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Bonkers Blog March 2015

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31 March (Part 2) - Malik malarkey

I would have thought that an essential prerequisite of being a successful politician was a broad pair of shoulders. Immediately after my suggestion that Bexley LibDems did not deserve electoral support while they blocked public access to their website, Bonkers lost a handful of Twitter followers. It may have been coincidence and who cares anyway, but I could name one local aspiring politician who definitely can’t stand the kitchen heat.

The two Twitter comments shown below were posted a couple of weeks apart so presumably not the result of an out of character spur of the moment impulse.


TweetsI will be lucky to get through the next 37 days without upsetting someone and today it may be Bexley Labour’s turn. It concerns their old friend and former councillor Munir Malik. I liked his council chamber appearances, always good for bringing out the worst in his Conservative foes.

Malik was pretty quickly ditched from the Labour party when his financial fibbing in connection with membership of the Co-operative Bank board came to light and I think he was deselected for the Thamesmead East council seat even earlier.

It may be that financial fun and games was a Malik family business, at least a Welsh blogger seems to thinks so.

I suspect the Jac o’ the North blog will appeal most to Bexley councillors eager to gloat or shake their heads in disbelief at the money making and nepotism.

If you should be wondering how a Welsh blog posted only a few hours ago came to my attention so quickly; simple. I was asked if I could confirm one of the author’s own suspicions. He was 99% certain. I gave him the extra 1%.

Associated link.

 

31 March (Part 1) - “The end of tyranny” in Bexley

No more hiding up side streets - possibly
It’s been a long time coming but Eric Pickles’ plan to put an end to unfair parking fines will finally become law tomorrow. No longer will Bexley council be able to hide its gestapo wagons up side streets looking for motorists who stop for 35 seconds to pick up a passenger (as reported by a reader yesterday) and they will be confined to patrolling bus stops and school zig-zags.

Spy carsBexley council has calculated that it will lose around £200,000 as a result of their more dubious activities being constrained by law. This is the sum which the Department of Communities and Local Government considers has been unfairly taken from your pocket each year by Bexley council.


U turnsNot unexpectedly, Bexley council is planning to fight back. It expects to be able to use CCTV cameras to monitor minor traffic offences such as U turns and already it has begun imposing additional restrictions on such things. A dishonest council has to get its money somehow.

The legislation includes provision of a ten minute grace period for those who stay slightly longer than they should.



This website
Since redesigning Bonkers to allow the choice of viewing a single blog entry or a whole month’s worth and later a whole day’s worth to benefit, or so I thought, the increasing proportion of visitors using mobile devices (now at 40%), those continuing to look at the whole month outnumber the day only viewers by nearly three to one. There have also been several complaints from those who wish to view the whole month or a whole day and are finding it hard to get there.


Today MonthAt yesterday’s film show one BiB reader explained his way of reaching Bonkers more clearly than most and as a result the two Instant Access buttons have been added to the Home and Index pages. Index is where one ends up when using the original www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk address. It is no longer my preferred route but old habits have a habit of lingering.

It may be possible to add one or both buttons to all the non-blog pages but there are some practical difficulties in the way.

As well as the request for easier blog access there was a suggestion there was too much Crossrail coverage so tomorrow won’t be popular; Crossrail is holding a by invitation liaison meeting this evening.

 

30 March - LibDems ignore imminent election and Bexley mayor displays breathtaking arrogance

LibDems deserve no votes in Bexley
When searching for local political websites to add to the BiB menu I didn’t even think of looking for a Liberal Democrat site which may tell you something about my opinion of that party, but I belatedly decided to make amends. This is the best I could do…
Lib Dems
Mayor shows his true colours
There is an interesting entry on Page 26 of the current Bexley Magazine but it took a nudge from a BiB reader for me to notice it.


Magazine MayorIt was an opportunity to see a 50 minute programme (not two hours as shown) of films from Bexley’s past (1920s to early 1960s). About 150 people, mostly old enough to be able to remember that far back, turned up at the Civic Centre well before the appointed time - which came and went with increasing impatience from the floor.

At Saturday morning pictures we used to stamp on the floor when the film broke or the arc lamp dimmed but apparently that technique doesn’t work any more. We had to wait for the mayor to make an appearance which the arrogant blighter deigned to do 40 minutes after most of us and 25 minutes past the scheduled starting time. Not a word of apology, just councillor Howard Marriner’s usual mumble about nothing in particular, this time at nearly 70 years old he was looking forward to seeing a bit of Bexley’s history. He wasn’t alone, that is why everyone else had got there early.

The mayor is paid nearly £15,000 a year on top of his councillor allowance for parading his chain at public events. You would think he might have the common decency to turn up on time for those who fill his wallet so generously, or at least offer a word of apology for keeping everyone waiting. But no, he is a member of the nasty party and above all that sort of thing.

I don’t suppose I was alone in incurring an extra hour’s car parking fee.

There was a reasonably wide range of subject matter although I would have preferred more recognisable street scenes and less nappy changing. The show was arranged by www.filmlondon.org.uk and the films can be viewed on that website. Click ‘Screen Heritage’. Searching for ‘Bexley’ brings forth dozens of films with no mayoral arrogance to get in the way.

 

29 March - No lift, no trains, no dramatic Crossrail progress

Station LiftProbably I should rely more on the word of the men in orange suits than emails from management because Abbey Wood station was not reduced to rubble yesterday. It may look as if it would succumb to a strong gust of wind but it still stands.

There was plenty of wind and rain today which must have been far from helpful while the North Kent line was closed again for the weekend but a lunchtime sortie from Abbey Wood to Church Manorway (Plumstead) revealed a grand total of five orange suits. Not for the first time recently it is hard to see what has justified putting the travelling public to so much inconvenience - me included.

Comparison with last week’s photographs shows no progress with track laying but a great deal of ballast material has been added and the foundations for the overhead electricity supply gantries are more obvious. (See blue trackside panels.)


Track Track Track Track
Crossrail's ability to prevent prying eyes from watching them do, very often, not a lot is remarkable. The final three photographs are all taken through rain drenched Perspex or four by one centimetre holes in the metal grid which shrouds the Church Manorway footbridge. The lens was wide open in a not always successful attempt to throw the offending obstructions out of focus.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

28 March - So what exactly does Will Tuckley do for his £200k. plus perks?

TuckleyIt’s long been a mystery to me what Bexley’s Chief Executive actually does. In the Summer of 2012 someone had the bright idea of asking for a copy of Will Tuckley’s office diary for June using the Freedom of Information Act. Bexley council refused the request but the Information Commissioner jumped on them and when a typed list, alleged to be a copy of the diary, eventually showed up it listed 45 hours of meetings, phone calls and visits during that month. It didn’t seem a lot for someone on £1,000 a day. (An amended version was supplied almost a year after it was requested.)

Will Tuckley’s direct responsibilities are few; try naming a service which has not been farmed out. Recycling, street cleaning, park maintenance, parking services, tax collection, cemeteries, housing, care services, registrars; they’ve all gone. So that leaves planning and libraries right?

No not really. Two libraries are already independently run and what’s left is a joint operation with Bromley council which put 35 people out of work - and even that arrangement may not be for much longer.


Soft testBexley council already has plans that could lead to the closure of four libraries but it is toying with the idea of placing the remaining six in private hands too. They wish to “identify external providers who have an interest in running both [Bexley and Bromley’s] services”.

It sounds rather ambitious when nobody is queuing up to run the libraries Bexley wants to close. Bexley council has published some answers for those who might be tempted to throw their hat into the ring.

Absolutely nothing is safe from the programme of cuts.

 

27 March - Bexley’s General Election candidates

MenuWith nothing much going on today - all week really - but with a General Election not much more than a month away the opportunity has been taken to update the main site menu to access all the local candidates’ websites.

It should have been easy but not all parties have a separate site for each branch and candidate so the menu is not as consistent as it might have been.


OppsThe Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency seems to have a web jinx at the moment. David Evennett (Conservative) has closed his old MP’s website which is probably sensible and provided a link to his campaign site. Unfortunately it currently doesn’t go anywhere.

Stefano Borella (Labour) features heavily on his branch’s website but his campaign site looks to be a long way from finished. I sympathise, maintaining a website takes a bit of effort and a degree of expertise.

They are obviously being done by Central Office, or at least on a provided template, but I think I like the look of Anna Firth’s site best but to see what she is up against in Erith & Thamesmead, Teresa Pearce’s website includes five whole years of achievements.

If anyone knows the whereabouts of any other Bexley General Election websites - BNP? - perhaps they would let me know.

 

26 March - Cllr. Philip Read. Evil man with vile thoughts

Philip ReadAnother small step towards the provision of acceptable Children’s Services in Bexley was achieved yesterday. The Department for Education lifted the Improvement Notice it placed on Bexley council six months ago. Obviously that is good news even if half the social worker posts are still filled by temporary staff and the Chief Executive says there is still an awful long way to go and his Director says it is going to take around two years to get to where Bexley should have always been.

The cabinet member is entitled to feel encouraged by the way things are going even though he has only been involved for the last nine months in an improvement project that started three years ago but as the cabinet member is the renowned sour faced, sharp tongued and shallow thinker Philip Read he had to go and spoil it by voicing his hatred for Labour councillors.

Which is most likely? That Philip Read is a world class idiot or that the Labour Party in Bexley would be happier if the borough’s children are neglected to the point that some die?
Notice

 

25 March (Part 2) - Blocking out the recent past

Arnsberg Way Arnsberg Way Arnsberg WayBexleyheath is in its third week of disruption following the failure of its newly installed £3·2 million ‘blocking’ of Broadway and Arnsberg Way. While making my way towards the centre of activity I noted block movement and cracking evident in both Trinity Square (the Magic Roundabout) and outside Christ Church. It’s minor at the moment but probably a sign of things to come. A hard Winter should do the trick.

Arnsberg Way

 

25 March (Part 1) - Can Anna hack it?

Anna FirthFly tipping has been a problem in my neck of the woods for as long as I can remember so to have Anna Firth make a big issue of it as part of her election campaign is not a fundamentally bad thing.

However when both Lesnes Abbey and Belvedere had Conservative councillors I don’t recall any of them being active on the fly tipping front. Since they were sent packing last May Danny Hackett (Labour Lesnes Abbey) has been a lot more pro-active. At least twice he has asked if I could find the time to photograph nearby reported rubbish so that he can be sure of his ground before notifying the removal team. This was one that I remember and he wasn’t even a councillor then. There was another request only yesterday.

When Danny was on my doorstep last weekend I made a comment on what rubbish one might find in Sevenoaks but it’s a bit too much of a trek to pursue a none-too-serious remark. Google had to do instead. It revealed that Sevenoaks is not immune from fly tipping and following some service cuts at county level, there is no Environmental Team to tidy up promptly or pursue the culprits. One up for Bexley.

Sevenoaks
Neither borough goes out of its way to be helpful to anyone who might be tempted to fly tip. Bexley charges £30 to take away a household item and Sevenoaks £17
Bexley charges Sevenoaks charges
BexleyFor ten large items Sevenoaks charges £50, Bexley’s published charging schedule maxes out at two items for £30. Maybe Anna Firth could teach Bexley council a thing or two about waste collection after all - and spelling too.

 

24 March - When is a cut not a cut? When it’s a re-modelling

We’ve had efficiency savings, festivals abandoned, grants cut, libraries closed, prices up across the board, selling the borough to the highest bidder and now services are up for remodelling. Any euphemism will do when there is no money left.
Remodelling
There are currently 14 children’s centres in Bexley, ten big ones and four little ones. It is proposed that only six provide the full range of services in future and eight would respond to local need only.

There is a council web page to cover the proposals more comprehensively which includes a link to yet another consultation. Parents who think they may be affected should take a look.

This is perhaps an appropriate moment to mention that I am currently in contact with three parents who have lost children to Bexley council's ‘early intervention’ regime and the Rhys Lawrie case gets more interesting almost by the day. None of it is appropriate for the blog, at least not yet, but these issues and others have pushed email responses well into arrears again. And BiB is pretty much a single handed operation and sometimes there are other things that simply must be done.

 

23 March - It took three years but the penny has finally dropped

The Adsa store in Belvedere has been open for more than 18 months now and would appear to be doing very well, it is nearly always busy and sometimes uncomfortably full. It seems odd now that three years ago opposition to it was being whipped up by a Belvedere councillor. It puzzled me at the time that the local councillor would want to deprive his electors of a supermarket when there was no other close by. I put it down to him being totally out of touch but it now seems that there may have been more to it than that.

The first Bonkers reference to former Conservative councillor for Belvedere, Kerry Allon, being against the building of an Asda on the B&Q site was in November 2011. He presented a petition to council against it.

Three months later planning officers recommended the scheme for approval. The Conservative dominated Planning Committee rejected it and the story made the front page of the News Shopper on 8th February 2012 with both councillors Allon and John Davey being reported as anti.

Later that month it was revealed by the News Shopper that Amit Patel the owner of Belvedere News had organised the petition and 409 people had signed it but it was orchestrated by a rival supermarket. Bexley council doesn’t usually take any notice of petitions, why was this one so special?

Only a month later, with Kerry Allon’s petition discredited, the new store was approved. Why did so many councillors try to get it stopped? I suspect that over the past few days Twitter has provided an answer.


TweetIt reveals that one of Anna Firth’s support team is in Twitter parlance @AmitP327 and his account shows him to be a partner in Belvedere News. The same Amit Patel that Conservative councillor Kerry Allon was so keen to help.

I think I know now why Bexley Conservatives tried so hard to stop Asda opening. Would it be wrong to suggest they were protecting one of their own to the detriment of the wider population?

 

22 March (Part 4) - Getting into beds with Anna

TweetTwitter has a reputation among non-users of being entertainment for those blessed with lower than average intellect. “I am eating my breakfast”, “I am on the train”, “I am going to be late”; but used sensibly it is an incredibly powerful way of distributing a message. Like a digital chain letter it can multiply at an astonishing rate but in the wrong hands it can ruin reputations - or land you in jail.


