions for Residents’ Parking Permits, additional ways to fine road users, the introduction of a bin tax, the closure of libraries and the Belvedere Splash Park and the sale of numerous parks and playgrounds.

There was no opportunity to vote for or against individual sections of Bexley’s Conservative budget. There were dozens of unpopular things in it and arguably one popular thing. Read and Reader are shamelessly exploiting it.

A similar leaflet on a red background would show a very different and possibly more damaging story.


30 June (Part 1) - Almost Barking

News reportHas Bexley fallen out of love with Bromley and why do we still need so many over paid Directors?

“It is expected to save Havering Council £40 million by 2018 – £10·6 million annually. In his email, seen by the Recorder, Mr. Huff said “initial discussions” were taking place with Bexley.”

Click image for the full report in the Romford Recorder.


29 June (Part 3) - Secrecy has no boundaries

It’s a whole month since Bexley council announced that the public would not be allowed to be present at their Boundaries Commission meeting. When pressed for the reason why the public couldn’t attend a sub-meeting of the General Purposes Committee the council came up with the novel excuse that this wasn’t a Sub-Committee meeting but a Working Group meeting.

Everything Bexley council does is governed by some law or other, or to be more precise in these particular circumstances, by their Constitution or possibly their Standing Orders.

The rules relating to Sub-Committee meetings are clear enough - the public can attend, but what about Working Groups? What does the Constitution (or Standing Orders) have to say about them?

A freedom of Information Request sought a copy of the relevant rule and the answer was…

There are no provisions in the Council’s Constitution for ‘Working Groups’ as they are not formal Committees or Sub-Committees of the Council.

So there it is in black and white. The council has handed over detailed discussions about the number of councillors who should represent each ward to an unconstitutional clique which meets informally down the pub, or somewhere - and you, the public, are not welcome. In the immortal words of councillor Linda Bailey. “We can do what we like.”


29 June (Part 2) - Senseless councils. Lawless supermarkets

Harrow Manorway is the main North South thoroughfare from most of the borough of Bexley into Thamesmead, some would say it is the only North South access route. It is busy now and by the time Sainsbury’s opens next month and Crossrail three years hence it will be an awful lot busier. So what has Bexley council done to help handle the traffic?

It, aided and abetted by Greenwich council, has made some reductions to the road width at various points from where it crosses the railway line through to Yarnton Way, introduced a roundabout which for larger vehicles and most small ones is quite impossible to negotiate without changing lanes and permitted bus stops opposite pedestrian refuges adjacent to that roundabout and on both sides of it.

Now, in accordance with the published plan, a second light controlled pedestrian crossing has been installed. Traffic congestion can only get worse.

It is not even a well positioned crossing. No one is going to cross left to right (as shown in Photos 1 and 2 below) and then turn right again because that route leads only to the subway that goes back under the road.

And anyone approaching from the background area of those photographs is likely to cross the road nearer the roundabout using the aforesaid pedestrian refuge because that will be a shorter route into the supermarket.

A small subject change now to the notice that has appeared in Sainsbury’s doorway. It looks as though the company’s new store is trying to corner the Sunday trade. It plans to keep open until 10 p.m. Local branches of Lidl, Morrisons and Asda all shut at 4 p.m.
Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Sainsburys Sainsburys
Many will find that useful I am sure but unfortunately it is against the law.
Trading Law
Maybe this branch of Sainsbury’s will be classed as a rail terminal branch for which there are exemptions. Click image above to see, or visit the relevant government website.

All photos : 28th June 2015.


29 June (Part 1) - Priests and prayers. Police and parkers

The end of the month again, a time when the more important news is held over for the new month, so today just a bit of trivia.

Lesnes Abbey is frequently the setting for wedding photos and the occasional religious service. One such event was held yesterday and in common with all the others caused minor local parking difficulties. Generally one or two residents find their own vehicles trapped on their own drive.
Coptefield DriveCoptefield Drive
Whilst parking across dropped kerbs (Photo 2 below) may be inconsiderate there is always one parker who does something rather special. This time it was parking in the cycle track. (Photo 3.)

The local PCSO waited around in the sunshine to have a friendly word. He has no power to issue a penalty, that’s solely a Bexley council job and on Sundays they tend to restrict themselves to the richer pickings to be had in town centres.
Parking Parking Parking Parking


28 June (Part 2) - A well organised parade through virtually empty streets

Bexley’s annual Civic Parade has either got to be better advertised or it should be accepted that most residents are not interested. It is disappointing, but apathy was today’s most noticeable feature.

The 229 bus took a full hour (almost half of it waiting) to get me from Abbey Wood to Bexleyheath Clock Tower and when I arrived with fewer than five minutes to spare before the parade was scheduled to start my first thought was that I had got the day wrong. There was nobody there.

It wasn’t a lot better outside Christ Church (Photo 1) where spectators were massively outnumbered by participants. Nowhere along the route to the Civic Offices were there any more than sporadic handfuls of shoppers who took time out to gawp.
Parade This is very unfortunate as a great deal of effort goes into getting the show on the road each year and it is pretty well organised.
Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade
Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade
Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade
As may be seen from the photos above, the streets were virtually empty from Christ Church through to the Civic Offices. This is probably because unlike in previous years no focal point had been erected in the town centre which would have caught the attention of passing shoppers and been a more fitting terminating point than the Civic Offices’ car park.
Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade
Moving the conclusion to the service area behind the Civic Offices had the unfortunate effect of discouraging the few members of the public who had watched from the sidelines from following through the security gates and the only people there were either parents of the young participants or otherwise related to the older ones. The fact that the service area was full of parked cars (Photo 20 below) did nothing to assist arrangements.

The new Mayor, councillor Sybil Camsey made a speech, short and sweet, her words of thanks to the organisers well chosen, delivered and sounded sincere. I mouthed “well done” as she passed another test with flying colours. She went on to speak to many of the participants, young and old.
Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade Civic Parade
Elsewhere in town traffic was widely disrupted. Probably more people stuck in stationary cars than lining the streets. Many of course deliberately stayed away. My outward bus journey passed through Northumberland Heath where councillors Philip Read and Peter Reader were accosting passers by with a stack of blue leaflets in their hands. In fact most councillors boycott the Civic Parade. Are the sermons at Christ Church so very bad?
Whilst running from one site to another a BiB reader caught up with me to say he had been speaking to a Bexley council official, quite a senior one, and he was told that “everything you read on Bexley is Bonkers is wrong”. Even allowing for a degree of loss in translation I do wonder if so much is wrong why they never contradict it. It would also be interesting to hear them explain away the documentary evidence that suggests that BiB is far from being usually wrong and how they know it is since most of them deny ever reading it.

Later today a link to Brian Barnett’s (Photo 5 in blue shirt) website will appear here. I imagine his photos will be very different to those above. He likes to get in close.

112 photos now available on Photo Bucket.


28 June (Part 1) - Bexley’s Children’s Services. Still generating discontent

Highlighting anything to do with Bexley council’s children’s services is a guaranteed way of provoking a response from readers. There is a lot of discontent about.

Three months ago I hired a room so that several aggrieved parents could meet and share information, identify the biggest liars among Bexley council’s social workers etc. I hoped that the parents might learn something from each other to help combat the dishonesty among Bexley council’s staff which they were all so concerned about.

I have heard of some parents making a little progress since then but it is obviously a subject which cannot be reported without prejudicing the outcomes and anonymity must be a priority. Social workers must not know which of them might eventually get a mention in these pages.

However publishing this email from within Bexley council cannot do any harm.

They stopped overtly sacking people and changed to just moving them out but if you compare 2012’s organisational structure to a later one you can see how many heads rolled.

Three heads of service - Ruth Murdoch; Mel Newell and Brendan Ring and several senior managers - too many for this to be coincidental.

The extent to which Sheila Murphy will go to sanitise findings is shown by her appointment of Rory Patterson as Independent Chair of the Serious Case Review published in 2013.

He was her former line manager who remains a personal friend with whom she regularly has dinner.

Far from independent and a disgusting choice in respect of a review that should focus on the well being of a child, the performance of social care and lessons learned - and not back-covering. There was a report some years ago - the Betts report - which identified significant areas of improvement within Bexley Children's Services. - it was commissioned by the council but buried by Murphy who continues to refute any criticism about the way in which her service is operating.

Nick Johnson would never have allowed this to happen on his watch.

Nick Johnson was the previous Chief Executive. I can only assume that Betts is councillor Nigel Betts. Sheila Murphy is the current Director for Children’s Services who has been widely reported to be a close confidante of council leader Teresa O’Neill.

There is more that could be published about the department that councillor Philip Read is so keen to demonstrate is transformed. Maybe it is but its past is shameful and that past lingers on to the detriment of many families.


26 June (Part 2) - Crossrail gets ready for utility diversion

Crossrail CrossrailBefore Network Rail can start building Abbey Wood’s station, water, gas, electricity and telecommunications services must be diverted around the site. The conduits under the railway line were finished a month ago and the new Felixstowe Road is rapidly emerging. Now it’s Gayton Road’s turn. These pictures show progress over the last two weeks

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

And now for something very different; the concrete laying machine which will construct the track bed through the tunnels waits in Plumstead sidings. Delivered by road because rail access is not yet complete.
Unusually for a full width photo, the one above expands when clicked. More Crossrail related blogs.


