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Bonkers Blog May 2015

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31 May - How to win friends and influence people

The police in Bexley, some of them at least, are making strenuous efforts to engage with the community. It started in Thamesmead after the murder of Olamide Fasina and was extended to Welling a few months ago.

The main thrust has been the circulation, by email when possible, of Newsletters and a steady flow of information, not all of it too stuffy or serious, on Twitter. The police may be on Facebook too but I don’t often go there. An unstructured mess beyond my IT skills unfortunately.

The result appears to be that local beat bobbies are regarded as more human and sympathetic than before and even I have been won over to a considerable extent; and I have more reason than most to regard them all with deep suspicion.

In Bexley the police refused to take action against a councillor who misappropriated more than two thousand pounds of taxpayers’ cash, prematurely stopped the investigation of another for the obscenities that originated on his phone line. That was followed by a politically motivated cover up and lies aimed at blaming the victim rather than the prime suspect. Three consecutive Bexley police commanders were implicated in the two cases. A fourth sanctioned lying about residents when asked to do so by Bexley council.

Beyond Bexley, my son-in-law’s brother was murdered with police involvement and the cover up extended to Commissioner level and a string of Home Secretaries (Blunkett, Straw and Blears) were just as bad - until Theresa May came along.

As you will hopefully understand I can’t quite get my head around the concept of an honest copper and it doesn’t help that my associate, Mick Barnbrook, was a Police Inspector in Bexleyheath 20 years ago and if you give him half a chance he will regale you with non-stop stories of bent senior officers who threaten various dreadful sanctions against any lower grade pleb intent on treading the absolute straight and narrow.


Speed gunWhen PC Chris Molnar who is the Thamesmead Twitter-in-Chief began to web stream his speed gun activities my first thought was “you’ve blown it now Chris”. I watched on line as he stood around a bend on a near empty two lane in each direction dual carriageway pulling in those who were paying insufficient attention to the 30 m.p.h. limit.


SpeedingFresh from another ‘lecture’ by my son - whose business is road safety - on why fixed speed cameras are effective only as cash cows and Bexley council’s admission that they have no statistical data to justify the installation of speed cameras in Bexley Road and Brook Street, I had very mixed feelings about PC Molnar’s web streaming. (†)

May‘s two speed camera blogs attracted a good 50% more web hits than the usual level so one might guess that unjustified speed cameras on hills are not generally welcomed. I told Chris Molnar of my misgivings.

However there was little need for concern.

One might speculate from his response that PC Molnar recognises that the use of discretion-free dumb yellow boxes is a blunt instrument which merely accelerates the widespread feeling that Britain is no longer a fair society. His was a far more sensible approach. Chris Molnar and his colleagues were doing no more than dishing out advice and not points on licenses. Click image to enlarge it.

Those driving closer to 50 than 40 m.p.h. were not so lucky but drifting a little over the limit, quite a lot over the limit some might say, was rewarded only with a gentle warning of the possible consequences. PC Chris Molnar is doing a good and honest job, he’ll never get promoted.

† Bexley council has suggested asking Transport for London for information. Is a backwater like Brook Street a TfL responsibility? Seems unlikely.

 

30 May - Does anyone still read the Highway Code?

Weekends at the end of the month do not make for a busy website so please excuse the lack of effort today; on the blog at least. Quite a lot has been expended on showing a five year old the sights of London.

Commuter parking regularly extends a full ten minutes walk from Abbey Wood station which is unsurprising given that parking closer can cost £3·80 with an unjustified fine on top. Half-term visitors to Lesnes Abbey do not improve matters.


Parking Parking ParkingSome of the regulars pay scant regard to safety. The van that features in Photos 1 and 2 has been there, at a T junction, all week, including today, and encourages pedestrians crossing the road to do so where it is less than safe.

The people carrier in Photo 1 blocked the dropped kerb for all of Thursday afternoon - probably an abbey visitor. The white car in Photo 3 is there most days and makes a blind corner even more dangerous. I had one narrow escape myself when someone swung around the corner far too fast and came close to hitting me head on.

Maybe the local Bobby should remind them all that parking on corners is not recommended in the Highway Code. At least it used not to be, it’s a few years since I read it. No one’s perfect.

 

29 May (Part 2) - Net worth? Worse than nothing

Bexley council can choose some very strange business partners at times. A company with no money and a County Court judgment against them to run a library and Dex Property Management to look after an empty building.


Companies infoA company with a West One address, next to no money in the bank and loads of debt.

Why would anyone choose Dex to safeguard property?

Sometimes such things reveal a link to Bexley council via family or employment connections. So far, nothing on this one.

Note: Enquiry provoked by knowledgeable BiB reader.

 

29 May (Part 1) - With one bound (or boundary) he was free!

Councils can do whatever they like. It’s easy because they set and manipulate their own rules. The debate about the proposed new ward boundaries would appear to be a case in point.

Bexley council’s General Purposes committee is responsible for electoral matters…
Agenda

This gives a secretive council a problem. General Purposes Committee meetings are open to the public and the Local Government Act 1972 allows the press and public to be excluded only when specified matters are due to be discussed. They include…


Information relating to any individual.
Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual.
Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
Information relating to any consultations or negotiations, or contemplated consultations or negotiations, in connection with any labour relations.
Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings.
Information which reveals that the authority proposes, (a) to give under any enactment a notice under or by virtue of which requirements are imposed on a person; or (b) to make an order or direction under any enactment.
Information relating to any action taken or to be taken in connection with the prevention, investigation or prosecution of crime.


Nothing there about electoral matters. Hence the big problem.

The council accepts that the amount of work involved is too much for the Committee…
Agenda
So what to do? The obvious answer is to set up one of their Sub-Committees. Just because the main Committee doesn’t feel able to do a subject justice does not of course constitute a legally acceptable reason to exclude the public from proceedings, and indeed the council’s Constitution allows access to Sub-Committees, I know, I have occasionally attended them.

So what does a secretive council do to get around that? Easy. You call the Sub-Committee a Working Group. There is nothing in the Constitution about Working Groups. As Linda ‘Biffa’ Bailey famously said “I can do what I like”, and so can the council.

 

28 May - Public exclusions and secret Sub-Committees

Yesterday’s secret Boundaries Commission meeting provoked a considerable amount of correspondence. Kevin Fox, Bexley’s highly paid meeting fixer didn’t reply to Mr. Barnbrook’s request for something more definitive than Fox’s ‘understanding’, instead it came from his boss, Deputy Director for HR and Corporate Support, Nick Hollier. One can only assume that Mick Barnbrook’s reference to the criminal investigation that followed the last occasion he was excluded from a meeting and his promise to start that process again if wrong doing was uncovered, put the matter above Fox’s pay grade.

Mr. Hollier’s letter was not an unreasonable one and the relevant part read as follows…


As is its usual practice, the [Boundaries] Commission wishes to provide a briefing for Members which will focus on the general activity, processes and timescales that the review will require from the Council. The Commission has stated that this is not a public meeting. The meeting is not a meeting of any committee or sub-committee established under the Council’s constitutional and governance arrangements, nor is it a meeting that any statute provides should be open to members of the public.


HollierPolite and businesslike you might think and I would agree; but truthful? Probably not.

Messrs. Barnbrook and Bryant are nothing but thorough when hunting down the corruption and dishonesty that pervades Bexley council, they had been exchanging messages with the Boundary Commission too. These told a very different story.

The meeting was called by Bexley council and the Commission had been “invited” to attend and were “guests”. That may of course be simply semantics and Civil Service protocol but the next bit couldn’t be. The Commission stated it had no input to the meeting’s arrangements and would not object to a public presence. That decision was Bexley council’s and no one else’s.

My own attempts to extract information from within Bexley council fell mainly on stony ground. The best I obtained was a suggestion that council leader Teresa O’Neill has already had a meeting with the Boundaries Commission and rapidly abandoned the position she and her voting fodder adopted at last July’s meeting.

Motion

The Tories amended the Labour Motion to exclude reference to numbers

The reason was said to be that the Commission was not ruling out going lower than the 42 councillors proposed by the Labour group. If true it would be very funny.

What is not so funny is the further suggestion that an illegal meeting has been arranged for next week.

I wasn’t able to attend the most recent General Purposes meeting on 14th April which was chaired by the historically dishonest councillor Peter Craske, but its Agenda confirms that the council and the Commission had already met and that things would move more quickly than at first anticipated.

To this end a General Purposes Sub-Committee was to be established. Sub-Committees of public meetings remain public but next week’s and its Agenda has yet to appear on the council’s website. This is already in contravention of the Local Government Act which prescribes seven days notice. It may be down to incompetence and in most councils it would be, but experience suggests that in Bexley the reason will be rather more sinister.
No Meeting
Their allowances are on the line and as many as possible must be retained. Losses must be guided towards Labour areas. Public exposure is the last thing the Conservatives will want.

 

27 May (Part 2) - “A mob of nasty evil people”

There is nothing new here I am afraid but it annoys me more each time I see it. Bexley council must know by now that it is effectively entrapping motorists with their unmarked shared Residents’ and Pay & Display parking bays.


Abbey RoadThis motorist photographed today had paid his £3·80 for two hours parking but he left his car on the wrong side of a white line. Well as there is no instruction anywhere to say that one side of the line is Residents only and the other is shared Residents and Pay & Display, why would he even bother to look?

On some days residents legitimately park over the white line rendering it invisible.

The situation has been reported several times before and Bexley council is always looking at BiB (there was more evidence of it earlier today) so you can be sure that they know exactly what they are doing. As someone said in a letter to the News Shopper more than six years ago, “Bexley council has been taken over by a mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”.

It sums them up to a tee. They know exactly what they are doing but they carry on doing it because it helps pay their inflated salaries.

I wonder if the Traffic and Transport responsibility being transferred to councillor Alex Sawyer will make any difference. He is always ready to tell us how honest, open and transparent he aims to be and to some extent he has been. Perhaps he will arrange for suitable signage will be added to the cash machines in Abbey Road or maybe to the road itself? Well one can hope.

See also January’s blog.

 

27 May (Part 1) - They went for gerrymandering in 2011. What this time?

There was an intriguing meeting listed in the Appendix to Agenda Item 12 of last Wednesday’s council meeting. A meeting tonight about ward boundaries.
Lesnes Abbey
Bexley Conservatives’ record on boundary revisions is a shameful one. In 2010, council leader Teresa O’Neill made the front page of the News Shopper by saying she was considering reducing the number of councillors. She did absolutely nothing about it.

A year later Bexley’s Conservatives put forward proposals to change the Parliamentary constituency boundaries. The general idea was to ‘lend’ Thamesmead some surplus Tory votes from Welling and move the more easterly parts of Thamesmead voters into Bexleyheath but not enough to dent the Tory majority there.