Rubbish Tory UkipSome politicians appear to be addicted to Tweeting and are uncaring about the effect on their reputations. I have personally found Erith & Thamesmead’s Conservative candidate’s triumphant Tweeting every time she finds rubbish on the streets more than a little tiresome. Fine the first time but the ‘joke’ soon wears a little thin. Yesterday it was all about a couple of beds dumped in Belvedere with some taunting of Danny Hackett, councillor for the adjacent ward of Lesnes Abbey.

I suspect Anna Firth is egged on by those with fewer brain cells and more addicted to Tweeting than she is.

Amandeep Bhogal, who I believed to be an intelligent man following a single brief conversation with him, has been so enthused with rubbish Tweeting that he has labelled the local UKIP committee racists even though their chosen candidate does not look at all like a white supremacist to me.


Sevenoaks newsWhilst Anna Firth’s campaign against fly tippers has had a mixed reception locally, she is coming in for some stick in Sevenoaks where she is seeking election as a councillor on the same day as fighting for a Parliamentary seat in Thamesmead.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle reported the situation last week but they got very little out of Mrs. Firth when she allegedly told them their questioning was unfair. I’ve seen her say the same on Twitter. I wish the politicians would grow up and raise the debate above beds and black sacks.

Ironically the only time I experienced racism was when a Sikh woman called me “white vermin”.

 

22 March (Part 3) - Another job for PC Chris Molnar

TweetHe can’t be everywhere at the same time even if he does do 18 hour shifts rescuing young damsels in distress.


Lesnes Lesnes So if you know anything about this act of senseless vandalism to Lesnes Abbey PC Chris Molnar would no doubt welcome a few clues that might help him find those who attack the very old too.

Note: PC Molnar is a Thamesmead Officer who is happy to stray beyond his boundaries in more ways than one.

 

22 March (Part 2) - Bexley puts money before health

I must declare an interest before venturing into the subject of cigarette smoking because I have hated it ever since I was regularly kippered in the back of a 1936 Austin 12 on the long journey from Farnborough in Hampshire to East Ham in the early 1950s. My father died of lung cancer a few days after his 68th birthday. Even now I cross the road to avoid a young female neighbour who is constantly shrouded in cigarette smoke and stinks to high heaven.

The prevalence of smoking in Bexleyheath’s Broadway has been noted here before and so it doesn’t surprise me one bit that the borough does not do too well with its smoking statistics in comparison with other London boroughs.
Smoking
Bexley’s anti-smoking crusade has been as good any and it has persuaded more than most to come off the weed but far too many smokers have proved to be resistant and prefer to pay dearly for a painful death. Their choice so long as it does not impact on others but too often it does.


Smoking Smoking SmokingBexley Clinical Commissioning Group should perhaps take a little time off from preaching to smokers and turn their attention to the council’s Planning Department who presumably passed the plans for the new Premier Inn in Albion Road.

The hotel’s management, with cavalier disregard for anyone passing their door, has dedicated a small recess in their facade as their Smoking Area. As you can see, it is not even a metre deep and will likely turn the footpath into a stinking health hazard. It’s bad enough when nicotine addicts congregate outside offices but for any company to actually encourage the practice must surely have a negative impact on its reputation. More Pestilential Inn than Premier.

If Bexley council doesn’t take action on it there will be some who will assume that Regeneration and Development takes precedence over Health and Wellbeing. Money usually takes precedence over everything in Bexley.

 

22 March (Part 1) - Railway runs on time. It helps to have no trains

It was good of Nick Wilcox the Crossrail Project Manager at Abbey Wood to let me know that this was to be a busy weekend on the railway and his timetable for the bridge removal was spot on. The serious work began early yesterday afternoon and by 9 a.m. this morning the debris was being swept into neat piles. Piles however were not in evidence at the tunnel approach early this morning,
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail CrossrailMr. Wilcox had said “We’ll also be installing piles for the new Overhead Electrification structures up near the Plumstead portal – Church Manorway footbridge would be a good vantage point to have a look at that”.

Probably it would be for someone wearing a Crossrail manager’s pass but the company’s fence building skills are right up there with steering Maria and Sophia under the Thames. Five of these photographs were taken through filthy Perspex windows and rescued in Photoshop - as were some of the Abbey Wood bridge demolition photos.

Maybe I wouldn’t recognise an electrification pile if I tripped over one but none were obvious although the tunnel approach was a hive of industry.

It is disappointing to note how much anti-vandal protection has been installed on the Church Manorway footbridge but sadly there are too many mindless morons in and around Abbey Wood.

Meanwhile, back at the station, the bridge is down and tomorrow’s train timetable looks to be safe. All photos below taken between 06:45 and 07:00. (First photo a left over from yesterday.)

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail
More Crossrail related blogs.

 

21 March (Part 2) - Abbey Wood is definitely step free now

These photographs of the Abbey Wood public footbridge demolition need little comment. The track was protected by wooden beams suspended on blocks above the rails. The beams were covered by a plastic membrane and topped out with compressed wood fibre boards. The pneumatic drills moved in at 1:30 p.m. and work is scheduled to go on until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning after which the debris must be cleared away in time for the first train on Monday morning.
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
More Crossrail related blogs.

 

 

21 March (Part 1) - Playing political hard to get

HackettIn between trips to Abbey Wood station to see the last vestiges of the public footway come tumbling down, there was a knock on the door. It was councillor Danny Hackett and fortunately he was not there to complain about yesterday’s mischievous blog which ran the risk of straining our friendship. Fortunately public office has not taken away his sense of fun.

Unlike Anna Firth Danny was too busy to come in but instead noted what is obvious to all, BiB takes up so much time there is little left for keeping the front garden tidy. No offer to help though!

Danny is by now not especially upset about my continued refusal to embrace Messrs. Miliband and Balls - Danny was my first ever Labour vote - and I cling to my personal history book which says that every Labour government since 1964 has tailored its policies to ensure that my personal finances and freedoms have been attacked as much as possible and the Conservatives have only done the same most of the time. I would however readily concede that Teresa Pearce has been in my opinion a first rate local MP and I would be extremely disappointed if she was not re-elected in May.

Teresa got it right when soon after she first made herself known to me she said she saw me as “a plague on all your houses sort of person”, which demonstrates far better judgment than the Prime Minister who has annoyed me almost constantly during the past five years.

Leaflet

 

20 March (Part 2) - A new look for Abbey Wood. Plans for Wilton Road are up for discussion

Thanks to an early tip off about the £300,000 which has been allocated to improving Wilton Road, Abbey Wood, I was able to inform traders of their good fortune before any official word came through. Bexley councillor Danny Hackett wasn’t slow to call on them and Teresa Pearce was there within 24 hours offering help organising a traders’ association etc. Greenwich council invited the traders to a meeting and Bexley council has so far done the square root of sod all.

Since the news broke the traders have been discussing among themselves what their priorities are and kindly kept me informed of their latest thoughts. Last night they met two Greenwich council officers, one from ‘Traffic’ and one from ‘Regeneration’, who were accompanied by the leader of Greenwich council Denise Hyland. She happens to be the Abbey Wood ward councillor. Danny Hackett (Labour councillor, Lesnes Abbey) was there too but with the Greenwich side of Wilton Road being occupied mainly by ‘chains’, it was the independent traders from the Bexley side who dominated. Their principal concern was customer parking.


Wilton RoadBy the time the road reverts to two way working to accommodate Crossrail requirements 22 parking spaces will have been lost from Wilton Road, Florence Road, Gayton Road and Knee Hill and 16 vehicles are required to service traders’ own businesses.

Possible solutions ranged from diagonal parking on the Greenwich side to a 15-20 minute maximum waiting time. Most customer requirements could be met in that time. Councillor Hyland suggested that Business Parking Bays might be a solution but she was reminded that Bexley council had not long taken theirs away.

Councillor Denise Hyland went on to say that the £6m. to be spent on integrating the new station into its surroundings would be within a tightly controlled area and much of the money would go on alterations to the Harrow Manorway flyover. She was keen to blur the demarcation line between the new and the old, hence the £300k. for Wilton Road. Councillor Hyland mentioned extending Greenwich’s CCTV system to Wilton Road, but not from the new regeneration budget.

The council officers said they were open to reverting the road to its original village style or they could attempt a more modern approach. They would bring in expert help to advise but it would all need to be done quite quickly. The money would likely be spent within the next twelve months, 16 at most.

The money is sufficient to improve about 15 independent shops both internally and externally but little would be available for road works. Northumberland Heath has demonstrated only too well that if you dig up even a tiny section of road £100,000 disappears with almost nothing to show for it.

The road would be ‘decluttered’ to provide a more open look but there was a general feeling that the southern entrance to the road should be provided with an eye catching feature. A proscenium style arch or a statue were mentioned, but “please not a fish like Erith” was one comment.

The Greenwich council officers assured the traders that the main pedestrian access to the new Abbey Wood station would continue to be Wilton and Felixstowe Roads. Buses would continue to serve Gayton Road and there would be no car or significant pedestrian access to the high level entrance on Harrow Manorway. That would be bus only access because of the limited space available. Post 2017, when the new station is opened, passing trade should be unaffected but the intervening almost three years is critical to business survival. Parking relief is vital and it is nearly six months since Bexley council promised to look at the situation but didn’t. Maybe Greenwich council will deliver where once again Bexley has failed.

The traders are in the process of forming a formal association to negotiate with official bodies. If Wilton Road shoppers wish to influence the outcome their best bet is to make friends with the independent traders - and maybe spend some money there while they are about it.

On a related note, news of The Abbey Arms is confused and the traders seem little better informed than anyone else. They have heard that the pub will reopen under new management almost immediately which suggests it may not have been sold and the prospect of a Wetherspoons must be receding.

Teresa Pearce was unable to attend the traders’ meeting due to Parliamentary commitments.

 

20 March (Part 1) - Tossing caution to the wind…

There has been a minor spat following Anna Firth’s use of the word Tosser on Twitter. I don’t suppose anyone gives a tinker’s cuss but there is an election coming and points have to be scored. Anna Firth purports to be shocked by the rubbish she finds on the streets of her chosen constituency and I don’t just mean councillor Philip Read. Many will regard it as part of the natural northern landscape while those who give it any thought will find it unsurprising given that Bexley council’s bins are smaller than they used to be, they won’t empty them if the lid isn’t tightly shut, they charge £30 to take away larger household goods and have their recycling centres as far away as is possible without actually going into the next borough.


Rubbish RubbishMs. Firth has been assiduous in reporting rubbish she finds to her council contacts and one might wonder how she comes to have this privileged access when she is just another ‘nobody’ seeking votes.

Her campaigns include English Votes for English Laws and persuading Southeastern to run its trains on time but I like an optimist. The latest called ‘Don’t be a tosser’ attacks fly tippers which I might support except that it has already dropped me in the mire with Lesnes Abbey councillor Danny Hackett.

Danny must have spent too much time reading Bonkers because he spotted that my photograph (see blog dated 7th March) was taken an hour or two before Anna Firth’s and now he wants to know why I didn’t tell him about the rubbish, and I suppose he is entitled to be miffed. Danny was reporting fly tips long before Anna was chasing a Rochester seat, let alone one in Erith & Thamesmead.

Now Danny has taken a leaf out of Anna’s book and directed her favourite T word at me. He called me a Tory, I could be wrong but it may have been a bloody Tory.

I’d report him to Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee which was due to meet next Tuesday but it has been unexpectedly cancelled. It would be ironic if its chairman councillor Cheryl Bacon could not attend due to an appointment with Greenwich police to answer under caution questions relating to an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office but probably we are still a few weeks away from that being possible. By my reckoning eight people have provided the police with signed statements to the effect that Cheryl Bacon is an industrial scale liar and no witnesses have been willing to say otherwise. Just the sort of person one might expect to see chairing Bexley council’s Code of Conduct Committee.

The heap that Anna found on the Saturday morning hung around until at least the Monday afternoon and these photographs were taken on three successive days.

Rubbish
Rubbish
You will probably recognise that this blog report, while true, is not intended to be taken entirely seriously. Councillor Hackett and I know each other well enough to exchange friendly insults without falling out, although I am perhaps about to test the boundaries. He doesn’t approve of my Conservative instincts and I totally fail to understand enthusiasm for Tony Blair. However I will happily agree that David Cameron is not perfect, I’m not even sure he is a Tory and maybe Anna Firth should allow me to borrow a suitable adjective, but Danny shows no sign of emerging from the old charlatan’s spell. Maybe someone who was old enough to vote at 13 General Elections should be more forgiving of someone who has been able to vote at, err, none at all so far!

 

19 March (Part 2) - Bexley’s malign influence gets everywhere

Unusually I didn’t pay much attention to yesterday’s budget speech. Nothing George Osborne might say was likely to have as much effect on my finances as the email that came from my bank earlier in the day to say that the interest rate on my current account balance was to be reduced from 1·1% to absolutely nothing.

With savings rates being so low I have been lazy and left more money in the current account than might be considered normal. Having seen 16% mortgage rates when I had no money and 0% savings rates after I accumulated a little I should probably find it hard to believe that those still aspiring to get on the housing ladder are having an even more difficult time, but that does appear to be the case. While small minds argue in Bexley’s council chamber as to whose fault it is, the fact remains the country as a whole is in as big a mess as Bexley is.

Times have changed and a willingness to live in a house with no television and only two chairs (borrowed deckchairs actually) and never eating out appear to have evaporated so now we will have fewer libraries, parks and playgrounds instead. Money doesn’t grow on trees, apart perhaps for the supplier of the £7,000 a year specimen in the council offices.

But I digress too much; I should have taken more notice of yesterday’s budget because it is only now that I am waking up to the fact that it was almost a Bexley budget.


Budget BudgetThe Treasury Team posing for the cameras outside Number 11 included councillor Sharon Massey’s brother Gareth Johnson (MP for Dartford) and Mrs. Alex Sawyer (Priti Patel). Maybe I shouldn’t think about voting Tory again at the next General Election if there is any chance at all of the Massey’s having an input on policy.

