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Bonkers Blog September 2015

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30 September (Part 2) - Twitter trouble

I got into trouble on Twitter a week ago - it’s surprising it doesn’t happen more often - and it was because I made public my own ‘private’ thoughts. I was under the misapprehension that that was what blogs were all about but it was not appreciated by everybody.


News ShopperThe issue in question was the succession of letters published in local newspapers and written by the former Conservative candidate for Erith & Thamesmead, Anna Firth. It seemed to me they crossed the line that divides statements of  policy from concerted negative campaigns verging on personal attacks, in this case against the sitting MP. However I don’t particularly want to rake all that up again. Others might read the letters and come to another conclusion.

This week there was another letter from Anna Firth in the News Shopper. There’s nothing in it that wasn’t in last week’s Bexley Times but it has been severely edited to remove the contentious. Whoever did it did a fine job. Not a word of the revised letter strays from the facts - as they have been widely reported - although some might dispute the conclusion.

I am going to credit the editor of the News Shopper with a fine example of his art - until I learn otherwise anyway.

Probably Ms. Firth is right to be worried about Jeremy Corbyn, he seems like a decent straight talking bloke to me. Qualities like that to modern Conservatives are what garlic and sunlight are to Count Dracula. He could be an attractive proposition to those not old enough to have lived through policies such as his.

Sign up for the News Shopper on line.

 

30 September (Part 1) - The Crossrail Liaison Panel

The fourth Liaison Panel meeting was held in Abbey Wood’s Community Centre yesterday evening and the numbers attending seem to be growing, especially the number of railway officials present, most of whom made either very little or no contribution.

Attending for the first time was the chairman of Bexley council’s Transport Users’ Committee, councillor Val Clark, described to me following yesterday’s report, as “a vile woman”. She must like making enemies.

But down to business; was the meeting worth attending? Was there anything new announced that could not be deduced by looking at the work in progress?

Maybe not a lot if you are a keen Bonkers’ reader but Network Rail’s Programme Manager Peter Hume was definitely informative even if he is forced to spend too much time answering questions from regular attendees who do not listen and go around with their eyes shut.


CancelledSome still hold out the hope that the ground level station access from Wilton Road will be restored apparently oblivious to the fact that an island platform dictates that the London bound North Kent line will get in the way.

However Mr. Hume probably surprised everyone when he said there would be low level access to Crossrail from Felixstowe Road going behind the buffers of the northerly Crossrail track which terminates in the station. The second track will extend towards Belvedere for train access and maintenance reasons.

The utility diversion work in Felixstowe Road is running behind schedule and the pedestrian footpath has still to be relocated but it should all be restored to something like normality by 2nd November. The works in Gayton Road are already very nearly completed.

As should be well known, the main access point to the station will be at high level from Harrow Manorway but both Wilton and Felixstowe Roads will have access via two lifts each and stairs. Descent to the platforms will be by a single lift and stairs, space considerations precluding anything more extensive. It was again confirmed that there would be no access at the western end of either platform but there would be a third platform interchange (footbridge) there.

The usual suspects were preoccupied with the arrangements that might be made if a lift should go out of order when they were not complaining about the traffic lights outside Sainsburys.

One of the slides put on screen by Mr. Hume showed the programme of works in the immediate future which included line closures on the weekends of 3rd, 10th, 24th and 31st October which is more than announced in August. (See footnote.)

Crossrail
The 24th/25th October will see the last of four track replacement operations to the east of the station. Demolition of the now disused power hut at the end of Florence Road will allow all the new track to be nudged southwards to align with the new platform under construction.


PlatformThat platform will be brought into use next February but at only half its ultimate width. It should nevertheless provide rather more protection from the elements than is currently the case.

The loss of the footbridge at Bostall Manorway came in for criticism and it was again left to the Reverend Yeadon to make the valid points. There are a lot of school children who need to cross the line twice daily and a mile long detour twice a day is “not proportional”, and the reverend is absolutely right. Greenwich council had once again made the wrong decision favouring the few against the many.

Mr. Hume said he was urgently investigating whether the footbridge could be opened without disabled access while a longer term solution was considered. He rightly said that high screens merely encourage anti-social behaviour.

The owner of the Wilton Road taxi cab office has been particularly hard hit by the weekend line closures and asked how many more were planned. No definitive answer was given but Easter 2016, the following Bank Holiday and maybe another consecutive series similar to the present one in August were all probable. After that, with the whole of the North Kent line safely realigned, further works should not disrupt existing train services.

Note: A letter from Network Rail received this morning states that the additional line closures will be on 24th and 25th October and Sunday 1st November.

 

29 September (Part 2) - The dead bins lie fallen all over the borough

There is not a lot more one can say about the brown bin fiasco. Undoubtedly a big logistical operation and one which has shown up local authority management for what it is. Useless.


Brown binsBrown binsThe whole operation was supposed to be a money making ruse. Cut waste processing costs by £444,000 a year and fool residents into believing that there was no alternative to paying for the service. Heads they win, tails you lose.

How much more money would have been saved by keeping the old bins instead of collecting them for scrap worth less than a pound according to the cabinet member?

Councillors are presumably very aware of the amount of discontent the bin situation is causing. The correspondence file reveals that some have sent sympathetic responses, councillors Marriner and Aileen Beckwith, Conservatives for Barnehurst and Sidcup respectively among them.


Councillor Val ClarkAt the other extreme are councillors like Val Clark (Conservative, Falcon Wood & Welling) who has ignored a whole series of short complaints about the early morning noise involved in the stacking of bins - have you ever allowed a lid to fall against the side of an empty bin? - and the hazard presented to the partially sighted. Why anyone would expect a civil response from councillor Val Clark beats me but I am happy to have my prejudices confirmed.

I rather liked this bit in one of the unanswered emails; “Is the non reply either your refusal to represent residents, rudeness or instructions from political leaders to bury your heads in the sand?”.

I have had reports of stacked bins in Brampton Road for what must be a week now and they proved to be true when I was there at one o’clock today.

A fitting memorial to an incompetent council in the leader’s own ward. Teresa O’Neill OBE - Overturned Bin Embarrassment.
Brown bins

 

29 September (Part 1) - The Sidcup battleground

Old Farm Park
There are few things worse than reporting on Bexley is Bonkers about a subject not fully understood; it leads to superficiality, and with the proposed sale of Sidcup’s Old Farm Park looming large on the agenda for the next couple of months, it was essential that I took a look. I had passed by once or twice but never trodden its ground.

I’m not sure what I expected but whatever it was, Old Farm Park was not it. Within 15 minutes walk of home I can be in Frank’s Park or Lesnes woods in Belvedere or Bostall woods just across the Greenwich boundary. All heavily wooded but Old Farm Park is, except for its periphery, a big open space sandwiched between Old Farm Avenue and the railway line. A footbridge over that line will take you to a similar plot made up of football pitches.

The signs at the park entrance and inside are rather ironic in the circumstances.

“Don’t abuse it” and “over time natural selection will allow the maturing trees to spread”.
Old Farm Park Old Farm Park Old Farm Park Old Farm Park
All of the photographs seen here were taken today between 09:45 and 10:00 so no children are to be seen and no dog walkers either. The place was deserted except for the grass mowing contractor. The grass appeared to be in very good condition, lush and green with no bald patches that I came across.

It is not hard to work out why Old Farm Park is top of the list for the vandals, family silver robbers and financial mismanagers at Bexley council. A large flat empty space with easy and wide access to an existing road. A road that it has to be said was quite severely congested with parked cars even at that early hour. I turned around a total of three times before I managed to find a space large enough for my tiny car.
Old Farm Park
Old Farm Park

 

28 September - Tales from the Inbox

Some days Bexley news dries up, especially after more than two months without a significant council meeting to report. It is tempting to comment on national politics but the way I feel about them all, to speak my mind would risk upsetting all shades of opinion; so it’s time to fall back on the weekend postbag.

The number of emails about the bin tax and related issues has reduced from its peak. Few are happy, well none actually, otherwise readers wouldn’t be sending emails. A big concern would appear to be free riders using the paid for bins. It’s inevitable, it happened when there was no charge.

The distribution of food caddies is very haphazard, just a couple of minutes walk from home they have been in use a week or more but no one nearer has one. I am assured that the situation is not unique.

On another subject one resident emailed every councillor but got no reply (Labour) or a standard dismissive reply (Conservative). UKIP councillors came out best, one even putting in a personal appearance.

The sale of parks, failure to replace street trees and air pollution have all been linked together. It was alleged that Bexley may well have, for now at least, plenty of green spaces but only one London borough had a street tree density lower than Bexley. A statistic provided without any link unfortunately but which does appear to be correct or nearly so. (Check the Appendices.)

Another target for resident complaints is the weak bridge in Bexley. Here the lack of councillor response is universal and extends to them doing a runner at public meetings. Listening to you, working for you.

Litter bins not being emptied regularly has been noticed.

Councillors have been saying at public meetings that there has been no decision to switch off street lights. I suppose this is true in the sense that no decision has been taken to sell any parks or permanently close the Splash Park yet either, but it’s most likely more weasel words.

Should I mention the email which provided lurid details of the two council officers caught having sex in the Watling Street toilets and it was allegedly accepted as just one of those things? Probably not, but literally Bexley council Bonkers. They must have been quite senior to get away with it.

 

27 September - They ignore residents at their peril

Lesnes AbbeyWhile Crossrail powers on with the largest civil engineering project in Europe and Peabody imaginatively transforms the Green Chain walk, Bexley council still shows no sign of replacing the Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre it knocked down nine months ago.

Last Friday a couple of men could be seen scratching around in the earth but of the promised rebuild there is no sign.

Bexley council seems to regards its parks as a liability on the one hand but also a cash cow that might keep its financial head above water if it can get away with it.

We will almost certainly see the council approve their park closure plans before the year is out. The Old Farm Park consultation process ended two weeks ago and provoked 1,361 responses, none of them agreeing with Bexley council’s avowed policy. When it is ignored, democracy in Bexley will reach a new low point.

Not only have Conservative councillors Slaughter and Leitch nailed their disapproving colours to the mast, James Brokenshire MP put his weight behind the park saving campaign too.

I still don’t give much for their chances. It will be a sad day when Teresa O’Neill OBE’s (Oak & Beech Eliminator) mismanagement brings the borough to a new low point and those who saw it all coming will have to console themselves with the thought that even more people will recognise a disaster when they see one.

James Brokenshire is not the only local politician to express disquiet, nor is Old Farm Park the only open space under threat.

A few miles to the north open spaces in Erith are under threat too and given the huge number building projects, both commercial and residential, that that town is accepting for the benefit of the whole borough’s tax base, it can ill afford to lose any of its presently green spaces.

Labour councillor Abena Oppong-Asare has made her feelings felt as follows…


I am writing to you as an elected Labour councillor for Erith Ward in response to the council’s public survey regarding proposals for possible redevelopment of four open spaces. My response is on behalf of my Erith residents regarding the release of West Street small park and has been developed following discussions with Erith residents.

I appreciate the Council is facing substantial financial challenges, but I strongly oppose the removal of green spaces.