A blatant bit of gerrymandering aimed at painting Thamesmead blue but the Tories justified it on the grounds that Erith and Sidcup had a lot in common - like both being home to munitions factories in the First World War.

More recently the Labour Group returned to the subject of borough boundaries and put forward a Motion calling on a reduction in the number of councillors. As is always the case, the Tories threw it out lock, stock and barrel. When UKIP suggested that the same savings could be made immediately by reducing allowances by one third (†), the Tories threw that out too. What else from a group whose primary purpose is to look after themselves?

However in September 2014, Teresa O’Neill wrote to the Boundary Commission. It couldn’t have been a more vague letter, it merely asked for a review.

The Boundary Commission and its rulings are very obviously of supreme importance to democracy in Bexley as they are everywhere and definitely something the public should know about.

However Bexley council has never been a strong believer in democracy and in this case it has placed two obstacles in its way. Firstly the time of the meeting is not given and secondly it is not shown at all on the on-line calendar of meetings.

An enquiry elicited a comment from Mr. Fox, the council’s senior committee officer, to the effect that he “understands the meeting is not open to the public”. Perhaps Mr. Fox has forgotten that council meetings are regulated by Statute and his ‘understanding’ has no bearing on such matters.

Maybe something more definitive will emerge during the course of the day, but the last time Mr. Fox gave advice on the exclusion of the public from meetings the police took an interest and Mr. Tuckley, the Chief Executive, his Legal Officer, Lynn Tyler and the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon continue to be investigated for Misconduct in Public Office two years later.

† Also reported on 7th March 2015.

 

26 May (Part 2) - Crossrail speeds on

CrossrailInstallation of the electricity supply support columns on the London bound Crossrail track appears to have been completed and I was fortunate to arrive just as attention was being diverted to the ‘down’ side on Saturday.

A small crane made its way to the crossover site where it briefly lowered its road wheels while switching tracks and then returned to Eynsford Drive.

The interval between the first and last of these photographs was twelve minutes - just before 4 p.m. 24th May 2015.


Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
The column hangs on one small hook while four nuts and bolts and a big spanner secure it to the ground support.
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Just a few minutes later and off they go to fix the next one.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

26 May (Part 1) - Lesnes Abbey grinds to a halt

With Crossrail providing something new to report every week it is easy to forget that there is another fairly major building project underway nearby. The Lesnes Abbey Woods Enhancement.

Bexley council’s glossy leaflet includes a timetable for the project. Six months are allowed for construction of the new visitor centre after demolition of the old one. These two pictures were taken 20 weeks apart.
Lesnes Abbey
Lesnes
Not much to show for four and a half months work is there? Elsewhere parts of the park which were cleared to provide better views are now dense nettle patches.

 

25 May (Part 2) - Crossrail forces a U-turn

The attention to detail by Crossrail and their contractors has always been impressive. Everything is done thoroughly and whilst some of their signage has occasionally shown a lack of local knowledge, it is quite hard to pick fault, although there are members of the Liaison Committee who do their best to do so.

It may only be a small point but I feel the picture below sums things up pretty well. When Bexley council puts out temporary No Parking signs there will be one somewhere in the general vicinity of the restricted area and a couple of cones dotted here and there.

Not so with Crossrail, you get a cone that actually indicates what it is for every five feet along the road.
Fendyke Road
The occasion was the long awaited Gayton Road weekend closure and two way working in Wilton Road. The road markings, One Way arrows etc. had been changed and a short central white line painted in and whenever I looked the traffic was flowing well. Apart perhaps when the occasional clown insisted on parking in the turning area. I had to wait for the one shown to move on a few feet and not block the view.
Closed
Wilton Road closureThe object of the closure was to progress the diversion of the utility services around the new station’s footprint. To be perfectly honest I did not see an awful lot of progress and the roads had reverted to normal operation by the middle of Sunday afternoon.

There was plenty of progress elsewhere. The tunnel approach. the station area and the track extending out towards Belvedere were all scenes of much activity.


Wilton Road Gayton Road Gayton Road Felixstowe Road
More Crossrail related blogs

 

25 May (Part 1) - Why the news blackout?

TweetThere was a serious incident at Abbey Wood station late last Saturday evening. The Police Neighbourhood Team Tweeted about it, so did Southeastern Railway and it popped up on my PC's screen alert at about the same time.

Alert I had expected a report to appear on The News Shopper’s website on Sunday morning but it did not.

Not only was there no news but the police Tweet disappeared and Teresa Pearce MP who confirmed she had seen that Tweet knew no more about the incident.

I feared it might be a Crossrail related accident as they were due to take over the line an hour or so later, but the men on site knew nothing about it next morning.

It took until midday today for the News Shopper to carry a report and it says no more than Southeastern’s Tweet.

There has been one report that there was a fatality but why a news blackout so total that the police withdrew their Tweets and the News Shopper has had to create a story out of nothing?

Been there, done that!

 

24 May (Part 2) - Not good enough Eileen

Hugh Neal’s blog reports today that Bexley council’s meeting with residents concerned about the proposed use of the former Homeleigh Care Home as temporary accommodation for the homeless did not go well.

His informants said the meeting was not signposted so that attendees were unsure about whether they had gone to the right place at the right time, there was no agenda and neither the council officers not the councillors present were able to answer simple questions.

This is not at all what I expected from my own brief conversation with the responsible Cabinet Member Eileen Pallen when I spoke to her last Wednesday evening. She appeared to be genuinely anxious to handle the potentially delicate situation in a professional manner. She specifically said that she had instructed council officers to select occupants very carefully to avoid the unpleasant and even dangerous situations I have seen in my own street when unsuitable people are placed in an otherwise quiet road.

Hugh’s report implies that the Cabinet Member did not attend the public meeting which is very odd. Alex Sawyer attended nearly all the Splash Park meetings when he was responsible for its future.


DexIt has been reported that councillor David Hurt (Conservative, Barnehurst ward) was at the residents’ meeting and thought that their concerns would be fully addressed if one of them put their case to the Planning Committee. A clearer case of dismissive arrogance would be hard to imagine.

That resident would be given five minutes and then torn apart by aggressive councillors before his case was rejected. It is essential that their concerns are properly considered long before any plans are formalised and put before the Planning Committee. Badgering the cabinet member is absolutely essential.

It is alleged that Bexley council has appointed a property management company to look after the premises. Their website (see image) does not inspire confidence.

Note: Homeleigh is in Northumberland Heath ward. (Councillors Read, Reader and Seymour.)

 

24 May (Part 1) - Shocking or what?

As far as I can judge from the available statistics, rather fewer than 50% of regular Bonkers’ readers follow BiB on Twitter so maybe some readers will not be aware of the debate about the future lettings policy of Orbit Homes for their remaining Erith tower blocks.
Address
Probably I have led a sheltered life but I found the following statistics to be absolutely shocking. Around 20% of the dwellings house criminals.
Crimes
The new plan is to restrict the occupancy rate for the “economically active” to 50% of properties and “prolific offenders” to no more than 20%. Is that very different to how it’s always been?

 

22 May - Wilton Wow!

Not the sort of graffito one usually finds in Abbey Wood. I wonder if the wall owner who commissioned it is aware that Bexley council plans to sell that Wilton Road site and it could be built on?
Mural
Photographed 14:55 today.

 

21 May (Part 2) - A good start but a disappointing ending

Yesterday evening’s council meeting was a celebratory affair. An opportunity for Tories to slap each other on the back, move a few deckchairs around the ship to make room for prodigal sons whose sins have been forgiven and display the usual arrogance and contempt for democracy. Something some elderly ladies sitting close to me were quick to observe.

The main object of the evening was the game of Buggin’s Turn in which councillor Sybil Camsey was due to be made mayor. The Labour group put forward their preferred candidate, councillor Edward Boateng, and Conservative John Wilkinson proposed his Brampton ward mate Sybil Camsey.


Wilkinson O'NeillJohn Wilkinson may have assumed during his address that the election of councillor Camsey was a foregone conclusion but the leader who seconded the appointment avoided that mistake and councillor Camsey was predictably elected with 100% of the Tory vote. Councillor David Hurt had already been selected as deputy mayor.

I have never thought much of councillor Camsey and that stems from her assertion in July 2011 when she said that Bexley council never takes any notice of petitions, so Elwyn Bryant, who had embarked on one at the time, would be well advised not to waste his time.

Young and naive as I was four years ago I thought this was an outrageous comment but as numerous people have seen since, it is nothing other than the absolute truth.


CamseyAfter disappearing for 20 minutes, presumably while six inches were snipped from the mayoral robes, mayor Camsey emerged resplendent in scarlet.

It was a little disappointing to note that from that point until she brought the meeting to a close the new mayor spoke with admirable clarity and a degree of confidence I have not seen from the top table before. Her predecessor may have been a nice man for all I know but his trademark as council meeting chairman was always one of bumbling buffoonery. My hope for another Val Clark figure to put an element of farce back into council meetings may well have been dashed for another twelve months.

A mayoral tradition is that they announce a favoured charity to be the recipient of their fund raising effort. Mayor Camsey said hers would be Special Needs Children which provoked a round of applause from Mick Barnbrook. Then I remembered he has an SEN grandson. The previous mayor raised over £15,000 for his charity.

The formal business included nodding through the leader’s cabinet appointments. With councillor Gareth Bacon exposed as the highest paid councillor in London and stepping down from his least well paid job (deputy leader of Bexley council) the way was clear for Alex Sawyer to make a dash for the almost top spot. He takes Traffic and Transport responsibilities with him too, previously the domain of councillor Don Massey.

Sawyer’s place was taken by Batman Craske renowned for his dexterity with the forked tongue, rude words and One Armed Bandits. The future of the Splash Park now lies in his hands. Councillor Don Massey picks up Bacon’s Finance and Corporate Services role. The Rogues Gallery will need updating.

Councillor Stefano Borella proposed that some Labour names be appointed to outside bodies but he was given short shrift. Then Labour councillor Daniel Francis put forward a Motion regarding the scheduling of meetings. The Conservatives’ preferred timetable is that more than four months should elapse between decision making and Scrutiny…


That the Public Cabinet meeting be moved from the 21st July 1015 to the 6th July, an additional Full Council Meeting be scheduled for the 20th January 2016 and the Full Council Meeting on the 20th April 2016 commence at 19:30hrs.


Francis The latter being a reference to the Conservatives being able to debate their Motions at late starting meetings but leaving no time for Labour’s Motions. A blatant attack on democracy by the ruling party.

Both suggestions went down like lead balloons and were duly rejected unanimously. Surely councillor Francis has been a councillor in Bexley long enough to realise that a Teresa O’Neill priority is to clamp down on Scrutiny. Why else would she have reduced committee numbers from seven to three last year?