26 June (Part 1) - Bridge on the River Cray

I was hoping that there would be significant interest in the Cray bridge replacement and that the chairman of the Planning Committee might feel obliged to move the debate to the beginning of the meeting, but my hopes were misplaced. However chairman councillor Peter Reader did rather better than that. He announced that the item had been removed from the Agenda entirely. If I heard him correctly, and the audio system was not at its best, he said that there had been representations from the Environment Agency. So with a sense of relief that I had an unexpected night off, I packed up my camera etc. and trooped out, accompanied by meeting regulars John Watson and Elwn Bryant. Presumably no one else was interested in the bridge.
Later in the evening I was in Bexley village and was surprised to see that the bridge was closed and enquiries revealed that it has closed at 8 p.m. since Tuesday. Thames Water works if the Public Notice dated 10th June is to be believed.


25 June (Part 2) - People against park vandals

Next Tuesday there is to be a Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting and Item 5 on the Agenda is the presentation of a petition to save the Old Manor Way Children’s Playground which is under threat from a cash strapped council intent on doing more damage to its leisure infrastructure than the Abbey Arsonists.

The petitioners will ensure that I am not the only witness to the sad spectacles that habitually unfold in the council chamber and traditionally the presence of public opposition brings out the worst in councillors more used to operating within a closed self-serving bubble.

The more that turn out to see how this bunch of inadequates operates the better. No doubt the petitioners will be gathering outside the Civic Offices by seven fifteen for photo opportunities and the like. Give them your support if you possibly can.
As far as I know, no decision has yet been taken to sell off Old Manor Way Playground. Unlike most of Bexley’s schemes to attack residents, this one may stand some chance of being defeated by public pressure and irrefutable facts. It’d be a first.


25 June (Part 1) - People and Police plus Pinky and Perky

Because of time constraints this is only a brief summary of Tuesday’s People Scrutiny Committee meeting written from contemporaneous notes and a bit of memory thrown in. If time permits the recording will be reviewed at the weekend but no promises. For those who simply must have more detail there is always the webcast to fall back on. Webcasts were due for review in May and the official result has not been made public, but presumably money has been found to keep the leader happy.

James HuntJames Hunt is definitely getting on top of his unwieldy committee and managed to trim an hour and 20 minutes off the worst excesses of the past by galloping through his Agenda whenever possible, disallowing questions whenever he could and still making time for the occasional lame joke. Saddled as he is by She Who Must Be Obeyed with more than forty people around the table he has no real alternative. Whether that makes for good scrutiny is another matter entirely, but minimum scrutiny was what SWMBO intended.

I was the only member of the public present which was one more than UKIP managed to muster for the occasion. It may give the wrong impression but in practice it doesn’t make a lot of difference whether UKIP opts out or not. Half the Tories may as well not turn up as they just sit there praying for the end to come quickly. From memory I think all the Labour members managed a question on something or other. Councillor Brenda Langstead won the prize for having most questions rejected. That is, all of them.

Jeff Boothe Early on in the proceedings police Commander Jeff Boothe was asked about legal highs and whether they were a problem locally and I have seen an awful lot of those Nitrous Oxide canisters littering Abbey Wood recently but if there was an answer to the question I must have nodded off for a moment.

Councillor Alan Downing, an ex-policeman himself seemed anxious to get a pat on the back for Bexley’s CCTV system and confirmation that it helped to reduce crime. The Commander expertly kicked that one into the long grass by saying only that it made people feel better and most wouldn’t want to get rid of it.

The Conservatives have no reason to be proud of the CCTV system, they chose to shore up their vote by installing it in sleepy Bexley village instead of Thamesmead and now they have downgraded it to revenue raiser,

Commander Boothe seemed very aware that I singled him out for more photographs than strictly necessary, the problem was that he always had his eyes shut until the final one. I got him in the end!

The main event of the evening was a discussion on Domestic Violence and there were five speakers on the subject. The police handled an almost unbelievable 2,500 cases last year (Bexley council’s figures) but there have been no deaths since 2008. Council figures again.

Councillor Philip Read said that men were victims too and asked how they were helped. The charity sector said they weren’t, at least not by them locally, but once again the responsible Bexley council officer, Nola Saunders, was on the ball. She said that men represented nearly 20% of initial reports. Then she qualified that figure. She said that a large proportion of them turned out to be pre-emptive strikes by violent males who feared being reported for their actions. A get your complaint in first strategy. Why does that remind me of Bexley council’s unfounded accusations against me?

Richard WelchTo the surprise of many, the Fire Commander Richard Welch said that he and his men took an active role in tackling Domestic Violence because he saw it as part of his Public Protection role. He had been holding workshops for those affected and attempting to nip the problem in the bud by offering relationship lessons to local secondary schools. Unfortunately the take up for the latter has not been good. Cabinet Member for Education, John Fuller said he would step in to support the Fire Commander.

From Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith we learned that there are more than 700 Bexley families in temporary accommodation and between ten and 15 of them are in Manchester. The figure bobs up and down over time.

The Care Services continue to be under pressure but six newly qualified social workers are now in employment with another ten beginners due in September. Four new managers are joining the team too. I suppose the alternative might be worse but Bexley seems to be attracting the young and inexperienced fairly readily but real experience continues to be beyond its reach.

Pinky and PerkyA discussion on obesity provided an update on the scheme to refer the overweight to Slimming World and Weight Watchers. Most referrals (85%) are female and their average Body Mass Index is 37·6. The highest was 66·2.

Council staff can get free Weight Watchers sessions without the need for referral by a health professional. Who might have signed up for that?

I was hoping that the discussion would continue into smoking as the Agenda indicated but the subject was skipped. Disappointing as far too many of the aforesaid fat mainly females have a death wish and they probably don’t realise that they smell pretty bad too.

And that was about it. Pages 31 to 90 of the Agenda were dealt with between 21:57 and 22:02 for which I suspect a lot of people were duly thankful. Me included.

The terrible twins Pinky and Perky sat in front of me doing nothing apart from blocking the view. Their total contribution was councillor Read’s question on male victims of violence and a contrived statement that “Bexley is the Listening council”. The Pink one said nothing at all. Craske is not quite the man he used to be since the police nabbed him. Not a single Craske lie has come to my ears in recent times. Maybe the Splash Park decision will push him back into familiar territory where his old skills can be put to good use.


24 June (Part 2) - Bexley. A council built on lies, big and small

TweetI have no idea why they do it, constantly lie that is,  but I suppose I should be grateful that they are so keen to keep me in a job. Err. No, I think I had better think that out again.

This morning Bexley’s Lord Haw Haw came out with this little beauty of a Tweet. Their highly paid PR machine was making the outrageous claim that two new bins, one for garden waste and one for kitchen scraps, will cost the same as the scrap value of one nine year old bin which not long ago Bexley council was saying were nearing the end of their useful life. That too was a lie, those along my street may have a few scuffs and scrapes but all are still perfectly serviceable. Most of you will no doubt make similar observations.

That of course is the simple common sense view although the actual arithmetic will be a little more complicated. The old 140 litre brown bins are to be replaced on a basically one for one basis by 23 litre kitchen waste bins. The target is for 40% of residents to sign up for a 240 litre brown bin. In round figures we are talking about recycling 75,000 140 litre bins and replacing them with 30,000 new 240 litre bins and more than 75,000 23 litre bins.

MasseyI am insulting your intelligence here aren’t I? Sorry about that but Bexley council wants you to believe that 30,000 bins almost twice the size of the 75,000 old ones will be paid for by the latter’s scrap value with enough left over to buy the new kitchen caddies.

New 240 litre bins cost around £40 retail, even in bulk they are unlikely to cost less than, say, £12 and the caddy another four or five pounds. Cabinet member Don Massey was probably being more honest when he said that the scrap value of the old brown bins should be enough to pay for the collection costs.

Whilst Bexley council’s Tweet is an obvious lie it may be true that the whole scheme is close to self financing. What Bexley council is very keen to hide is that separating food and garden waste will improve revenues by £440,000 a year. Probably the whole charging idea is a scam to raise additional revenue, but I expect you had guessed that anyway. Certainly 2,566 residents who have signed the petition recognise a lie when they see one.

The petition is in the most important respect a waste of time, the bin tax is a done deal. Bexley council did go through the pretence of holding a consultation and 77% of people were against the idea. You know what the Listening Council did.


24 June (Part 1) - Bexley council still trying to dodge questions on their failure to a prevent child murder

ReadOn November 5th last year Michael Barnbrook was told by cabinet member Philip Read that he was not going to answer Mick’s question to council because he had once stood alongside Nick Griffin when it was the only high profile party for those who believed that getting out of the EU was the country’s top priority. Mick’s association with the BNP came to a sticky end after they discovered that he had reported Griffin to the police for a variety of financial irregularities. Ironically someone who tried to bring down the BNP from the inside is now barred from joining UKIP.

However all that is a digression; the fact is that councillor Philip Read was desperate to dodge Michael’s question because it was about Bexley council’s shame at allowing a three year old (Rhys Lawrie) to be murdered under their nose in spite of reports from concerned medical staff and school teachers. In those circumstances any excuse will do.