Public Health England statistical data published in June 2015 shows that in Bexley, 22·% (576) of children in Year 6 are classified as obese, worse than the average for England and I feel that keeping open spaces will help reduce obesity in the area. I recognise that the council has been trying to tackle obesity in adults and set up an adult weight management service in September 2014. We also need to tackle the problem of childhood obesity.

Public Health England has carried out research which has shown that over half of people living in deprived areas would take more exercise if green spaces were improved. Furthermore, good quality and well maintained parks are more likely to be used and local residents report higher ‘neighbourhood satisfaction’ and better health as a result.

A lot of regeneration is taking place in Erith. Bexley College Erith Campus opened a year ago. Erith Quarry received planning permission from Bexley Council in March for their development and there is possibility that the former Riverside Baths might be turned into flats. It is therefore vital that Erith maintains what is left of its green public space.

I also have grave concerns about the way the survey has been conducted. Question 5 of the survey gives very limited options to residents objecting the closure of any of the parks. The council has many more options than the three mentioned and is misleading ones listed. I also don’t believe that it clarifies the reason to keep West Street small park.

The questions asked are as follows:
• Substantial reductions in ground maintenance, which would result in unmaintained parks, the removal of children’s playgrounds and the loss of sports pitches.
• £1 million reduction per year in spending on other Council services.
• A Council tax rise of more than 1.99% (subject to a local referendum)

I urge the Council to remove its proposal to dispose of West Street small park and work with local residents, community groups and ward councillors to establish a way of keeping the park in public use while achieving savings for the council.

I would like to conclude by saying that green open spaces are in scarce supply in our area and that West Street small park provides a valuable contribution to the street scene and environment in this deprived area of our borough.

I would also like to thank you for giving me and residents in Erith the opportunity to add our comments.

I look forward to receiving a reply to my comments.

Yours sincerely
Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare
Erith Ward


The next couple of months are sure to prove very interesting to council watchers.

 

26 September (Part 3) - Green Chain Walk. Worth waiting for

Green ChainPeabody’s renovation of part of the Green Chain Walk has finally opened to the public and looks superb - unless perhaps you are a youngster with a scooter; the gravel path is likely to see rapid deterioration, but the grass is beautifully green and lush too.

The chairs are of very high quality, don’t worry they are bolted down.

Thamesmead is looking up.


Green Chain Green Chain Green Chain Green Chain

 

26 September (Part 2) - A busy day in Abbey Wood

Unlike last weekend, no one could say that Crossrail have not done a lot today.

East of the station the track renewal is being extended further towards Belvedere. It’s the same operation that was seen on 5th and 6th September but in a less accessible place so no big photo feature this time.
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
The more dramatic change was half a mile to the west where the old Bostall Manorway footbridge was being removed despite no alternative route being available for several more months.

It was quite a lengthy operation though not as time consuming as erecting the new one. I am grateful to Network Rail’s Traffic Marshall for helping to pass the time with a brief history of Africa and where not to go if visiting Jamaica. I now know about African Granville Tailer Woods who invented many things including an overhead electric railway system.

The bridge removal from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. is pictured here. (35 images.) As is too often the case with these big Crossrail operations the best and sometimes only viewing point looks straight into the sun.

 

26 September (Part 1) - Batman beats the rat man

BatmanSomething unique has just happened in Bexley. A service that is councillor Peter Craske’s responsibility has got better. The so called Scores on the Doors figures which measure food hygiene standards have improved. Not only improved but reached a level which ranks Bexley among the best in London.

It is now safe to eat out almost anywhere in the borough.
FSA

 

25 September (Part 3) - Abbey Wood. A week in the life…

CrossrailDespite the setback at Bostall Manorway the Crossrail project has advanced on a wide front over the past week and a bit.

To the east and west the ground is being prepared for the realigned North Kent line and Crossrail’s obsession with fences shows no sign of abating.

At the station itself utility diversion is nearing completion and the station site is being extensively piled. Although not pictured the dust is being frequently sprayed with water to minimise any problems, as if we hadn’t had enough rain anyway.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

25 September (Part 2) - The accounts audited. All’s well especially for retiring senior managers

The Audit Committee meeting is not guaranteed to be a scintillating affair. The subject can be quite obscure and a little technical at times and coupled with the lack of a microphone system and the speaking in hushed tones, it is not the easiest to follow. At yesterday’s meeting the whisperer-in-chief was Deputy Finance Director John Peters and his lead was picked up by practically everyone else.

As you can see from the photograph the chairman is backed up by five council officers, two auditors from Grant Thornton and four councillors (left) to ask questions. One was a few minutes late arriving and missed the photo call.
Audit Committee
What you cannot see in the photograph is the 339 page Agenda and its 62 page Supplement - and that excludes all the stuff that is on the restricted list and must be kept secret from the people who foot the bills.

That team of eight is there to field the questions from the four councillors, only two of whom (†) ask questions - with one exception, see below. The first 292 pages of the Agenda were dealt with in less than half an hour.

I just about heard John Peters say something was “a very good achievement overall”. I think it was to do with an underspend somewhere or other. I also heard him apologetically refer to the Accounts as “a hugely technical and complicated document prescribed by regulations”. So it’s not just me who thinks that.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) was the inquisitor-in-chief and without him it would be fair to say that we would all be a lot more ignorant of the inner workings of Bexley council than is the case now. Who but him would pick up on the fact that the Stock Transfer Warranties Reserve had apparently fallen in the space of four weeks from £2·2 million to £480,000?

The Accounts showed that they had although in reality it had taken just a little longer. John Peters justified the reduction by referring to the savings that were required and “the money was more urgently needed elsewhere“. If the warranty was ever required the money could be borrowed, he said, but he did not think the reserve would be needed.

Also noted by councillor Francis was that the schools budget kept going into overspend. £3·132 million last year. John Peters referred to the high cost of specialist out of borough education which “can run into six figures”. Per pupil I assumed but he didn’t actually say. Only this week Bexley council has lost a case in court that will cost it £300,000. “A case like that dilutes what is available for the whole education service.”

Daniel Francis turned his attention to the golden goodbyes paid out in 2014/15 and specifically referred to the Director of Adult Social Services. I think he meant Mark Charters who was on a salary of £157,963 but hopped over to the Isle of Man for better pickings where he soon came a cropper.

The question led to the revelation that £1,149,187 had been paid out in redundancy packages in 2014/15.

Just over a quarter of a million had been shared by 35 people on very low salaries, nearly £400,000 went to 14 earning up to £40k. a year and the big prizes went to the top brass.

Three in the 40 to 60k. bracket shared £143,000. Two on the next level shared £135,000 and one on £100,000 a year took away £97,000 for early retirement. (Mike Frizoni?)

The top scorer, Mark Charters presumably, went away with £110,000.

And Bexley council is flat broke.

Daniel Francis also wanted to know “how the hell” was the further cut in grant for Hall Place and Danson House “sustainable” when they said that last years’ cut might be unmanageable. Finance Director Alison Griffin said the cut would be “gradual” and conceded that the council was running a risk with the loan to the Heritage Trust. Times are hard - except for managers approaching retirement age.

When the auditors took to the stage councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, East Wickham) asked the same question he does at every Audit meeting. How much will the objection to the 2013/14 Accounts cost the council. This is a reference to the funny goings on in the Parking Department to which Bexley’s Internal Auditor has attached the word Maladministration many times.

The auditor did not know.

In response to a question from councillor Francis - yes him again - the auditor said their investigator might reach a conclusion by early November.

As part of his summary of the 2013/14 Accounts, auditor Geoffrey Bannister said that “Joe Public probably hasn’t noticed that much the savings that you have made”. Not every taxpayer will agree with him.

† Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) also asked questions but generally too technical for my feeble mind to follow.

 

25 September (Part 1) - Beware a woman scorned - by the electorate

Spiteful bitchingThere can be little doubt now that the evil influence of councillor Philip Read has rubbed off on the failed General Election candidate Anna Firth. I’m afraid that when I read her letter in this week’s Bexley Times I couldn’t suppress two words silently leaving my lips. Spiteful and Bitch.

The letter concerns itself with the new Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and recommends that Bexley’s Labour politicians should distance themselves from him, the SB (Sevenoaks Blabbermouth) having forgotten that all of them campaigned for other candidates.

Long term readers will be able to guess how I might regard Jeremy Corbyn although I confess to having found his election rather amusing. He has achieved the near impossible in my eyes, a potential Prime Minister who makes David Cameron look half sensible.

Appointing vegans to shadow farming and pacifists with defence responsibilities is pretty damn silly but Teresa Pearce on the housing team (†) is quite the reverse. Anna Firth has shown no concern for the homeless in Erith & Thamesmead but for Teresa their plight is never far from her mind. Innumerable email conversations with Teresa Pearce have finished up with concern for the homeless. Mrs. Firth’s ambitions have rarely risen above black sacks.

Anna Firth knows very little about Erith & Thamesmead. Ironically she must have no idea that the Bexley Times is not distributed in the north of the borough. When I get a paper copy it comes from a distribution point in Bromley! BiB probably reaches more E&T voters than the Bexley Times does.

† The appointment carries no extra pay or allowances.

 

24 September (Part 2) - Massive inconvenience for six months. But in Greenwich, so that’s OK

The old Bostall Manorway footbridge is scheduled for removal this weekend, it has been on Network Rail’s published list of jobs to be done for quite a long time now. Its replacement was erected a month ago and is ready for use. I have been going along every couple of days to be sure of taking some of the first photographs from its span; not that they would be any good, like everything around Crossrail it is shrouded in heavy duty mesh.


Bridge BridgeToday when I took a look at what I thought must at this late stage be the new bridge in use I was in for a shock. Not only were both closed, a sign proudly announced that there would be no crossing at that point for six whole months.

I decided facts would be better than speculation so I knocked on the manager’s door at Network Rail’s Felixstowe Road headquarters.

The delayed opening is because residents close to the bridge are objecting to it - at least two years after planning permission was granted. It overlooks their properties is the main complaint although maybe they should be complaining about its ugliness too, albeit not as bad as at Church Manorway.


News Shopper Faced with the complaints and perhaps the News Shoppers’ report in their 2nd September issue, two options were put on the table. Remove the old bridge next Saturday and open the new one thereby annoying the few complainants or remove the old bridge and not open the new bridge and annoy almost everyone.

The option of retaining the old bridge was apparently not considered.

The decision to annoy a large number of people for the next six months was made jointly by Greenwich Council and Network Rail. Maybe more information will be made available at the next Liaison Panel meeting on 29th September.

I’m not convinced that the right decision was reached but fortunately I did not have to take it.

For the record, the bridge span was put in place on 23rd August and not finished until quite recently. Where Friday August 11th comes from will be a News Shopper exclusive.

 

24 September (Part 1) - From meetings to maps

This evening Bexley’s Audit Committee will gather to mark the beginning of the short meetings season before Bexley council shuts up shop for Christmas.

The last meeting of any note was Cabinet on 21st July which spawned a whole series of blogs between the 22nd and the 28th of the month and until the next Cabinet meeting on 13th October news is in short supply. It will however be the lull before the big storm when savage spending cuts and silver sales are likely to be nodded through. If they are not, Bexley’s entire budget strategy will fall apart.

Until then there is little other than Press Releases to sustain Bexley is Bonkers.