Councillor Stefano Borella proposed another eminently sensible amendment. He saw no reason why payments totalling £18,000 were introduced for Scrutiny vice-chairman for the first time last year at a time of supposed council austerity.


That the special responsibility allowance for Vice-Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committees be deleted and the special responsibility allowance for Cabinet/Scrutiny Liaison Member be halved.


This too was rejected unanimously by the nasty party. Surely councillor Borella has been a councillor in Bexley long enough to realise that Bexley Conservative’s priority is to line their own pockets as generously as possible and sneaking in new allowances for their members is to be expected?

The meeting ended about 80 minutes after it started.

During a leisurely exit, Mick Barnbrook proposed to his fellow Bexley Action Group members that they make an immediate donation to the mayor’s fund for special needs children. He attempted to make his way to the mayor who was by then wining and dining at the taxpayers’ expense. Unfortunately he was barred from approaching the mayor by an uncharacteristically officious, Dave Easton, who runs beanos such as last night’s.

I suspect that Mr. Barnbrook being a man of principle will find some other way of presenting the mayor with a modest cheque, but it was not a good start to the mayor’s fund raising effort.

 

21 May (Part 1) - Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t

Bexley has a housing problem, you’ve seen the newspaper headlines about families sent to Manchester, you may have given a pound to the ‘rough sleepers’ who congregate in and around the road crossing subways. Maybe they are attracted to Bexley because of its reputation for cheaper accommodation, maybe UKIP have a point and the situation is the result of uncontrolled immigration. I don’t know but it’s not hard to imagine that being homeless must be among the very worst things that can happen to a family or individual.


PallenA week ago Bexley council, or perhaps I should say councillor Eileen Pallen, the cabinet member for Adult’s Services, announced that it was going to use the former Homeleigh Care Home in Erith for temporary housing accommodation.

Almost immediately I was on the receiving end of a small deluge of email notifications expressing alarm and my first reaction I am sorry to say was “God help the residents of Avenue Road”. I am influenced by the fact that Bexley council has for more years than I can remember leased a house opposite to mine. It has been a crime centre, occupied by drug addicts, drug dealers and ‘night workers’.

I have seen superficially attractive young women sun bathing in the front garden smoking and begging money and mutilated by scars on their arms. A neighbour who left his house at the wrong time bears an ugly scar on his forehead after being bottled by an addict. Another was threatened with death for failing to mend an addict’s television aerial. The police and ambulance service have been kept very busy. All in a quiet residential area and all because of Bexley council. And then earlier this month the recent occupants were rounded up and - according to rumour - sent to Manchester.

Last week the broken windows were replaced and a new family moved in. What a difference, so far at least. Clean curtains instead of tobacco stained nets, ornaments on the window ledge and a cat peering out of the window.

The stream of nocturnal visitors looking for ‘a fix’ has gone and all is quiet again.

The years of sleepless nights for the immediate neighbours were due in part to Bexley council’s reluctance to act swiftly. The police would take occupants away and two days later they would return, the police probably every bit as frustrated as those who have to live nearby. Twice the problem has been solved because the occupants were jailed - and then Bexley moved in someone just as bad.

Councillor Pallen’s scheme is obviously well intentioned and in principle to be welcomed and applauded. The success or otherwise of her Homeleigh initiative will be dependent on careful selection of the families housed there. Not everyone who is homeless is a threat to society, most will probably be no different to you and me.
Homeleigh
If I lived near to Homeleigh and was attending this evening’s meeting I’d be pushing Eileen Pallen hard on her selection criteria and what she will do and how quickly if she gets it wrong. But councillor Pallen should be congratulated on her plan to keep local families local when they fall on hard times. Manchester is welcome to Coptefield Drive’s drug addicts. Children can safely play outside again.

The scheme is subject to planning permission but the existence of so many Tory sheep makes that a mere formality.

 

20 May (Part 2) - Chaos by design

Large vehicle Bexley council’s road design team’s priority is to introduce as many pinch points as possible. Too many junctions which once allowed two vehicles to pull up alongside are now the scene of day long traffic congestion. Presumably creating roundabouts which cannot be navigated by large vehicles is sheer incompetence, but with Bexley council one can never be quite sure.

With Harrow Manorway being the only North South route into Thamesmead and Crossrail likely to increase traffic levels by the end of 2018 and Sainsbury's in two months time, sensible people would not expect the road width to be reduced, especially when there is no shortage of adjacent spare land. But Bexley is intent on inflicting misery whenever it can.

At mid-day yesterday en-route to East Ham I joined the northbound traffic queue just south of the BP petrol station expecting to be held up for three or four minutes. I wish! 17 minutes later I passed the roundabout where on the far side there was a queue only to the Barge Pole pub. I can only assume that drivers were choosing to divert via Yarnton Way or Eynsford Drive. The northbound queue must have extended up Knee Hill by then.

The reason was that a large articulated lorry heading to the Crossrail base in Felixstowe Road could not get around the new roundabout. Traffic flow had been diverted to the eastern side of the roundabout. i.e. the correct side and not as shown in this morning’s pictures below.

When the driver attempted to turn left into Overton Road he could not because of the queue of traffic that had built up there too. Does it really take nearly six months to build an inadequate roundabout?


Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway

 

20 May (Part 1) - More road chaos due

Several people have asked if I can explain what is to happen in and around Penhill Road next week and apart from the obvious fact that more havoc is to be wreaked on Bexley’s road system, I really do not know.


Traffic OrderThe published traffic order is far from being a model of clarity. I particularly like the instruction not “to turn right at Danson Underpass at the junction with the roundabout junction with Penhill Road Sidcup.

Cryptic crossword aficionados may click the image to try to make sense of the complete thing.

I am informed that there is a mobile display board at the Danson Roundabout which is equally confusing.

 

19 May (Part 2) - Electrifying pictures

Knocking down stations has not been the only thing that Network Rail has been doing for Crossrail this month. Preparations for track laying nearer the station has been moving on at a pace, there are the first signs of the overhead electrification, Gayton Road is soon to be closed while the utility services are diverted around the new station site and the pile driver has been moved back into the station area.

Herewith a variety of photographs from the past two and a bit weeks, some through grubby windows and a couple on a mobile phone. Ugh!


Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
The plastic utility conduits which extend under the railway line groan like organ pipes in the wind.
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
The electricity supply columns awaiting installation before last weekend, being readied for installation on the Saturday and standing erect by Sunday.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

19 May (Part 1) - He’s in the money!

A journalist phoned me last week and asked questions about councillor Alex Sawyer. The fact he lives in Welling - if he didn’t he would not have been able to be elected as a Bexley councillor - and his wife and son claim to live in Witham in Essex was high on his agenda.


News cuttingI wasn’t able to tell him a lot he didn’t know already but I sent a follow up email with a little more information which wasn’t acknowledged.

I had been told that an article would be posted to the Mail Online on Sunday but I am afraid I forgot all about it.

The accompanying local newspaper extract appears to be making the same point. It’s perhaps a little unfair, Priti Patel is not the most expensive MP in Britain by quite a long way and I rather suspect the £50,000 a year that Alex takes home to Welling - or wherever - is included in the expenses total.

But it’s a lot of money and after Alex Sawyer is given the deputy leader role in Bexley tomorrow evening and is rewarded with the £17,519 which goes with it, he will be rivalling his predecessor Gareth Bacon who was the highest paid Bexley councillor on £108,000 a year. Plus £12,418 for his lying wife.

In 2010/11, when Bexley council was doing its best to hide Alex’s relationship with Priti and their peculiar living arrangements - he claiming Welling, she Witham - Bexley council prematurely destroyed his nomination papers in order to circumvent an FOI request.

Bexley councillor David Leaf is Priti Patel’s Research Assistant. A politician’s priority is too often to help themselves first and their friends second.

 

18 May - Bexley borough. The decline and fall

From a Sidcup correspondent comes a report complete with photographic evidence of what happens so very quickly when Bexley council decides that it can stop looking after its parks and open spaces.

Sidcup PlaceWhilst Bexley’s webmaster has yet to be informed Sidcup Place has been left to the ravages of wind and weather and Mother Nature.

What was a beautiful walled garden a year ago (Photo 1) is now partly bare and partly overgrown and is in no danger of winning the Britain in Bloom competition.

This is likely to be the Bexley we have to look forward to under the relentless programme of cuts. Street cleaning, grass cutting, leaf clearance, security and graffiti clearance are all reduced or abandoned altogether.

And 27 parks and open spaces are on the list for possible sale.

Click image for council web page.


Sidcup Place Sidcup Place Sidcup Place Sidcup Place
Sidcup Place Sidcup Place Sidcup Place Sidcup Place

 

16 May (Part 3) - 28 years later

OpeningFrom the South East Railway Society website. The station just managed to make its 28th birthday. (See also 5 a.m. pictures.)


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

 

16 May (Part 2) - Back to election squabbling

There has been a complaint about the 6th May’s blog, the one in which I expressed disappointment that the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association website was continuing to say that the Labour Parliamentary candidate had been “difficult”, and her supporters worse, days after serious doubt had been cast on the statement.
Hustings

Click image for the original complete web page.

The matter would have been laid to rest except that the complainant has asked for the blog to be modified retrospectively because it associates one Conservative, about whom I know little, with the long list of Bexley Conservatives who have proved themselves to be less than pleasant people many times over.

I am reluctant to change history significantly or attempt to completely obliterate any mistake I may have made but I will clarify things in the hope that the complainant will feel less aggrieved.

Long before the election campaign began in earnest the Labour candidate for Erith & Thamesmead told me that she very much hoped that the Conservatives would not run a dirty campaign. Given some of the personalities behind it, I could easily identify with her fears.

The local Labour campaign was remarkably clear of negativity. My literature collection only includes the word Conservative once. Stefano Borella (PPC, Bexleyheath & Crayford) mentioned Bexley council’s failure in the area of Children’s Services, a simple statement of fact. Their websites were clean too and to be frank, Labour doesn’t appear to have the expertise to post hurried and possibly ill-considered updates.

The most damaging part of the Conservative’s web attack on Teresa Pearce was first made public by the sponsor of the ill-fated Erith & Thamesmead hustings and its author, or maybe its co-author, was a leading member of the Conservative election team. It may be that the statement was insufficiently checked but the E & T hustings were cancelled at the 11th hour and it was essential that a message was put out quickly.

As you might imagine, Teresa Pearce was very upset at being labelled difficult when all she had done was voice her concerns about the possibility of a legal challenge if a Tory chairman at the hustings proved to be a problem. I have a copy of the email, it is entirely reasonable in tone, and she was right to be concerned. After taking advice, the sponsor agreed. It was his main reason for calling a halt. The reference to personal attacks was redundant.