Presumably the Chancellor did not find time within his speech to complain about his inadequate remuneration (as Sharon did at the last Bexley council meeting) but if Priti Patel follows the Sawyer line it could be that neither Hyde Park nor the Serpentine is any safer than Bexley’s parks and water features.

Bexley council has form for infiltrating the upper tiers of government. It formed the core of Boris Johnson’s election campaign teams in 2008 and 2012 which may explain why Boris has looked favourably on Teresa O’Neill and the Metropolitan Police which Boris controls through the Commissioner has had a tendency to look the other way when Bexley council breaks the law. (Ian Clement, obscenities associated with Peter Craske’s phone line, illegally closed bridleways and false allegations of misbehaviour in the council chamber.)

Johnson

 

19 March (Part 1) - Children’s Committee credited. Cllr. Philip Read discredited

My New Year’s resolution to attend a wider variety of council meetings has gone the way of most such resolutions. On one occasion a more attractive alternative presented itself - not difficult - and another time I was unwell, but yesterday I was free to attend the Children’s Social Care Improvement Plan Scrutiny Sub-Group.

In recent months the responsible cabinet member, Philip Read, has been crowing loudly about how much Children’s Services have improved since he took responsibility last May and in the process been incredibly aggressive towards his Labour counterpart, councillor Mabel Ogundayo. Read doesn‘t like her because she is young and doesn’t think she is capable of independent thought.

Children’s Services are of particular interest to me following correspondence with two families who have lost children to Bexley’s social services. Their stories are remarkably similar and from one I have seen evidence of Bexley council’s clear failures. Both make the same criticisms of social workers - they are liars - and again one offers proof.

Yesterday’s meeting was scheduled for four o’clock and I turned up in plenty of time only to find the day time receptionist was unfamiliar with the concept of a public meeting. I couldn’t go in unless I was invited. As the starting time loomed and a reference to the Local Government Act made no impression, the day was saved by councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) who averted another Cheryl Bacon incident by explaining the situation to the receptionist and kindly led me to Room G07.

Clearly no one was expecting a public presence and I squeezed into one of the two spare seats. The Agenda did not state who would chair the meeting but councillor David Hurt assumed the role. He may not have been any more aware of the Local Government Act than the receptionist because he asked the committee members if they were happy to accept the presence of a member of the public. They were.

After the less than perfect start things improved immeasurably.
Room G07
Chief Executive Will Tuckley indicated he would speak for ten minutes but spoke fluently for 25, grabbing my attention throughout. I have heard him say the same before but he was “shocked, appalled, embarrassed and felt guilty” about the failings revealed by OFSTED three years ago. I do not doubt his word but my thoughts strayed to Trevor Lawrie who lost his grandson Rhys after the boy’s mother had told medical workers that she was likely to harm the child, she had been sectioned under the Medical Health Act before moving to Bexley and health workers and teachers had all told Bexley council of their concerns.

Bexley council did absolutely nothing about it claiming that one report had come in during the Christmas party season. Rhys died from 39 injuries and the police said it was death from natural causes. To this day Rhys’s grandfather believes that was part of a cover up to save Bexley council from a Haringey Baby Peter situation.

Bexley council clearly recognises the seriousness of the situation that was allowed to prevail and their first actions following the OFSTED ignominy were to “intervene earlier” (hence more families having children taken away) and employ more staff; 38 of them and inevitably temporary.

The costs have been very significant but in Mr. Tuckley’s opinion the council “struggles with consistency” and “we haven’t got there yet and considerable work still needs to be done“. “The practice is not one we can be proud of”. So Philip Read’s crowing is somewhat premature and he has been in position for only eight months while Will Tuckley and his team have been working on the problem for three years.

The newest member of the team is Director Jackie Tiotto, recently of OFSTED itself, who outlined her plans for the future and kindly provided me with my own copy of her summary.

She was well received by councillors although as her address was a little more ‘technical’ than the Chief Executive’s was not quite as illuminating to the casual observer, i.e. me. She said that temporary staff remained too high at about 50:50. The 40:60 figure (claimed by Philip Read) referred to all departmental staff and not “front line social workers”. Philip Read’s constant message to councillor Mabel Ogundayo that her statistics are out of date would appear to be undone by the Director.

Councillor John Wilkinson (Conservative, Brampton) asked how Bexley managed to get itself into such an awful position three years ago which Will Tuckley accepted was a good question but if there was a straight answer it passed me by, except perhaps that the CEO suggested it was dangerous for a borough to be “insular”. Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) had noticed “improved morale” among the staff and said that a weakness had been “communication” and this had been much improved between “partners”. (Schools, police, probation service etc.)

Councillor Brad Smith (Conservative, Christchurch) asked another good question. “How long would it be before Bexley obtained a ‘Good’ rating from OFSTED?” Director of Children’s Services Jackie Tiotto thought it might be “two years; it is a big tanker to turn”.

The meeting was a good example of people apparently working hard for a common goal and on the surface at least there is nothing to carp about, but I cannot forget that some of the managers are unchanged since Rhys Lawrie’s life took second place to the Christmas booze up.

 

17 March - One serious error is careless, two is incompetence

Senseless in Sidcup
BaconRichardsonCan you believe that in the almost ten months it took to improve the look of Sidcup, absolutely none of Bexley council’s highly paid managers and engineering staff noticed that the new footpaths buried all the water stop cocks leading to the shops? Probably you can if you have lived in the borough long enough.

As a result of Bexley council’s negligence, Thames Water is digging up the new paving and burrowing into the mud. The job is scheduled to take all week and Sidcup High Street has reverted to one way working.

Original cost of scheme : £1·8 million.

The council officer whose job it was to report progress on the Sidcup regeneration at council meetings was Mrs. Jane Richardson (Director of Strategic Planning and Regeneration, £86,940 per annum plus usual perks) and the cabinet member in charge was councillor Cheryl Bacon who famously closed the public meeting which announced it because she imagined that I and others were running riot in the council chamber that night. A lie for which there is still a good chance that the police will feel her collar before long - unless they succumb to political interference as has become the norm when a Bexley councillor breaks the law.

Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street Sidcup High Street

Blockheads in Bexleyheath
Bryce-Smith CrosssingIn Bexleyheath the year and a bit old blocked junctions in Arnsberg are being ripped up and replaced with asphalt. When the £3·2 million award winning scheme was under construction, the man often to be seen overseeing the work and who spoke about it a meetings was David Bryce-Smith (£90,393 plus perks). Deputy Director of Development at the time.

It is now said that the basic design was wrong, which probably means that Bexley council has belatedly realised what many people have seen elsewhere. viz. blocks and buses don’t mix.

Work is expected to last eight weeks.

Arnsberg Arnsberg Arnsberg Arnsberg

Numpties in North Heath
ReadNorthumberland Heath may be the perfect example of how £100,000 goes nowhere these days. There was an exhibition in the library (while there still is one in North Heath) and there was a consultations with the local forums who were less than enthusiastic about the idea and who may be less so now.

All there is to show for the money is a couple of fancy railings either side of Mill Road, a couple of impractical granite benches, a flower bed and some flags flying from lamp posts.

Within yards of the new features the old remain to provide a contrast. The bollard is especially impressive and parking spaces are still at a considerable premium.

Cabinet member Philip Read was especially proud of this scheme but within months it is likely to be forgotten.

North Heath North Heath North Heath North Heath
Claim
All the street photographs were taken today.

 

16 March - Bexley council at the back of the grant queue

When returning from a weekend away I usually find that something has turned up in the interval to fill the Monday blog - but not so this time and the only messages have been of the ‘where’s the blog gone’ variety. So scraping the barrel somewhat, here's a short filler.


JobsThe Spring 2015 Bexley magazine has fallen onto the doormat providing its usual carefully chosen words about life in the borough. Some things are undoubtedly looking up, notably the investment going into the north of the borough which will help stop Bexley’s council tax rate rising to highest in London from its current low point of 24th worst. It can be no coincidence that the council belatedly repented on its isolationist policy. i.e. no river crossings, and commercial interests and developers are flocking to Erith and Belvedere.

The council magazine doesn’t hide the fact that council tax is going up but its says not a word about the myriad of stealth taxes. Car park season tickets up 50%, council tax up by a third for those on benefits, and perhaps most surprising of all, the new bin tax. More than 3% extra for me for a worse service than before; total capacity will be less than 80% of the current level. Differing circumstances will produce different percentage ‘tax’ increases but allegedly they average 2·9%.

The council reminds us on Page 12 that it has joined streetlife.com and so did I recently. Bexley residents are there in force some of whom are complaining vigorously about the lack of notice or consultation on the new recycling rearrangements. With only 1,581 responses it is not surprising that most residents are in ignorance of what is coming next October. How difficult would it have been to tag a notice to each brown bin?

With apathy being the major occupation of too many taxpayers, the seriousness of Bexley’s financial position will be as little known as the bin tax. Much of it can be laid at the government’s door, or the previous government’s door depending on one’s political leanings. Bromley council is in a similar position and has been trying to tell its residents just how hard done by it is, maybe Bexley will do the same in due course.

One of Bromley’s charts is reproduced below. (Click or scroll.)

Chart

As you can see, only four London boroughs are given a worse deal by government than Bexley and only three fewer spend less on their squeezed populations. Bromley suffers most by any measure but it manages to levy a Band D council tax significantly lower than Bexley. Almost 10% lower.

It pays its councillors more than Bexley and its senior management almost as much and I suspect the lower Band D tax rate comes about from having a higher proportion of Band E and higher property than Bexley, but Bromley’s website hides the details even more thoroughly than Bexley’s. I didn’t think that was possible.

 

14 March - Crossrail exhibition. Confusion reigns

Crossrail Last Tuesday’s Crossrail exhibition, if two hours and the same old poster in a village hall can be called an exhibition, produced little by way of new information and I lost confidence in it when told that recent two day line closures were one day and the scheduled one day closure in February didn’t happen at all. However for what it is worth, Site S14 at the end of Fendyke Road (Photo 2) was confirmed to become a major storage depot like that under the Eynsford Drive bridge.

The utility services which run under the railway line where the old Wilton Road level crossing used to be presented a hazard to the piling operation. They are to be diverted along Gayton Road, under the tracks at the end of Florence Road where many conduit pipes were buried last summer, and then back along Felixstowe Road to the north of the line. Hence the deep trenches shown last week.

Taking a personal interest because of what is to happen close to home I have in the past been told that both Crossrail tracks will be extended through the station towards Belvedere to provide engineering access, and that one will hit the buffers at Abbey Wood station but this time the story reverted to both tracks being extended eastwards for at least one train length. When asked when that section would be piled I was told it was imminent. I have no real confidence that any of that is true, the plans may well have changed but between every small exhibition? It seems far fetched to me.

As you can see, the former station car park appears to be ready for track laying and the remnants of the footbridge and the station building are all that stands in the way of piling east of the station. Both obstructions will be down by the end of the month.

Materials are constantly shuffling from one end of Fendyke Road to the other, occasionally leaving the road muddy but only for a minute or two as the road scrubber regularly takes the same route.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Work is also going on under the Harrow Manorway flyover. The gaps between the bridge supports are being filled in, the reason is hard to fathom.
Bridge
More Crossrail related blogs.

 

13 March - Bexley’s budget meeting goes from shambles, through trickery to outright farce

After deputy leader Gareth Bacon had devoted the whole of his concluding speech to insulting Labour members and the vote to approve a 1·9% council tax increase was taken (inaudible on the webcast by the way) another vote was taken to approve some of the detail.

There were 33 such points of detail and no time was given for any discussion. Without anyone giving the details any thought whatsoever the usual block voting pattern followed. Cabinet member Gareth Bacon stood up immediately afterwards to gloat that hidden among the 33 detailed proposals was one to increase the discount on Business Rates Retail Relief to £1,500. An obvious bit of stage management and the Labour group had fallen into the Tory trap and unknowingly voted against it.

It’s their own fault but few councillors read agendas in advance. If they did there might be fewer damn fool questions at scrutiny meetings.

It has to be said that the Labour group always falls into Tory traps and one must assume that they are just not deviously dishonest enough to ever run a corrupt and sometimes criminal organisation like Bexley council - which reminds me. Plumstead police are to defer the submission of Cheryl Bacon and Will Tuckley’s case to the CPS on possible Misconduct charges because another witness has come forward.
Council
In the weeks to come Bexley Conservatives will make mischief over the fact that Labour voted against Business Rates Relief and they will be technically correct in doing so. What they won’t be saying is that the vote was the result of another well planned and expertly executed Conservative dirty trick.

By contrast to the decision to allow no time to look through those 33 points before voting on them, the chairman, as if to prove it was all a stunt, allowed five minutes for the next set of details to be studied. It has to be said that most councillors spent the time fooling around or going to the toilet.

When the budget was finally laid to rest the Labour party put forward an amendment the effect of which was to ensure Belvedere’s Splash Park was not instantly bulldozed if the money to save it was not forthcoming dead on time. The meeting descended from shambles to farce. Chairman mayor Howard Marriner appeared to relish the opportunity to prove his incompetence.

Councillor Daniel Francis spoke first. £120,000 was available from a local business and councillor Sawyer had said [at a protest meeting] it would be spent at the Belvedere site. Councillor Sawyer begged to differ; the money had not been received and it did not have to be spent in Belvedere, although he would be happy if it was.

As the time approached 11 p.m. when council meetings must end, the legal officer and the mayor began fevered discussions but £108k. Bacon stood to interject that the Conservative group would be voting against the amendment, thereby proving, because no Tory had up until then spoken on the amendment, that Tories attend meetings only in a whip fodder capacity.

The woolly headed councillor John Davey (Conservative, failed in Lesnes Abbey ward, now failing in Crayford) stood to say that he was unhappy with the amendment because it was “woolly”. Councillor Francis came to the aid of Davey’s lack of comprehension.

Councillor Bacon attempted to speak again but the mayor wouldn’t let him, the mayor decided to go for an immediate vote, the result of which had already been directed by deputy leader Bacon. However after much dithering a vote was sought on closing the meeting on time instead. Things were getting dreadfully confusing.