If the boy’s grandfather was telling this tale it would go something like this…

• After the murder Bexley council wrote a report which appeared to be incorrectly dated to mask their neglect.
• The police were prevailed upon to state death by natural causes despite the boy having suffered 39 separate injuries.
• When many months later Bexley police could not hold their natural causes line any longer a 16 year old lad who suffered from educational problems was prevailed upon to take the rap.
• The paramedics who said that the boy was not at the murder scene when they were called to the lifeless body but only arrived later were not allowed to be witnesses at the subsequent trial.
• There were various stories involving school release times and bus timetables that strongly supported the paramedic’s statement.
• The police allowed the mother to enter her own house - the murder scene - and scrub it clean from top to bottom overnight.
• The mother should have been suspected because she was on the record - but not apparently Bexley council’s - as admitting she was liable to harm the child and had been sectioned before moving to Erith.
• To have charged the mother would have exposed Bexley council’s failures at a time when Haringey and Baby Peter was still making headlines.

Of the eight points above six are facts one can read in various reports and the other two are easily deduced from those papers and the case is still rattling around various courts and agencies while the grandfather pursues his quest for justice.

Meanwhile Mick Barnbrook put a modified version of his original question to the council for their next meeting on 15th July. Unsurprisingly it was rejected again but it did come with a lengthy explanation from Will Tuckley. Lengthy but not comprehensive, a lot went unanswered.

One of Mick’s points is that Bexley council fixed the Serious Case Review by choosing for its chairman a former head of Bexley council’s Children’s Services Department. Mr. Tuckley would have us believe that is not true because the former Bexley Director was chosen by the Bexley Safeguarding Children’s Board - as if Bexley council has no input to the BSCB. Yesterday’s People Scrutiny Committee meeting Agenda (foot of Page 14) revealed that Bexley council has just appointed a new one. “Jane Shuttleworth has been appointed to the role of Bexley Safeguarding Children’s Board Chairman.”

Bexley council regards the suppression of Mick’s probing to be so important to its reputation that it has published a rebuttal to his unanswered question on its website.

Mick of course is not put off by such things, he has called his colleagues and advisers to a meeting to discuss his plan to report a senior officer at Bexley council to the police for perverting justice. His case will I imagine be based on the fact that the Serious Case Review was not truly independent.

The case is riddled with inconsistencies; below is one not previously published. The police discovered a reference to an Initial Assessment among Bexley’s files, the council that claimed not to know about Rhys Lawrie. The Social Worker whose name appeared on it couldn’t remember either Rhys or his family. Very conveniently Bexley’s police didn’t think that its existence blew a pretty big hole in Bexley council’s defence.
Click image for source PDF.


23 June - No blog. No time

On a slow news day I did have an idea for a short blog on Children’s Services but events in East Ham where the 95 year old is still in the hospital’s care unit took an unexpected turn and the time soon disappeared. Tonight I must attend the People Scrutiny Committee meeting where I shall try not to fall asleep. Not from boredom; but totally knackered!

Those still annoyed about Bexley’s Bin Tax’s and who haven’t signed the petition yet may wish to tip it over the 2,500 mark. It was five short at 18:30. More than 1,000 up on what it was twelve days ago.


22 June (Part 3) - Bexley bridge renewal

Renewal of the weak bridge over the River Cray in Bexley comes up for planning permission on Thursday evening.  It has to be replaced and there will be nine months of the traffic chaos with which Bexley’s drivers are all too familiar. The cost to the taxpayer will be in the region of £1·7 million and the expenditure will please almost no one.

The road will be about 20 inches wider than it is now but those who live on the heavy vehicle diversion route will get no respite because the 7·5 tonne limit is to be retained, you wouldn’t want anything much bigger going through the village.

The most obvious advantage is that it is unlikely to fall down in the immediate future and the absence of any enforcement measures by the police can continue without the risks associated with their neglect since the restriction was first imposed in 1992. That neglect and the 20 tonne fully laden buses is what has brought the present situation about.

I don’t usually go to planning meetings but I shall make an exception for this one. It will be a bore if the chairman doesn’t bring the bridge proposals forward from its fifth position on the list but if he does he won't have to put up with me and my recorder longer than necessary.


22 June (Part 2) - Facebook

I am a long way from knowing what I am doing with Facebook but I have received quite a lot of Friends requests. Not sure what privileges that endows but I have accepted all of them. I think I have also clicked where I shouldn’t have done and inadvertently invited someone to be my Friend. Sorry for the intrusion.

Since opening the account I have set the viewing to Public, I see no point in censoring things, although probably I have set myself up for council trolls like when I received abusive emails from Batman, Robin and Gotham City.

I wonder who could have done that?



22 June (Part 1) - Council leader Teresa O‘Neill OBE. Forked tongue wags again

Fat liarLast year, as part of its stealth tax strategy, Bexley council said it would use its spy cars to trap motorists on the move and it took powers to do so.

However on 22nd April when those powers were nodded through by the assembled sheep, council leader Teresa O’Neill said that there were no plans to use the powers. Her precise words were "we are not saying we are going to do it but we are giving ourselves the option to do it”. I said at the time I didn’t believe her and I was right.

You may not have received your Summer issue Bexley magazine yet - I am still waiting for my Spring one - but in it you will see confirmation that Teresa O’Neill was seeking to deceive us all.

When Teresa O’Neill opens her mouth it is perfectly normal to expect a lie to issue forth; it is perhaps less usual for her to be caught out quite so quickly.


20 June (Part 2) - Wiping the grin off his Facebook

Melvin SeymourIn 2011 John Kerlen’s use of the C word on Twitter provoked councillor Melvin Seymour into making a false statement to a load of bent Bexley coppers who had the evidence in front of them that Seymour was telling porkies. It landed John with a ten grand barrister’s bill to prove his innocence and I have been very wary of social media ever since.

I was late to Twitter and my use of it is generally restricted to announcing new blogs; RSS feeds seem to have fallen out of favour. It doesn’t help that Chrome requires a plug-in.

I am not alone in being behind the Twittering times. The Save Old Manorway Playground Group (@saveOMWP) found their way to Twitter only last week. Their big day will be on Tuesday 30th June when they are due to present their petition to none other than porkie pie Seymour himself.

ReadFacebook has been a complete mystery to me and at the time of writing I still find it a bit of a muddle but last month another thorn in Bexley council’s side told me that council staff were sometimes able to bypass their ban on access to Bonkers via links posted on Facebook. “I have it on good authority that councillor Read is not happy that council run computer networks can access your blog via Facebook!”

It certainly whetted my interest in Facebook so when a bit of spare time came along I researched whether the claim could be true. Does Facebook really cache linked web pages? It appears it does!

Making certain councillors unhappy is one of the driving forces behind BiB and if it is councillor Philip Read who is being annoyed, so much the better.

Earlier today the Facebook icon appeared alongside Twitter’s on the menu bar above. Clicking on it should take you to the BIB Facebook page.

For the time being it will do no more than list new blogs and as I understand it users of Bexley council’s servers can access the Facebook front page and from there search for Bonkers Bexley.  I probably won’t have time to regularly respond to comments but why did no one tell me about Facebook’s page caching before?

Save Old Manor Way Playground on Facebook.
Bexley is Bonkers on Facebook.
List of websites banned by Bexley council.


20 June (Part 1) - Save Our Splash Park

Bexley council’s long delayed Splash Park report arrived on my Desktop at an inconvenient time yesterday and required careful analysis. I am not sure this is it but it is certain that more comment will be forthcoming from councillors and campaigners.

It is difficult to justify the length of time it has taken for the report to make its public appearance. The former responsible cabinet member Alex Sawyer was saying in April that it was with council officers but that he had not seen it. The report we now have runs to 22 pages of which seven are preliminaries and the consultant’s branch addresses. Only six can be considered to be an examination of the problems and almost nothing is revealed that was not known already.
The consultant’s PDF report reveals that it was first created on 5th June 2015. If councillor Sawyer was not misinformed, it may have been batted to and fro between author and council a few times to get it right - or biased in the right direction - depending on your point of view.

Much of the report does not look very ‘expert’ to me, it’s quite easy to follow and is mostly a statement of the obvious. It suffers by not having any statistics anywhere, a bit like if you asked the RAC for a report on a second hand car and they weren’t able to start the engine and could only ask the owner if it was a nice little runner or not.

With no water in the park when it was inspected most assessments must be theory and little better than speculation. Very often the report merely reiterates what Bexley council has told the consultant. e.g. “It was reported that soiling from smaller children and babies, especially from the pool area of the splash park, had resulted in the closing of the facilities to enable the Council to undertake an emergency clean.”

No one is absolutely sure of the capacity of the underground water tank or the number of children the pool was designed to accommodate.

The lack of feet wash trays and the “poorly maintained” surface rainwater gullies come in for particular criticism. There was some doubt about the nature of the sand filters but “the operating staff believe” they are of a type which is not effective against Cryptosporidium. By Page 9 of the report nothing new has been revealed but Page 10 is an improvement.

Cryptosporidium is killed by Ultra Violet light but no such devices are fitted. Those who maintain large garden ponds will know how effective they can be. It is also revealed that the babies’ play area traps water all day and so is not part of the circulation system. The rubberized safety surface is acting as a sponge and harbouring bacteria. Both serious problems.