Not only was the reference redundant but enquiries suggested it was untrue. No one could produce evidence beyond “I can’t remember exactly what was said and by whom” and the Facebook page on which the ‘personal attacks’ may have taken place was hastily removed. One might surmise that a Tory organised website would not have disappeared if it contained evidence of abuse by Labour councillors and supporters.

The Facebook page has been partially recreated from screen shots. There is nothing in it that I consider to be anywhere near being abusive.


AndersonThe complaint came from Elizabeth Anderson, one time Conservative local election candidate, writing from her Conservative Future email address. She began by saying that my blog footnote referring to Anderson Shelters was unnecessary as she knew what one was, well I suppose you would if your name is Anderson.

Ms. Anderson says she posted the page critical of Teresa Pearce in haste and I am sure everyone can appreciate that the weekend before an election is going to be busy and there may not be time to check one’s sources. However the eagerness to post negativity is in marked contrast to Teresa’s wish for a clean campaign.

Elizabeth Anderson has written “I do feel the tone at the end of your blog post is entirely unreasonable” and that I “should not judge anyone purely by any experiences you may have with others”. She goes on to state that she believes I once shared her political views. She is right, I still do but in Bexley the Labour people are so very much nicer than most Tories have proved to be.

Ms. Anderson removed the offending webpage when she realised it may not have reflected the whole truth, but not until the day after the election when any damage it may have done had been done. I am happy to accept that Ms. Anderson is not like some of the Tories with whom she is associated. They may not have bothered to remove unjustified criticism, Elizabeth did. Anna Firth didn’t.

 

16 May (Part 1) - The best laid plans…

Now what was it that Network Rail management told me by email on Thursday, oh yes…


This coming weekend (16th/17th May) we will be demolishing the roof of the old station building and the following weekend (24th/25th over the bank holiday Monday) we will demolish the building structure itself.

The plan is to start some minor demo works from 10:00 and get going on the roof properly at 14:00, so you can get a few more hours in bed and still catch it! I’d suggest the afternoon of Saturday 16th and the afternoon of Sunday 24th as some interesting times for some good photos.


Advance notice is always most welcome but the boss’s plans seem not to account for his contractor’s aim to get the job done in the shortest time possible to reduce his costs. Below is the sight that greeted travellers just after 5 a.m. this morning


Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
At Church Manorway where another email had said that the delayed installation of the overhead electricity supply columns was scheduled for today, there was nothing to see apart from a few tubes and ladders scattered alongside the track.

Note: Recording Crossrail progress is proving to be a little divisive, the purists correctly say there is no good link to Bexley council, but I’m afraid it is now a case of “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. The purists will presumably not appreciate the link which has been added to the top of the Crossrail Index which will pull down the most recent Crossrail Press Releases (as announced on their RSS feed).

 

14 May - Money wasting and money grabbing

The programme to replace the not even two years old failed blocks in Bexleyheath began on 16th March and was scheduled to take eight weeks, which was last Friday.

A report from a reader who lives by the Arnsberg Way/Chapel Road junction said the new surface looks a lot better than the light coloured blocks so on a rainy Thursday morning I went to have a look.

I think the lady reader is right, the Woolwich Road junction (Photo 1) doesn’t look at all bad now that Bexley’s award winning impractical fashion statement has been abandoned there. Unfortunately the job must have over-run and there were traffic queues on all approaches to the Mayplace Road West junction where an attempt was being made to patch up the broken blocks.


Road repairs Road repairs Road repairs Road repairs
New speed cameras are springing up everywhere and not just in Bexley. A reader in Bromley has said a pair have been installed close to her house on the site of a long abandoned Gatso device. She has lived there for nearly 40 years and does not recall there ever being a serious accident.

The Bromley camera reported is not on a hill which is the preference in Bexley. This is Bexley Road, Erith this morning.


Bexley Road Bexley Road Bexley Road Bexley Road
It’s not the steepest hill around but gravity will help to keep the revenue flowing.

At two recent council meetings Bexley has rightly bragged that its road traffic accident statistics are pretty good. Only two hit the headlines last year and both had similar causes, a child ran into the road on a sudden impulse without looking.

Cabinet member Don Massey was at pains to point out that Bexley’s road design was not a significant factor and no driver was prosecuted. He said he could not install a pedestrian crossing outside Trinity School where there have been safety issues because there was no money for it. But there is plenty of money for new cameras where there does not appear to have been a history of accidents.

Maybe an FOI will elicit the justification for these revenue raisers.

After packing up a wet camera and heading to the bus stop I saw a van take camera avoiding action, It went around the traffic island on the wrong side. Genius! Maybe it will have registered -30 m.p.h. and any determined boy racers who might exist in darkest Erith could adopt the same trick.

 

13 May - Slow news day

When there is nothing much to say should one shut up and attract more web hits because regular readers keep coming back to check, or find something, anything! to fill the void? Still not sure after five years of near daily blogging.

Sidcup
Today I had a DIY job planned. Not especially difficult but potentially dangerous single handed. A friend came over from Bromley to help, arrived half hour late and the first words were “bloody Bexley council, they really are crap”. It transpired that a traffic queue extended from the centre of Sidcup to Chislehurst Station. It’s going to be the same tomorrow apparently but to be fair to bloody Bexley council I believe it is emergency gas works. And Sidcup wouldn’t recognise itself if its roads were not jammed solid.

Speed cameras
Yesterday’s report on speed cameras in Brook Street provoked more such reports. Be careful in Bexley Road, Erith (a steep hill again) and North Cray Road too (designed for 60 m.p.h. working but now reduced to 40) where it is said new pairs of yellow money makers have sprung up.

News Shopper
It was not a good day for local newspapers. The News Shopper offices in Petts Wood are to be closed and the operation merged with their South West London base. Another money saving measure.

As if to prove my suggestion that too much news is nothing more than regurgitated Press Release, the News Shopper today reported that the first Crossrail track had been laid between Plumstead and Abbey Wood. The pictures were almost identical to those published here on 22nd March.

The reason is that Crossrail issued a Press Release today.

Incidentally, Abbey Wood station is scheduled to have its roof removed on Saturday 16th May and the walls knocked down on Sunday 24th. In both cases the main activity is due to start in the early afternoon. The morning will be devoted to protecting the site and making it safe.

The Socialist Republic of Newham
I had to make an unscheduled trip to Newham today, the elderly aunt has taken a tumble and is in Newham’s University Hospital. Another pretentious name, I’m sure it used to be called Newham General. The incident has delayed this ‘filler’ blog by six hours and I suspect it will take up a lot of time over coming days with a similar impact on BiB.

I’ve stopped trying to get through to Newham’s council tax office and there has been no reply from corporate.complaints@newham.gov and as far as I know they still plan to prosecute the 95 year old for non-payment of council tax. I am hoping their written confirmation that a direct debit authority is in place and the bank statements showing an up to date payment record will be an adequate defence in court.

 

12 May - Public Service Announcement

A lady I first met at Anna Firth’s - remember her? - impromptu Splash Park meeting on Wednesday last week tipped me off that there was no good going on in Brook Street this morning. Brook Street connects Upper Belvedere with Northumberland Heath. She kindly sent me a photograph too but as I was not far away I made a quick diversion.

Sure enough men in yellow jackets - one with a TfL logo - were putting the finishing touches to the installation of two new speed cameras which replace a single old Gatso device.


Speed camera Speed camera Speed camera Speed camera
As was noted back in 2009 Bexley council, or its Safety Partnership, has a habit of putting speed cameras at the foot of hills and in places outlawed by government guidelines - but that way it raises more money.

Speed cameras probably don’t do anything apart from raise money. When I ask my son, who used to chair a relevant European Union safety committee but now finds there is more money in advising industry bodies, what good they do he wanders off into mathematics and speaks of reversion to the mean. I think he is saying that accidents are random, they go up - and a camera might be installed - and then they go down, and they would have done anyway. Perhaps easier to understand is that accidents at speed camera sites do go down, but by no more than they go down everywhere else.

Perhaps I’ll ask Mick Barnbrook to raise an FOI on the number of accidents at the Brook Street site in the last three years. It’s too long since we last heard his name here.

My new Splash Park friend said that Bexley is Bonkers performs a vital Public Service role. I hope this announcement saves readers from being robbed.

 

11 May - Don’t blame Greenwich

The roundabout being very slowly constructed on Harrow Manorway would appear to have quite a lot in common with those which Bexley built on Wickham Lane and at Ruxley corner five years ago.


Roundabout Roundabout Sainsburys Roundabout
Both took many months to construct, caused enormous traffic queues and when they were finished, large vehicles couldn’t get around them.

Albion Road is just as bad.

The same seems to be happening (see Photo 2) at the entrance to the new Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s (Photo 3) due to open on 29th July.

As the authorisation certificate clearly states, this is a Bexley council project. Let’s hope that is completed earlier than the 13th August indicated on the license.

 

10 May - Water and steel

The road I have lived in for the past 28 years and three days has the dubious distinction of being the first in the borough to be equipped with fibre optic cable TV. More than 20 years ago and I have forgotten the name of the company that did it. There were lots of independent cable TV companies at the time and now they are all Virgin. Barely a week goes by without Virgin Media sending me an A4 sized envelope which goes unopened into the recycling bin. Virgin once stole £20 from my mobile phone account and they will never get another penny out of me.

If you discount the false start Thames Water made last year it looks as though I’ve been chosen for an early water meter too. I can’t say I am an enthusiast even though as a single occupier I may make a saving. I just don't like the idea of looking askance at a visitor who asks to use the toilet or having to put a padlock on the front garden tap.


Water WaterLast week all the street stopcock covers were painted white by a gang that arrived in several Thames Water vans.

Mine wasn’t painted because there isn’t one. It’s a long story and it’s actually Bexley council’s fault but I don’t feel like explaining, it will be more fun to see what Thames Water decide to do about it.

If people start to use less water and the bills go down what do you think Thames Water will do? Jack the prices up so that their revenue is protected of course.

I was suckered by this notice I found on the Murky Depths blog yesterday afternoon.
Crossrail
In haste I read it that on Saturday 9th May, between 00:00 and 05:00, Crossrail (or more accurately their contactor, Network Rail) would install overhead power support columns around the Eynsham Drive area. A much later and more careful reading told me that Saturday 00:00 to 05:00 was 24 hours before I read it and that the notice implies that the line would be closed all weekend and it hasn’t been.


CrossrailIn ignorance and partly spurred on by the fact that I got a ticking off last week from someone who insisted that Crossrail has absolutely nothing to do with Bexley council - true but tough luck if you don’t like it - I took myself down to Eynsham Drive at three in the morning to see what was going on.

Absolutely nothing. The scene was much darker than it looks in the photograph and the wagon was just parked there apparently full of rubbish. There was no indication that support columns had already been installed on the Church Manorway to Eynsford Drive section.