Boundaries Commission
Rather late in the day Bexley council is encouraging residents to take part in the Boundaries Commission survey - only two weeks behind the times.

Local Offer
Another Press Release concerns itself with something called Local Offer. Not a phrase that instantly communicates its purpose, however it concerns Special Educational Needs so if that is a matter for you, best look at the website too.

Ye Olde Leather Bottle
MapThe work being carried out on the site of the Leather Bottle continues to create an interest and, coincidence or not, a peak in web visitors.

Thanks to the local Labour councillors, Daniel Francis in particular, it is confirmed that Bexley council knows all about the right of way across the site and will ensure its continuation one way or another, maybe with a diversion.

The correspondence has thrown up a rather wonderful website which compares old maps with new. For the view around the Leather Bottle click here.

For the whole of the area pictured, click here. You will need a large screen, preferably a dual arrangement, to see it at its best.

 

23 September (Part 2) - Bourne again

Today could have been better. It started with an early morning appointment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital so I had to pay for the rail fare, something only South East London Freedom Pass holders have to do.

After waiting for very nearly an hour I was told I would need to see a consultant. First available appointment, 2nd March 2016.

It had been suggested by a regular Bonkers contributor that I revisit Crayford as massive inconvenience is still being caused by the closure of Bourne Road so I hitched a lift to Crook Log and took a 96 bus from there to the site of the road works.

Yesterday evening was spent in the company of a bus driver and I happened to say that I find 99 bus drivers out of 100 to be very considerate to passengers, far more so than ten to fifteen years ago when too many took delight in driving past stops while looking the other way. It was almost inevitable that fate had been tempted and I would soon encounter the odd man out. And I have.


Bus stop Bus stop Bus numberThe bus stop nearest to the Bourne Road chaos was disrupted by temporary traffic lights (Photo 1) and as the bus approached they turned red and as the bus slowed to a standstill I rang the bell.

The driver ignored me.

I went forward and asked why the door wasn’t being opened when the bus was stopped close to the kerb at a bus stop. The driver said I had rung the bell a bit late.

This was true, but the bus was obviously stopping and the bell was intended to draw the driver’s attention to a request to open the door once he had come to a standstill. The bus was still stopped at the bus stop after I had taken the photographs and returned towards my seat.

So in case you meet this surly individual on your travels, here's a reminder of what he looks like. Click Photo 2 for a really good look.

The troubles didn’t end there. I took the following four photos of the continuing rearrangements at the Bourne Road/London Road junction in Crayford.
Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road
As I left the scene a Conway man approached me and asked me to delete the photos. I asked why I should and he said I had taken one which included him. To be honest I didn’t know, it was quite difficult enough to find a spot where there was both a good view and little chance of being run down by bad tempered 96 bus drivers before worrying about who might be appearing it.


Conway manI showed him the only image that included anyone but refused his demands. I rather wish I had deleted it now to keep him happy. The camera has two memory cards and records everything twice as a back up facility. Actually it would transmit the image to my mobile phone if I could be bothered to set it up completely, but that has always seemed like a complication too far.

Back to the road works. I’ve lost count of how many weeks they have been going on. More than three months according to my correspondent. Bexley council’s website is as informative as ever but reveals that the scheme was approved last April and is due for completion next week.

I cannot see how the end result is going to improve matters. It’s just another jam inducing T junction as it was before. Another 96 bus ride will have to be put on October’s agenda.

 

23 September (Part 1) - More Bottle

Ye Olde Leather Bottle has, in terms of email responses, been the most ‘popular’ subject for a long time. The information provided mainly amounts to what was reported yesterday. A couple of men with a JCB have been uprooting trees, and there is nothing illegal about that.
Leather Bottle
From Bexley council, via the local councillors, comes news that the pub and its land has been bought by someone with a history of buying up disused public houses and putting up flats in their place, but no such application has been made.

The facade of the Leather Bottle is listed and the site is expected to be fenced off before long. If/when a planning application is submitted, local residents will be consulted in the normal way.

The fencing may prove interesting because local residents say that there is a long established right of way through the pub grounds and that the council has very recently acknowledged its existence.

 

22 September (Part 2) - No Bottle

Ye Olde Leather Bottle at the bottom end of Heron Hill in Belvedere bears the distinction of being the only pub of the four which are, or rather were, within easy walking distance of home that I have ever been inside, and that was a good twenty years ago and only once.


Leather Bottle Leather BottleAt around the same time I did take a beer while sitting outside the Eardley Arms at the top of the hill but the regulars made it pretty clear I shouldn’t be there.

Unsurprisingly I didn’t notice the closure of the Leather Bottle, it must have been around a year ago.

Recently I have been asked several times if I knew what was going on there so I diverted early last Thursday morning on my way elsewhere by car. Parents parking outside the nearby school was a sight to behold, but that is another story.

My presence with a camera drew the instant attention of the contractor on site. I wouldn’t say he was unfriendly but definitely suspicious.

He didn’t know what was going to happen to the pub but somehow knew the facade was to be preserved. His job, he said, was just to clear the trees.

So I am none the wiser about Ye Olde Leather Bottle and Bexley’s Planning Portal is no help either. The last planning application for the pub was in 2008.

 

22 September (Part 1) - Midas in reverse

Bexley TimesThe Bexley Times, maybe because it doesn’t carry Bexley council advertising or have associations with Bexley council’s website advertisements, is not afraid to occasionally put the boot into Bexley council.

RUBBISH! was its front page verdict on the bin tax fiasco last Thursday and inside it devoted two whole pages to the subject.

Those who have followed the saga closely probably did not learn a lot that is new. Not enough bins ordered. Taking away old bins before delivering the new. No collections for the few lucky enough to have a new bin. No answer to phone enquiries.

Councillor Peter Craske was quoted as saying the situation was not a mess while repeating the official line that more people signed up to the bin tax than was expected. The publicly stated figure is now 27,000 although recent Bexley internal documents refer only to “over 20,000”.

I do not doubt that collecting 75,000 or more 140 litre bins and replacing them with a new one a sixth the size is a big operation. On top of which is the distribution of twenty odd thousand 240 litre bins to selected households, but there has been no semblance of consistency. I have had no food waste collection for more than three weeks. It is fortunate that my next door neighbour has.

The 2012 commitment to good waste management is a long forgotten memory. Remind yourself of it by clicking or scrolling the image below.

Recycling

Under councillor Peter Craske the food and garden waste collection service is on the verge of collapse. He seems to be a magnet for everything that goes wrong.

It was Craske’s idea to triple some parking charges in 2010. It was Craske who increased the level of parking fines by elevating the outer shopping centres to the same offence status as Bexleyheath. The proposal to penalise motorists for their mistakes, turning right where they shouldn’t, was his too although it took four years to come to fruition.

Latterly Peter Craske has been behind the closing of parks and children’s play facilities. If an idea isn’t his in the first place, he is the mug who picks it up when his colleagues do a runner.

CardiffI have seen various suggestions on how the bin fiasco could have been managed differently. One was that Bexley should have swapped bins with Cardiff where they are moving in the opposite direction.  From 240 litre bins to 140s.

The problem with that is that Cardiff is rather bigger than Bexley but their plan to swap new for old on the same day over three months makes more sense.

It is remarkable that Bexley council thinks it is so good at recycling it lectures on how it should be done. Googling the name of the council’s Head of Waste Management, Steven Didsbury, produces several hits including a couple of cringeworthy videos.

In the one featured here he makes some unfavourable comments about Thamesmead but there are others.

 

21 September (Part 3) - You couldn’t make it up

There are some stories that take a long time to reach their climax and the end result must not be compromised by the release of too much premature information.

One of those began with a request to examine Bexley’s 2013/14 accounts and in particular their parking contracts and the relationship with the bailiffs who chase the unpaid fines. The Local Government Ombudsman didn’t like what they saw back in 2012 and Bexley’s internal audit team didn’t like it either when they took a belated interest last year. Maladministration was the word on their lips.

As most readers will know, Bexley and Bromley councils run a joint parking operation with the same team running both. Naturally their procedures are much the same in both boroughs and a look into Bromley’s accounts by a Bromley resident confirmed the same malpractices. However there the similarities ended.

Bexley council is audited by Grant Thornton; Bromley by Price Waterhouse Coopers. Very obviously the political control is in different hands too and if my counterpart in Bromley is to be believed that borough believes it is doing nothing wrong which contrasts rather starkly with what Bexley’s internal auditor has said.

In Bromley the external auditor is being difficult, seemingly suggesting that transgressions of the law - incentives to issue more parking tickets - don’t really matter, despite several millions of pounds being at stake.

Bexley and its auditors, while striving desperately to keep things hushed up, are so far at least taking a more reasonable line. Keeping things hushed up is very understandable, some of the facts uncovered so far are deeply disturbing, and here it is probably best to become a little vague because it is not yet inconceivable that the case could go to court.

Bexley council has as you know farmed out pretty much all its services to private enterprise. You might not always know it but the signatory on a council letter may not be that of a council employee. It happened to me once when a Capita employee accused me of falsely claiming a single occupant council tax discount.

I told her to take a jump on the grounds I had no contract with Capita and that I would not cooperate with her - and got away with that line of defence, eventually getting a letter of apology from a real Bexley council officer. This was some years before Bexley is Bonkers became a reality. Maybe I have never liked councils!

So private company employees sometimes masquerade as council employees. It may not matter too much if they are simply making excuses for no bin collections, but what if they are authorising expenditure on behalf of the council? Spending real taxpayers’ money on their own initiative.

And what if the company with which they are spending money is owned by one of their friends or even a subsidiary of their own company? Unbelievable, it would never be allowed you might say.

But it is allowed and important contracts which impinge on many lives have been placed that way - when they bear a signature at all!

Just how much corruption is allowed to exist within Bexley council?

 

21 September (Part 2) - Lion Road. Taking shape - very slowly

Broadway Broadway BroadwayThe Bexleyheath Broadway regeneration (Phase II) which started two weeks late a month ago doesn’t appear to have progressed very much since last I took a look.

Broadway was as usual busy but despite the slightly confusing diversion signs there was no traffic congestion severe enough to deter anyone who is considering passing through.

 

21 September (Part 1) - There’s no secrets any more

MeI may have transferred the BiB Facebook account to A.N. Other but except that it is now more active than before I don’t see a lot of difference. I can still make comments on it but then so can anyone else who has been elevated to Friend status as far as I can see. Facebook remains a mystery to me.

Until A.N. Other runs amok and changes the password I presumably still have full editing facilities and the Profile, for the time being at least, is mine.

Yesterday I wondered how it was that I received so many birthday messages; Facebook again apparently. Thanks to everyone who remembered a day I was trying to forget.

I spent the day away. Normal BiB service will resume shortly.

 

20 September - Whole lot of nothing going on

Wilton RoadIf you were one of the many hundreds who swapped Southeastern’s eight trains an hour yesterday for the pleasures of a bus every thirty minutes you may be consoling yourself with the thought that Crossrail will have taken a massive stride towards completion.

Think again, there was almost nothing going on. I had hoped that the Bostall Manorway footbridge would be open as removal of the old one is scheduled for next weekend but I was disappointed.

The most exciting pictures my morning and afternoon tours produced are shown below.  The work scheduled was relatively small scale in the Plumstead area.