The failure of the system to cope with the demands placed on it causes frequent draining of the pool and replacement with fresh drinking water at considerable cost. This is not a satisfactory long term solution.

The Splash Park design conformed to relevant regulations when it was installed in 2005, thereby exposing those Tories who maintained the park was a Labour party cock-up - as if it wasn’t council officers who reached the decision anyway. It was bad luck that the regulations were discredited immediately afterwards and updated.

To enlarge the filtration system would require a new extended plant room and necessarily be expensive.

The consultant company suggest that the babies’ paddling area should be removed whatever the eventual outcome as the shallow water can get very warm and breed bacteria at an alarming rate. The rubber surface should be replaced too. This is beginning to sound very expensive.

The choice the council has to make is what we always knew it was. To bring the current water treatment plant up to current standards, to switch it to a mains fed facility, or revert back to the original proposal. Close it down and put in a few swings.

In round figures the former would cost between three and four hundred thousand pounds and cost forty odd thousand a year to run. The sort of figures that had Bexley council in a panic at the end of last year.

A mains water system would initially cost around £50,000 less and a little under £40,000 to maintain. The old system was said to be costing around £20,000 a year to run but looks like being an under-estimate. Even £20,000 was seen as a sum worth saving under the council’s slash and burn policy. It was listed in their budget document among many such figures said to be essential savings.

Removing the pool and installing the normal sort of play park would also be expensive, maybe £200,000 capital costs. A big plus for a water play facility is of course that it is difficult to burn down.

Street meetingI have always been a pessimist when it comes to saving the Belvedere Splash Park on the simplistic grounds that Bexley council has never in the six years I have been watching them closely ever taken any notice of public opinion. They slash and burn as soon as they are elected and hope everyone has forgotten by the time the next election comes around.

I have no doubt that Faye Ockleford, the Splash Park’s campaign spokeswoman, will tirelessly continue the battle but the consultant’s report makes no reference to commercial sponsorship which was Anna Firth’s (Conservative General Election candidate) pet idea and Faye is likely to find that negotiating with the new cabinet member, Peter Craske, may be a very different experience to Alex Sawyer. One frequently shows signs of being human and the other doesn’t.


19 June (Part 4) - The Bin Tax

The petition against Bexley’s Bin Tax is still going great guns, it is fast approaching the 2,500 mark, probably more than have coughed up the money to have their garden waste taken away.

CommentsAll the petition comments condemn Bexley council and make for quite interesting reading. Don Massey created a whole load of enemies when he dreamed up this scheme

The first comment shown here would suit me but taxing people according to their own drain on society has been tried before and it was popularly known as (or should that be unpopularly?) called the Poll Tax.

The answer to Sandra Brace’s question about the Olympics levy is that we are still paying and have been for ten years. It is due to end next year but there is already talk of not reaping the full reduction benefits. The Dartford Bridge scam all over again.

And that is not the only con trick perpetrated by governments. The TV licence fee went up dramatically to pay for Digital Switchover but that was all done and dusted three years ago. We are still paying the inflated licence fee and everyone seems to have forgotten it. Operating a digital TV system is massively cheaper than analogue, in transmitter electricity costs if nothing else.

People are asking what refuse service will Bexley council cut next. Take a look at this for a clue…

Paper collection
A strong national trend downwards in the volume of household paper collected. That’s going to prove costly.

The notice above is part of what Bromley council sent out to residents last week. Paper collection will go fortnightly from next week.

Can Bexley be far behind?


19 June (Part 3) - Carbon copies

I thought that getting a reply from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe himself about my three year old complaint against Bexley police was some sort of sign that he might recognise that there is a problem with the Met’s complaints handling procedures, and that may be so, but I felt a little deflated when the lady who was arrested at Heathrow Airport “for a laugh” sent me her reply from Hogan-Howe dated just four days later.

She had complained about the lack of interest by Bexley police in her wrongful arrest and except for the address on each letter both are word perfect identical. I suppose one might draw consolation from the fact that the two signatures display slight variations so presumably the letters are not totally computer generated but it does smack of ‘send standard letter type 2’.


19 June (Part 2) - Blast from Bexley’s past didn’t last

I returned home past midnight after a long day away yesterday to find my mail box almost 100% occupied by messages from the Isle of Man. A lot of people were very keen to let Bexley residents know that things did not work out too well for their unwelcome export.
Mark Charters, who was Bexley’s chief social worker until this time last year has vacated his position as the Isle of Man’s Minister of Health citing “personal reasons”. He was regarded with suspicion while in Bexley and doesn’t seem to have fared a lot better in the IOM. He is frequently referred to as the obese chain smoker.

Plenty more comment on the Isle of Man Forum. References to his time at Bexley on a near £170,000 salary, his embellished CV, his all expenses paid jollies to his New Zealand roots, the employment of pals and the removal of history from the web under the right to be forgotten rules. No I don’t actually think that last one is there yet, but it should be.

Has his old Bexley post been filled yet? I don’t think it has. Obviously no great loss to the borough.


19 June (Part 1) - Belvedere Splash Park report

Bexley council has published its long delayed report on the future of Belvedere’s Splash Park.

It may be downloaded in PDF format from this page. (Related Downloads - Top Right.)


18 June - Police procrastination

It is usual when complaining to the police to get a dismissive reply if one gets one at all so I wasn’t too hopeful when I reminded the Metropolitan Police’s Commissioner that it was three years since Elwyn Bryant and I first brought to his attention the dishonest relationship between Bexley’s council and their military wing in Arnsberg Way.

That first letter brought forth a response which was dishonest and reliant on techno-nonsense that would fool only those who are totally ignorant of how the web works.

Fortunately the Independent Police Complaints Commission were quick to spot the flaws in the police argument. Since then silence from the Met, or to be more precise, a quarterly apology for not having the time to do anything.

The IPCC has no power to give them a kick up the rear end although they have assured me that they use the case as a prime example of what is wrong with the complaints procedures in London.

I suppose it is something of an achievement that following my written reminder the Commissioner sent me a personal letter on his own office notepaper signed by himself. However the bad news is that he has passed the complaint to the same place as before. But maybe his intervention carries some weight. Who knows?

Jeff BootheThe lady who was arrested as she flew into Heathrow from the States on trumped up assault charges related to her husband’s extra-marital affair with a police civilian worker, allegedly “for a laugh” is also being given the run around by Bexley police. It is now a year since she appealed against her complaint being dismissed by Bexley police and the new Borough Commander Jeff Boothe has washed his hands of it, even refusing to discuss the matter further with her MP, David Evennett.

Is Bexley uniquely blessed with inadequate Borough Police Commanders? Dawson, Stringer, Olisa, Ayling and now Boothe, or are they all like it?

Possibly Peter Ayling had had his fill of Bexley council and its potential for wrecking police reputations. When asked to investigate allegations of Misconduct in Public Office against Will Tuckley, the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon and Bexley council’s Legal Team Manager Lynn Tyler, he passed the case on to Greenwich Police. If he had not done so we would have been mired in complaints about ignoring evidence and political interference as we are with the Craske case. Greenwich police have been thorough and took the allegations and the damning evidence against Bexley council very seriously indeed. The case continues.


17 June - Crossrail v Lesnes Abbey

Just as it did last time, the Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting clashed with a Bexley council meeting, albeit a minor one. There was an update session on the Lesnes Abbey Enhancement Project, so once again I sent a substitute. He reported back that he learned nothing from a very long meeting.

Lesnes AbbeyWhen asked if it was true that the project was months behind schedule because of artefacts discovered just under the soil surface the suggestion was rejected. When asked for the real reason none was forthcoming and in the words of my substitute reporter, Bexley was “clearly trying to hide something”.

Meanwhile, down at the Abbey Wood Community Centre, representatives from Crossrail, Network Rail and Southeastern trains did their best to answer questions under the chairmanship of Greenwich councillor Steve Offord.

At the last meeting it took an hour and a half to go through the points arising from the previous meeting and this time Steve managed to get it down to 45 minutes. It was scheduled for 15.

I must be very fortunate because all the dumper trucks, JCBs and lorries etc. seen by residents are caked in mud, lights and direction indicators obscured, reversing out of small openings without the benefit of a banksman and leaving a trail of debris along the local roads while narrowly avoiding taking out a few pedestrians in the process. I, on the other hand, take a look most days and have seen almost none of that. Any mud left on the road has been swept up within minutes and banksmen are plentiful. Obviously they only behave themselves when an old bloke with a big camera is nearby.

CrossrailCouncillor Offord ploughed on as fast as he could but the picking apart of the minutes was not enormously productive. Of all the promises made at the last meeting only one had been actioned, the installation of an extra lift bell push at Abbey Wood station - and that was done only yesterday.

Some residents claim that the lift attendants are rarely in attendance whilst I see two or three whenever I pass by - most usually some time in the afternoon.

The central stair rail on the station footbridge is not going to happen due to legal red tape. No news was forthcoming about the fault monitoring and contract with Stannah Lifts. Shop fronts are not being washed down as was discussed three months ago. TfL and Southeastern are still charging Oyster card users who use the station as a shortcut and a compromise is as far away as ever. The Bexley council officers present did not know if the Harrow Manorway bus stop which has been out of use all year had opened again - it did last week.