According to the Murky Depths Blog, Abbey Wood station will come down between midnight and six in the morning next Saturday. Why they should choose to cause noise through the night after getting so much criticism when the last bit of the footbridge was demolished I have no idea especially when it looks like a strong puff of wind might do the job. (See 13th May for updated information.)

More Crossrail related blogs.

Note: Photo handheld for 1/5 second at f3·2 and 3200 ISO for those interested in such things.

 

9 May (Part 2) - Council tax. Where’s Bexley in the league table?

Rather later than usual the update to London councils’ tax historical records has been added to Bonkers. Those pages attract a surprising number of web searches so 2015/16 is a worthwhile addition.

I was hoping to see Bexley drop from its lowly 24th position to 25th but it was saved by Sutton council (formerly 25th worst †) which whacked up its rate so much that it dropped down a place.

However Bexley got very close to dropping a place too. Last year it was £12·30 (at Band D) away from being 25th worst. Now the margin is a mere £1·68.

(†) This is always incredibly difficult to describe. Arguably it should be 25th best but it sounds wrong. But you know what I mean anyway. Bexley council’s claim that it is a low tax borough is a fraud on the electorate.

 

9 May (Part 1) - Councillor Philip Read. Respect for that!

Five years ago there was no money, today, where I am at least, there is very little news.

However I am grinning widely at the fact that I appear to have won the election. Teresa Pearce is back in Parliament, Ed Miliband is not in Downing Street and UKIP made a mockery of the First Past the Post electoral system.


TweetOf course I am not a winner in the same sense as Will Tuckley is an election winner. As Returning Officer he can claim a very healthy fee. Bexley council is not sufficiently open and transparent to have made the sum public but judged by the statements made on the pages of more honest councils it seems likely that his winnings will be around £4,000 per constituency, and Bexley has three.

An altogether different sort of winner is councillor Philip Read who taunted his Labour counterparts more than four months ago with his prediction for 7th May.

Not only did his crystal ball work, he put his money where is mouth is and put a bet on it. Respect for that!

I wonder if he was able to negotiate a special rate through councillor Peter Craske who is the betting industry’s paid mouthpiece?

Craske spends his waking hours making up excuses for the onward march of High Stakes Betting Machines.

Note: Will Tuckley is Chief Executive of Bexley council and one of the very highest paid council officers in the land even without these annual bonuses. There is to be an election of some sort every year until at least 2020. Bexley’s Head of Electoral Services told me a year ago that there was one every year until 2022, if I remember correctly.

 

8 May (Part 2) - The results are out and well known. Maybe a little of this won’t be

Well that didn’t go according to plan did it? I had a hunch the Conservatives would be comfortably the biggest party, I even agreed with Anna Firth that the majority could just about be absolute but obviously was not all that confident or I would have made a trip to the bookies’ shop.

The local result is by now well known; there is no change. For me in the Erith & Thamesmead constituency the big surprise was that Teresa Pearce increased her share of the vote by 5% and the Conservatives dropped 4% even after Anna Firth put up a magnificent fight. I had expected Anna (Conservative) and Ronie Johnson (UKIP) to damage Teresa’s majority.

The established parties probably have an armoury of software tools to tell them how well their campaigns are going. Ten days ago Teresa Pearce told me in confidence that she expected Ronie Johnson to take 17% of the vote. She was absolutely correct.

Last night I watched BBC TV but soon discovered I was getting more raw result information from Twitter than Dimbleby & Co. They would analyse the high profile seats while ignoring the run of the mill constituencies.

I eventually realised that the results ticker tape was missing from the bottom of the BBC screen, I switched to Sky and there it was.


Danny I watched until Erith & Thamesmead came up and mischievously sent a text message to councilor Danny Hackett to thank him for for providing a better results service than the BBC. Then I thought I should text congratulations to Teresa Pearce but I am not very good with mobile phones and pressed the wrong button. The phone called Danny instead. ‘End Call’ obviously doesn’t work very quickly. It ended the call but not before Danny’s phone rang. Danny called me back.

I don’t think Danny was sure whether he should be celebrating or crying. His friend Neil Coyle had brought Simon Hughes’ 30 year political career in Bermondsey to an end with help from Danny among others. On the other hand Ed Miliband had learned nothing from Danny’s hero Tony Blair who knew a thing or two about winning elections. Danny was bravely seeing Miliband’s defeat as a new beginning and an opportunity to take a different course.

Danny, gave me a masterclass in political strategy over best part of an hour. I found it very insightful and his views more than a little surprising as well as refreshing. He told me that Ed Miliband would be gone by midday or there would be trouble.

I won’t go further than that because one day Danny might be party leader and the subject of much Googling. Maybe it’s safe to mention one thing. Danny was scathing about the 20 year old politics student Mhairi Black who defeated Labour’s election strategist Douglas Alexander on behalf of the SNP. I refrained from commenting that I knew of a 20 year old politics student who swept aside a much more experienced man in some place called Lesnes Abbey. The youthful newcomer doesn’t seem to have done too badly.

Eventually Danny returned to his bottle, or whatever it was that was keeping him awake at five in the morning, and I was able to send a text message to Teresa Pearce. I would have sent one to Anna and councillor Stefano Borella but I don’t know their numbers. I am not a Labour supporter but I would have liked to see Stef kick David Evennett’s backside but sad to say the Bexleyheath & Crayford result was an almost exact mirror image of Erith & Thamesmead.

 

8 May (Part 1) - What will the future hold?

70 years ago today the country was celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany and looking to the future. Today, at this early hour, we are again looking to the future and maybe the Eurosceptics are hoping once again to keep a lid on foreign tyrants.


VE Day VE DayI’m afraid that somewhat contrived introduction is to provide an excuse for these old photos taken in Leyton, Essex as it was then known, in 1945 just a few yards from the Orient’s football ground.

I am in both photographs but I doubt whether I was celebrating anything more than getting nearly 50% of the celebratory custard into my mouth.

As you may see, there are almost no men to be seen. My own father didn't come back home for another 384 days. Stuck in India and Burma flying Liberators and dropping supplies.

Blog timed 00:17.

 

7 May (Part 3) - Splash Park ripples

I thought I had finished with blogging for today but the Splash Park is going to have to take precedence over gardening again.

The campaigners’ FaceBook page contains some mild criticism of my most recent blog. Apparently I did not repeat that Alex Sawyer is not prepared to spend any council money on entertaining children. I did make it clear the previous day but some people want to read it every day. Who am I to deny anyone their pleasure?


“Cabinet member Alex Sawyer has been keen to tell us at every opportunity that he is an honest man doing his best to spend no money at all but save the Splash Park nevertheless. He probably walks on water too.”


And here is part of what Bexley Conservatives voted on at the budget meeting.
Budget
Note how Bexley’s budget depends absolutely on making all the proposed savings. The Conservatives voted to do that. At that stage the Splash Park was effectively dead and buried except that councillor Francis and Faye Ockleford have made councillor Alex Sawyer’s life very uncomfortable. It’s fortunate that it is Alex in the hot seat, it could be someone really unreasonable like Don Massey.


SplashI joined this fight unasked and from the sidelines because I doubted anyone other than Teresa O’Neill knows better than I do just how devious Bexley council can be. I felt it was important to make sure as many people as possible who want the Splash Park to survive to know exactly what they are up against. I’m amazed that Faye has managed to have the success she has had but more help should be welcomed and arguably some of it, for understandable reasons, wasn’t.

Twice during this election campaign I have invited Anna Firth into my house. Firstly to tell her some of the unpleasant history of Bexley’s Conservative council, and then last Monday night to tell her I thought her Splash Park campaign was in danger of being counterproductive.

I urged her to do something about it and within hours she had collared Alex Sawyer and told him he was going to be at the Splash Park for 7 p.m. yesterday as a last ditch effort to establish common ground. I told Anna her website was ambiguous too. She changed it, few politicians listen to us mortals. Teresa Pearce does but she might have difficulty in pulling Alex Sawyer’s string.

Faye Ockleford (Campaign Secretary) was not entirely left out of the loop. We have exchanged 22 emails since the weekend. Faye is a believer in free speech and would not have dictated what I wrote, but I wanted to make sure it met with her approval. She told me it did. Anna Firth gave it her blessing too.

If they can pull in the same direction through an intermediary then why not face to face? Poles apart politically the leading protagonists may be but if there is to be any chance of overturning Bexley council’s decision to kill off the Splash Park some hatchets have to be buried. Apart from Priti Patel MP (Mrs. Sawyer) and Teresa O’Neill no one but Anna Firth is likely to be able to command that Alex jumps and he jumps. Make the most of Anna’s offer was my message. Or should I have stood idly by and done nothing?

Now what else was missed from yesterday’s near midnight blog?

The councillors accompanying Alex Sawyer were Peter Reader and Philip Read. The third one for Northumberland Heath is Melvin Seymour. Peter may be OK but I wouldn’t trust either of the other two. I twice saw Melvin Seymour stand in a court witness box and spout falsehoods he must have known were untrue. The police officers present certainly did. The object of the exercise was to put a Bexley resident in clink. Philip Read had separately given the police false information aiming for the same goal. It’s all on the record. Be very wary if either of them should get involved.

Something else that cropped up last night but went unmentioned. Can members of the public address scrutiny committees? Alex thought not but he is wrong. I can’t put my hand on it now but somewhere I have a letter of confirmation. It requires a request in advance to the appropriate chairman who may or may not grant it. I last saw a member of the public address a scrutiny committee three years ago. The committee voted to ignore him of course but the procedure is there to be used.

There is a new News Shopper report on line today. It reads like one of Anna Firth’s press releases. She is a bundle of energy. Use it.

 

7 May (Part 2) - Election Day arrives. Tomorrow the real fun will begin

I’ve had three people contact me this week concerned they had been disenfranchised. All three had no Polling Card but two cases resolved themselves very easily. The postman delivered one Poll Card yesterday and a phone call to the Civic Offices revealed that the other resident was safely on the electoral roll, card or not. Well done the Royal Mail.

The third case was rather more interesting. It came from Northumberland Heath where a man had lived with his wife for the past twelve years without any electoral problems.

This time the couple did not receive Poll Cards or the letters that should have preceded them and the council said their address wasn’t showing on the system. As a result they would happily take the couple’s council tax but wouldn’t be allowed to vote.

I put the man on to Dave Easton who heads up the electoral team and in my experience an all round good egg.

Dave fixed the problem within 24 hours, a clerical error apparently. No one minds the occasional error if it is promptly put right. Dave’s reputation is intact, enhanced even, which is more than you can say for the Mayor of Newham who has still not responded to last Tuesday’s complaint.

Deciding who to vote for today was a nightmare. The lesson for the future must be Do Not Make Friends With Candidates. Voting for one feels like stabbing three in the back. I eventually found a formula which justifies my decision and I think I can happily live with it.