However it was pleasing to see that steps have been taken to discourage contractors from parking inconsiderately.


Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

 

19 September (Part 2) - The bin fiasco. A postscript

There’s not usually much of a reaction to Saturday blogs but bin complaints would appear to be all the rage at the moment.

I am somewhat relieved to hear that I am not the only one to have become disenchanted with recycling and who no longer washes tins. However I have so far drawn the line at sticky jam jars but will harden my heart to that, especially now that Bexley council has given the green light to universal water meters.

To the correspondent who thinks we are all being fooled and the bin tax will rise quickly, I couldn’t agree more. It will definitely rise, we won’t see the early bird discount again.

My reference to a prime ministerial salary was aimed at former Deputy Director Mike Frizoni who not only set out the plans for the Bin Tax but was also the brains behind the parking regime which even Bexley’s own internal audit team has labelled ‘maladministered’. The Local Government Ombudsman has similarly condemned it.

Unsurprisingly Frizoni has taken early retirement.

For those interested in the history of Bexley’s Bin Tax, earlier reports are as follows…


Prediction that charge would be introduced - 22nd July 2014
New Waste Management Strategy - 24th October 2014 (Waste processing costs)
Bin charging policy announced - 16th January 2015 (Consultation comes later)
Cost of new bins - 26th January 2015
Bin tax debated in council - 19th February 2015
Tory councillors defend Bin Tax - 10th March 2015
First reference to public disquiet - 16th March 2015
Press Release - 1st June 2015
Bexley council lies about cost of new bins - 24th June 2015


About that last entry. They’d already said that the new bins would cost £1·166 million and the scrap value of the old ones would only just cover the collection costs. Now the old ones would cover the cost of all the new bins. Do they think we are daft? Probably.

 

19 September (Part 1) - How are they doing? None too good

As social media criticism of Bexley council’s new food and garden waste collection services reaches new levels - threats to dump rubbish on the Civic Office’s steps etc. - it is sending the following email to complainants.


The mixed garden and food waste service is currently being withdrawn and once the existing brown bins have been removed, free weekly food recycling collections will commence.

The current brown bins are being removed on a rolling basis throughout the borough over the next 4 weeks. Garden waste is not classed as household waste which is why the new chargeable service has been introduced.

When signing up to the garden waste scheme, residents agreed to the terms and conditions which state that the new service will commence in October 2015.

If your bin is delivered prior to this date you may use it, however the service is not due to start fully until October.


This like pretty much everything Bexley council says, is in part a lie.

This is what they said in the leaflet encouraging gardeners to sign up…
Council leaflet
The new service will start as soon as you get your bin. Really? Could have fooled me, the first of them went out at the beginning of September.

My own arrived on the 11th. Now they say we signed up for a service which starts in October. In my own case, as garden waste is to be collected on the ‘opposite’ - as Bexley have named it - week as general waste, that will be the 9th October. Five weeks with no collections. My food bin has not yet arrived.
Council leaflet
That may apply to the food box if you are lucky enough to have one.
Council leaflet
That didn’t happen either. My garden waste bin was removed a week before the new 240 litre bin was delivered but two doors along my neighbour still has both old and new bins.

Further along the street the new brown bins were ignored on collection day. I had played safe by using my non-gardening neighbour’s old bin. Because of that I have not been inconvenienced, many have.

It’s probably all very bad news for Bexley council. If people are asked what the council does for them the first answer is nearly always rubbish collection and whilst not perfect, Bexley council ran a reasonably good system. Their reputation will now be in tatters in many households.

I had become a slightly obsessive recycler separating tins and jars from their labels, squashing plastic bottles and removing their lids. Maybe I need a psychoanalyst but I can’t be bothered any more. No longer am I ashamed of throwing out an unwashed baked bean can.

The Deputy Director on a prime ministerial salary who masterminded this scheme took early retirement as soon as the council was persuaded to adopt it. Maybe it has been rudderless ever since. No excuse for fibbing emails though.

Click any image for more of the same.

 

18 September (Part 3) - Considerate constructor? Probably not

It’s not often I have reason to be critical of the arrangements put in place to minimise the inevitable Crossrail disruption to life around Abbey Wood station, but these pictures should speak for themselves.


Crossrail Falco CrossrailThe electrical contractor’s van (Falco) with trailer attached was parked across the temporary pedestrian ramp on Wilton Road for most if not all of yesterday afternoon.

When faced with the alternatives of a detour or dragging children along the middle of the road around a blind bend, not everyone will make the sensible choice.

 

18 September (Part 2) - Bexley’s housing crisis

Not entirely unrelated to Chris Beazley’ TV appearance are two Press Releases issued by Bexley council this week.

The first was the proposed tightening of the rules relating to the allocation of what used to be known as council houses.

The rules used to be totally unrealistic and left some people on the list for half a lifetime without any prospect of being housed. The 2013 changes were probably well overdue, but such is the current crisis the new regulations have already proved inadequate - if the aim is to keep the queue short that is.

So it is proposed that the residency requirement will be stretched from two to five years and that even more homeless people will be sent to Manchester.

Bexley council needs some opinions to ignore and has set up a consultation page.

It comes as no surprise that Bexley council has ignored the views of local residents and is going ahead with its plan to use the redundant Homeleigh Care Home to house the homeless.


TweetWith a government that fails to control our borders and allows rents to spiral out of control every opportunity to take people off the streets must be taken.

Whether Bexley council can be relied upon to put only ‘nice’ families into Homeleigh is another matter entirely.

Maybe Teresa Pearce and her team will find some answers.

 

18 September (Part 1) - It’s your BBC. Bexley Beazley Chris

Set your recorders, a Bexley councillor is on the Sunday Politics Show. (BBC1, 13:30 20th September.)


TweetThe last time that happened was when former deputy leader Colin Campbell was told to lie to save Cheryl's bacon. It didn’t work and now a DVD copy of the interview is with the Crown Prosecution Service.

It won’t be like that this time around. Bexley’ UKIP leader, councillor Chris Beazley will be discussing the effect asylum seekers are having on local authorities.

Note: For those viewing outside London, the interview will most likely be part of the London regional insert.

 

17 September (Part 2) - Bexley’s Digital Future

BexleyAlthough there is an icon on the menu bar above that interrogates the council’s meeting calendar directly, last night’s Digital Future Sub-Committee meeting failed to penetrate my consciousness until councillor Rob Leitch Tweeted about it rather late in the day.


TweetMy interest in the subject is centred around disturbing experiences in Newham where they have come close to withdrawing telephone and email access and services can only be accessed via a web form.

There is a Contact Centre but the phone line is voice operated and the only time I managed to reach an operator was when I spoke nonsense into it. ‘Direct Debit’ and ‘Council Tax’ were both unrecognised phrases but all the adviser could do was apologise for being unhelpful and turn me away.

There is no provision whatsoever for the elderly housebound.

Earlier this month in an emergency situation I had to ask my MP if she could forward an email to the Newham MP who forwarded it to Newham’s Chief Executive. It was perhaps an outrageous piece of string pulling but it had the desired effect, and the need for it is totally ridiculous.

Bexley council shows signs of treading a similar path, it is part of their programme of cuts, although experience suggests they won’t be as unreasonable as Newham.

The Sub-Committee meeting was held in a small room which was far from ideal for public attendance but fortunately I was its lone representative. I was invited to join the members and officers on their table which was good of them but such close proximity makes joining the discussion rather too tempting. I resisted it - just.

The omens for a digital future were not immediately good. The laptop feeding the projector was showing an error message and when councillor Steven Hall made a call on his mobile it cut off prematurely. My own mobile received its first call since 26th August when a correspondent called in with the latest news from Tower Hamlets - embarrassing - and my audio recorder kept popping up a ‘Card write error’. To my surprise the recording plays back just fine. The DSLR stayed in its case because it would have felt obtrusively rude to snap away at my immediate neighbours, and in any case you have seen them all before.

Apart from Steven Hall, councillors John Davey, Alan Deadman, Andy Dourmoush, Louie French, John Husband, Cafer Munir and Rob Leitch and a couple of council officers were all present.

The formal election of a chairman took about five seconds but Rob Leitch must have been selected beforehand. He immediately launched into a well prepared introduction to the meeting. Rob is good but probably not that good at taking up the reins unprepared.

The council’s website was an obvious subject for discussion and came in for a certain amount of criticism, the search facility being widely condemned. Bexley’s website has gradually improved over the years but when I occasionally trawl for information around all the London boroughs it is obviously far from being the prettiest or the most easily navigated; neither is it the worst. But it is consistently the slowest.

The following council websites were said to be good examples of the designer’s craft…

Argyle & Bute Chichester DC Hackney Preston City
Blaby DC Cornwall Hinckley & Bosworth BC South Lanarkshire
Bristol City East Riding Kent County Staffordshire CC
Canterbury City Eden DC North Yorkshire CC Warwick DC
City of Cardiff City of Edinburgh Oxfordshire CC  


Councillors were tasked with assessing their suitability for Bexley and focus groups are to be asked too. Probably Rob Leitch would be receptive to comments from any interested resident.

From the statistics provided it would appear that Bexley council’s website is eight to ten times busier than Bexley is Bonkers and occasionally a little more.

The jargon for moving service provision to the web is Channel Shift and the impetus for it will be to reduce the opportunity for face to face and telephone access. The justification when budgets are stretched is obvious. The average face to face encounter costs £14 and an on line contact can cost as little as eight pence.

Depending on the service requested, telephones will be answered slowly or maybe not at all. The only two calls I made this year both went to 20 minutes.

Recognition was given to what was termed the Digital Divide, people who are unable to use the web. There are no easy answers.


TweetThe Chairman advocated greater use of Social Media but only councillor French currently shares his enthusiasm for it.

The council has been spending up to £50,000 a year printing documents for councillors and employs two men and a van delivering them to each member. Electronic distribution has obvious attractions and not so obvious disadvantages. Imagine 63 councillors at a meeting staring at their tablets and a battery goes flat.

Councillor Hall was sufficiently alert to remember that the public need Agendas at meetings too. The problems are not insurmountable but the solutions unlikely to be as convenient as paper. But even £35,000 a year (the reduced figure following recent efficiencies) printing Agendas etc. is far too much.

There was no enthusiasm for tablets being provided at public expense. Andy Dourmoush said “that is what the allowance is for”. The new crop of councillors can occasionally be a breath of fresh air.

No councillor said anything at the meeting to which any member of the public could reasonably object. With Rob Leitch the digital future may be in good hands, but finding an acceptable solution to the digitally deprived will not be easy. Going to the library as advocated by one council officer is not always possible.

 

17 September (Part 1) - Who said that then?

I've usually looked at the News Shopper on line by eight o’clock on a Wednesday morning but yesterday their Pagesuite software displayed a problem. There was only a single advertisement page available for most of the day. It was midnight before I got to look at this week’s edition and Page 5’s item about Erith & Thamesmead’s Conservative General Election candidate Anna Firth.


News ShopperCouncilor Alex Sawyer gave up the chairmanship of the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association just before last May’s Election and was eventually replaced by councillor for Crayford John Davey to whom we should all be grateful, because he is the man who named this website.