There had been no progress on alleviating parking problems as Bexley and Greenwich council officers have yet to meet and discuss the issues. One person is off sick apparently and everything must come to a halt. The inability of Abbey Terrace residents to park in their own road continues. No extra seating or shelter has been provided on the station platforms.

It is fortunate that no one was foolish enough to make any more unachievable promises. I smiled broadly when I heard plans for even more notices of impending works to be distributed. I receive them already but the timetabling of major events is no more reliable than any other railway timetable.

I put this to the new Network Rail manager, Peter Hume, after the meeting. He was fully aware that contractors frequently get ahead of schedule. Typically work scheduled during a two day line closure is completed within 24 hours and nothing much is done on the Sunday. As already reported, almost nothing was achieved last Sunday and Peter is very aware of it and has improvements in hand. Line closures must be booked months in advance and everything synchronised perfectly for maximum efficiency. Not easy.

The formal illustrated presentation produced remarkably few questions. I learned that…

• Noisy piling has finished for the immediate future.
• The disabled access to Church Manorway footbridge remains closed because of privacy issues with the houses that lie to the north.
• The Bostall Manorway bridge will be replaced in August.
• Felixstowe Road will be restored to two way use by the end of July. (Photo 1 below)
• More North Kent track realignment will commence in September and be completed by February next year.
• The Gayton Road utility diversion works will be completed by the end of September. (Photo 2)
• The overhead electrics which were at one time expected to end just short of the Lesnes Abbey footbridge (Photo 4) will now extend only 200 metres east of Abbey Wood station.
• The special train (for concreting the tunnel track bed) currently stationed in Plumstead sidings was delivered by road. There is still no track to any part of the Crossrail track from the North Kent line.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Four Bexley councillors attended the meeting, all Labour, and at least three from Greenwich. None of Bexley’s Conservative members bothered to come as far north as Abbey Wood.

More Crossrail related blogs.


16 June - Another stealth tax sneaked in

When a Conservative council was elected in Bexley in 2010 they did what all new councils do after elections. They raised prices and reduced services.

One of the biggest price hikes following the 2010 election was the very near tripling of the cost of Residents’ Parking permits. £35 to £100 in most cases, £120 in some areas.

This was masterminded by councillor Peter Craske (Cabinet Member for Public Realm at the time) who justified it in the only way he knew. He lied by making up fictitious numbers. He attributed nearly all the enforcement costs and staff overheads for the whole borough to residential parking bays despite their proportion of total bays being small and they are for the most part enforced for only two hours out of 24, five days a week. Double yellows are 24/7.

For good measure he grossly inflated the cost of painting white lines and the frequency of their renewal. His dishonesty led him to claim that the cost of issuing Residents’ Parking Permits was only a few pence under £250 each.

You don’t really have to do the arithmetic to know instinctively that that must be very wrong, and of course it was. Why else would the cost have remained at £100 a year for the past four years? You can be sure it would have gone up again if Craske hadn’t been lying.

Something I didn’t know is that if, for example, a family owned two cars but had only a single off street parking space, or maybe if someone worked nights whilst their partner was out all day, it was possible to register two cars to the same permit. That way you don’t have to ensure that the right car is off road etc.

Convenient all round and costs nothing.

But that facility has been withdrawn and the reason given is that it represents “enhanced security”. As Bexley Bullshit goes that must be the best for quite a long time.
Parking price doubled

Click image for complete letter.

The letter doesn’t actually say that separate permit applications will mean that the cost of parking doubles (or more) but those who have checked say it does.

The Bin Tax may be another 3% on the average council tax but this new unpublicized imposition will be more like 10%.

There has been no consultation of course, and what would be the point when Bexley council has never ever taken any notice of a consultation?

The next thing likely to be on the list of new stealth taxes is charging for disabled bays. Not just Disabled Residents’ Bays, that is already on Bexley’s To Do List, but also to clamp down on Blue Badge holders across the borough.

At the moment Blue Badge Holders can use Residents’ Parking Bays anywhere across the borough without charge but in Bromley that will earn you a Penalty Notice. Bexley is gradually merging its parking operation with Bromley’s and by the end of next year it will be complete. You can be pretty sure which way the Blue Badge rules will go.

Thanks to a document that Bexley council has been forced to release to its auditors, I can now say without fear of contradiction that Bexley’s Parking department is bent from top to bottom. With luck the full story will be told well before the year is out.


15 June - Here we go round the Mulberry Bush

There were a few signs of activity at the site of the new Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre a couple of days ago. The project is running several months late and the story locally is that the skeleton of a horse was found just beneath the surface. Presumably it was a very special horse if it was worth putting the job on hold. A local wag said it was Shergar.

The mulberry tree reputed to date from the 16th century is in pretty poor shape thanks in part to the vandals which infest the unprotected ruins and park. It is now surrounded by a barrier which as you can see will be a massive deterrent to those with malicious intent. I doubt it is even proof against a five year old innocently swinging on the rail. It is only a few days old and already showing signs of wear.

Neither will it deter those who wish to end it all. Twice in the past decade people have hitched a noose to one of the higher branches and launched themselves into oblivion.
Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey


14 June - Ramblings

CrossrailThere is very little going on. The old weekend standby of Crossrail has produced nothing. On both sides of the Eynsham Drive bridge a few men are fiddling around with the North Kent line track and to its east some more may be preparing a sound deadening fence. For that there are no trains again. The scheduled work was piling at the tunnel portal and the installation of ‘modules’ at Abbey Wood station, all of which has already been completed.

I have several times tried to get a good telephoto picture of the tunnel portal but the Church Manorway footbridge with its dirty windows and constant vibration which a tripod only amplifies has defeated every effort so far. Today the bad light made things worse and the photo shown is shockingly blurred. Maybe summer will eventually come.

The Murky Depths has some well justified criticism of the Church Manorway footbridge and not just because it is no good for photography. It is an eyesore and when the disabled access is opened it is going to provide a magnificent playground for the skateboaders and illegal motorbikers

For Bexley news you would be better off today taking a look at the Maggot Sandwich’s report on the the houses and six storey flats that are proposed by London & Quadrant for the old swimming pool site opposite Erith’s Riverside Gardens. Hugh Neal, the Maggot Man, is concerned that 71 dwellings will have only 46 parking spaces and that a dark underground garage area will be a crime magnet. Has nothing been learned since Tavy Bridge and The Clockwork Orange?

It’s always interesting to me to hear what one’s peers think of this website. In connection with last week’s blog about the Bin Tax, Hugh says that “Malcolm’s Bexley is Bonkers has taken up this issue, as it sits closely with his mission to expose the ways in which the council fail to deliver on their promises”. I suppose that he is right and exposing whatever Bexley council would prefer to be hidden is largely what BiB is all about, a Mission if you like. However it’s a different M word that keeps it alive most days. Motive. And that is to teach the blighters over time that the days when a council can abuse the public without fear of retribution are long gone.

It is possible there has been some progress. It is four years since council leader Teresa O’Neill regarded writing this blog as worthy of arrest and the police jumped at her command.

Police statement. Council leader Teresa O'Neill reported me to the police for “criticising councillors”. The warning threatened arrest if Bexley is Bonkers continued.

It is three years since councillor Peter Craske was arrested for Misconduct in Public Office and it is two years since councillor Cheryl Bacon and her cronies lied on a massive scale and encouraged a dishonest Press Release to tarnish the reputations of several residents. Cheryl Bacon, Will Tuckley the Chief Executive, and Lynn Tyler the Legal Team Manager remain under continuing police investigation for their pains. I doubt the three of them will be so obviously dishonest in future.

Since then there has been nothing on a similar scale although if, no, make that when, the carry on in the parking department goes public you may think BiB’s constant drip, drip, drip of revelations is having no effect after all. But what else can one do? Nothing is not an option.

It’s perhaps a bit premature as a story but I Googled ‘Boundary Commission single member wards’ and found they are more common than I would have imagined. Some councils have even asked for them.

Not Bexley of course where the Tories threw out the Labour Group’s suggestion that 42 councillors would be a suitable number. One might assume they would have liked rather more, you can be absolutely sure they were not prepared to see a cut twice as large as Labour proposed. Now it seems they are having to fight a rearguard action to save their allowances from a determined Boundaries Commission which appears to believe that 21 councillors is plenty.

Will they side with Labour and strive for a reduction of 21 councillors to 42? Will the Labour Group make mischief by looking sympathetically at the BC’s proposal? The grapevine says neither. The Tories can’t be seen as going along with Labour’s 42 so the preferred number will have to be higher. A consensus appears to be forming around the next best thing; 45. We shall see, but not quickly or clearly while Bexley’s renowned official secrecy is maintained. Thank goodness for gossips from all parties.


13 June - Bexley. OBE city

OBEI was in bed by 10:30 last night listening to Radio 4 News and found myself being annoyed by some of the names that had been awarded gongs. For some reason a Knighthood for Van Morrison the singer (I think) got up my nose - what has he done? - but a BEM for Katie Cutler who raised £300,000 for a disabled old man beaten up by a mugger restored some equanimity. Fortunately I did not hear a certain Bexley name or I might not have slept so well. Teresa Ann Jude O’Neill, OBE.

I’ve counted two OBEs in my life who were friends or work acquaintances. One ‘invented’ the large quieter jet engines that now power most of the world’s airliners and the other got it for, well just for being there really.