Chairman Marriner had difficulty adding the figures but eventually announced that the closure vote was carried.

While Conservative councillors could be seen rolling around with mirth the muddling mayor then decided to proceed with the meeting . I don’t think anyone understood what was happening. Councillor Francis was allowed to request that the meeting be continued beyond 11 p.m. on the grounds that the amendment had been proposed but not seconded but all the Conservatives objected.

Councillor Francis objected again that an amendment was tabled at 10:56 but it was the mayor who had impeded the seconding by spending five minutes in a huddle with his legal advisor. The useless mayor looked to the deputy leader for an answer.

Gareth Bacon said “tough, it was all Labour’s fault” and an amendment designed to resuscitate a dying Splash Park was finally buried. The meeting was over.


CartDespite that the mayor took another vote to approve all outstanding items.

I asked Anna Firth (Tory contender, Erith & Thamesmead) a day or two later how Bexley’s meetings compared with Sevenoak’s but she declined to answer on the grounds that it was a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ style question.

If the BBC is looking for a comedy to replace Top Gear on Sunday they could do a lot worse than take the last 20 minutes of Bexley council’s webcast. A car crash of a meeting if ever there was one.

If you strip out all the insults, the idiocies, the pure nastiness of the average Tory councillor, I have to accept they got the better of the financial arguments. I had less sympathy for their constant jibing that Labour had not come up with an alternative budget. The Tories didn’t really come up with that budget at all. It was the Finance Director and her deputy on a combined £205,000 a year who came up with all the ideas to balance the books and by all accounts they (and Ms. Griffin’s able predecessor) have been working on it since the Conservatives successfully fooled the electorate with their low council tax claims in May 2014. No opposition party can compete with that, the Conservatives didn’t in 2002-2005 either. But elections are won on empty promises and slogans, and in Bexley council’s case, outright lies.

 

12 March (Part 3) - Light at the end of the Crossrail tunnel

Believe it or not the first that the traders in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood knew of getting a hand out from Boris Johnson was when they read it on Bonkers. Teresa Pearce MP delivered a letter to them the next day but four more days elapsed before Bexley council said anything about it. Even now they’ve done nothing more than put a press release up on their website.

Before the good news from Boris broke some of the Wilton Road traders persuaded me to draft a letter to Bexley council complaining of their failure to look again at the parking situation as promised last October. I delivered the draft on Saturday and sent a copy to Lesnes Abbey ward councillor Danny Hackett. As is right and proper after news of the £300,000 came through, he wanted to take on the challenge of persuading Bexley council to do what traders need rather than what Linda, “I can do what I like” Bailey might prefer.


DannyI was only too pleased to drop out of the front line but Danny was kind enough to keep me informed of developments which were two pronged. He immediately wrote to the cabinet member for Regeneration and Development to sketch out his initial proposals and quickly organised a meeting with the traders hoping to see the end of their travails.

It was standing room only in one little shop and after Danny explained the situation the traders agreed they should discuss among themselves what their priorities were and get back to councillor Hackett within just a few days.

I don’t think it is giving much away if I say the street market idea was taking second place to the need for extra parking space. As you can see there still wasn’t any at six thirty in the evening.

Wilton Road
The Abbey Arms will, the traders confirmed, close this Sunday. In all my 28 years of passing it almost daily I have never been inside the building but I have a feeling that may be about to change.

From various good sources I have heard that Peabody tried to buy the pub to build yet more soulless flats and provide even fewer reasons to visit Wilton Road. However they were outbid and if the various good sources are not misinformed J. D. Wetherspoons are going to take over.

That would be stupendously good news for both Wilton Road and the local population because at the moment the nearest pub restaurant to Abbey Wood station is The Yacht in Long Lane, and totally inaccessible by public transport. Yet another establishment I have never seen inside.

Crossrail is currently wreaking havoc on the area but there is a light at the end of their tunnel.

 

12 March (Part 2) - Two way losers

Two weeks ago it took me two hours and eighteen minutes to get myself to my aunt‘s home three and a half miles away. I had made an appointment to take the old lady shopping today and planned to leave at 10 a.m. TfL’s website said the queue for Blackwall extended back to Eltham for no reason other than there being too much traffic. By mid-day the news was better so I drove westwards but before I crossed the borough boundary I found myself in a 25 minute queue, the main cause of which was the first set of traffic lights into Greenwich letting only two vehicles through at a time. Not for the first time I imagined myself sticking pins into the effigies of a grossly overpaid leech and a grossly overfed dictator.


BonkersWhat have they achieved? If you were pro-crossings you will be unhappy with them for a bridge not opening in 2014 and now having to wait until 2025.

If you were anti-bridge you won’t be happy that the likelihood is we will now get two. Has there ever been a better example of two time losers? Are Bexley’s leaders bonkers or absolutely bonkers?

One of my jobs in East Ham was to pay the old lady’s council tax. Newham is a couple of years further down the cyber-path than Bexley and everything has to be done on line now. Extra rubbish collections, visitor parking permit requests, the lot. Newham‘s phone number does not appear on their website and if you use the old number it routes to an announcement that you must use the web. It effectively puts 10% on the council tax because I have had to put in a broadband connection for a 95 year old which is fairly obviously never used except when I visit.

Today when I made the payment I expected to put in a bank sort code and account number and the council tax reference. What else would be needed? But no, not only the payer’s full name and address which they must know, but it was mandatory to enter the bank name as well - plus its full address and postcode. But my aunt has an online only account which I operate for her.

I made up an address and pressed the button. The site took her money and with luck that will be the end of it. But who designs these things? No one with any sense that is for sure. And Bexley plans to follow in Newham’s footsteps. Not absolutely of course, Newham has just frozen its council tax for the seventh year running and extra rubbish collections are free and so are residents’ and visitors’ parking permits. Their other parking charges are rather horrendous though.

 

12 March (Part 1) - Bexley’s budget debate limps towards the vote

TweetI fear this report may disappoint Elaine but councillor John Waters manages to plumb the depths of idiocy towards the end and James Hunt is amusing if nothing else and helps to illustrate the mayor’s tolerance of irrelevancies if they come from Tory mouths.

Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) is still not convinced that the bin tax is not a tax. “It represents 2·9% on Band D. When there are residents in this borough who have the choice of eating or heating it is just not going to be paid.”

“Too many assumptions have been made”. They include “composting and that only 8% will go into general refuse and we found out [from the council officers in charge] that even if a dead bouquet is found in the bin it will be red tagged and rejected”.

Officers have said that “incineration costs will still stand at £289,000 a year”. “Members opposite have said there will be no increase in fly tipping but they have compared Bexley with Chiltern and The Forest of Dean and there has been no like for like comparison with Bexley”.

Switching off street lights brings “safety issues and behaviour issues. They have said that there won’t be any but they said that when the parks were going to be left open twenty four seven.”

“The bin tax represents 2·9% but increased parking charges represent 9% on the Bexley share at Band D, so this budget, as ever, punishes those who can’t afford it and it is short term not addressing long term problems.”

Councillor Maxine Fothergill (Conservative, Colyers) was called next but decided to say nothing so the spotlight moved to councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham) who began in jocular fashion. “I am fat and I have drunk too much water and I shall be running out afterwards”. “I have lived in Bexley all my life [born in 1979], was educated here and even learned to sail in Thamesmead. I’ve even drunk the lake water there.” All of it by the looks of him.

Being elected was “an honour and a duty. Being a councillor is not all about long meetings and parties. Some people think we have a desire to cut everything and build on everything but it is not true.” (One minute and fifty seconds and no interruption from the useless mayor for going wildly off topic.)

“In 2006 nobody truly realised what we would be facing. Apparently, after 13 years of a Labour government we can’t blame Blair and Brown, but this Conservative administration has been planning for the worst and tonight we have a carefully planned budget which preserves the services all our residents need. It hasn’t been worked out in a couple of hours.”

At long last he got around to knocking Labour members. “At the People Scrutiny meeting they barely mentioned the budget; they mentioned instead that it got late, but tired or not they had a duty to comment. Their only interest was saving the Splash Park, a park that their administration put in on the cheap and one which is no longer fit for purpose. Don’t worry about vulnerable children so long as there is a Splash Park.” And with all that talk of splashing, councillor Hunt ran for the boy’s room leaving us not entirely convinced it was water he had been drinking.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) agreed that Bexley was in a very difficult position but “pressures in housing and pressures we are seeing in children’s services have been caused by government, but the biggest pressure is the Revenue Support Grant”.

“Taking into account the 2·9% bin charge, the 1·9% and the use of reserves it is a budget which equates to a 8·1% council tax increase and then there is the nine and a half percent increase in the council’s parking charge income.”

“If council tax had been raised by 1% in each of the past two years we would not now be looking at the precipice which we are.” After mentioning the long term refusal to countenance a Thames bridge the prospect of which is now bringing thousands of jobs to the borough (Ocado) and the failure to negotiate a proper contract with Tesco (the overage clause) he said “it is those mistakes which lead to the financial position we are in today”.

Councillor Borella introduced an amendment but as the public wasn’t allowed to see it it must remain a mystery. In any case the mayor refused to accept it on the grounds he had heard enough from Stefano for one night and quoted a Standing Order to support his decision.

Councillor Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) was next to speak and apart from singing the praises of the Finance Director he said nothing new. The budget was the result of “the last Labour government” and this budget is not like Labour’s “spend, spend, spend”. After 105 seconds councillor O’Hare had exhausted his store of platitudes and sat down.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) offered better value. “Councillor Newman is wrong” he began. “His assumptions are wrong and his figures are wrong. He says it will cost £289,000 to dispose of garden waste and we believe it will save £100,000.” Overall “we will save between five and six hundred thousand pounds a year by doing this”. “You cannot trust the Labour party to run this council.”

He then turned his attention to UKIP. In suggesting a reduction in councillor allowances “they had not taken account of them being frozen for five or six years. There is no earthly point in saving money unless you have some positive proposal on what you were going to do with it. Frankly it was just a gesture.”

Taken together they must be the most stupid comments of the night. Don’t save money unless you know what you are going to spend it on? That really does sound like Sharon Massey’s Looney Left.

Referring back to an earlier meeting when UKIP councillor Lynn Smith said “Boo” when the European Union was mentioned he said his party had made a DVD of the episode which they show at their parties to provide “a good laugh”. Lynn Smith complained and the Tories laughed at her. The mayor wasn’t interested.


ClarkCouncillor Val Clark (Falconwood & Welling) is another nasty piece of work in the John Waters mould. She too began by questioning councillor Newman’s arithmetic, this time in relation to parking charges and perpetuated the myth that Bexley’s charges are the lowest in London. It is wrong to label them a stealth tax, they are imposed to “ration road space and ensure a turn over. Businesses are not helped if cars are allowed to park all day. The increases [up to 50%] are reasonable and proportionate”.

Councillor Gareth Bacon summed up. He said there had been some good contributions during the evening. Councillor Leitch’s speech was “spectacular” but councillor Derry Begho‘s was not, neither was Danny Hackett’s or Endy Ezenwata’s. Abena Oppong-Asare was criticised for supporting Gordon Brown. Esther Amaning was in a time warp, Joe Ferreira was intelligent but selling parks ensures the future of those remaining. Seán Newman was dismissed for his punch lines and Daniel Francis had made “astonishing claims” and Bacon criticised his enthusiasm for a bridge which would bring “gridlock and smog”.

As I write, TfL is reporting queues for Blackwall are back to Eltham. Meanwhile in East Ham a nonagenarian is running short of food and Bacon is the principal cause.

Bacon continued. The Conservative contributions “were all based on good governance” the Labour contributions “were all based on their press release for tomorrow’s News Shopper” and five seconds after every Tory (except for Maxine Fothergill who had gone home early) voted for the budget my recorder threw up a low battery warning and I turned it off for fear it might corrupt the file if I left it any longer.

 

11 March (Part 3) - Sidcup High Street. Shut again

The 16th March will be a bad day in the borough. In Arnsberg Way the road will be traffic light controlled for eight weeks while the 19 month old blocks are replaced with good old fashioned asphalt. Bexley council’s expertise does not apparently extend to civil engineering or even learning from the poor experience of other block headed boroughs.

Now comes news of another brand new road that is to be dug up. It’s Sidcup High Street which has been fully open for, err, let’s see, it must be almost four months now.

Bexley council’s website gives a rose tinted view of the situation but Paul Laundy of the Sidcup Community Group has obtained his information directly from Thames Water. This is part of what they told him…


When the High Street was re-paved and resurfaced, many of the water valves that premises need to access should an emergency or leaks occur were covered up. They now have to be reinstated during which time the High Street will return to restricted one-way operation.


As Paul says, you couldn’t make it up. The High Street closure should take only a week, hopefully a real week and not a Bexley council week.

The Sidcup High Street Index.

 

11 March (Part 2) - Play spot the difference in Northumberland Heath

One hundred thousand pounds of Bexley taxpayers’ money has been spent in Northumberland Heath. The job was recently finished only a little bit behind schedule.

I confess that when I first read about this scheme I assumed the planned improvements would extend beyond the Mill Hill junction but unless you stare skywards you would probably assume they haven’t.
Banner
For the stargazers, lamp posts have been draped with banners portraying North Heath through the ages.

The new waste bins have been pictured before as has the resurfaced Mill Road junction which is basically the same as before but newer and, for the time being, blacker. However it is now distinguishable because of new and decorative railings which are absolutely guaranteed to bring shoppers flocking into town.

Northumberland Heath has also acquired a couple of granite benches much the same as those to be found in Welling and Sidcup but this time the gimmick is not an offset backrest but an engraved seating surface guaranteed to provide a little puddle to sit in.
North Heath North Heath North Heath North Heath
North Heath North HeathAs if to emphasise how little money was spent, only a few yards away some tatty cycle racks remain and at the next junction along so do the old style street barriers.

Perhaps it would have been better to do nothing until the financial situation improves and save a library or something.