The Bonkers description of Bexley council, well its roads policy to be absolutely correct, came from him. I doubt that makes him a popular man within Bexley council but he does at least appear to be a BiB reader.

The E&TCA has recently adopted Anna Firth as ‘spokesman’ which is probably code for “we’ll adopt her as our candidate again in 2020 if she has not had a better offer by then”.

The News Shopper quotes John Davey as saying “Anna’s campaign was widely praised by local and regional media and was describes as ‘magnificent’ by local observers”. It sounded familiar.


On the day after the election I wrote “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”.

Whilst I have been disappointed by Anna Firth and the Conservative Party nationally since then I do not regret my words. Anna Firth’s campaign was always energetic and attention grabbing, if occasionally something of a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately for her, Teresa Pearce’s must have been strategically cleverer. She pulled in all her core vote even more successfully than in 2010.

Click image for more.

 

16 September - Think of the children

The Campaign for Better Transport’s meeting in Abbey Wood last night proved to be very interesting although their definition of the word better may not be everybody’s. This was a meeting aimed at ending the prospect of a Blackwall relief tunnel at Silvertown and bridges at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, and restoring the Woolwich Free Ferry to its former glory.

The audience peaked at 29 with a strong leaning towards the older members of society. They were not all tree hugging Green Party members or Friends of the Earth although one or two claimed to be.

Most members of the public who voiced an opinion were absolutely dead set against any new river crossing, in fact I only noted one, the Reverend Jane Yeadon, a vicar from Thamesmead, who was brave enough to suggest that not all journeys could be made by public transport or a on a bike.

A rather larger number expressed their discontent with Bexley politicians and its council for not being represented at the meeting in any shape or form.

There were two speakers, John Elliott, a civil cngineer and transport consultant who has been involved with Thames Crossings since the 1960s and Dr. Ian Mudway, from King’s College Hospital whose specialism is air pollution and in particular how it affects children and their development.


CrossingsJohn Elliott set about preaching to the largely converted that new roads do not solve congestion problems and gave four examples from the distant past where new roads in London became full within a year of their opening. The second Blackwall Tunnel was said to produce a 106% increase in traffic levels twelve months after Desmond Plummer cut the opening ribbon in 1967.

After showing a map dating from 1944 that outlined a bridge at Gallions Reach he quoted from a book of the same era which said that “cities can only exist by discouraging car use”. I can understand the truth of that up to a point but like most ideas, if taken to extremes can have perverse affects.

Would the country be better off if Ernest Marples had not pushed for motorways in the 1950s or the Greater London Council had not authorised the second bore at Blackwall around the same time?

Deaths from air pollution might be much reduced but with infrastructure dating from a bygone age would the country be rich enough to support a health service, or much else? John Elliott did very little to persuade me to his point of view. I simply couldn’t understand his claim that a Silvertown Tunnel would not provide “resilience” for Blackwall.

Dr. Mudway on the other hand certainly knew how to make his audience take notice. His studies indicated that London suffered nearly 10,000 more deaths each year due to diesel particulates and nitrogen dioxide, the brown fug that may be seen from Bexley’s high points towards central London.
Pollution
That is a figure far worse than the obesity crisis and the pollution levels in Tower Hamlets in particular were constantly above EU permitted levels. The Treasury itself calculates the cost to the UK economy as being somewhere north of £16 billion a year.

Diesel exhaust was rated a Type 1 carcinogen and tests on Tower Hamlet’s children showed worrying levels of metals and toxins in their urine and that their lung capacity was below expectations. Both would have an effect on health in later life.

The metal came from tyres, brake pads and dust from vehicle components (engine wear etc.), not all of which is passed through the childtren’s urine. Some sticks in the body for ever and schools are nearly always built in the cheapest and most polluted locations.

As the meeting ended I asked a question too and learned that the air pollution problem is almost entirely due to diesel engines and that new petrol engines are acceptably clean. Foreign cities that do not permit diesel powered vehicles do not have a pollution problem.

As some readers may remember my son moved on from the Transport Research Laboratory after his report on safely narrowing roads was flung in my own face by Bexley council as justification for vandalising our roads, to working for the EU and more recently in a freelance capacity.

That took him to Switzerland earlier this year where their government is planning another road tunnel through the Alps. They wanted to know what road vehicles would be like in ten to twenty years time. Apart from being driverless many will be battery powered. That will have a huge impact on tunnel ventilation systems.

Maybe TfL is similarly planning for the future and sees cleaner vehicles as its salvation. Dr. Mudway’s presentation was undoubtedly impressive and very worrying. However if diesel engines were banned - or more realistically taxed out of existence -and electrically powered cars became more commonplace his concerns would disappear.

If Blackwall Tunnel remains a bottleneck it would be frustrating and probably an economic disaster zone, but at least we wouldn’t be poisoning children and blighting their old age.

 

15 September (Part 3) - Fibre for Welling?

In January this year I was sent information suggesting that one reason for there being no fibre broadband in parts of Welling was because one resident had objected to BT Openreach siting a cabinet in the road outside his house and Bexley council had backed him.

BT had better things to do than argue and installed fibre broadband where it met with least resistance.

A website had been set up to make the case for fibre in Welling. www.wellingfibre.co.uk. The owner and other affected Welling residents may be interested in the following announcement.
Fibre
Click image for source web page.

 

15 September (Part 2) - We’ll be back

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the day when the first few pages of Bexley is Bonkers limped nervously on to the web. It was not my intention to create a blog, the object was simply to publish some correspondence which exposed the extent of Bexley council’s willingness to lie its way out of trouble.

If I had known what it would lead to I might have had second thoughts but it would seem that I was not alone in being a recipient of council lies and there has been a steady stream of stories to report ever since.

Keeping up with it all has sometimes been difficult and normal life has suffered to some extent and a bit of help would have been welcome, but that isn’t very practical.

Last July the BiB Facebook account was abandoned as a waste of my time. I never could understand how it was supposed to work. How is it that I can just about handle what has become increasingly complex web coding and cannot get my head around what every teenager can do on a mobile? Now there’s another bit of mystery technology.

The Facebook decision came in for criticism and I was told it was a lost opportunity. Today I have handed it over to a long term Bonkers reader who will try to get to grips with it on my behalf. Does the lady know what she is letting herself in for?


UKIPAnother long term reader who could conceivably save me some time is Mick Barnbrook. In ten days time he will move out of the borough. That should cause much rejoicing in Watling Street but it would be misplaced. He has lots of reasons to retain his Bexley contacts and intends to continue to attend Bexley council meetings, although perhaps not the Audit Committee meeting on the 24th.

No longer will we be able to enjoy the spectacle of a councillor refusing to answer Mick’s legitimate question on the grounds that Mick has over the years spread his political allegiances over too many parties. Questions are for residents only.

I wonder how Mick will like living under a UKIP council? The one party against which he has never made a criminal allegation and the one party that refuses to have him as a member.

Finally just a quick site note. While out photographing Crossrail developments I have quite often been asked if the pictures may be seen on the web. Spelling out bexley is bonkers dot co dot uk slash indices slash crossrail dot php is one hell of a mouthful and then it has to be explained that bexley is bonkers must be hyphenated. So as from today bexleyisbonkers.co.uk (no hyphens) is all that is needed to get to the Crossrail Index.

That should make the question easier to answer when next I am on a windswept station platform.

Note: www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/crossrail has also worked for some time and will continue to do so.

 

15 September (Part 1) - Mind the gap

Later today I shall make the three and a half mile journey to East Ham laden with food from the new Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s store. As I approach the station I shall almost certainly hear Southeastern apologising for the late arrival of their next train.


SoutheasternExcluding the diversion to Sainsbury’s and train (three or four of them depending on which DLR leaves Woolwich Arsenal first) delays it is a journey that takes just over an hour door to door and I have been doing it three or four times a week for four months.

Every journey is a reason to curse Teresa O’Neill OBE (Obstructing Bridges Enthusiastically) who pretty much single handedly, and to safeguard her own election in Brampton ward, told new mayor Johnson in 2008 that he had to cancel Ken Livingston’s bridge.

Now that Bexley council is flat broke and needs to increase its tax base it has suddenly realised that a three mile an hour public transport system is an impediment to their plans. There could now be two bridges not just one.

As always happens, new infrastructure does not please everyone, and the anti group is going to meet in the Abbey Wood Community Centre this evening. I wasn’t planning on going but now that the General Purposes meeting is cancelled I can - and will.

I have never been able to understand how a line of near stationary traffic is less polluting than free moving vehicles. Perhaps I shall come away with a plausible explanation but their message, “calling opponents” suggests they only really want to preach to the converted.

Meeting
Click image for source website.

 

14 September (Part 3) - Full house

Streetlife Bins
A lot of residents are very unhappy with Bexley council for leaving almost a one month gap in garden and food waste collections, but not everyone has been deprived. And this house (Image 2) doesn’t even belong to a councillor!

 

14 September (Part 2) - Back to work but not yet

BexleyMick Barnbrook phoned me yesterday having somehow seen the blog. I suggested to him that we had better things to do than insist the General Purposes Committee meeting was cancelled because the Agenda was unavailable, but Bexley council didn’t know that and cancelled the meeting anyway.

The point was made two years ago when a cabinet meeting had to be postponed for the same reason.

Also, the General Purposes Committee officer is always very accommodating to members of the public and deserves some latitude. The same could not be said for Cabinet Meetings in 2013.

 

14 September (Part 1) - Boundaries Commission consultation

To those who pointed out that Bexley wasn’t listed on the Boundaries Commission website linked from BiB on 7th September, thanks, but it is now.

 

13 September (Part 2) - A walk from Lesnes Abbey to Southmere Lake

The information provided at the last Lesnes Abbey event which suggested the builders would be back on the site of the new visitors’ centre by last week proved to be optimistic. Except for where some artefacts were discovered just below the surface, the site still looks much the same as it did last January. (Photo 1.)

Another long delayed project is at the Southmere Lake end of the Green Chain Walk. It was supposed to be completed last May and still looks to be several weeks away from completion.

However it is no ordinary makeover and Peabody is trying very hard to make it rather spectacular with some sort of terraced arena overlooking the lake. The fear as always in Thamesmead is vandalism. If there was none I would not have been able to gain access to take the photographs.
Lesnes Abbey Green Chain Broadway Broadway
There have been no North Kent line trains this weekend and it is difficult to see any justification for it. There have been a few men moving track ballast from one place to another but nothing remarkable as on some recent weekends. The photographs are in what has now become the usual place for Crossrail pictures.

 

13 September (Part 1) - Back to work, probably

Bexley council drifts back to work this week. It doesn’t really get down to business until Public Cabinet on 13th October but next Tuesday sees a General Purposes committee meeting - or maybe it won’t.

BexleyIt’s a legal requirement that the agenda for public meetings is published a week before the event and as of today, none is available.

Click the image to check for yourself. Quickly before they fix it.

Last time that happened Mick Barnbrook and co. forced the council to postpone the meeting. I doubt that will happen this time, not that Mick has gone soft or anything, but he currently has no computer and won’t know.

It is by my side right now being fixed. He tried to install Windows 10 on it and it objected big time.

Is there anything in Windows 10 that anyone with Windows 7 would want?

 

12 September (Part 2) - Water torture. Belvedere Splash Park still threatened

The first Splash Park deadline passed last week and there is almost no information around about what might be happening.