I was manager of an outfit that employed 1,300 people and was asked who might be nominated for an award. The powers that be were told that no one merited one, only for me to be told I had no choice in the matter. One must be nominated. So an OBE was duly dished out. Coincidentally the recipient lived in Bexley but it was a few years before I did.

Click image to download the 2015 Birthday Honours List.


12 June (Part 2) - The Met

The MetI keep being asked what I thought of part one of the BBC’s new cop documentary ‘The Met’ broadcast last Monday and when was I going to blog about it. I was even asked for comment by a police officer, but the programme had almost zero connection with Bexley. The borough commander featured has previously worked in Bexley and he made one obscure reference to it. There is no good reason to dissect the whole programme here and I don’t see it as my place to do so.

I don’t go out of my way to watch cop documentaries. It is a long time since I saw one of those cheap time fillers where police officers in high powered cars go chasing after speeding scroats. I know someone has to do it but by the end of the programme I nearly always found myself muttering “evil b*****ds” and I don’t really want to regard the police as a whole even more badly than I do already. Their bad attitude nearly always shines through which I assume comes from constantly having to deal with bad people.

The aforesaid borough commander was Victor Olisa, a Nigerian black man, selected for Haringey after the Tottenham riots by Commissioner Hogan-Howe who said he was the best man for the job and his colour had nothing to do with it. Not sure I believed him. Not sure I would believe anything Hogan-Howe says.

All I know about Victor Olisa is that he has a vivid imagination. He excused his predecessor for doing nothing with the evidence against councillor Peter Craske (the obscene homophobic blog) by claiming that the eight months of delay was occasioned by the need to investigate me in case I had set Craske up by hacking into his phone line.

He said that in front of my MP, Teresa Pearce, but no evidence has ever been produced to suggest it might be true. I suspect Olisa is not a natural liar but he will do his best when he needs to look after his bent colleagues. He sees racism where it doesn't exist too, he got very hot under the collar when I blogged that during my career in international telephony Nigerian corruption was a serious problem. His countrymen stole the cables and they had their hands in the till to the extent they had to burn down their Lagos headquarters to hide the evidence. It is a fact but Olisa saw it as a personal attack on every Nigerian him included.

His obscure reference to Bexley was that he found it odd that he got more aggression from the black community of Haringey than he did from the BNP in a previous borough. I thought the BNP was a spent force in Bexley by the time Olisa arrived on the scene. One of his predecessors claimed they started a street fight in Bexley village but it later transpired they weren’t even there.


12 June (Part 1) - Slowly does it

Every year, Bexley council like all others, has to open its books to public inspection. It is not for the casual nosy parker because Bexley council is adept at covering its tracks and bamboozling the uninitiated, which is why I asked someone who knew what he was doing to inspect the accounts on my behalf last year.

What he found warranted a detailed investigation which led to an official objection to the accounts. Bexley’s 2013/14 accounts have still not been signed off.

NoticeMy agent is not any old nosy parker with accountancy and legal skills, they are probably ten a penny. This one has been behind BBC Panorama and Channel 4 Dispatches programmes exposing bent councils.

There are many legal restraints on what I can say so I will play safe and say almost nothing. However the Local Government Ombudsman has had similar concerns and internal documents have provided very interesting insights into Bexley council’s malpractice.

They have been described as among the very worst ever seen in the area which is under scrutiny and the council officers closely involved are said to be “terrified” at the prospect of exposure. I am hopeful that some of them will appear in court in due course, my agent says I must be patient.

Sorry to be so vague but if those who seek to persecute residents in contravention of every rule imaginable are to have the tables turned on them, some circumspection is essential.

Bexley council: Dishonest, Vindictive, Criminal.


11 June (Part 3) - The cost of mindless parasites, by councillor Philip Read

Tuesday’s arson attack by teenaged morons in Lesnes Abbey park seems likely to deprive younger children of their playground for rather a long time. Councillor Read believes it will cost more than £100,000 to replace it. Given the state of council finances it is unlikely to be a priority.
I find it hard to conceive how a few bits of metal bolted together can ever cost that sort of money. Probably something to do with the Great British Rip Off to which public authorities appear to be more than a little susceptible.


11 June (Part 2) - Highway robbery

A Welling reader who saw yesterday’s bus stop pictures cajoled me into looking at the Highway Code. This is what it says about parking in dangerous places…
Bus Stop

243. DO NOT stop or park
• at or near a bus or tram stop or taxi rank
• opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
• opposite a traffic island or (if this would cause an obstruction) another parked vehicle

Which makes it fairly clear that parking near a junction or bus stop or opposite traffic islands is not a good idea.

Bexley council in its wisdom has seen fit to break all three safety rules - but it provides another revenue stream which takes priority over road safety.


11 June (Part 1) - Browned off

Bexley council issued a Press Release yesterday to say that more than 1,000 residents had signed up to pay for a service that has until now been provided at no extra charge.
Press Release
It will need something in the region of 25,000 to sign up if the new service is not to make a loss and the target is 30% - close to 30,000. As usual, Bexley council’s words are of the weasel variety. It is not a new service, it is the old service with a reduction in total capacity, at reduced intervals and at a charge which approximates to 3% extra (†) on the Bexley component of your council tax. Keeping garden and food waste separate will reduce processing costs by £444,000 a year. Introducing a charge for doing so is a nice bonus on top.

Meanwhile larger numbers are signing up for something rather different.
Click the image to view or sign the petition.

Some of the comments on there suggest that the quiet majority who have been uninterested in council affairs beyond having their bins emptied and the streets lit, are suddenly very interested in council affairs.

Some residents are complaining that there was no consultation on the introduction of a bin tax. Whether there was or was not is immaterial. The decision to charge for waste removal was taken long before the consultation results became available.

And by the way, the programme of cuts involves turning off some street lights too.

† Dependent on council tax band and any discount available. Poorer houses will suffer the highest percentage increase.


10 June (Part 4) - Streets burned in Bexley

On Monday several sources reported that the crazy Watling Street bus stop featured on Friday was being burned off. In its place three Pay by Phone parking bays have appeared and a repositioned bus stop. The rearrangement is still stupid but maybe marginally less so than before.

When traffic is queued to turn right into Erith Road and cars are occupying the new bays, large vehicles cannot pass. The green lorry (Photo 2) was stuck there until the lights changed and the tailback towards Broadway could have prevented that right turn and caused gridlock. Fortunately a gap had been left on this occasion.

At the other end of the double length bus stop the entrance to the Civic Offices’ Car Park has been made more dangerous than it need have been. On the other hand buses will need that length in order to pull in when the on street bays are occupied.

I waited for two buses to arrive to see how they might cope with Bexley’s new road hazards and whilst they were more frequent than I had anticipated, neither of them stopped.

When Bexley council announced that it planned to use CCTV to penalise motorists who might commit a minor misdemeanour they said their priority was to maintain traffic flow. I doubt any of you were fooled by that.
Bus Stop Bus Stop Bus Stop Bus Stop


10 June (Part 3) - Bexley puts their foot in it again

Dog messBexley always seems to be either top or bottom of some league table or other. This time they are featured on the BBC’s website for not doing anything about dog mess.

This is another case of cancelled contracts just like Ward Security and the cancellation of park patrols but on a smaller scale. My recollection is that the dog patrol was costing £15,000 a year and caught no more than a handful of people each year. It is debatable whether the correct solution was to cancel the contract or enforce the laws more vigorously.

Councillor Gareth Bacon, the highest paid councillor in London, made both decisions.

Click image for source web page.


10 June (Part 2) - Why are we waiting?

I phoned 020 8303 7777 at 09:48 this morning to sign up for the bin tax. At 10:08 I gave up having listened to quite enough excruciatingly over-modulated music and coming to the belief that something must have gone wrong with Bexley’s phone system. I tried again and was answered at 10:27.

Apart from the fact that I was told that I had already signed up - same name, different address - everything went smoothly enough. I think the man who took my call was relieved that I didn’t want either an explanation or to make a complaint about the imposition of charges.


10 June (Part 1) - The morning after the night before

Lesnes ParkNews of last night’s fire at Lesnes Abbey park reached me rather too late so for the picture of the fire in progress I must rely on Brian Barnett and his 270mm lens at the top of a Thamesmead tower block.

The other four pictures are from this morning after Bexley council had taped off the ruined structure. It was Lottery Funded. Probably they will not be so generous in future to a council that makes no effort to protect its gifts.

News Shopper report.

Council comment.

Lesnes Park Lesnes Park Lesnes Park Lesnes Park


9 June (Part 2) - Penny wise, pound foolish. The result

Lesnes Park Lesnes Park Save £200,000 by not closing park gates and abandoning security patrols and this may be the result. Lesnes Abbey recreation ground’s principal structure was burned out this evening.

As councillors Seán Newman and Stefano Borella (Labour) said when councillor Gareth Bacon cancelled the Ward Security contract, the costs will be transferred to the emergency services, but they weren’t entirely correct. The taxpayer will not only pay those expenses but pick up the equipment replacement costs too.

Danson Park was burned out too in January.

Lesnes Park Lesnes Park Lesnes Park Lesnes Park


9 June (Part 1) - BiB. Quiet but not dead

After two consecutive days of Bexley Blanks it may be time to prove that BiB has not gone away, as someone on Twitter suggested it could do.