 

11 March (Part 1) - Bexley’s budget. The facts and the fights

MasseyAfter councillor Craske’s flight of fantasy it was the turn of councillor Sharon Massey (Conservative, Danson). Her first words were “the Looney Left are alive and well in Bexley” and the second sentence included the words, “the Looney Left have returned. All she had heard was the politics of envy. Councillor Borella was on his usual hobby horse of criticising any woman”. Where did she get that from?

Councillor Borella rose to make an objection but the chairman didn’t want to hear it. Massey said that Stefano had been patronising. Apparently he had made a passing reference to the Home Secretary’s passion for shoes which nobody with any sense wrote down in order to deliver a pathetic feminist accusation. The mayor then allowed councillor Borella to defend his comment so long as it was kept brief.

Councillor Massey considered that the objection to her comment was a “rude interruption” and continued her diatribe about the politics of envy. Councillor Hackett was “sad” to have referred to Gareth Bacon running off with £108,000 of taxpayers’ money and it is “really sad that we cannot actually speak about the policies”. A fine example she is!

She said that council tax had been frozen for six years when everyone else had been saying five and she objected to the term ‘bin tax’. She complained that Labour had suggested “it was the youth of today who caused vandalism in Danson Park”. The police, who she had met, had not referred to youths being responsible. “It is certainly not the youth of Bexley in there.”

Councillor Ferreira was next on Massey’s hit list. “You cannot blame the council because people are getting fat.” (Councillor Ferreira had linked playground closures with obesity.) Sharon said “that if people are getting fat they need to exercise more and eat less”. The food banks will be serving a useful purpose then.

“Honestly Mr. Mayor it has been a sad night for politics in Bexley.” True, and councillor Sharon Massey had done nothing whatsoever to alleviate it.

Councillor John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) who has been an economist for a financial newspaper, objected to the “financial illiteracy shown here tonight”. Gareth Bacon had blamed the Labour party for the present financial situation but “there are books in the library which fully explain who was responsible. The world economy had almost collapsed because bankers and financiers around the world were”, and we shall never know because his voice tailed off into inaudibility. However by 2008 the Labour government had reduced the national debt to a 100 year low, at which point mayor Marriner decided he had heard enough expert opinion and shut him up.


No moneyCouncillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) stood next and my hopes for some relief from political mud slinging were immediately dashed. Her first words were “I hope you will forgive me if I wonder what parallel universe members like Danny Hackett inhabit”. The parallel universe is better known as the North of the borough. “Members on this side will not take any lessons in financial management from a party that left saying there was no money.”

“It was wholly reasonable that taxpayers should pay for the services which they choose to use. An awful lot of nonsense has been talked about the garden waste service”.

My turn for nonsense… Yes June, I agree but the fact remains I will not be alone in paying more than 5% extra to Bexley in the coming year than in the current one and whether you call it a tax or a charge, your administration has made a service cut and there are no winners.

Like all your fellow members you appear to have forgotten that the charge is introduced at a time when processing costs have fallen by £444,000 a year (your council’s figures). No one wants to mention that in case voters think the council is both having and eating its cake and guilty of deliberate misrepresentation.

At least a 5% increase is a lot less than the 33% imposed on those on benefits, another thing your party is keeping very quiet about.

Councillor Slaughter was a bit of a let down as a source of insults and soon returned to her seat.


DowningAlan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) was next, surely the pen jabber could do better? Libraries were his theme. “Labour had not read the paper work. We are offering six core libraries. Libraries are not somewhere you go to borrow a book, they are the hub of the community.” When Labour members murmured discontent Downing told them to “shut up and please be quiet“. The chairman remained mute.

Getting into his stride, Downing said Labour “spoke nonsense”. “Who closed two libraries when they were in office?” he said referring to “the members over there”. It turned out that the two libraries were North Cray and Picardy Street, Belvedere and it was the Conservatives who had closed them. Labour was only responsible for a closure in Barnehurst. Councillor Seán Newman remembered the two mobile libraries withdrawn on the same day bringing the Tory score to four.

Downing said he would carry on. He said that Labour had closed both Barnehurst and Blackfen libraries and realising he was making another big mistake, promptly said he would “leave libraries there” which is precisely what he is not going to do in Blackfen.

He moved on to obesity which is “a serious problem” and referring once again to members “over there” asked, ”Who sold off the school fields?” and complained about the blocks of flats built in their place.

Isn’t that exactly what his party wants to do in Old Manor Way and Old Farm Avenue? He objected to Labour’s criticism of the £18,000 bonus being handed out to Tory vice-chairmen this year and claimed that Labour in office had done the same thing. Downing was trying to have things both ways. Labour was wrong to award themselves extra allowances but Conservatives are right when they do it.

In his final moments he said that Labour members were not even able to read properly from their own notes. Another case of the pot calling the kettle black and another mute and worthless chairman.

Councillor Alex Sawyer (Conservative, St. Mary’s) was invited to speak next. Surely this would be the end of small minded squabbles? But no, not entirely. Councillor Downing’s lack lustre and largely inaccurate speech on libraries came in for early praise. “Community libraries are the beating heart of a local community”.

“If a community group does not come forward or their business plan does not stack up, the reality is that libraries will close.”

Councillor Amaning’s point about the practice of leaving parks open at night was rubbished because councillor Sawyer had seen people get in while they were locked. (There are burglars in town so you may as well leave your front door open.) He accepted that the vandalism had been “very serious”. Apart from the cases of arson memorial benches had been smashed.

The selling of some parks and open spaces was a good thing because it would allow the others to remain open. What happens when that money runs out was not explained. Not selling them was “a recipe for disaster”. Protest groups give up now!

The Splash Park barely got a mention but “Bexley is better under the Conservatives” and on that high note it is time to leave Bexley’s budget for another day.

 

10 March (Part 3) - Met. police: “Repeated failure to accept that corruption protected those responsible for murder”

Golden LionToday is the 28th anniversary of the death of the brother of my daughter’s partner of nearly as many years, Alastair Morgan. You may have heard him on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.

He recorded a long interview last night but the BBC’s lawyers pulled the plug because they were concerned about contempt of court. I believe some journalists who may have been involved in that murder, or at least came to know the murderers later, are currently in the dock.

The BBC’s broadcast was as big a sham as any Bexley council meeting is. Everything you may have heard today was extracted from the BBC archives (although some was recent but not brand new) and filled five minutes largely with stale air.

After wasting more than a year because what I would call deliberate police obfuscation verging on the corrupt, the second Home Office panel chairman, Baroness Nuala O’Loan appears to be making more progress than the last one, about whom the least said in public the better.

It is my job to keep Alastair Morgan’s website alive on the rare occasions he decides to update it. Most of the developments are too sensitive to go on line, but today he has issued a new press release and handed a letter into the offices of the Murdoch press. I am afraid these mucky phone hackers have been involved with people with an even murkier past.

Correspondence embargoed until 2 p.m.

 

10 March (Part 2) - Blameless in Bexley. Balls up in Belvedere

I took Stefano Borella’s Tweet too literally and took the bus to Bexleyheath to take a look. However there was nothing there but yellow signs and big black patches.


TweetArnsberg Way is a mess and is going to be a bigger mess from two months. The blocks are breaking up even on the straight sections not just where buses constantly turn.

Clearly Bexley council approved a totally inadequate road design and as my bus returned through the £100,000 splendour that is the new Northumberland Heath I found myself pondering Conservative reactions to municipal incompetence.


Patch PatchIf you spend around £400,000 on a water facility that gave joy to tens of thousands for nine years and it proves in the end to be not the best of future proofed design, the ruling party that sanctioned it are a bunch of incompetent tax raising twerps.

But if you spend eight times as much on a new road that annoyed more people than it pleased and it begins to fail in under a year and heavily used junctions collapse totally six month later, it’s not the fault of any politician, it’s the designers what done it!

Teflon Teresa again.

 

10 March (Part 1) - Forget consultations and company funding. The Splash Park has got to go

Following his attack on councillor Mabel Ogundayo, councillor Philip Read revealed a new attack on care workers. He is “working to reduce the costs of agency staff”, as if minimum wage and no travel cost or time allowance is not low enough already.


ReadHe then couldn’t resist a final attack on Labour. “They increased council tax by 47% when they controlled the council” and precisely six minutes after he rose to his feet he sat down again. One minute in excess of his allotted time while Labour voices wondered where the 47% came from - as would anyone interested in the accurate reporting.

Councillor Esther Amaning’s (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) principal concern was open spaces and the failure to lock parks at night. There had been vandalism and there had as a result been no real saving. Open parks have encouraged delinquency and drug taking. Her reference to the loss of the Danson Festival was briefly interrupted by some Conservative members.

Councillor Gill MacDonald (Labour, Belvedere) immediately spoke of the Splash Park and its 100 year history as a water feature. A petition had been well supported but an unnamed Conservative candidate for Erith & Thamesmead was alleged to be more worried about Greenwich residents tripping over the border and clogging roads. Traders are concerned about the loss of trade, she said.


LeafCouncillor David Leaf’s (Conservative, Longlands) first words were the almost mandatory attack on Labour. He had listened to “the rot” and they are “deficit deniers” and are “ridiculous” and if they win the General Election they have vowed “to hit Bexley even harder because they don’t like Bexley”.

Leaf then shifted his focus to “compost” and Labour’s inability “to differentiate between a charge and a tax”. They wanted “people on modest incomes to pay for a non-statutory service”.

At least his reference to Labour’s 2002-2006 tax increases was more accurate than Read’s. 40% on a compound basis. Labour leader Alan Deadman was then singled out for a personal attack on his alleged failure to recognise the proper use of reserves and to be fully behind the council’s investment programme. Leaf asked “what the hell” was Alan Deadman, or maybe it was his colleagues too, “were doing in Local Government at all”.

A councillor whose name Leaf couldn’t remember (it was Danny Hackett) had “touched on the cost of democracy” but costs were “far lower than they were under Labour who had increased them by 33%. This administration has reduced costs below inflation. The party opposite is all talk and no action.”

Leaf’s speech ran for two seconds under the allotted five minutes and not one word addressed the budget proposals or indeed was anything other than an assault on Labour members. Not a word of rebuke from the dozy mayor.


TandyCouncillor Colin Tandy began by defending the bin tax which is not a tax. “Many councils had never collected garden waste but thanks to the financial illiteracy of the last Labour government we can’t afford to do it any more.” Tandy said Bexley is “asking the modest sum of £30 a month discounted by £7 a year” neatly demonstrating his own financial illiteracy. People who don’t want to pay should do as he does, “compost a lot of stuff on site or take it to the recycling centre”.

Turning his attention from residents with gardens to residents with children, the old duffer said “the Splash Park has got to go”.

A little late in the day compared to his fellow reprobates Tandy turned his attention to the Labour party. “Every Labour government or Labour council had left a trail of financial disaster, no question about that. It wasn’t city bankers who sold the country’s gold reserves at the lowest price it had ever been. That was Gordon Brown.” (To Labour cries of “rubbish”.) As a result, “things that we used to provide cannot be provided any more”.

The Splash Park has got to go.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) contrasted the sell off of parks with the council’s obesity strategy. “One in four of Year 6 pupils are obese. The party opposite calls them fat.” Joe specifically mentioned the proposed sale of Old Manor Way playground.“ The cuts will cost more in the long run.”

Joe Ferreira queried some of the assumptions made in the budget. “What if some of our contracts can’t be renegotiated?”

BettsCouncillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling ) told us that his barber thought that the bin charge was a good idea and he himself didn’t think it “was going to be a big difficult thing that the opposition make it out to be. Residents in my ward will thank us.” And with commendable brevity and absence of malice he returned to his seat.


CraskeNext out of his was councillor Peter Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey). He was at pains to say that Labour had increased costs by 36% and not the 33 to which councillor Leaf had referred. Petty or what?

It is “genuinely surprising that this Labour lot have failed to come up with a single budget proposal. It is as if they are still being guided by their previous finance spokesman [Munir Malik] who told us he was a financial expert and a chartered accountant. As we know he was neither”.

“We gave 140 days notice of our budget proposals and Labour has been silent. Silence on the Splash Park, silence on the libraries, silence on housing.” With a reference to Doctor Who he compared Labour with an alien creature. “They appear from nowhere, you forget they existed, they don‘t speak, they don’t like noise but all of a sudden they creep up behind you and whack up your council tax 40%.”

“After 140 days of silence, Labour has not come up with a single idea.”
Batman

 

9 March (Part 2) - In decline for 30 years, driven to the edge, now everyone wants to help

Bexley council sent out a Press Release today to announce what BiB readers knew a week ago. It is to lavish £75,000 on Wilton Road, Abbey Wood, topped up with another £75k. from the GLA. Greenwich council has done the same deal (the boundary is the middle of the road) making £300,000 in total. It was a Greenwich led joint bid for cash and preliminary planning will begin straight away.


ParkingWhen I told one of the traders about the windfall last Wednesday he was over-joyed at the news. Thanks to Bexley council reneging on on its promise to look again at the parking problems caused by it acceding to Crossrail‘s every request, his income is well down. The picture shows the disabled spaces empty (there are others) but the road as a whole busy.

The next day Teresa Pearce, MP, distributed a letter to all the traders, informing them of the windfall and offering any assistance she is able to give.

Earlier in the week my arm had been twisted to draft a letter of complaint to Bexley council about the withdrawal of so many parking spaces and their general uselessness in the face of a crisis. I let Lesnes Abbey ward councillor Danny Hackett have a copy and he has already written in similar vein to Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Linda Bailey.

A little bit of thought and ingenuity could help parking very considerably but so far Bexley council has been content to see the area continue its long decline. The cash should come in very useful

The pictures below were taken on Sunday morning but they could be from almost any time. Bexley cleans its side of the road regularly, Greenwich relies on the wind.

Much the same attention is paid to parking enforcement. Bexley’s CEOs are in Wilton Road several times a day and Greenwich’s almost never.

Bexley
The ‘litter’ above is a pigeon!
Greenwich

 

9 March (Part 1) - Bexley’s budget meeting. More news from the cesspit

Now where were we? Ah, yes, councillor Seymour was doing his John Prescott impersonation. Next to his feet was councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, Penhill & Blendon).