BexleyTwo groups were said to be interested in the early days and that is almost certainly still the case but any cooperation between them is entirely one way. One might have thought that collaboration between the two could only be beneficial but the charity leaders’ offers have fallen on deaf ears.

The commercial organisation backed by Erith & Thamesmead Conservative General Election candidate Anna Firth shows no sign of wanting to speak to anyone.

Putting a business plan before Bexley council is a daunting prospect for the team of volunteers behind Friends of Belvedere Heritage. Bexley council will not make it easy for ‘amateurs’.

Remember how the council turned down Howbury Friends with a proven track record of success in Slade Green in favour of their business friends? To them, volunteers spell Socialism, and it is only business that appeals to Bexley Conservatives.

Bexley council’s invitation to tender.

 

12 September (Part 1) - Pay the bin tax and get less service than the refuseniks

My slightly troublesome bin responded positively to careful heat treatment and the plastic hinge has relaxed into a better position. But not everyone is happy.


StreetlifeSuzanne C makes a good point when she says residents who paid the bin tax should not have been left without one but some of the complainers on Streetlife appear to have forgotten about the practicalities.

John Ferry who is paid to lie on behalf of Bexley council may have said that 27,000 orders was significantly above expectations when the truth is that the council was banking on getting 30,000 but they would nevertheless have been very silly to have ordered 30,000 bins up front.

In all probability they waited until orders approached 10,000 before putting in an order and that batch is being distributed now with a second and third due later.

Geographically speaking it isn’t practical to collect the old bins or deliver the new on an individual coordinated basis, it has to be done street by street.

Press Relase
Where things have gone wrong is the withdrawal of old bins a month before the new service starts.

My own enquiries reveal that it wasn’t just me who lost the old bin last Saturday, everyone nearby who had ordered a new one lost theirs too whether their new one was in the first batch or the last. Those who didn’t pay up still have their old one and benefitting from a normal service. I know that because I used my non-gardening neighbour’s bin yesterday and it was both emptied and returned to its normal position.

Why are those who didn’t pay the bin tax getting a better service than those who did?

It would have been far better if the collection of old bins had been deferred until the end of the month. After all, the new service is not going to start until then.

The distribution arrangements could never be perfectly fair but a council that was truly ‘Working for you’ would not have arbitrarily left a month gap between services just because they are not legally obliged to remove garden waste.

That does not apply to food waste but thanks to Bexley’s lack of forethought I have nowhere to put it. (†) Distribution of the little food only bins has been just as haphazard as their big brothers’ and I can see no excuse for that. The number required was known from the outset. In the next road they have them, in mine no one does.

† This is theory rather than practice. I have never found the need to throw food in any bin. The new one will be stored in the loft where the last one has been for ten years.

 

11 September (Part 3) - Spot Anna Firth

MeetingCouncillor Philip Rude, the North Heath Numpty, via the letters page of the News Shopper, has been trying to convince the gullible that Erith & Thamesmead’s failed Tory candidate is a better bet for improving train services than the sitting MP.

So here’s a photograph taken at a meeting held this week by Transport Minister Claire Perry where she listened to representations against Southeastern’s sometimes lamentable train services.

I can see David Evennett MP listening intently and I can see Teresa Pearce next to him, but I see no sign that Philip Rude and his protégé has any influence whatsoever.

 

11 September (Part 2) - Travelling Southeastern may be hard work but…

There were several emails yesterday to tell me about a new European court ruling about travelling time to work and all of them referred to the plight of Bexley’s domiciliary care workers who are paid neither for their travelling time between clients or the cost of that travelling.


Court rulingIt’s an obvious injustice and the problem is widespread as I discovered after getting involved with domiciliary care issues in Newham recently. Bexley is only unique because it was callous enough to brag that it pays its care agencies at an even lower rate than any other nearby borough. They are actually proud of it.

Like most laws emanating from Europe it appears to be ill thought out or maybe inadequately reported.

Nearly 50 years ago I worked just a stone’s throw from London Bridge station and one of my colleagues commuted by train daily from Weston Super Mare - and no Jubilee Line in the 1960s. Maybe trains were quicker back then but even so; should his travelling time ever have been considered to be part of his working day?

Travelling as a necessary part of the job after first reporting for duty must however be entirely different. What Bexley’s domiciliary care workers have to put up with is absolutely ridiculous and if council tax has to go up a bit to pay for it, so be it.

 

11 September (Part 1) - I've bin sabotaged

BinA new brown bin was delivered to me soon after seven this morning. A quick walk round shows a 20% (excluding flats) take up in my road with rather more in the next.

A neighbour’s new bin already contained a collection of tin cans and a plastic bottle presumably dumped in it by a passer-by. Abuse is likely to be a major problem.

My own bin is so poorly made that the lid won’t shut and cannot be made to shut short of attacking it with a hacksaw. If I leave it out with the lid up will it prove to be a good excuse for Bexley council not to empty it?

An apology: Yesterday’s blog linking to new pictures of the not yet in use Bostall Manorway railway footbridge unfortunately took you to old pictures. The link now goes to the correct place.

 

10 September (Part 2) - Lion Road. Taking shape

The trip to inspect progress on Phase II of the Broadway regeneration scheme has slipped to a nearly two week gap and once again Broadway was busy but the traffic delays were short-lived. There had been noticeable progress at the Lion Road junction and what was a hole in the ground on 30th August is now beginning to look like a footpath, or a road, or something.

The migrating paving slabs outside Asda are receiving attention, perhaps more of a short-term bodge than a solution to the problem. But the cracks are being filled with mortar.
Broadway Broadway Broadway Broadway

 

10 September (Part 1) - Sow’s ear to silk purse

Abbey ArmsThe transformation of Wilton Road, or Abbey Wood village as I have heard it called, will not be easy, and £300,000 will not go far. The new owner of the Abbey Arms is making an effort, the scaffolding has gone and the painter was putting the finishing touches to the door frame this morning.

Some attractive noticeboards now adorn the facia and all that is needed now is a new hanging sign. Oh, and removal of the unsavoury looking characters that call it home.

Crossrail is progressing fast on so many fronts around Abbey Wood station that a weekends only update is barely enough to keep abreast of it.

Progress on the new platform, footbridge and foundations for the new station are shown separately.

There are also some new pictures of the Bostall Manorway footbridge installed almost three weeks ago as it is readied for use within the next three weeks. The old one is due for demolition on the 26th September.

Wilton Road

 

9 September (Part 4) - There’s an awful lot of rubbish about

People on Streetlife are still offering each other advice on when their bins might be delivered. The information from Bexley council could be clearer. My bin ordered in the first week of June has not been delivered yet but I appear to have lost the one put out last Saturday. (Bank Holiday week.)


TweetFor the latest on what Bexley council has to say on the matter, look here.

When the detail of the bin tax scheme was first announced the hope was that 40% (30,000) of homes would sign up. Now that 27,000 have done so it is “significantly above expectations”.

It’s Bexley; where the council will never miss an opportunity to lie.

PR

 

9 September (Part 3) - Shoppered. The North Heath numpty strikes again

ReadThe News Shopper’s website threw a wobbly this morning and claimed the email address I have used for at least six years and which they use to send me stuff daily, was not registered with them.

When the glitch went away and I looked at the letters page in today’s issue I rather wished I hadn’t. There was councillor Philip Rude being spiteful again. He can’t help himself. He has singled out Bexley Labour councillors one third his age for ridicule and personal insults, so why not malign an MP?

Rude is not someone with a shred of decency in him. He not only picks on councillors he makes up malicious stories about residents too. He excelled himself by getting a now retired Bexley blogger banged up in a cell for 24 hours based on his vivid imagination and the sure knowledge that Bexley police were always ready to do Bexley council’s bidding. It took a judge in Bromley to see Rude’s story for what it was and have the blogger released.

So now he is making mischief by telling News Shopper readers that Erith & Thamesmead Labour party is supported by unions. Well excuse me, but what a surprise. I bet you never knew that. The Labour party best mates with the unions. Whatever next?

It doesn’t take a lot of digging to discover that Teresa Pearce is a member of several unions. The Public and Commercial Services, the Bakers’ and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union.

The public doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. Teresa Pearce trounced the Conservative Anna Firth last May with half the vote against a miserable quarter. A far worse Tory result than in 2010.

Rude’s point appears to be that being a member of the RMT is incompatible with being concerned about the cost of travel. What a strange assumption. Maybe Teresa would be on the side of a bakery with poor hygiene standards

Rather more likely is that union membership is a cheap way of keeping in touch with developments in those industries.

There is a huge industrial scale bakery and a large bus garage not far from Teresa’s patch and I would guess a lot of the workers live in the Erith & Thamesmead constituency. I may be wrong but as a theory it is no more ridiculous than membership of the RMT equating with enthusiasm for high rail fares.

If I thought they would let me I would rejoin the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association. It might be a cheap way of getting information on that shady outfit.

It’s disappointing to find that Anna Firth is still keen to have her name linked with Rude’s. I was within an inch of voting for her. A lucky escape.

 

9 September (Part 2) - Brum is Bonkers too

It’s not just in Bexley that the police and council leaders run a self-protection racket. (Maybe used to in Bexley’s case.)

Let me remind you of just three things. When Hugh Neal (Maggot Sandwich) blogged about Teresa O’Neill understanding nothing except perhaps pitchforks and flaming torches, and I reported his comments, only a few days elapsed before the police jumped at the Fat Controller’s command and threatened me with arrest for being “critical of councillors”.

At a later date I was also taken aside by the police and told I should no longer refer to the FC in those terms.

When councillor Peter Craske allowed someone to commit a crime via his internet connection, the police let eight months go by between tracing the crime to his address and going around to his place to seize his computer.

Read this and see the similarities. Police corruption is almost the norm.

 

9 September (Part 1) - Champagne socialists?

James Cordon, I’m not sure who he is but never mind, is alleged to have said that Sidcup is close to being the armpit of England. Maybe he meant close to the armpit of England because Newham is not that far away.

However Mr. Cordon appears to have got up a few local noses. The Labour party (Longlands covers the south side of Sidcup) tried to get back at him yesterday with this combative Tweet. On my way to the armpit of England by train I picked up a copy of The Metro and read Page 27.


TweetIn what appeared to be more an advertising feature than a news item it sung the praises of Sidcup as a good place to buy an affordable home.

Affordable?

It said you could buy a two bedroomed flat on the Park View development for a mere £335,000. I’d consider myself quite fortunate if I was able to sell my three bedroom detached plus garage and garden for that.

By implication, does the Labour party now call a third of a million for a pokey little flat affordable by the average working man?

On Sunday while taking the Crossrail pictures I met a couple from Suffolk, Londoners by birth, who had driven down to look at the Crossness sewage works. Magnificent was their verdict, and they had discovered Lesnes Abbey too which they had never heard of before.
Crossness
They had paid to park in Gayton Road and had looked in the estate agent’s window and were shocked by the prices in both. I explained that they were standing in the cheapest area in London for housing. I don’t think they will be moving south any time soon.

 

8 September (Part 2) - Taken in for questioning

To the rhythmic beat of the Abbey Wood station piling rig, the Wilton Road consultation team, Rebecca and Sally, tried one more time today to see if any resident or passer-by had any bright ideas on how £300,000 might best be spent on it.