SouthEastern Railways
For the past four weeks I have been taking almost daily trips to East Ham, by SouthEastern, Docklands Light Railway, District Line, with occasional diversions via the Jubilee Line or a bus. I think I now see why people complain about SouthEastern so much.

Whilst the DLR runs like clockwork, the Jubilee never kept me waiting for more than two minutes, and the District Line was almost as good - there was one unexplained 15 minute wait - SouthEastern is almost never on time.

It is true that the ten minute interval service sometimes masks the problem and late running can occasionally be beneficial when the DLR arrives in Woolwich just after a train to Abbey Wood is due, but passengers wishing to travel to Dartford, Crayford or Barnehurst with only a 30 minute service may be less forgiving.

Today I saw the 13:23 train leave Abbey Wood and didn’t bother to run for it and I was still on the platform 30 minutes and three scheduled trains later. There was no relevant announcements but constant apologies for the late running of trains heading in the opposite direction. Maybe it is time for TfL to take over as they did on several suburban lines north of the river just ten days ago. On the other hand Overground services are infrequent compared to what is timetabled on the North Kent line and Overground routings are far simpler.

The Brown Bin Tax
Now that the council’s publicity machine is in full swing alerting residents to the new charging regime, Twitter, Streetlife and probably other social media outlets have come alive with those expressing their shock and outrage. I think it proves that most people take no notice of what councils get up to until it hits them in the pocket. The bin tax was forecast here almost a year ago and initially reported last October.

The council has said that almost 500 people signed up to have their garden waste removed in the first week of June, it might have been one more but when I went to sign up I found the council insisted I go through far more red tape than is necessary. email address, password etc. I’ll try the telephone tomorrow. We could do without a system like Newham’s.

I wonder if they will refuse to collect anything at all from an address where the fee has been paid for the removal of 240 litres of waste if the lid is not shut tightly? It’s what they do now but in a few months time the contract should ensure that only the excess is left behind.

Borough Boundaries
It has become apparent that what councillors are saying to residents who enquire about how the Boundaries Commission review may affect the number of councillors in Bexley is quite different to what councillors have been whispering into my ear. I suspect one is just whitewash for public consumption and one is not.

Police Corruption
Last weekend was exactly three years since Elwyn Bryant and I wrote to Commissioner Hogan-Howe about Bexley police’s initial refusal to investigate a crime (ultimately traced to councillor Peter Craske’s phone line) and the unacceptable delays when forced to do so. It seemed like a good time to remind him that his answer is still outstanding and a succession of letters apologising for doing nothing is not really good enough.


7 June (Part 2) - No longer built like a brick outhouse

CrossrailThere are no trains through Abbey Wood again this weekend and the main task has been to install the shell of a new electricity sub-station, so that cables may be transferred from the old brick building before knocking it down and preparing for the realignment of the North Kent line.

The ‘boxes’ and some electrical equipment which will stand in the open to facilitate cooling were delivered by lorry and the crane swung into action at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning, however there was a snag. The hooks at the end of the crane’s cables were too large to fit the eyes on the top of the tin boxes. The site engineer was not at all happy with the crane contractor. One might have expected a machine of that size to carry a box of useful bits and pieces. There were never less than eleven men in attendance so it must have been an expensive mistake.

After someone was sent to find some suitable shackles and a break for lunch work recommenced at 1:30. Transferring the big bits across the railway line was child’s play but bolting the small box (Photo 13 below) to the back of a bigger one (Photo 14) took more than an hour.

At five o’clock work ceased with one transformer left aboard the second delivery lorry overnight. It was still there at 08:00 on Sunday with not an orange suit to be seen but by the time I returned at nine it was in place (Final Photo).

Whether the new sub-station is to supply both the old 750 volt line and the new 25kV system depends on who you ask, but given that the old brick building is no more than half the size of the new it may be reasonable to assume it is for both.

Photos 1-6 below show some of the preparatory work. The trough around the main structures is to be filled with shingle as part of the drainage system.

The isolated photo above is of work some half a mile east of Abbey Wood station, near Tunstall Way, which appears to consist of digging holes and filling them in again. Probably some sort of ground condition exploration.

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More Crossrail related blogs.


7 June (Part 1) - Green Chain not yet linked

The Green Chain which runs from Crystal Palace to the Thames has been broken since February; Peabody has been giving it a welcome makeover north of Yarnton Way. The job was scheduled for completion by 29th May so yesterday seemed like a good time to take a look. Fortunately someone had helpfully moved one of the protective barriers, so here is a preview of things to come.

The new trees looked in need of a good drink.

Green Chain Green Chain Green Chain Green Chain


6 June - Buses, bridges, bonkers

It has been a nice day for a trip to the races, sadly I spent the day on various photo sorties locally and didn't get to Epsom to see the Derby. As usual, Bexley’s Conservative councillors did, I hope they didn’t lose too much of their allowances.
Harrow Manorway
The week’s postbag has been dominated by three subjects; the bin tax, stupidly placed bus stops and the bridge over the River Cray in Bexley.

Harrow Manorway Watling StreetBus Stops
It would appear that the new bus stop markings in Harrow Manorway, Abbey Wood, right next to the new Sainsbury’s roundabout (Photo 1) was not the only new one marked out last week.

Another has shown up in Watling Street, Bexleyheath (Photo2) which is perilously close to a junction and the picture, taken with a wide angle lens, is exaggerating the distance between them. As you can see, it is not much more than the length of a bus, let’s hope that two never come along together.

In Harrow Manorway four different routes serve the stop so blocking the roundabout is likely to be a frequent event.

It is hard to judge what sort of idiocy has produced the Harrow Manorway situation, the Watlng Street one is not so difficult to fathom. It is right outside the new Civic Offices which has lacked its own bus stop until now. One might guess why safety considerations are way down the list of priorities.

Bexley Bridge
It has become clear that Elwyn Bryant was not alone in complaining to Bexley council and the police about the abuse of the Bexley bridge over the Cray without effect.

The police in St. Mary’s come in for criticism, not only for making no effort to enforce the bridge weight restriction but for a total failure to engage with the community as they do in Thamesmead and Welling.

The congestion in the village is variously blamed on beer deliveries - which come over the 7·5 ton bridge - to the centrally situated pubs and to Bexley council vehicles illegally parked while the drivers go shopping - well that is what the email said. Photos would be nice but difficult when one is merely trying to drive through.

I sense that there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the council in Bexley village but it remains solidly Conservative so presumably only the unhappy ones write to Bonkers.


5 June - Jam tomorrow

Some days there is nothing interesting to report and this is one of them. For those who simply must have a daily dose of Bexley, they issued a Press Release (PDF) a couple of days ago about their growth plans, or maybe it’s a belated recognition that the borough cannot remain isolationist for ever and previous policies have to be thrown overboard when it has run out of money.
Don't let the various Save the Parks and Save the Libraries groups know about that.

For the council’s own views on the subject including the (now closed) consultation document take a look at the two PDFs linked from Bexley’s dedicated web page.


4 June (Part 2) - Council leader says bin charges are a tax

Bexley council is currently asking you to cough up £27 to have your brown bin emptied fortnightly instead of weekly at no charge. If you want to buy 82% of the old service (total capacity is reduced) don’t leave it too late, the price goes up to £33 on the 1st of September.

Most residents are calling it a bin tax and it is in its effect. Bexley council really dislikes the term, so it deserves the widest possible circulation. Calling it a bin tax will put you in good company.

We want more people to recycle so we definitely won't be charging for it.

It is an extra tax on local people and we won't be forcing people to pay twice.

We have looked at how it has worked in other local authority areas.

We are definitely not going to charge.

That’s the Conservative leader of Scunthorpe council talking (†). Liz Redfern is obviously far from being an eponymous leader and knows a thing or two about serving her residents.

In Bexley things are still in a muddle with too many things unexplained.

Flat dwellers are worried. Near to me some flats get weekly rubbish (green bin) collections and there is nothing to stop nearby house dwellers with fortnightly collections ‘borrowing’ their weekly service. The same will apply to the brown bins in future.

A friend lives in a flat in another part of the borough. The ground floor accommodation comes with a garden and every flat has a brown bin for food and garden waste. If some of the keen gardeners pay for the new service their bin will have to be kept in the communal space. If there are too many, accommodation for the 240 litre bins (instead of 140) may be a problem. It will be totally impossible to restrict use to a single resident.

Has Bexley council got a plan? I doubt it. Scunthorpe has Liz Redfern, Bexley has King Cnut.

Source info.


4 June (Part 1) - No splashing, no putting, no end to the cuts

I looked in on Sidcup’s walled garden yesterday while making my way to Queen Mary’s Hospital. The garden really is in a sorry state, even worse than my own neglected patch after spending too much time blogging.

Pitch & puttI didn’t venture much beyond the entrance so I didn’t see the latest manifestation of Bexley council’s slash and burn policy.  For that I had to rely on my Sidcup correspondent.

From next Monday, Bexley offers one less thing to keep your children occupied and maybe lend a little support to its own obesity campaign.

The pitch & putt facility at Sidcup is going the same way as the Splash Park this year. Keep your youngsters glued to their screens all summer. You know it makes sense.