RonieWhen I arrived at the Polling Station, Teresa Pearce’s husband and sister were just about to leave but UKIP candidate Ronie Johnson and his agent were passing through. They were persuaded to pose for a photograph.

All three of E&T’s principal parties offered me a ticket for the count but I declined them all. It’s a long night, Will Tuckley doesn’t like people taking photos and I wouldn’t know which group to sit with.

I’m sure I would be welcomed by the Labour people, always friendly even after I have skirted around the edges of upsetting them. UKIP would be OK too even though I have seen almost nothing of their local campaign and expressed some disappointment, and Mr. and Mrs. Firth would be just as good. I’m a lot less sure about their supporters. I’d feel uncomfortable that’s for certain.

So it will be the telly and Radio 4 for me and maybe it will leave me less tired on Friday than I was after the count for last year’s election.

May the best man or lady win and that I retain three friends.

 

7 May (Part 1) - Great news. Batman Returns

PornoTomorrow morning I may or may not be feeling content but today I feel very much buoyed up. The owner of the phone line that magically self-generated pornography is to re-enter the cabinet. Apart from the fact that he will run off with another £13,000 of our money, that is brilliant news.

No one since he resigned for personal reasons back in 2012 has really been able to take his place. Councillor Don Massey does his best to insult members of the public at council meetings but he is not in the same class as Peter Craske. Massey once apologised for ranting on about UKIP’s Bexleyheath & Crayford Parliamentary candidate Chris Attard. Craske would never make that mistake.

His modus operandi when faced with a question was usually to lie. Repeatedly. When he was reported to what was then called the Standards Board he would lie to them too so that they found it easy to find him not guilty.

When his excuse was proven to be a lie the Standards Board would accept a different excuse. It was a bit like a European Referendum. If you don’t get the right excuse the first time, request another one.

Thank you Teresa O’Neill, you have made my day.

I imagine that Elwyn Bryant and Mick Barnbrook will be euphoric too and get back into the swing of asking probing questions at council meetings. Mind you, the council appears to have introduced a new rule on public questions. You are not allowed to ask one if you once stood at an election in opposition to the Conservative Party. That has already ruled Mick out once.
Batman
Is there so little talent on Bexley council that they have to choose Craske to fill a hole? Looks like it.

Note: For technical reasons the stream of pornography that flowed along Craske’s telephone line in May 2011 is currently unavailable in unexpurgated form. I suppose I am going to have to find time to fix that, or more simply, just remove the password requirement.

The Batman outfit is significant because a second round of pornography contained several Batman references. Funny that!

 

6 May (Part 3) - A pool of talent pools their efforts. Maybe

I went to the hastily convened Splash Park meeting this evening. Anna Firth was wondering if anyone would turn up. I was wondering if she might be lynched. This afternoon’s News Shopper report had stirred passions in an unhelpful way. Just what the meeting was not designed to do, but as I’ve said before, the News Shopper has become a bit of a rag, good for little more than copying what they read on the web. In depth reporting? Don’t make me laugh!


Pavement meeting MeetingBefore the meeting started I had a nice chat with councillor Peter Reader. I was trying to think what I might have last said about him. I remembered he was a decent enough Planning Committee chairman but beyond that my mind was a blank. But he was very pleasant and said he wanted to keep the Splash Park open. He convinced me with a comment it would be undiplomatic to repeat here.

Including Anna, three councillors and the leading lights of the Save Committee there were just over 20 people there freezing on the pavement until twenty past eight.

Anna Firth put her case very well. One lady said to me afterwards that although she was Labour through and through she believed Anna when she said she really did want to save the park. There were raised voices at times but some progress was made.

I think Anna convinced most people that she would stick around whatever happened tomorrow. I extracted that promise from her a few days ago although a number of people have said her website says, or at least implies, that her interest is conditional upon votes.

When I wrote that horribly long blog yesterday morning I took advice from three sources and walked the tightrope very carefully, refining the words over several hours. Anna’s website gets a couple of minutes attention each day. It probably could be improved if time permitted.

Alex Sawyer the responsible cabinet member took a leading role and put his foot in it a couple of times. It didn’t take a lot for hostility to rise to the surface but he put on a pretty good show overall. He convinced me that he really does want to see the Splash Park continue, either that or he relishes the prospect of being pilloried here for the rest of his life - or more likely mine.

The long awaited technical report has been with the council for a couple of weeks but Alex Sawyer has not seen it yet. Deputy Director Toni Ainge is charged with writing a long and comprehensive covering note.

The man who used to do the pool maintenance was on hand - he's retired now - and the message coming from him is that the water quality is poor because no one does his job any more. It included not only thorough pipe cleaning, late into the night if necessary, but also hauling out those who paddled in unsuitable attire. He also said that he kept daily records of water quality over ten years. Alex Sawyer maintains that everything before 2014 can’t be found. Maybe they should put their heads together. I think they probably will.

There has been a dispute over who came up with the latest plan to rescue the pool first. The businessman who is behind that scheme stepped in to rescue Anna from some of the criticism from which it may be possible to draw conclusions.

A conclusion I came to is that the suggestion that the council might move the southern playground across the road and build houses is without foundation. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, the council has never said any such thing but opposition voices have expressed that fear and it has been repeated here. There are sure to be councillors who would like to see that happen but it has never been official policy. The council must know it would be a breach of trust for which they would never be forgiven.

So the expectation now is that Alex will get his long awaited report within the next two or three weeks, and that all the interested parties will get together by the end of June to thrash out what they need to do. Either Mrs. Firth or Anna Firth MP will be there.

There is no way the Park will open this year. Alex Sawyer probably hasn’t got the money and the retired maintenance man said it takes three months to do a thorough overhaul. So too late now.

I was tempted to include the words ‘Knock their bloody heads together’ when writing yesterday’s blog but didn’t as I was anxious not to upset anyone too much. However I think it is fair to say that this evening may have achieved the goal I was hoping for. Nothing to do with me, I just listened while I froze.

 

6 May (Part 2) - Things to come? A cautionary tale

One of Bexley council’s money saving schemes is to push the borough further on-line than it is already. It’s almost inevitable, everybody is doing it.


NewhamAcross the river Newham has been an on-line only council for a couple of years. If you don’t sign up and log on you get nothing. Whether you are 19 or 99 they demand that you are computer literate.

As as result my aunt - 95 in a couple of weeks time - can no longer apply for visitors’ parking permits or get her bins emptied of anything other than ‘standard stuff’. In Newham that does not include jam jars.

She used to get the parking tickets in person at the town hall and phone for the bins. Neither is possible any more.

I think it was on 17th March that I went over there and she presented me with her council tax bill which had arrived that morning. Being of the old school she used to hand deliver a cheque for the full amount to the town hall. Banned now.

I suggested she paid by Direct Debit and never have to worry about the bill again. It was a dreadful rigmarole but I managed to set it up on-line. You would think entering the reference number would tell Newham council all they need to know, then just add the bank details. But no, they wanted her full name and full address before being able to add the truly necessary details.

On 2nd April a letter of confirmation arrived. No need to do anything it said. So far so good.


WalesYesterday I arrived in East Ham to find the nonagenarian close to tears. A letter had arrived that very day to say that if she didn’t pay the two months overdue within seven days they would commence legal proceedings. There was an emergency contact number on the reverse. I rang it.

After interminable announcements telling me I should use the web rather than bother their fat arses an automated voice asked me to state clearly what service I required. I said “Council tax”. It echoed back “Council tax”. Then after a short delay it said “Council tax has no voice mail. Goodbye” and cut me off.

I called again. I said “Direct Debit” but the robot said that Direct Debit was not a recognised phrase, it would have to connect me to the assistance point. I think the lesson I learned was that you may as well just say “FU” whatever sort of assistance you are seeking.

The line then made loud burbling noises through which I could just about hear that string of announcements being repeated. Eventually a lady answered, the burbling noises disappeared, and she immediately understood my requirements and put me through to the right extension. Except that no one answered.


BexleyThe switchboard lady came back on line and said she couldn’t get through, “it often happens”. I asked if she could try again but she said she couldn’t because there were only two incoming lines and I was holding them up. Nevertheless she took pity on me and tried again. With the same result.

This time when she came back on line she said she had spoken to one of her colleagues and ‘Council tax’ had not answered a single call since last week. I asked her to connect me with Sir Robin Wales, the elected Mayor and renowned useless individual.

The operator said neither he nor his office took calls from the public. I asked how one could ever complain to these self important and vastly overpaid morons. She said there was an email address.

It is corporate.complaints@newham.gov.uk which I place here in case it one day proves useful to another of their frustrated residents and because I rather hope that its unencrypted presence will result in Newham being spammed to hell.

I got on to my aunt’s bank today. Almost needless to say the money was taken on schedule at the beginning of the financial year. Administrative mistakes happen but the decision to go entirely on-line and put an impossible system in place is not an admin. cock up. It is what councils run by thoughtless idiots do.

Bexley next?

 

6 May (Part 1) - No shelter for Anderson

Time constraints dictate that long and complicated blogs cannot appear on consecutive days. Yesterday’s involved checking facts with a number of people and took six hours to complete. Today may produce a number of ‘quickies’.

It must be the inevitable result of tight budgets and the need to compete with the internet but I really do think the News Shopper is a shadow of its former self. Gone are the days when Linda Piper would sit grandly before assembled councillors and have their inanities plastered across the following Wednesday’s front page.

Now their reporters have no time to do other than regurgitate press releases and what they have read on the web - and live off Brian Barnett’s photos.

I may be nit picking and I accept that given the state of investigative journalism in Bexley I should not be surprised, but I was disappointed to see that the News Shopper’s web report on the cancelled Erith & Thamesmead hustings included a reference to “restraint in the face of some very personal attacks”.

I still don’t know how the comment is justified. I asked to see the evidence and if a Labour supporter or councillor had been obnoxious you would have read about it here. No one has a Get out of Jail Free card here.

However the only comment forthcoming has been “I can’t remember exactly what was said and by whom” and that from the horse’s mouth - or rather keyboard. It looks increasingly likely that the attacks didn’t happen or the word attack has been redefined.

Anna Firth the Conservative candidate for Erith & Thamesmead didn’t see any abuse and hasn’t - probably wouldn’t - put below the belt and potentially misleading stuff on her website. But Bexley’s own Conservatives have no scruples whatsoever. They rushed to publish something that implies that someone on the Labour side has been up to no good. It’s still on the E & T Conservative Association website and has been since last Saturday - but for some inexplicable reason dated for tomorrow.

I can understand politicians making merry at the opposition’s expense in the heat of an election campaign but not leaving it there for five days when the criticism they are so eager to promote is totally discredited. That is not the mark of an honest party and once more tells you what you need to know about the special breed of Conservatives that infest Bexley.