Councillor Hall’s second sentence was a criticism of the opposition. “They didn’t even try to come up with alternatives.” True, but the only Tory reaction would have been jeers wouldn’t it Steven, and then you would have unanimously voted them down?


TweetThe whole of Hall’s first minute and a bit was occupied by Labour bashing until he got around to saying “Let’s get back to the budget”. The utterly useless chairman had done nothing to curtail his meanderings.

Back to the budget, councillor Hall retraced the steps of deputy leader Bacon with statistics about the loss of government funding. “We have carried out seventy one million pounds of savings since 2006 which is a seventy one percent council tax increase not passed through to the council tax payers.”

The need for this was that “the previous government under Blair, and Brown and Balls misspent the nation’s finances. Bexley will have to find another thirty million pounds of savings by 2018“. (Twenty nine if the Tories had not greedily voted down the UKIP amendment. Councillors must be a front line service, because they, according to councillor Hall, are what must be protected.)

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) objected to Blair and Brown getting the blame and was rewarded with much laughter,“ the problem was caused by city bankers” - which provoked howls of derision. “This and the mismanagement in this council has led us to where were are today.” Through a barrage of cat calls from the hooligans opposite I was just able to make out that Danny considered the proposed budget to be an “omnishambles” and he would not be supporting it.

The consultation process was a sham, Danny said. The public showed that it wanted to see a reduction in the cost of democracy and councillor Hackett saw no evidence that action had been taken. “Instead we have seen six scrutiny vice-chairmen appointed at a cost of £18,000 a year“ and a tree in the Watling Street foyer “which costs about £7,000 a year” to maintain.

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) did nothing but blow the Tory trumpet. He was confident they were up to the task ahead and “this is a great borough to live in”. He spoiled what had been a reasonable and moderate speech by ending it with an attack on the Labour opposition party. “Labour had brought this country to its knees financially.” Councillor Reader spent sixty five seconds of his four minute speech attacking Labour and not a word from the useless mayor.

Councillor Edward Boateng (Labour, Erith) was concerned about the fly tipping, the cut backs to street cleaning and the rats on some of our our streets.

Councillor Endy Ezenwata (Labour, Thamesmead East) was not clearly recorded but I did pick up that hoped to be able to speak “without being slaughtered” but “I feel I cannot speak freely without being crucified.” He went on to be critical of the bin tax and suggested that councillor Gareth Bacon might be able to spare some of the £108,000 he takes from taxpayers.

Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) spoke about the lack of affordable housing and the rapid rise in homelessness. Worrying though her statistics were, I did not detect any obvious reference to the budget proposals. The mayor must have been asleep, not even Tory jeering on hearing of the plight of the homeless disturbed him.

And now the highlight for today. What did the Labour hating, blog hating, woman hater have to say? Would he launch his speech with a party political nuclear bomb or would he behave as though he was worth £23,000 a year of Bexley taxpayers’ money?


ReadPredictably, cabinet member Philp Read’s (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) first words were an attack on Labour. “They are nothing but a collection of slogans masquerading as a political party. They are floundering around in the political undergrowth with no ideas, no policies and no suggestions and I will come to councillor Ogundayo in a moment!”

“Investment is bringing considerable improvement [to children's services]” but Labour is “lacking in original thinking”.

He would “speak slowly” so that councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) might “understand” his message “and take on board and perhaps learn that permanent staff are now up to over 60%”. “We all know that councillor Ogundayo is not particularly concerned about the truth and accuracy.”

Councillor Ogundayo objected (Standing Order 41) as well she might, citing personal defamation. She told the mayor that Read was not discussing the budget but making a personal attack on herself. “He sets a very bad example to the young people of Bexley.” (Why single out the young, Read is a bad example of everything imaginable.)

Read’s defence was that “some people who do not like what is said demonstrate that they are frit, frit, frit. Some people do not believe in free speech”. An odd comment coming from someone who reported a Bexley resident to the police in connection with a Tweet he imagined might be critical of Bexley council and who was one of several involved in a request that the police should arrest me for “criticising councillors”.

Read rounded off his tirade by another reference to the Labour party, it is “the party of high taxation”.

At no time did I hear the mayor admonish cabinet member Read for his constant digressions from the primary subject, but this is the same useless £24,000 mayor who sided with Read when he refused to answer a question at a council meeting because he doesn’t like him. Disgraceful.

Just over half way through the meeting now. How many more buffoons are yet to speak?

 

8 March - This Website

While Bexley council slashes its spending, except on themselves, Bonkers has been undergoing massive changes beneath the bonnet. The breaking up of the monthly blogs into daily sections to reduce the data load on mobile users in particular which began in late January has been extended right the way back until 2009.

I had predicted it might take six months but in retrospect I think that was a serious underestimate. However a reader in Welling stepped in and did the job in under a month. I have no idea how he managed to stick with it, presumably there has been nothing worth watching on the telly but I am enormously grateful to him.


IndexIt is probably worth relating what new new facilities there are. The blog Index pages are constructed on the fly from blog titles. If you want the blog in the old month style, click the underlined month heading. If you prefer a single blog presentation just click on the one required.

When viewing in single blog mode a ‘Today’ icon appears. Click it and the single blog will be extended with a full set of today’s blogs if there has been more than one.


Today Any DayIf you are viewing an old blog in single view mode, a blue topped icon will gather together and present all that day’s blogs. When viewing today’s blog both will do the same thing.

For technical reasons the icons shown here cannot be made active. They would fail disastrously if you are viewing in month mode. The full month mode, like the Index to blogs, is constructed on demand and cannot itself construct another virtual page.

And a reminder of last month’s innovations. bexley-is-bonkers.uk goes directly to the most recently available blog and bexley-is-bonkers.com displays all of the current month’s blogs in a single page.

These changes have caused delays to the implementation of the revised graphics presentation and many old pages still have text which does not wrap around the images. The problem will be fixed eventually.

 

8 March (Part 3) - Abbey Wood. Built on mud

PilingIt was a noisy week in Abbey Wood as Crossrail bashed on relentlessly, although this weekend has seen two more days with no trains and no obvious work in progress.

The men in orange say that the remaining piece of the public footbridge will come down in two weeks time and the station building a week later. What’s left of it.

The piling operation continued all week in the old station car park but by Saturday morning the pile driver had gone. North of the railway in Felixstowe Road the excavation that has been disrupting traffic for most of the year continues. The trench is big enough for a major sewer. Presumably we can discover what it is for on Tuesday.

The piling operation can be an amazing sight. The concrete columns must be more like 40 feet long than 30 and are blunt ended. Nevertheless the time difference between the first and last of the moving images is just 26 seconds. Note how the clouds do not move.

The attendant said that beneath a firm surface there is a sea of mud before the pile hits something firmer. No one seems to know what supports the existing tracks on an area soon to bear the weight of Crossrail trains. Another question for Tuesday.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
More Crossrail related blogs.

 

8 March (Part 2) - Read erects barriers but it’s not him who’s discourteous

It was a busy day on Bonkers yesterday. 1,536 views which is more than half of weekday levels and a Saturday is usually doing well to exceed a third. The forthcoming election will be providing a boost but I suspect the prime mover was Anna Firth and her Tweets that referred to the blog. Favourably I think. She mighty be in trouble for that.

One of the strange messages subsequently passed on to me was this one…


TweetI found it rather strange because when I first became aware that councillor Philip Read was on Twitter, long before I joined myself, he was restricting access to those who gained his permission.

Then he opened up his account about a year ago but placed me on his block list.

It’s the same mentality as that behind his refusal to answer questions from members of the public from those of whom he disapproves. - and the useless mayor condones it.

Thinking that Read my have unblocked me from Twitter I tried to access his account this afternoon, not that I care one way or another whether I am blocked or not, although I suppose there must be a slight preference for being blocked as it confirms prejudices.


Blocked
If Read had wanted to strike up a conversation there have been numerous opportunities. I spent the whole night in the same room as him last May. Friendly words were exchanged with several councillors, but not Read.

I suspect the time for olive branches has long gone. It’s like the nonexistent relationship with Teresa O’Neill. If she had apologised reasonably quickly for telling the police I was planning to burn down the Civic Centre because I was right behind Hugh Neal’s pitchforks and flaming torches metaphor, (exactly four years old!) Bexley-is-Bonkers would probably by now be nothing but a distant memory.

It’s the same with Philip Read. No one should overlook the fact he untruthfully tittle-tattled to the police in order to have John Kerlen (former blogger) put behind bars.

An honest man would have brought to their attention that councillor Melvin Sawyer made up the story that got John into trouble in the first place.

I have a copy of Seymour’s police statement and I have a copy of the police’s evidence against John Kerlen. One is a grotesque exaggeration of the other. The police knew that but those in charge at Bexley’s police back then were a very long way from being honest. Fortunately the succeeding police commander had the worst of them transferred.

 

8 March (Part 1) - Fake pearls of wisdom from Bexley’s finest

After the chaotic scenes that accompanied UKIP’s million pound saving proposal Sidcup councillor Rob Leitch made an almost statesman like and well presented speech in support of the budget but I suppose it was inevitable that the fake pearl encrusted councillor Cheryl Bacon would lower the tone. Her only talent is an extraordinary ability to lie. I understand the criminal case against her will go to the Crown Prosecution Service at the end of the coming week.


TweetBacon began as too many Bexley Conservative councillors do, with an attack on the opposition party. “Labour failed miserably. Their sniping is disappointing. We should be used to it by now.” Followed by a personal attack on councillor Borella for not being “pleasant inside the chamber”. Surely Cheryl Bacon is the last councillor to be complaining of unpleasantness?

Councillor Bacon praised the council’s regeneration efforts with particular emphasis on Sidcup High Street.


BaconCabinet member Eileen Pallen said how good the local health services had become having quickly forgotten that the biggest and most comprehensive facility was immediately closed by the incoming Conservative government. Without a maternity unit, births in Bexley must be at an all time low.

Bexley’s housing services are excellent and the workers, voluntary and otherwise, in adult care services “work very hard” - as opposed to those in other departments who don’t presumably.

Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) wandered a little from the immediate topic by being critical of the government’s overseas aid budget and was immediately slapped down by the chairman for doing so. The chairman is acquiring a reputation for silencing UKIP voices on any pretence that comes to hand.

Brenda Langstead (Labour) was critical of the library services and rather cleverly contrasted Slade Green, where a tried and tested community group had very successfully run facilities for many years and pumped £100,000 a year into the community was deemed “not able to work with the council” but now the council is looking for any local group to step forward to run libraries. It is “a way of closing libraries by the back door.” Cutting services which have repercussions on police budgets was another of councillor Langstead’s concerns.

Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, East Wickham) used his speech to praise council officers, take a quick dig at Labour and anyone who might be thinking of defrauding Bexley council. Where that came from I have no idea. Why not point the finger at litter droppers, graffiti artists or those who don’t pay their taxes by direct debit? Thankfully councillor Munir ran out of things to say in just under 100 seconds.

Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) mounted her favoured hobby horse, children’s services, and was critical of the still too high proportion of agency workers. (It is reducing but currently around 40%.)


Camsey Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) who once told petitioner Elwyn Bryant that he was wasting his time because Bexley council doesn’t take any notice of petitions, praised the new Autistic School and claimed it was her idea. The “strategic savings” will result in “better care for the most vulnerable residents”. Maybe she should advocate cutting all expenditure and make care services perfect.

Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) was unhappy about the proposed bin tax which increases Bexley’s share of the council tax by 2·9%. Instead of “actively pursuing environmental crime this council is cutting back on street cleaning and cutting hours at refuse centres and encouraging fly tipping. Bexley residents are not getting value for money.”

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) started as he meant to go on; with an attack on the Labour party and a defence of the bin tax which naturally singled out councillor Seán Newman for his alleged miscalculations surrounding that subject.

Labour locally was “shameful” and “Gordon Brown had embarked on a fiscal policy which to their shame even my grandchildren will be carrying that debt for the rest of their working lives”. Councillor Seymour speaks in the same English dialect as former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

The mayor failed to issue an instruction to councillor Seymour to get back on topic.

Councillors from both sides appear to have forgotten that the bin tax is in some senses a fraud on the people of Bexley. When it was first discussed it was revealed that separating food from garden waste would mean that both would cost less to process and the council would save £444,000 a year compared to the cost of processing mixed waste.

So the council will be spending less money but they are still going to impose charges. Perhaps councillor Munir should take an interest and indict cabinet member Don Massey first?

I am now one third of the way through my audio recording, and like Eliot Smith, Bexley Youth Councillor and Head Boy at Trinity School, I am not sure I can take much more of this. Back soon.

 

7 March (Part 3) - Knock knock, who’s there?

TweetAfter an early morning reconnaissance in Abbey Wood, avoiding the freshly dumped rubbish, confirming that Crossrail had once again closed the railway line without any obvious reason and delivering a list of parking facts to some Wilton Road traders, I returned to finish the washing up. Within minutes the door bell was rung by the lady in blue with her husband Edward.

There had been a Twitter warning of what was to come and I’d decided that if Anna Firth was accompanied by the arch enemy I would invite them all in. However councillor Philip Read must have decided that his record of never acknowledging my existence must be preserved at all costs


Rubbish AnnaReading between the lines of her Twitter account I thought I would like Anna and not be too far apart politically, unless she proved to be a total Cameron devotee. Anna neatly stepped around that question. Personally I am getting to despise the man, which is perhaps one step up from the thoughts reserved for Mr. Miliband.

But Anna proved to be a delightful lady with whom I could have happily ‘wasted’ even more of her day.

She listened patiently to my history of Bexley. Teresa O’Neill and the flaming torches, Olly Cromwell and the unidentified house fiasco, Peter Craske and his homophobic impersonation of myself, Cheryl Bacon, biggest liar ever, Mick Barnbrook and his pursuit of crooked MPs. Her husband was suitably shocked, Ms. Firth was too much the politician to give much away.