Click image for larger version.


3 June (Part 2) - Another bottleneck in the making

Ring the bells, hang out the bunting, Bexley has acquired another dangerous roundabout which nothing much bigger than a Smart car can get around in a totally safe manner.

Last night, with nobody around after 11 p.m. and travelling from North to South, I decided I would stay completely in lane, the outer lane, and very nearly ran out of road at under 20 m.p.h. Apart from the aforesaid Smart, few cars are smaller than mine.

With a newly marked bus stop immediately following the roundabout and a pedestrian crossing due soon, pulling out from Lensbury Way (to left of Photos 1 to 3 ) is not going to be a lot of fun at busy times.

Four years ago Bexley council, advised by cabinet member Peter Craske, handed over £4 million to the transport consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff. Did anyone notice any improvements?
Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway


3 June (Part 1) - Bexley’s property portfolio - according to the TPA

In 2011 the Taxpayers’ Alliance famously reported that salaries at Bexley council were the sixth highest in the country. They have been nosing around again, this time into council owned property.

Councils own the strangest of things from pubs to wet fish stalls to golf courses. Barnet council owns ten golf courses, what about Bexley? Has it sold off all the family silver or are there oddments that have survived the axe?
Can this be right? Bexley owns two farms, a pub and a hotel?

The theatre I can understand, it is on the list of property to be sold off. Why are no shops listed when Bexley council has been trumpeting the success of Sidcup & Co. on Sidcup High Street?
Sidcup & Co


2 June - He told them so

When, rather a long time ago, I was stuck in an office most of the day I used to think it would be more fun to drive a bus. But perhaps not a lot of fun if the job took you to Bexley.

Pity the poor 229 driver. Non-stop disruption for most of the past five years. Narrowing the roads in Belvedere took best part of a year, constant disruptions in and around Elm Road, Sidcup. Bexley village closed or one-way countless times. Sidcup station, Arnsberg Way, Erith Road (A220), Harrow Manorway flyover, Abbey Wood’s Cross Quarter, Northumberland Heath. All subject to long term road disruption - or improvements, as Bexley council likes to call them.

Now there is to be a new one. The bridge over the River Cray is to be replaced. That should create widespread misery and once again the 229 drivers will be singled out for special attention. They run to within 60 metres or so of the bridge and would suffer the consequences of bridge closure.

AnnouncementThe bridge is undoubtedly an old one and has long been the subject of a 7·5 ton weight limit - which no one enforces.

Not only does no one enforce it, Transport for London runs double deck buses over it every few minutes. Even an old Routemaster with no one on board would exceed the limit. A fully laden modern bus is three times too heavy for that bridge. Why was nothing done about it long ago?

My colleague Elwyn Bryant attempted to protect the bridge from abuse five years ago but no one was interested. Bexley council, his MP, James Brokenshire and the police. All turned their backs on him.

In June 2010 Elwyn wrote to Bexley council as follows…

I write to express my concern about the weak bridge in Bexley High Street near the Old Mill. I have reason to walk over the bridge most mornings and many times my wife and I have observed very heavy vehicles going over the bridge, although there is a 7·5 ton limit.

Is it possible that something can be done to stop heavy vehicles using the bridge? If this situation continues, sooner or later this bridge will be damaged and become dangerous., which will result in many thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent on repair, plus considerable traffic disruption.

The reply from Bexley council said nothing about the potential for damage and expense but instead referred Elwyn to the police who were said to be responsible for enforcement of the weight limit.

The police as you might imagine said they had neither the time nor the money to be bothered about weak bridges.

Elwyn wrote to his MP about Bexley council’s lack of concern for protecting the bridge and the probability it would result in a big bill for taxpayers. James Brokenshire excels at spewing out words which amount to nothing useful and provided Elwyn with another brilliant demonstration of that skill.

After so many blind eyes were turned the inevitable has happened. The bridge has been weakened by the constant abuse, not least by TfL, and Bexley residents are to be massively inconvenienced. Bexley traders will suffer yet another blow to their livelihoods (I am already in receipt of their emailed fears and opinions) and taxpayers will be lumbered with a big bill.

Elwyn Bryant’s surviving correspondence may be viewed here. And here and here. (One day I must go to see if I can improve his scanner.)
Weak bridge
Image from Google maps. Click on announcement above for planning application. The new bridge will have the same 7·5 ton weight restriction.


1 June (Part 2) - They should have supported Labour

There have been enough whispers following last week’s councillors only Boundaries Briefing to give a pretty good idea of what is going on.

It was last July when Bexley council’s Labour group put forward a clearly worded Motion.
As is the universal norm with Labour Motions, the Tories played Follow my Leader and threw it out. Their own suggestion omitted all reference to numbers and a month or so later council leader Teresa O’Neill wrote a suitably vague letter to the Boundaries Commission. One might be forgiven for thinking her heart wasn’t in it.
In due course the leader was summoned to a meeting and was somewhat taken aback by the Commission’s proposal. They suggested that 21 councillors would be enough for Bexley (instead of 63).

It was time to implement panic mode, O’Neill would have been hoping for minor changes, if they were looking for two member wards they could have gone with Labour last July. Conservative ideas were fixated on three member wards but maybe one or two fewer. With any luck they might be Labour wards.

The first necessity would be to pull down the shutters so that the public wasn’t able to witness any unseemly scramble to retain fat allowances. Council cuts are for residents, not for Tory bank balances, hence the General Purposes Working Group rather than a public sub-committee. The usual suspects were called upon to lie for the council.

At the meeting itself the Tory Group was worried, accusing the Boundaries Commission of being obsessed with single member wards. When faced with supposed examples of where single member wards could not work, the Civil Servants came back with answers. Protocols and procedures must be changed to suit a slimmed down regime.

Bexley council. They are good at dishing out the cuts. Not so good at being on the receiving end.


1 June (Part 1) - The forthcoming Bin Tax

Bexley council issued a Press Release on Thursday…

From September, food and garden waste will be collected separately from homes in the London Borough of Bexley.

The current weekly combined food and garden collection (brown bin) will be replaced with a free weekly food only recycling collection and a chargeable fortnightly garden waste service. All other refuse and recycling collections will not change.

Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Environment and Leisure, Cllr Peter Craske said,
“In common with other Council’s [sic] across the country we have to make savings whilst maintaining vital frontline services such as children and adult social care. The only way we can continue collecting garden waste from resident’s [sic] homes is on the basis of this new system. We will continue to provide all of the other waste and recycling collections.

All residents will receive leaflets in the coming weeks setting out the changes, and will be able to choose whether or not to use the chargeable garden waste collection service.

At £33 for a year - with a further discount for signing up before the end of August - we have ensured that the price for this service is low, and to put it into context, joining this collection service for a year costs less than a single tank of petrol and is similar to a family ticket for one show at the cinema in Bexleyheath.

It is important to note that during the five month consultation period, no alternative budget proposals were put forward and no area of the Council can be exempt from the spending reductions we must make.”

Residents will receive their new food only recycling box between 1 September and 4 October. Their old food and garden waste brown bin will be removed when this is delivered and weekly food collections will then start.

The chargeable garden waste service is available for just £33 a year - or only £27 for the first year if you sign up before 31 August. Those who sign up for the service will have their garden waste collected fortnightly in a bigger brown bin. Residents who choose not to use the service can either home compost their garden waste, or take it free of charge to one of Bexley’s two reuse and recycling centres.

Further information on the changes can be found at from 1 June.

Sign up for the new chargeable garden service from 1 June by visiting or call 020 8303 7777 and ask for garden waste.

The leaflet to which councillor Craske refers, or something very similar, is already reaching residents as this extract (†) from recent correspondence reveals.

I have lived in Bexley borough for 46 years and I can say without doubt the present administration is the most corrupt and deceitful group of individuals I have encountered in my life.

I am writing to you because I have just received a communication from my ward councillor advising me about the new system of garden refuse collection. It contains an explanation from Peter Craske as to why these changes are necessary.

 I have known that this was going to happen for some time because you have been blogging about it for weeks. Craske’s explanation has failed to convince me that this is other than an increase in council tax that they feel unable to admit to.

It seems that BIB is the only news outlet willing to expose the truth about the duplicity and illegality that goes on in this borough.

I am at a loss as to why they get elected though I suspect it could be that taxpayers in the borough are only interested in paying as little council tax as possible. The latest ruse to raise money might act as a wakeup call.

RubbishThose who keep an eye on council news via BiB or elsewhere may assume that everyone knows about the forthcoming bin charges but I suspect it will come as a surprise to most residents. Apathy is king and the News Shopper does not get everywhere, far from it. My distributor told me last week that he only delivers to numbers 1, 3 and 5 in my road. He has no idea why but it is what his instructions say. Very odd.

The Bin Tax may not be a tax but it will look that way. The existing system offers 7,280 litres of waste disposal to everyone without any direct charge. The new one system provides for 6,000 litres of garden waste for £33. The percentage increase will vary according to circumstances but my own contribution to council services will rise by 3·1%. 3·8% if one takes into account the reduced capacity.

Whatever Craske might say it will be seen as a Bin Tax, but look on the bright side. The last time Batman Craske was allowed to be a Cabinet Member he jacked up some parking fees very nearly threefold.

† Edited to remove identifying features.

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