Crossrail ConsultationAs I stood around looking on, a lady, grandmother probably, with a toddler in a pushchair declined an invitation to take part in the survey.

“Councils always do what they like, so what’s the point?” she said whilst trying to refuse the offer of a card with the survey’s web address on it.

As I hadn’t taken part in the consultation for much the same reason as granny I let Rebecca run through quite a lot of questions. They weren’t very difficult except that I hesitated when I got to the one that asked if I was intimidated by the area.

“Well I’ve not in nearly 30 years been inside the pub” I said. “It looks intimidating and the gaggle of smokers and worse hanging around the door is definitely intimidating, but apart from that nothing in Wilton Road concerns me personally.”

“We could do without the men outside the betting offices hurling obscenities into their mobile phones and the same goes for the small gangs of loitering young men, but I have learned that they take no notice of old people going about their business. If I was a thirty year old wearing the wrong football shirt or had the wrong colour skin, I might have something to worry about.”

By then Sally had joined her colleague. “That's exactly what all the older people say”, she said. “Younger people or anyone new to the area do feel vulnerable though.”

So maybe it’s a priority to police the area more actively. I don’t think I have ever seen an officer on foot in Wilton Road. They show up, sirens blaring, when there is trouble, but in the main they are far more interested in stopping motorists on the flyover.
Flyover

 

8 September (Part 1) - All crooks together

Will TuckleyWith the two most corrupt councils in London now linked by a Chief Executive who the police decided to refer to the Crown Prosecution Service for refusing to examine the lies told against residents by councillor Cheryl Bacon, wife of GLA member Gareth, it is time to revisit some aspects of the allegations against Will Tuckley and Cheryl Bacon for the benefit of new readers.

Actually some of what appears below is new to Bexley is Bonkers so hopefully those who have been following the story since June 2013 will not be too bored.

First some extracts of what honest councillors said, out of the dozen present, in written statements to the police. (Nicholas Dowling was the man with the audio recorder.)


I can confirm that at no time was there any general disturbance created by any member of the pubic, all of whom remained polite and orderly at all times.

Mr. Dowling was polite throughout, never raised his voice and did not put his recorder within six inches of Councillor Bacon's face or anything remotely similar, contrary to the statement by the Deputy Leader on BBC television.

Malcolm Knight sat alone at a table placed no more than five feet from the nearest councillor and said nothing, waved no papers and remained in his seat throughout.

All the members of the public were excluded [from the meeting] and not on an individual basis.


There is loads more in similar vein. Not one councillor felt able to provide a single word of support for councillor Bacon’s version of events. i.e. there was a mini-riot.

The council’s Committee Officer who organised the meeting and took the minutes made no reference to any misbehaviour during the meeting either.

On 7th July 2013 Bexley’s then Deputy Council Leader, Colin Campbell went on BBC TV to discuss the issue of recording council meetings. Ironically the programme included similar goings on in Tower Hamlets too.

This is what Colin Campbell said. Listen carefully, I am perfectly happy to state publicly that every single word in defence of Cheryl Bacon is a lie.

• Nicholas and I are part of “a small group of people with a history of disrupting meetings and being abusive”. So why were we not banned from attending council meetings?
• “The chairman went and talked to the individuals”. No she didn’t, she came nowhere near to me and spoke only to Nicholas Dowling.
• “They absolutely refused to stop disrupting the meeting”. As the councillors were happy to put in writing, there was no disruption.
• “A group of people were breaking up a meeting. It was quite obvious from the beginning that they were there to disrupt the meeting.”
• “We allow cameras already.” Another Campbell lie. My requests to use a camera both before and after the broadcast were all turned down. A Freedom of Information request confirmed that no one had ever been allowed to photograph a Bexley council meeting.


If it had been me who had taken the lead on seeking the prosecution of Will Tuckley, Cheryl Bacon and Lynn Tyler, I would have included Colin Campbell in the list of conspirators. Nick Hollier (Director of Human Resources) too for the part he played in it, but Mick Barnbrook decided otherwise. I was merely one of the four co-signatories to the allegation.


Teresa O'NeillOne must wonder how Campbell knew so much about the meeting. Just like every single supporter of the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon, Campbell wasn’t there. Those that were knew the truth and were never asked their opinions. They told the police that too.

Who could have told the Deputy Leader what to say? There can be only one answer to that. It has to be the Leader herself who approved Deputy Leader Campbell’s script. Teresa O’Neill OBE (Obnoxious Bullshit Espouser).

Following the meeting I made a complaint to OFCOM about the BBC broadcasting lies and sought a correction. They acknowledged my complaint and promised a reply. I am still waiting for it. There are few quangos as useless as OFCOM.

 

7 September (Part 5) - Links, but no link

I usually check web links, can’t remember the last time I didn’t, but this afternoon I had an invitation to “meet me under the clock at Waterloo” and I had to rush off in a hurry.

How do people put up with that journey daily?

The destination indicators at Abbey Wood were showing trains running almost an hour late with the predicted arrival time already half an hour in the past. I suppose it was just Windows freezing again but it was confusing a lot of people. One rant from a lady trying to get to Blackheath was quite entertaining, but not so funny if you need to get to work on time as she did.

However the next Charing Cross train managed to get into London on time.

Then I found out the hard way that there is a two hour gap in the timetable for everyone hoping to get back to Charlton and all points east from Waterloo. As I knew, no services at all stop at London Bridge.

I arrived at London Bridge via the Jubilee Line and found there is no obvious way up to Platform 1. The escalators were barricaded off and at a standstill.

Eventually going a very long way round to Platform 1 I discovered there was no train due over the next 15 minutes, there's one every ten minutes outside the peak period. It makes me very glad I don’t have to do that journey every day. When I did, fast trains completed the journey ten minutes quicker too.

The day didn’t improve when I got home. Several emails to say the Boundaries Commission link was wrong. As far as I can tell it isn’t wrong but the Boundaries Commission apparently knows nothing of a consultation in Bexley. Bexley has probably jumped the gun.

I can’t imagine that many will care.

 

7 September (Part 4) - Death and destruction

A reader told me that if I had been sitting where I am now 75 years ago today things may have been even noisier than they were yesterday with Network Rail shaking the foundations.

She said that German bombers intent on attacking the Arsenal offloaded a few bombs by the side of the North Kent railway line. Six people were killed and several more seriously injured.


DoodlebugI found a brief reference to it which unfortunately does not reveal the exact location but if it is not far from me there are enough clues to enable a good guess.

Perhaps I should tell the lady reader that I am not old enough to have been sitting here 75 years ago but I did manage to survive a similar experience when a Doodlebug had a direct hit on the house next door to where I was born in York Road, Leyton.

I suppose it has to be 1944. One day I must try to look up the precise time and date.

 

7 September (Part 3) - Boundaries consultation. Don’t all rush at once

The last time Bexley council was seriously involved in discussions with the Boundaries Commission was when the ruling Tories thought it would be a good idea to lend left leaning Erith & Thamesmead some parliamentary votes from true blue Sidcup which has a strong enough Conservative majority to be able to spare them. Then to balance up the numbers, some Erith votes could be shunted into Bexleyheath and Crayford, but not enough to push that right leaning constituency into Labour’s hands.

I loved some of their justifications for that ruse. The best must have been that Erith and Welling both produced arms during the First World War.

Shuffling votes around in that way was a very cunning trick, immoral but clever, but unfortunately for the ruling clique the Boundaries Commission saw right through it.

Now it’s council ward territories that are under discussion. As a compromise between the existing 63 wards and the threatened 18, Bexley’s councillors have united behind a figure of 45.

Today the subject has reached the consultation stage and residents are invited to say have their say.

Probably you should get in quick, in all probability residents will be wildly enthusiastic to give their opinion.

 

7 September (Part 2) - Waste

Bexley council seems to be getting a pretty bad press on Streetlife.


StreetlifeThe problem would appear to be that no two people are being treated the same and Streetlife makes it easy for people to compare notes.

July sign ups for the bin tax have no new bins while very recent sign ups have theirs. Or so it is said.

Some people have had their old bins removed while neighbours still have theirs. Whether they will ever be emptied again is anybody’s guess.

Recycling appears not to be the only council department where confusion reigns.

More than two weeks ago (21st August) I received my electoral registration form and I completed it on line within the hour. Easy, no snags whatsoever. Far easier than any of Bexley council’s consultation forms.

The system sent me a receipt more or less immediately. (See first image below.)

However this morning the postman brought me a letter (second image) from Mr. Dave Easton, Head of Electoral and Members’ Services

Now I don’t know for certain if I am registered or not. What is the cost in wasted postages charges?

Electoral register
Electoral register

 

7 September (Part 1) - Welcome words on Will from Greenwich

A week ago I had to tell a journalist that I had no written confirmation from the police that Will Tuckley and Co. had been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. He therefore said he had little option but to believe the lies put out by Bexley and Tower Hamlets councils that the case against Mr. Tuckley (plus councillor Cheryl Bacon and Legal Manager Lynn Tyler) was dropped last December.

Until last week what Greenwich police had said on the telephone had been quite sufficient. There had never been the slightest suspicion that they might be leading anyone up the garden path as Bexley police tried to do three years ago.


Peter Craske arrestedWhen councillor Peter Craske was under suspicion for a crime that (unknown to his victims at the time) had been traced to his home address, no Bexley police officer ever breathed a word about it.

They claimed it would prejudice any prosecution that might follow.

All we had to go on was the News Shopper and with all their proper journalists gone or relegated to interviewing celebrities there is little hope of local press coverage this time around.

However next time a journalist asks if I have it in writing that Will Tuckley has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service I will be able to say yes.

Greenwich police caught up on their outstanding correspondence over the weekend.

 

6 September - Banging, grinding, throbbing and scraping

CrossrailIf you live close to Abbey or Alsike Roads, near the railway line and got little sleep last night, the reason for the noisy - and dusty - night is available in 100 pictures.

The work was close to completed by 4 p.m. Sunday although the big Blafour Beatty/Plasser ballast tamping machine was still rumbling up and down the track until well into the evening.

Saturday and Sunday.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

5 September (Part 3) - Track in the tunnel

CrossrailThere is so much going on around Abbey Wood station at the moment that there is a danger that last week’s Crossrail developments west of Abbey Wood station will go unreported.

Not that the photos are particularly brilliant. Of five return journeys to Woolwich Arsenal since last weekend three have been ruined, photographically speaking, because the heavens opened at an inopportune time and train windows covered in rain drops proved to be totally incompatible with picture taking.

Then, Murphy’s Law, the view was twice obscured by a passing train. So there are no pictures of the yellow concreting train entering the Plumstead tunnels and the poor weather did not allow particularly good views of it in the Plumstead sidings. The low loader rail wagons were in the tunnel but are virtually invisible from a passing train.

Maybe I should buy a drone. But for Crossrail completists, these few are the best available.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

5 September (Part 2) - Bin fiasco updated. An OBE (Odd Bin Experience)

BinsIt was my bin collection day today and my brown bin disappeared. No one else's has as far as I can tell and to the best of my knowledge I am the only resident nearby to have signed up for the bin tax. Coincidence? Who knows.