Definitely I liked her and in doing so I have to withdraw some recent comments. One, that she is insincere and two that you are never going to read anything positive about her here.

But the other lovely lady will be a hard act to follow, supportive and always there when you need her. Who got all those police papers for me which saw two borough police commanders investigated for perverting the course of justice? My Labour MP Teresa Pearce. If only the IPCC had the power to go further than just order an investigation there might be some chance of progress. As it is the Metropolitan Police are allowed to dump an IPCC request in their pending tray and leave it there for ever.

 

7 March (Part 2) - Bexley council U-turns

It’s funny how the main stream media regurgitates old news. This week’s announcement that councils will no longer be able to hide their gestapo wagons up side streets snapping unwary motorists guilty of such major transgressions of the law as stopping for five seconds to allow a passenger to exit their car, was first announced last Summer.

NotomobIt was reported here in October when Bexley council estimated that it would lose around £200,000 a year if it was forced to cease its stealth operation against motorists. They retaliated by increasing parking charges by up to 50% and announced their intention to refocus spy cars on moving traffic offences, U-turns and the like.

Presumably the borough will soon be plastered not only by revenue raising yellow lines but by as many traffic restrictions as possible, and if you think that is fantasyland you probably didn’t see last week’s Public Notices.

Yes it is there for all to see. A ‘No U-Turns’ order is coming to Bexleyheath town centre and a camera will be there to take your money. Bexley council: Listening to you, Working for you, Making your life a misery, Constantly dipping your pocket to fill theirs.

 

7 March (Part 1) - Bexley’s budget. Cllrs. top priority is feathering their own nests

Across the borough there are protests. Libraries, parks, children’s playgrounds, open spaces and refuse collections have all been under threat. Grass is to be left uncut, roads unswept and street lights extinguished. The protests are necessary but doomed to failure. If services are not cut, Bexley goes bust. Freezing council tax was the Conservative’s election winning strategy to ensure their gravy train kept running, now they have run out of money and are constrained by the government’s 2% or a referendum tax cap.

This paragraph from last week’s budget setting council meeting sums up the situation.
Budget
TandyAny course other than the one already chosen leads to disaster. As councillor Colin Tandy said last week, “the splash park has got to close”. How many times does it have to be said that minds were made up months ago. The consultation process is a nothing but a money wasting sham.

After councillor Borella (Labour) had made his opposition statement, Chris Beazley (UKIP) dropped his little bomb on councillors’ wallets. His near million pound saving (an allowance cut of a third for three years) soundly rejected by the parasites opposite but not before a few councillors had opened their mouths before the engagement of any brain they may have.

The Labour party’s finance spokesman Daniel Francis wanted to know “what were the sums involved” and it is surprising that he didn't know that councillors pocket just over £900,000 a year and wasn’t able to divide that sum by three.


MasseyThe council’s favourite strippagram girl, Sharon Massey, complained that a pay reduction might run foul of the minimum wage laws. A pity that she is unconcerned about the care workers employed by Bexley’s agencies on illegal pay rates, especially when she and her husband Don Massey are directors of such an agency.

The mayor in a rare moment of eptitude sought a seconder for the amendment. He found one in UKIP councillor Lynn Smith. The chairman mayor then relinquished control of the meeting by asking stand-in leader Gareth Bacon what he wanted to do next. He said he wanted a debate and a vote.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) interjected again that he “needed to know the amounts involved”, division by three and multiplying the result by three again apparently beyond him.

Councillor Gareth Bacon, grasping at straws, decided to agree with councillor Francis. He too was unable to put a figure on the savings up for grabs.

Councillor Beazley helpfully provided a list of the reductions applying to each councillor but the mayor complained that he was unable to add it up. Chris helped him out. “Approximately £900,00 over three years” he said; a figure which as a mere observer I knew as soon as the subject was aired. How stupid do you have to be to be a councillor in Bexley?

Councillor Borella (Labour, North End) said that it wasn’t possible to sign off an amendment without an accurate figure. For goodness sake, hadn’t any of them got a calculator in their pocket?

In case anyone did, Gareth Bacon called for a quick vote, the thought of taking home only a five figure salary instead of six was just too much to bear.

All the Tories voted to line their pockets with as much gold as possible, the three UKIP members were content to serve the public, paid or not, and Labour could not make up their mind and abstained.

So Bexley taxpayers will shell out getting on for a million pounds because no Bexley councillor is any good at simple arithmetic and the Tories are universally greedy whip fodder; and this bunch of thickos was supposed to be debating a £100 million pound budget. God help us.

 

6 March (Part 2) - The descent into chaos begins

BaconStanding in for council leader Teresa O’Neill who has sadly suffered the second tragic family bereavement within six weeks, deputy leader Gareth Bacon made his by now well rehearsed speech on why Bexley council, one could easily say most councils, is heading towards financial meltdown.

The government grant has fallen from more than 70% (2006) of council revenue, now it is 14% and heading down to 5% by 2017. Bacon’s speech was not entirely devoid of political comment, but not to excess. A decent enough speech by one of Bexley’s few intelligent councillors. Not that I am a fan you will understand, I am sure that many a con artist has been in possession of a good grey cell count.

In my naivety I thought that all that was required next was that the opposition parties put forward their own ideas and comment, the tax increase would be nodded through and we could all get an early night.

Unfortunately, cabinet member Don Massey wanted to hog the limelight too, and so the meeting was set on its steady decline into chaos. He launched straight into an attack on Labour and UKIP.


MasseyMassey claimed that parking charge increases which top out at 50%, were justified because they have been frozen at what was in 2012 one of the highest levels to be found in SE London, for three years.

The cabinet member could not resist an attack on councillor Seán Newman who had labelled the charge for garden waste collection a ‘bin tax’. It is not of course but it will have the effect of bumping up my council charges by 3·2% (based on last year’s bill) and I am in band E, so lower bands will suffer even more.

Massey claimed that councillor Newman was half a million pounds out with his calculations yet Seán is only claiming a 2·9% effective tax rise. Which councillor is trying to bamboozle us most?

Mayor Marriner, acting as chairman, then asked whether any other member wished to speak, in a tone suggesting he saw as little need for it as I did. Little did he know that this simple question would lead to another three hours of verbal fisticuffs.

Labour leader Alan Deadman said he had reservations about the sustainability of the budget, you can only use reserves or sell off assets once. He complained about central government insisting on the provision of extra services and then “walked away from it”.

Councillor Deadman restated what everyone already knows, that Bexley’s consultation exercise results have been ignored. “They won’t listen to the electorate who put them in charge.”

Councillor Stefano Borella responded to Don Massey’s criticism that Labour had not put forward an alternative budget by reminding him that the Conservatives in opposition had taken the same course. He then proceeded to read from the long list of Conservative councillors who never make any contribution to scrutiny meetings.

The silent pension supplementers have been mentioned here many times but Stefano has been taking notes and is questioning what use they are. Conservative members “are more interested in getting home early” than participating in three, going on four, hour long meetings. They “make a sound case for reducing the number of councillors. The only value those members offer is to vote according to the whip”. Not an original thought but absolutely true just the same.

The 20% tax (up from nothing three years ago) for those on benefits did not go unremarked and was met with jeering from the ruling nasty party opposite.

Councillor Chris Beazley spoke for UKIP and said the most important thing to do was protecting front line services and it was at that point that he played his million pound saving masterstroke of reducing councillors’ generous rates of pay. This was reported yesterday so at fewer than 25 minutes into a three hour recording, it presents a convenient moment to break off and attend to some domestic affairs that I am too often forced to neglect.

At this point I had intended to present an extract from the meeting Agenda but the council’s website currently presents the Pension Board Agenda when clicking on the link for the Full Council.

 

6 March (Part 1) - Anna Froth. Chicken

ChickenWhy did the chicken cross the road?

Presumably to avoid questions.

Anna Firth, Conservative PPC, is trying hard to curry favour with the Erith and Thamesmead electorate. I suspect she is as good a Conservative candidate as any and that if I met her I would be agreeing with a good deal of what she has to say. So why am I unimpressed?

The usual reasons. She doesn’t know the area and I am sure is just as insincere as any other politician parachuted into an unfamiliar constituency. Being so closely associated with a councillor with misogynist tendencies doesn’t help.

Yesterday morning she was inviting people to ask her questions, so I did.


Tweet“Do council meetings in Sevenoaks resemble those in Bexley in any way?” Ms. Firth occupies a finance position there.

Not exactly the most testing of questions, but 24 hours later she has not replied.

In the two months until the May election this blog, on present trends, will attract more than 100,000 views, up around 20% since last May which was the previous peak. Ok, half of them, come by mistake or to steal photographs, but what they now seem unlikely to be able to do is read anything positive about ‘Anna all superficial froth’.

 

5 March (Part 2) - Crossrail public drop in

CrossrailAn email from Network Rail says…


Network Rail will be hosting a public information drop-in session between 4pm and 6:30pm on Tuesday 10 March 2015. This will also take place at the Abbey Wood Community Group Centre.


All are welcome. You can ask why there is no central handrail to the station steps or what they did last Sunday when the North Kent line was closed but there was not an orange jacket to be seen anywhere. Or anything, if the usual crowd are on duty they will be ready for most things.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

5 March (Part 1) - Greed, idiocy, juvenile comments and insults. It must be another Bexley council meeting

I wish I had councillor Gareth Bacon’s diary skills, a three and a half hour council meeting was scheduled just hours before I have an already fully occupied day. It is currently just after 5 a.m.

Last night’s Extraordinary Council meeting was a bad one from the very start and in marked contrast to the cabinet meeting of 23rd February.

Two jobsworths on the front desk wouldn’t let any member of the public enter the council chamber - unless they were a former Conservative councillor - until four minutes before the public meeting was due to start. Ten members of the public took their seats plus the aforesaid former councillor and General Election candidate Anna Firth. I sincerely hope she was suitably shocked by what unfolded before her. She was one of only three observers who stayed for the 10:30 rate setting vote. 1·9% if anybody cares, 100% Tory vote for, 100% Labour and UKIP against.

No blogging table had been provided so there was nowhere to conveniently place my recorder and with nowhere to steady my elbows sharp photographs were near impossible. I shall take a tripod next time.


MayorThe chairmanship by mayor Howard Marriner was excruciatingly bad. I seriously considered whether he might be drunk, his face was red enough, but came to the conclusion he was not. However his performance could not have been worse. It was partisan in the extreme and almost every time a Labour councillor’s speech strayed from the budgetary topic they would be reprimanded for it, but Conservative councillors almost to a man took delight in scoring political points, indeed Philip Read even began his speech with a promise to insult the young, female and black councillor Mabel Ogundayo.

Will he never give up his attack on the Labour spokesman for children’s services and stop proving himself Bexley council’s premier idiot? Quite an achievement given the competition for that position.

I shall exclude councillor Rob Leitch, the new man from Sidcup, from the list of incredibly poor speakers because his maiden speech was a good one. My first reaction was that he was making a blatant bid for future cabinet office and maybe he was but he spoke more sense than many of the old men around him, all far too fond of the sound of their own voices.

I shall also except cabinet member Alex Sawyer who made his points forcefully without taking cheap shots at his political opponents and their leadership despite previously saying that is what full council meetings are for.


Leitch BaconThe meeting was opened by cabinet member Gareth Bacon with a predictable scene setting speech and it might have been better to then allow the opposition parties to have their say, take the vote and go home. But in the words of Alex Sawyer at the last People Scrutiny meeting, council meetings are the place for knocking chunks out of each other. In doing so most of the assembled cretins proved their worthlessness.

Cabinet member John Fuller did not speak and Eileen Pallen said nothing that sticks in my mind and analysis of the audio recording will have to wait for another day.

One episode stays in memory very clearly, and that is UKIP councillor Chris Beazley who regretted the fact that there was no chance that the cost of democracy could be reduced for several years because the Electoral Commission would take at least four or five to rule on the proposal to reduce the number of Bexley councillors. In Bromley it is on course to take ten or more years.


Beazley MasseyCouncillor Beazley came up with a beautifully simple alternative. He moved that instead of reducing the number of councillors from 63 to possibly 42, the 63 reduce their allowances by one third for the years 2015/16 to 2017/18.

This threw the meeting into total disarray. The infantile councillor Sharon Massey stood to say a reduction would be illegal because it would reduce her pay below minimum wage level, thereby proving that she regards her council position as a job and not a vocation. As is well known, her true vocation is to be found in pubs and strip clubs.

While the chairman debated with the legal officer if the amendment could be allowed and councillors floundered at the thought that their pension supplements might be under threat, the only quick thinker present came up with the obvious way round the sudden outbreak of popular democracy. Knowing that the blue sheep around him would back him come what may, Gareth Bacon moved that a vote be taken on the UKIP amendment. The heavily biased chairman shouted “hear hear”.

Every Conservative voted to close four libraries and the Belvedere Splash Park rather than see thinner wallets. The Labour contingent, who in my opinion, did not put on the best show ever, abstained. When asked why, it was said that it was because the UKIP plan was not properly costed.

Now let me see, you cut allowances by one third for three years. That’s the same as a 100% cut for a year isn’t it and councillor’s allowances for a year currently add up to a little over £900,000. Sorry, no time to look it up right now.

So now we know with absolute certainty what we all suspected. Bexley councillors are in it for themselves. Residents can go take a jump.

Note: Leader Teresa O’Neill was not present. As noted six weeks ago, her mother died unexpectedly on 20th January and it is understood that last night the council leader was at her father’s bedside because he is terminally ill. It’s an appalling run of ill fortune not to be wished on anyone.

 

4 March (Part 2) - Wilton Road wilting. Life line thrown

The mood in Wilton Road this morning was gloomy, “The Abbey Arms is gone” a total stranger told me this morning.“It’s shut now?” I asked, knowing nothing of the local pub scene. “Last day is Sunday” came the reply. (†)

Rumour has it that Peabody have bought it but they deny it.


PubThen came some better news, probably is it too late and in a year or two there will not be a Wilton Road to save but the news came from the Mayor’s Office via Greenwich Council, you don’t think Bexley would trouble to tell me do you?