The E & T Conservative Association webpage is the work of Elizabeth Anderson, the Lesnes Abbey ward wannabee at last year’s local election. Obviously birds of a feather and all that, she has joined the right party for her. Not an ounce of decency in any of them. Ok, if you must quibble, most of them.

There is a postscript to this blog.

‘No Shelter for Anderson’. Please excuse dreadful pun. You need to be more than 70 years old.

 

5 May - Splash Wars. What’s the point? Work together or Bexley council wins

May I say straight away that the slogan you see below is not an endorsement of Anna Firth for Thursday. It’s the rather unfortunate result of the way browsers display scrolling images. I have not found any way in the time available of forcing an offset so that something less contentious appears.

One hell of a row has broken out on the Facebook page operated by the Save Belvedere Splash Park campaigners.

The organisers are “outraged” by being caught up in an election campaign against their express wishes. They and their followers are incensed that Conservative candidate Anna Firth has, as they might put it, muscled in on their Save the Splash Park campaign. I might be too but Anna is not without a few ideas and may be in a position to influence affairs if properly ‘tamed’.

Given that Anna circulated a letter yesterday (see below) which has her election slogan emblazoned across the top it is easy to see where the renewed outrage comes from, but the central point of Anna’s letter is not entirely without merit and does not deserve to be dismissed out of hand.


TogetherI would agree that the letter implies criticism of Teresa Pearce by reminding electors that she is the only candidate who has had direct access to Alex Sawyer, hardly surprising, he selected her as Erith & Thamesmead’s Conservative candidate and he is also the man who has the Splash Park plug in his hand. There is an election coming, Anna is a politician, almost anything goes. It’s what happens.

Teresa could equally say that she attended two of the three public meetings while Anna was still shopping in Orpington. (For the record Anna doesn’t live in Sevenoaks.)

Her protégée Eliot Smith has gone where wise men fear to tread and entered the Facebook fray. He seems to be a sensitive soul and thinks their language is “vile” although the worst I could find was a string of asterisks. It’s admirable that Eliot’s vocabulary is above the level commonly heard on buses at school out time, but positions have become entrenched and his lone voice has not found favour. Meanwhile Bexley council will be engineering the Splash Park’s demise.

My first words on this subject were…


Personally I do not rate the chances of retaining anything worthwhile at the top of Heron Hill at all highly. Bexley council under Teresa O’Neill has not improved the borough in any shape or form except when spending money from Boris, lotteries or housing associations. Hers is a scorched earth policy which is interested in nothing other than ensuring that Bexley’s 24th position in the council tax league doesn’t get any worse.


Can anyone point to any example of Bexley council responding to public pressure and putting its hand in its pocket? No, it simply doesn’t happen. The Splash Park deputation saw for themselves how minds have been made up. They have no friends behind the blue nameplates. “The Splash Park must go” and if councillor Daniel Francis and his Labour colleagues can be humiliated and shown to be ineffective in the process so much the better.

My default position with politicians is not uncommon. The first assumption must be that they are lying or that there is an ulterior motive. In five years of correspondence with Teresa she has shown herself - to me at any rate - to be above all that. Never have I found her to be anything other than totally open and I have got to the stage when I no longer consider that Teresa might just possibly be leading me up the garden path.

Anna on the other hand I have known for only five minutes. She seems like a nice lady to me but she is a politician and at this time in our relationship inevitably comes with the baggage one associates with her ‘profession’.

She tells me nothing, at least not by comparison with Teresa. When I asked Anna how Bexley council compared to Sevenoaks where she is a councillor she wouldn’t say. I rather suspect “dare not say”.

When the News Shopper reporter asked what all reporters seem to think is a good opening question, “How old are you?” Anna again refused to answer. It’s a tiny thing and it’s an irrelevant nosy question, unless perhaps the candidate is exceptionally young, but I found the refusal strangely off putting.

So with my defences hopefully intact I too will attempt to follow in Eliot Smith’s Facebook footsteps.

Cabinet member Alex Sawyer has been keen to tell us at every opportunity that he is an honest man doing his best to spend no money at all but save the Splash Park nevertheless. He probably walks on water too but by the lowly standards of Bexley’s Tories Alex may well be an honest man, albeit one under the thumb of a very dishonest woman. One prepared to trot off to the police station if she believes she is being undermined.

Take a look at Anna Firth’s letter. Ignore the electioneering, Just read her five numbered points and stop there.

Leaflet

Click or scroll for whole brochure.


Now stand back and think of where we are now and where we were six months ago. There is not an awful lot of difference despite Daniel Francis’ best efforts. The council claims it commissioned a technical report within days of last November’s protest meeting but it is still not available.

Does anyone seriously believe that expert consultants looking for their fee would not have come up with an answer by now? Much more likely is that Bexley council didn’t like the answer.

Closing the Splash Park, moving the southern playground across the road, closing the library and selling the lot to one of their favoured housing developers is a near irresistible temptation to a near broke council. The half million pound a year black hole that Tesco created in The Broadway makes it even more likely.

Make no mistake, Bexley council’s preferred option will be to close the Splash Park. They’ve made it absolutely clear that they are not going to come up with any new cash and they refuse to ring fence or otherwise allocate Cory’s generosity to the Splash Park. It is on course for closure, always has been. Meanwhile there is an almighty squabble between Mums and Dads from Bexley who want to save it and a mother from Halstead who wants to save it.

From what I hear Anna’s ideas are not as new as she might want us to believe and the campaign organisers have already conducted exploratory talks along very similar lines. If so I begin to see even more clearly that there might be “outrage”.

Even so there is little room for rivalry. Call Anna’s bluff. Embrace the ideas whoever thought of them first, get her truly on board if she is willing to jump. Persuade her to elaborate on her ideas before the election. She is offering to meet at the park at 7 p.m. tomorrow evening. Then vote for Teresa or Ronie if you wish. No one has to know. But the priority must be to get some flesh put on the skeleton plan whoever thought of it first.

Ask Anna what she plans to do if she finds she has lost the election on Friday. I have. She said, and I have it in writing, that there are several local issues that she feels strongly about and will continue to fight for. The Splash Park is one of them.

It sounds almost too good to be true and if she reneges on the promises you will know she is just another crooked politician and good riddance. All prejudices safely intact.

Anna Firth’s latest Splash Park message may or may not have won her a few votes among the general population, it may have upset the local Labour party, their supporters and the campaigners but nothing can be done about it. A clever politician has pulled a rabbit out of the bag. Whether or not it is a cynical stunt or a genuine offer only time will tell.

The Splash Park campaign needs every bit of help it can get. Bexley council will do everything it can to close the Splash Park. What is wrong with having one friend on the inside if it is a genuine one? And you never know, Anna just could be.

My message to the campaigners would be “Object to Anna taking this issue too far into the realms of politics if you wish but can you afford not to clutch at her straw? What will you say to your supporters if the battle is lost and they remind you that ideas, maybe not entirely new ones, were rejected. Ideas which may be just as promising as those Daniel Francis first came up with, just because those ideas came from someone wearing a blue rosette?”

Having once again trodden the blogging tightrope I can see only too well why I was never cut out to be a politician. In their world nothing is simple and no ground can be given which is perhaps why we are where we are nationally, let alone in Bexley. Yet another blog which risks upsetting half the readership. Perhaps I should take up fishing.

 

4 May (Part 2) - Mayor Marriner on the way out. Now another one likely to be all at sea

CamseyJust a little bit of Bexley council news before I stick a DVD in the player. I understand that councillor Sybil Camsey has been chosen to be Bexley’s next mayor.

I don’t think she likes me, I am always being given ‘the eye’ but other councillors have tried to reassure me, they say she doesn’t like anyone.

We have had a long line of incompetent mayors - as meeting chairman that is. Maybe councillor Sharon Massey was the best of a poor lot. Perhaps she knows that and it is why she can’t stop trying to take over from the hapless Howard Marriner when he gets in a pickle.

And for those who are not yet sick of election news, four more election leaflets have been added to the collection.

James Brokenshire in Old Bexley & Sidcup and Conservative, Labour and LibDems in Erith & Thamesmead.

 

4 May (Part 1) - Crossrail looking good. Shame about the station lift

Yesterday’s blog started life as a thought on Saturday evening, a bit of Photoshop work circa 6 a.m. Sunday, some emails to featured parties to tell them what I was doing and provide an opportunity to react, and then lots of sorting through not so very old old messages not to mention finding the words to string it all together.

It’s not a quick job and a little bit nerve racking because what you don’t want to do is get facts wrong. It was nearly 1 p.m. before the blog was finished and even now it duplicates the reference to a certain Bexley councillor. Stuff it, I’m not going to rewrite it again, it’s a bank holiday and difficult things are off the agenda, so I am afraid you are lumbered with a Crossrail update, there's not been one for nearly three weeks. That’s because nothing very spectacular has been going on.

There was a bit of piling just east of Abbey Wood station a couple of weeks ago and there’s been some gigantic plastic pipes going down big holes to the south of the platforms.

Whilst Abbey Wood has not seen an enormous amount of work - the station looks as if it may yet see the 28th anniversary of its official opening - down at the Plumstead end it really does look like a proper railway now. Neat fences and buffers and the track which bypasses the tunnel portal to make a connection with the North Kent line. The target completion date is only a few days away, then trains will be able to deliver track and similar materials to the tunnel.

So here’s a dozen pictures, all but the first two were taken over this holiday weekend.
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Slow but steady progress as you can see, except perhaps on the Abbey Wood lift. I’ve not been to the station very often over the past three weeks because of the dreaded flu bug but every time I’ve passed by, the Platform 2 lift has been out of order. Same yesterday. Maybe I am just unlucky.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

3 May (Part 2) - The link up at The Link

Teresa and AnnatThere was no hustings in Erith & Thamesmead this evening for reasons which are not absolutely clear. However Anna Firth, the Conservative candidate and Teresa Pearce her Labour counterpart were at The Link to apologise to any voters who might not have heard the bad news. In the event there was no more than five or six who didn’t know the event was off.

Teresa had brought along her husband and a couple of councillors but Anna had come alone from Sevenoaks (†) which I thought was very courageous. I was rather relieved because I was not looking forward to having to mingle with some of her supporters but Anna is always friendly.

I find both Teresa and Anna to be delightful ladies and do not detect any hint of animosity between them. Teresa must be a little upset at being called “difficult” but both candidates are as mystified as each other over where that came from.

There is no evidence that Anna had a hand in it, I feel sure she didn’t, but maybe she is not fully up to speed on how Bexley Tories operate.

If you are fed up with this subject may I suggest you take a look at the Thamesmead Grump? He has made fun of most of the election candidates. After what has been going on here today I found it to be a very welcome relief.