“The bid for Abbey Wood (Wilton Road) led by the Royal Borough of Greenwich in partnership with the London Borough Bexley was successful.

Approval has been granted for the Abbey Wood project for an amount up to £150,000 of which £138,000 will be capital and £12,000 as revenue funding with match funding to agreed levels (£150,000 match shared 50/50 with Bexley).

It means there will be physical improvements to public spaces and buildings along Wilton Road, adjacent to Abbey Wood station and support for local businesses, to revitalise this small high street and future proof it for the arrival of Crossrail.”


The proposal includes:


• Tailored business support for existing traders
• Exploring potential for a local street market
• Improvements to shop and building frontages


It is to be hoped that Wilton Road gets more for its money than did Northumberland Heath where £100,000 appears to have disappeared almost without trace.

Greenwich Council’s bid.

† The pub landlady has been telling her neighbours that she must hand in the keys by 19th March.

 

4 March (Part 1) - No help there then

The report on the protest campaign at Old Manor Way included the comment that David Evennett MP had not replied to a letter, something that came from the campaign organiser herself.


MP CouncillorsThe MP’s letter arrived later the same day, not that it was worth the stamp - oh, MPs don’t pay postage do they? - because he simply dismissed the issue as ‘nothing to do with me gov’. Presumably he has never checked his own website (see below).

More unexpected by the Old Manor Way campaigners, but not to regular Bexley council watchers, is that the three ward councillors have held out little hope of assistance and are anxious to step aside while busily washing their hands.

The councillors have circulated a letter to residents which confirms what was stated at last week’s cabinet meeting, that we are asked to believe that nothing much has been done yet on the proposed sale. (Audio clip here.)

Probably the campaigners believed that Bexley councillors are there to help residents, their Facebook page suggests as much, but that is to totally misunderstand how Bexley council works.


EvennettIn Bexley, the council leader sets the agenda and senior staff are given among the highest local authority salaries in the country to ensure there is no dissent.

Councillors are not allowed to have minds of their own. In the past four plus years only two Conservative hands have gone up against any Teresa O’Neill inspired motion, policy or directive and within a very short time afterwards both those rebels were no longer councillors.

Bexley’s Conservative councillors are jobsworths pure and simple - even the relatively decent ones of which there are a few. Even when they are critical of plans they vote for them. There is absolutely no way that councillors Hurt, Marriner and Pallen are ever going to help in any meaningful way on an issue such as this. £56,205 this year between the three of them ensures undying loyalty to the lady dictator.

Bexley Conservatives lied to the electorate last May when they claimed Bexley was a low tax borough, it is not, only eight boroughs out of 32 in London charge more. (Bexley in 24th poorest place). If they allow council tax levels to sink further towards the bottom of the league there is a danger they will be found out. No councillor can oppose the leader’s ambitions or risk exposing her as a charlatan. They know just how severe the internal bullying of those suspected of disloyalty can be.

 

3 March (Part 3) - Crossrail and Bexley council. Ripping the heart out of the community

The parking situation around Abbey Wood station can be dire. The combination of Crossrail’s needs and Bexley council’s greed has delivered a trading nightmare to Wilton Road, apart perhaps from the Abbey Cafe and Greg’s which appear to be favoured by the men in orange suits.

MP Teresa Pearce and local councillor Danny Hackett have done what they can, meeting traders and putting ideas for parking relief to the council.

I heard Danny Hackett extract promises that the problem would be looked at but in typical Bexley council fashion the top brass has done absolutely nothing beyond drawing their fat salaries. That was predicted in the relevant blog.

More than 20 parking spaces have been taken from Wilton Road and those within the surrounding 50 yards. The proportion of spaces which are disabled only is still ridiculously high.


Pub LandI am on first name terms with some of the Wilton Road shop owners and I hear tales of £800 a week drops in takings. According to several of them, a decision has been taken to close the Abbey Arms. That’s not come from the public house management but from its trading neighbours, but the probability is that the story is true.

Bexley council will be unconcerned, it never is. Parking space could have been made available on the Harrow Inn site. They plan to sell the plot of land nearest the station, why not quickly provide a dozen parking spaces on it until the sale goes through? There is nothing there apart from some trees which are to come down under the station redevelopment plans, so why not now?

Bexley council will probably never take much notice of what a Labour councillor or MP suggests, their high command is too fond of political point scoring. Maybe it’s a a crusade Anna Firth would care to take up. It might be more likely to succeed than ill-conceived petitions for English votes or punctual trains.

 

3 March (Part 2) - Bexley really has been Bonkers

Everyone who completed TfL’s on line consultation process regarding river crossings will have received their email today and a link to their overview of the results. It will come as no surprise to most that more than 90% of respondents were in favour of crossings east of Woolwich

There may be a bridge at both Gallions Reach and Belvedere, or they may get tunnels as tunnels occupy less land with the potential for even more development.


IdiotsThe foolishness of Bexley council is well and truly exposed, no vibrant city, or borough, can remain isolationist for ever. Teresa O’Neill has almost single handedly wasted eight long years and delayed the new opportunities that are beginning to come to the north of her domain.

The proposal for a tunnel to Silvertown, a sort of Blackwall relief road, was barely mentioned in the latest TfL documents and, maybe my read through was too quick, but I detected little enthusiasm for it.

The ‘No to Silvertown Tunnel’ group has done a good job of bringing the pollution problem to notice, not that I always agree with all of their supporters.

Last Thursday (26th February) I received a call from my nonagenarian aunt in East Ham which caused me to drop everything and jump in the car. A good run in the early afternoon can be 35 minutes. It took 138 minutes because the Blackwall Tunnel approach was reduced to a single lane. There was still a queue to get into the tunnel when I returned after midnight.


TweetLBC radio was saying the queue was two and a half hours long, I was lucky that the approach via Bugsby Way was a bit shorter, but I must be mad according to one Twitter user.

Whilst thinking that the Greenwich Peninsular is already doing its bit for South East London’s transport infrastructure I find it hard to believe that my two hour queue for the tunnel would not have been eased had three lanes been available instead of just one.

My aunt thankfully survived the delay although I doubt she will survive to see the bridge in 2025. Thanks Teresa, you really are a prize prat. The bridge you persuaded your friend Boris to cancel would have opened a year ago.

 

3 March (Part 1) - One is John Fuller, the other is full of hate and prejudice

FullerReadOne of these men will greet and acknowledge the public who attend council meetings. Engage in polite conversation when the opportunity arises, enquire about the wellbeing of children he knows are going through difficult times, answers questions honestly and doesn’t stray from the subject or engage in cheap political insults.

Instead he quietly does his best for education in Bexley. It may not be the best borough in every single respect but it is the best when it comes to giving parents their first choice of secondary school.

The other man never speaks to any member of the public, refuses to answer any question from a member of the public whose past political leanings are not to his liking, and distributes political insults like confetti, especially if the target is young and female. Apparently such people are educationally incapable of drafting their own motions.


TweetWhen not thus occupied he invents stories and delivers them to the police intent on getting a blogger imprisoned - he succeeded but only for 24 hours until a judge intervened - and he invents stories to feed to parliamentary candidates neither fully acquainted with the borough’s recent history or with Read’s vile ways. To Ms. Firth’s credit she deleted her Tweet when she realised the sort of man with whom she might be coming too closely associated.

Almost needless to say Read is in charge of Bexley’s worst performing portfolio, Children’s Services. Available statistics are several months out of date but they are the best there are. Bexley is reported to have the worst Children’s Services in London, being either bottom or close to the bottom of the pile in every measured parameter. Read will tell you that things have improved since he took over from former councillor Katie Perrior who has gone to spend more time with her business, and probably they have, things could hardly be worse.

Would it be churlish to point out that Bexley council’s press release to the News Shopper claims an 80% first choice success rate but The Guardian quotes the true figure of 77·5%? According to Bexley council’s website in what will presumably be a rapidly pulled page, so reproduced here, they hit 80·5% last year.
20152014
So things have gone down hill just a little. Why does council leader Teresa O’Neill (featured prominently in the News Shopper’s report) always find it necessary to lie and exaggerate?

 

2 March (Part 4) - When it’s gone it’s gone

Parks The Bexley Wildlife website reveals that Bexley council expects to sell its 27 open spaces for £10 million.

It’s quite a lot of money, Bexley only collects about £100 million from tax payers, but they are not planning to reduce council tax, far from it, their stated aim is to spend the money on maintaining the remaining parks.

What’s going to happen when they have spent it all? Are the parks going to be picked off one by one to pay for the others? That way lies catastrophe, except for enthusiasts for concrete jungles. But the Conservatives 200,000 new homes a year have got to go somewhere.

 

2 March (Part 3) - Milking the system

BaconThe porcine puns have been done to death so let’s be a little more formal this time around.

Gareth Bacon’s extreme public purse pilfering was first covered by the Evening Standard followed by the News Shopper.

The Bonkers report was more concerned with how councillor Bacon puts Bexley residents last by his admission that his responsibilities here would be the first to be dropped if things got too much for him. The reason for Bexley being first to go is obvious, it’s his least well paid job.

It would appear that the feeling that Bacon is more interested in his own pocket than putting his talents to good use in Bexley is widely shared. The Bexley Labour group issued this press release today. Click the image to read the full text.

Press Release

The relevant GLA webcast may be selected here. Check out Confirmations Hearings Committee - 23rd February and Gareth Bacon’s CV is on the GLA site too.

I receive a surprising number of emails that tell me where I can meet councilor Bacon most days and it is not in Watling Street. They say he pushes quite a lot of cash across a certain bar in Sidcup. Good to see him investing in the borough.

Gareth Bacon is not only the biggest municipal cash taker by far but his wife Cheryl tells the biggest porkies ever known to Bexley council. Sorry, I think I promised no more piggy puns.

 

2 March (Part 2) - Selling off the family silver

TennisWhilst in Old Manor Way last Saturday I noticed a derelict piece of land opposite the playground. The local residents said it used to be a tennis court but fell into disuse about 20 years ago.

A planning application (07/11240/OUT) was put in in 2007 for four houses but it was withdrawn by the proposer before being considered. The proposer was Bexley council.

Bexley council claims ownership of this plot, it is one of those listed for sale in the original sell off proposals. See blog dated 1st January 2015.

 

2 March (Part 1) - Nine pounds an hour

The practice of MPs employing interns and paying them nothing has fallen out of favour but minimum wage has not.

FirthAnna Firth is not an MP but would like to be. She is asking for help to run her Erith and Thamesmead campaign office and offering £9.12 an hour.

Despite her too close association with the dregs of Bexley council not all their dubious practices have rubbed off yet.

Bexley council has been proud of the fact, and said so at public meetings, that it has squeezed the agencies running its care services so hard that they cannot afford to pay a legal wage. No travelling time, no travelling expenses.

Anna Firth is having none of that. Click image for full advertisement.

The Priory Conservative Club may be only 35 minutes from Waterloo but it is a difficult climb up Picardy Road or a bus every 15 minutes.

 

1 March (Part 2) - The weekend’s Crossrail news. There is none

The North Kent line was closed all day today. Hundreds, most probably thousands of people have been enraptured by the joys of Replacement Bus Services and the Crossrail project has advanced not one jot.

Not a single orange jacketed Indian, Eastern European, Briton, Irishman or anyone at all was to be seen anywhere between Abbey Wood station and Plumstead. Maybe the wind was too much for them as it was once before. It was making a horrendous noise through the grills on the new Church Manorway footbridge from where Photos 3 and 4 were taken.

So here are some pictures of almost nothing except for the railway enthusiasts who may notice that the first signs of a new footbridge for Bostall Manorway (Photo 1) are visble and there is extensive piling from there through to Abbey Wood station. The tracks approaching the tunnel portal don’t seem to be any more advanced than they were a month ago.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
More Crossrail related blogs.

 

1 March (Part 1) - Park and Playground protest

Park protestWhen cabinet member Alex Sawyer decided to read out the list of 27 public spaces that Bexley council may decide to sell off I suspect he knew exactly what he was doing; trying to inject a little of the openness and transparency leader O’Neill speaks of but tries hard to avoid, and to stir the public debate which the council has been striving to avoid. Refusing Freedom of Information requests etc.

Sawyer’s list was published here (audio clip) which led to Bexley council issuing a Press Release ten days after Sawyer’s revelation and it soon found its way into the News Shopper.

Because of Bexley’s addiction to secrecy rumours circulated. Yesterday, and not for the first time, I had to assure someone that there never was a plan to build houses in Danson Park. The cabinet member has made that very clear while speaking on webcam, he‘s not going to renege on that now.

However the lesser parks and open spaces are under threat and I attended one of the protest meetings on Saturday morning. The Old Manor Way group have got in early, before any detailed work has been done on the ideas.

They have been in touch with their MP David Evennett who has not bothered to reply. Does he ever?

The ward councillors, David Hurt, Howard Marriner and Eileen Pallen will only say that they will help find an alternative site. What a load of nonsense that is. If there was a nearby suitable council owned site, they would be selling it to a property developer!

The driving force for selling children’s playgrounds is of course money. Bexley council hasn’t got any, already charges one of the highest council tax rates in London and sees its salvation as building more houses and industrial units. That will increase the council tax base and make a fortune from the newly introduced Community Infrastructure Levy. £60 per square metre south of the Bexleyheath railway line, £40 north of it.

The sudden enthusiasm for Thames crossings has the same roots, you don’t bring the biggest food distribution centre in the world to the borough if the council is campaigning for isolationism - as it was until very recently.

So the campaigners may have a struggle on their hands. A playground has been on Old Manor Way since 1939 and the land is a valuable site; but having listened to campaign leaders speak, it is good to know they have already recognised part of the problem, individual ward councillors are mainly in it for themselves.

The campaign has a facebook page.

Park protest Park protest Park protest Park protest
It may help dispel more rumours about the ‘decision to sell parks’ if this exchange between Sidcup councillor Rob Leitch and Director, Paul Moore is published. Decisions would appear to be some way off.

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