† I really must learn to remember that Anna Firth may be a Sevenoaks District councillor but she lives only a short distance beyond the Bromley borough boundary.

 

3 May (Part 1) - Tories say Labour silence equals 1,000 words. So here’s a few thousand which are anything but silent

This blog is not going to win me any new friends. it may even lose me the few I have but I am not going to stand idly by while misinformation about the ill-fated Erith & Thamesmead hustings circulates.

If my sources dry up afterwards, so be it; I can get on with doing something more useful with the rest of my life.

It has been said that the hustings were wrecked by Teresa Pearce, aided and abetted by her supporters, this in my opinion is complete balderdash and I aim to set out the facts below so that you can judge for yourself.

I think she has been a first class local MP and Teresa has become a good friend of both me and Bexley-is-Bonkers over the last five years. Only via the net you must understand, I have not spoken to Teresa since last year’s Erith Fun Day.

I’ve seen more of Anna Firth and I like her too. Twice recently I have saved Anna from pursuing certain courses which would have caused her embarrassment. I don’t favour either candidate and you won’t read any criticism of Anna in what follows - apart perhaps of the company she keeps. Teresa knows I have always voted on national issues at General Elections and she knows which party attracts me most for that.

I applied the same logic at the local election which is why the Tories did not get my vote in May 2014. In writing these blogs the aim has always been to debunk the dishonesty of local politicians. I believe that a lot of that has been hovering over the hustings cancellation.

When this election campaign began I asked Teresa what she was hoping for. She said she would be happy with anything so long as it wasn’t “dirty”.

So back to the recent hustings issue. It was sponsored by Erith company Silon7 Limited and was to be chaired by Eliot Smith, Head Boy at Trinity School. So why was it cancelled?

There’s no one better to ask than the sponsor. Liam Connolly the company owner sent me the following email at 14:17 on Friday 1st May.


Erith & Thamesmead Hustings
03 May 2015
The Link Thamesmead

After a number of emails and comments posted on various social media platforms, it became necessary to take advice as to Silon7 sponsorship of the Erith & Thamesmead Hustings.

Silon7 has been advised that an official notification it received with regards to the process that was used to arrange this meeting could be viewed as a possible foundation for legal action against Silon7 if it continued with its sponsorship of this event.

It is with regret that Silon7 Limited will no longer be in a position to sponsor this meeting and hope that Erith & Thamesmead voters understand that Silon7 only intention through Erith.Link was to provide an opportunity for them to question candidates not become involved in possible legal proceedings from a political party.

Silon7 would like to thank Eliot Smith for his hard work and commend his restraint in the face of some very personal attacks in his role of trying to make this event happen. I can assure everyone Eliot’s only motive has been only to see voters have the opportunity to question candidates not to influence this event in anyway.

Silon7 has advised both Eliot Smith and ErithLink not to make any further comment on this matter and apologise once more to the voters for not being able to make this meeting happen.


That statement was published on the company’s website, at least I think it was. Eliot Smith sent me a link but I never got around to following it.

There is no suggestion anywhere that Liam Connolly was at fault although there are two very pertinent points in that email. One is the legal angle and the other is the reference to the “very personal attacks” on Eliot.

Now that this dispute is out in the open I asked Anna Firth and Eliot for evidence of abuse and Teresa Pearce to defend herself.


TweetAnna says she was kept totally in the dark which may well be true, I know she only learned of the cancellation from me. Eliot has yet to come up with any evidence and the Facebook page has been taken down. I would have thought it would have been left on line if abuse by Labour members was clearly there because it would strengthen his complaint.

Teresa was not at all keen on releasing her email to Eliot but did so on condition I did not publish it which is not ideal but I can assure you it did not object to him being chairman, it merely drew on her past experience and pointed out what could happen if the chairmanship was subsequently seen to be partial. Like the sponsor, she was worried about possible legal challenges if things went wrong. I am breaking my promise to Teresa here but this extract may give you an inking of what was said…


If a hustings ‘looks’ as if it’s been run to favour one candidate then it affects that candidate’s election expenses.

Now I know that's not how it is but it could be perceived that way.

I wanted to help by pointing out that having a chair that is not seen as impartial could cause a complaint being raised after the event.

I am more concerned about how the questions are going to be handled. Will they be from the floor, written and picked at random or from the chair?


Looks to me as though Teresa was trying to be helpful. Nowhere does she say she was objecting but there was an expression of concern. It could easily be argued that she forecast what the sponsor eventually discovered for himself.


Anna and EliotEliot might well have been an excellent chairman but he has made no secret of his political leanings. He has been seen with Anna Firth innumerable times and been featured in her leaflets. He even posed with her outside Teresa’s house (adjacent Photo) which looks more than a little provocative to me.

I do not see how anyone interested enough in politics to chair a hustings is ever going to have no personal bias, the skill is in hiding it. On that score I am not absolutely convinced that Eliot would be the perfect chairman. There is not a lot to go on but one thing worried me.

I imagine Eliot was still at school when the sponsor sent out the cancellation notice but by late afternoon he was passing it on to each of the candidates.

Unfortunately for Eliot half the candidates passed on his note to me and they were not all the same. Eliot had seen fit to wish the minor party candidates and Anna Firth ‘Good Luck’ but Teresa and Ronie Johnson (UKIP) got something altogether more curt.

Worse in my opinion was that the favoured candidates got a 98 word explanation for the cancellation. Labour and UKIP did not.

Those 98 words included…


The Labour candidate has made this very difficult and both myself and Erith.link have been the subject of rude messages and personal attacks on social media and email from Labour councillors and supporters.


It was when that message started to appear on Twitter and on the Erith and Thamesmead Conservative Association’s website that I began to look for justification. Anna Firth could provide none, she had not visited Facebook herself and I think she just assumed that what she had been told must be true.
Cancelled
Eliot has not come up with any evidence either and Facebook and the evidence therein has gone. Well perhaps not quite. Nobody in this game fails to take screen shots so I have recreated Facebook to the best of my ability. I don’t see any abuse. It doesn’t even get especially heated. Some nobody calls the Conservatives scum. Councillor Endy Ezenwata calls Eliot Smith a Poster Boy and I suppose he is, given that he peers out of Anna’s leaflets. In any case Eliot says he likes the epithet. (See first image above.)
Anna
I think Anna Firth is almost certainly innocent of direct involvement in the smear campaign and if I had to guess it would be that councillor Philip Read will be behind it all. Him calling Teresa Pearce a bully is a supreme piece of irony.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least one Twitter account was created specially to spread falsehoods.


TweetClick the one shown here. Brand new account. Only four followers. Suspicious don’t you think and claiming just like Philip Read that Teresa Pearce’s silence speaks a thousand words.

Well Teresa may be reluctant to engage in such a dirt war but no one on the Tory side can show me a single thing Teresa has done wrong. She agreed to attend the hustings, she gave a friendly warning about possible expense problems based on her past experience but rude and difficult she most definitely was not.

Why is Anna Firth’s team making up this nonsense? Ok I’m guessing, but it’s a pound to a penny it is masterminded by councillor Philip Read. Anna Firth still appears to be an innocent at large as far as I am concerned.

Do take time to read through the Facebook recreation if you didn’t see the original, and tell me if you think Teresa has been rude. Even her more enthusiastic supporters were quite mild mannered by social media standards.

There may not be a hustings at six o’clock this evening at The Link but if you go there you will meet a candidate or two. They will be apologising for not being provided with the opportunity to answer voters’ questions.

 

2 May (Part 2) - Meet your Erith & Thamesmead election candidate

You may have thought you had heard the last of this saga, or maybe it’s a farce, but both Teresa Pearce (Labour) and Anna Firth (Conservative) intend to turn up as arranged outside The Link tomorrow evening at six. Both candidates were keen to do the hustings and neither are going to be put off by juvenile squabbles between some of their supporters. Go for it girls!

The Link, Belvedere Road, Thamesmead, SE2 9BS.

 

2 May (Part 1) - Should have been a Bonkers reader

As every BiB reader should know, Bexley council racked up its car parking charges by 50% last month. Unfortunately Lorraine Shepherd from Belvedere knew nothing of Bexley council’s greed and fell straight into their trap in the Abbey Wood station car park. The News Shopper carried her story yesterday.


News ShopperMaybe Chris Attard’s (UKIP Candidate, Bexleyheath and Crayford) criticism of the paper is not far removed from the truth although my guess is that it’s not so much bias in favour of the Conservatives but a lack of budget. They just swallow Bexley council’s press releases and haven’t the time or money to see if they are anything like true.

If they had bothered to make the trip to far flung Abbey Wood they may have noticed that Bexley council’s references to “site notices by the pay and display machines” may be the truth but they are not exactly helpful.

The only way that a commuter to the Gayton Road car park would be aware in advance that the price was to rise from £3·80 to £5·70 was if they are the sort of nerd who reads every word of Bexley’s Legal Notices or alternatively they are a two foot six inch midget equipped with a magnifying glass.


Gayton Gayton MasseyThe price notice was strapped to the second post from the right in Photo 1 and at knee height. There is no other Pay and Display point in the Gayton Road car park. The man responsible for raising the prices and doing his best to keep them secret is councillor Don Massey, the same man who introduced the bin tax. 

 

1 May (Part 2) - The Erith & Thamesmead hustings. It’s off, definitely off

Well that burst of optimism didn’t last long; the Erith & Thamesmead hustings are now off. Very definitely off. It would appear that the sponsor was at risk of legal liability, I assume under the election expenses laws, should anyone subsequently suggest that one party had exerted undue influence and it was effectively their show.

There have been suggestions of bullying from some quarters but the correspondence that came my way was all totally businesslike. However during elections, emotions can run high.

A big thank you to the sponsor whose intentions were entirely honourable and to Eliot Smith who stepped into the breach when the originally proposed chairman had to pull out. Now I am never going to learn anything about any but the two highest profile candidates.

For the record, the original pre-cancellation announcement may be seen here. As may be seen; all the candidates had agreed to speak.

 

1 May (Part 1) - The Erith & Thamesmead hustings. Will they or won’t they?

The Erith & Thamesmead hustings appear to be drifting rather unconvincingly towards being ‘ON’.

The venue is booked (The Link, Belvedere Road, Thamesmead) for 18:00 on Sunday 3rd May and the candidates attendance is mainly confirmed but there is scant information on precise arrangements.

HustingsThere is as yet no published Agenda and candidates deserve to be given time to prepare them if opening and closing speeches are proposed - and how long should they be?

There is probably no time to arrange written questions in advance to be chosen by some dubious process as happened in Eltham a couple of days ago but no system for questions has yet been announced nor how candidates will be expected to answer them.

All rather unsatisfactory I think you will agree.

Note: Based on information from candidates early this afternoon. Click image for more details.

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