According to those who have enquired, our useless council is going to leave everyone, gardeners who have paid their £27 or £30 as well, with no service at all until possibly as late as mid-October.

And then the idiots wonder why fly tipping is at epidemic levels.

It seems to me if you still have a bin and value it, put it in your back garden out of sight and ask a neighbour who never uses their brown bin and doesn’t want it - like mine - if you can use their bin. Then theirs might be collected instead.

I should have thought of that earlier.

 

5 September (Part 1) - Six weekends without a train service

CrossrailThe two weeks since the last weekend line closure through Abbey Wood has seen a lot of separate Crossrail activities going on all aimed at getting North Kent line trains on to the new station platform by February next year.

Abbey Wood will not see another weekend passenger train for six whole weeks. The place may look quite different afterwards.

It’s not often that I see anything Crossrail related worth complaining about but removing all the street lights from Gayton Road - replaced by wall lights on the northern footpath - and then erecting barriers which force pedestrian along another route (Photo 1 alongside) makes the trip (pun intended) somewhat hazardous after dark.

There is not only no lighting but Bexley council has allowed the area shown to be broken up by protruding tree roots. Fortunately things should be back to normal by the end of the month.

At the end of Gayton Road Network rail seems to have got the measure of the local vandalism problems by enclosing their box of electrical bits and pieces with a block wall topped out with metal spikes. An identical box of tricks in Crayford has no such protection.

As shown below work on clearing the utility conduits from where the station foundations will shortly go continues as does the platform which is now being topped out, and at the western end of the station piling for a second station footbridge has just begun.

The spots on large photographs are raindrops. Difficult to avoid over the past week or two.

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

 

4 September (Part 3) - Poison Pen Letter

Bexley TimesFeedback from within Conservative circles said they were very annoyed by what they saw as support of Teresa Pearce in last Wednesday’s blog.

It wasn’t support at all. It agreed that Teresa’s party has an appalling record on rail fares and that the Tories (Boris Johnson excepted) have not been quite as bad. However it did attempt to introduce some facts into the argument to counter Anna Firth’s distortions.

Anna was either extremely mischievous or just plain stupid to complain that Teresa Pearce’s election campaign didn’t start until the Parliamentary session had ended. What else did she expect?

Is Anna Firth really the original disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, sorry Sevenoaks, wielding her green inked pen?

Well if it annoys councillor Philip Read and his ilk, let’s do it again to commemorate the fact that Anna repeated her News Shopper bilge in the Bexley Times a day later.

“A shallow attempt to score political points.” Oh, the irony!

 

4 September (Part 2) - Bexley council’s rubbish

BinsIt’s one of those things that you feel can only be a disaster waiting to happen.

Bexley council has provided a simple and effective free garden waste collection service for nearly ten years riding to the top of the recycling league tables on the back of it, effectively weaning residents off of bonfires and huge compost heaps, and then it’s all change.

How will the 25,000 people prepared to pay for their bins stop the other 50,000 gardeners filling them up? A problem everywhere but especially so in places with communal bin areas, flats for example.

What about those who could accommodate their 140 litre bin but not one nearly twice the size?

How do they collect the old bins from people who keep theirs where they are most useful? In their back gardens. And why are they so keen to do so when the scrap value was said to be under £1 and the collection and disposal costs every bit as much? (Former cabinet member for bins, Don Massey at a council meeting.)

Why are they leaving a gap of a month between old and new style collections as the accompanying streetlife post claims?

Because they haven’t got a clue.

 

4 September (Part 1) - Tower Hamlets. A minor update

Yesterday’s early morning blog about Tower Hamlets contained an error.

It was reported that Tower Hamlets councillor Abjol Miah had circulated a difficult to understand email to his colleagues.

Tower Hamlets politics is complicated but as I understand it Abjol was a supporter of the disgraced mayor Lutfur Rahman and when he was ejected became an Independent but later defected to Labour.

I now realise that his email was not as confused as I at first thought. The copy I received had been annotated with the comments of A.N.Other before reaching me and in some places (not all) in an identical type face. The deciphered email was clearly in support of Will Tuckley’s appointment.

The email source asked me not to make it public so I won’t and the critical reference to it in yesterday’s blog has been removed.

In other developments a Freedom of Information Request and a Subject Access Request have been submitted, the aim being to discover what Bexley council said about Mick Barnbrook and me that could have persuaded Tower Hamlets council to call us Fascists.

I expect it will be refused on the grounds that the documents contain personal information about ourselves. Then it will go to the Information Commissioner.

As this saga shows every sign of rolling on ad-infinitum, it has been given it's own Blog Index, like all the other long running Bexley scandals.

 

3 September (Part 3) - Tuckley Hamlets. The CPS reaches a decision

A third correspondent has been in touch to say he was present at last Wednesday’s meeting in Tower Hamlets and heard their Deputy Mayor Rachael Saunders refer to Bexley’s discredited Vexatious Fascist Blogger.

Being a forgiving sort of bloke I shall assume she was misinformed by the OBE (Outlandish Bogus Explanations). Apparently a confidential memo was circulated at the meeting which one can only assume was too libellous about Mick Barnbrook and maybe myself to be made public.

One of the Tower Hamlets councillors has circulated a message to his colleagues and it is so illiterate that I’m not absolutely sure whose side he is on. But he issues warnings about Bexley’s blogger.

Probably he is right to warn his colleagues but maybe not for the reasons he had in mind.


TuckleyThis morning I received another message from Greenwich police. Bexley council may well have told Tower Hamlets council that the case against Tuckley was dropped last December, which will be news to the councillors who were still being interviewed in March, but it is not true. Bexley council’s statements rarely are.

The news from Greenwich is that the Crown Prosecution Service has reached a decision on the Tuckley case.

They came to the conclusion that the case is far too serious to be treated as a run of the mill crime. The file, said to be among the biggest and most complex handled by Greenwich CID, was elevated to the CPS’s Special Review Case Lawyer on 28th August.

It looks like a case which will keep BiB busy for months. FOIs, Subject Access Requests and if the worst comes to the worst, an interview with the CPS and possibly a private prosecution.

It’s a shame that the press doesn't take any interest in the lies and corruption that runs through local politics. All in it together perhaps?

 

3 September (Part 2) - The Brown Bin Tax

Bexley council has issued yet another Press Release, this time on their scheme to charge for collecting garden waste.

it may be calculated from that PR that Bexley council has so far taken in nearly £700,000 via their brown bin stealth tax. The number of people signing up is said to be 25,000 and the discount period has been extended to December but now it is only three pounds off instead of six.


BinThe changeover is not a cost free operation, everyone is to get a new kitchen waste caddy. They may not be very good caddies if Brian Barnett’s picture offers any clue.

The old bins are being withdrawn at a cost which may just about be covered by their scrap value but the biggest con of all is that by getting residents to separate their kitchen and garden waste, Bexley council will save £444,000 a year in processing costs. Their estimate.

Cutting the garden waste service will be a very big money spinner for Bexley council once the start up costs have been written off.

 

3 September (Part 1) - Tower Hamlets. Twinned with Bexley

Two people who were at Tower Hamlets’ meeting to confirm the appointment of Will Tuckley as their Chief Executive have contacted me - and more than once - to say that the leader of their council, Rachael Saunders, dismissed the police investigation into Tuckley’s Misconduct as the ravings of a vexatious fascist blogger.

Although the discredited Tower Hamlets Commissioners have not bothered to reply to my email, Rachael Saunders to whom I had sent a copy did.

This is what she said…


Dear Mr Knight,

Thank you for your email and its clarifications, I have forwarded your email to the mayor, who led on this appointment process.

For what it is worth, what I said has been misreported. My comment about the politics of Mr Barnbroook was about him as the the original corresponder, not your blog. I note the further information about the BNP membership of Mr Barnbrook below.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Saunders

Rachael Saunders
Councillor for Mile End
Deputy Mayor
@rachaelsaunders


NewspaperThose who were there are adamant that Rachael Saunders uttered the F word too. Fascist.

However whilst Councillor Saunders denies referring to me, she admits that she made derogatory and untrue remarks about Mick Barnbrook, so the inevitable has happened.

Mick has filled in Tower Hamlet’s online complaints form. See it here.

Apart from Councillor Saunder’s brief response there has been a wall of silence set up around Tower Hamlets council.

The local newspaper editor did not respond to a complaint about her inaccurate report (extract above) and the Tower Hamlet’s Commissioners did not respond to Mick Barnbrook’s report or to mine, preferring instead to rely on the dishonesty of Bexley council.

Mick Barnbrook sent a complaint to the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark MP, and so did I. See below.


Dear Mr. Clark,

I wish to make a formal complaint against Sir Ken Knight, Max Caller, Chris Allison and Alan Wood, Commissioners appointed by you to oversee the appointment of Mr. Will Tuckley as Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council.

My complaint is that they failed to respond in any way whatsoever to my email dated 28th August in which I informed them of the police investigation into Will Tuckley, their chosen appointee as Chief Executive.

My report was absolutely true in every detail yet they ignored it after misguidedly proceeding on the basis of false information submitted by Bexley council and Mr. Tuckley.

My email is appended below.

Yours faithfully,

 

2 September (Part 2) - Claws out

It’s been a while since I found something in the News Shopper annoying but their letters page did it for me this morning.

Whatever was Anna Firth thinking of? I immediately thought ‘bad loser’.

She has a valid point when stating that the Labour government’s rail fare formula was a savage attack on commuters and the Coalition’s amendment was a little less so, and she should have stopped there. Instead she descended into an unbecoming cat fight about things she exhibited total ignorance on during the May 2015 general election campaign.

Anna Firth complains of 26% [Southeastern] rail fare rises under Labour but if she had looked at more recent TfL fare rises she could easily have beaten that figure. At some time or another during his seven years in office Boris Johnson has imposed double digit annual percentage increases on Travelcards, bus fares, bike charges and the Congestion Charge. A little research will find figures of 25%, 38%, even 100% quoted.

Being selective with the facts and targets for attack is to be expected from almost any politician but does Sevenoaks Council Cabinet Member Anna Firth have to make it so personal?

She started her Erith and Thamesmead campaign in January pointing at rubbish in the streets and standing at railway stations and her letter implies that Teresa Pearce ignored the issues by sitting on her bum elsewhere. In a manner of speaking that is true. Teresa was sitting on the green benches in the Commons when she wasn’t confined to a meeting room in Portcullis House as a member of the Treasury Select Committee. Her campaign couldn’t start until three weeks before the election.

One of the few things I have in common with Teresa Pearce is that we have both been using the North Kent railway line for around 30 years, 1984 in my case, 1985 in hers I believe. I think I know it pretty well, Teresa will likely feel the same.

One thing we both know far better than a resident of Sevenoaks, well Halstead if you must be pedantic, is that Woolwich Dockyard station, sandwiched between two tunnels, will only ever be able to take ten coach trains. Anna Firth may think she can wave a magic wand and see twelve coaches stopping there but until we get new trains equipped with selective door opening, it’s a non-starter. And that isn’t going to happen because Anna’s government hasn’t ordered any.

The cat woman says Teresa Pearce MP “had more important issues on her agenda” than campaign for better train services. Anna is absolutely right, Teresa Pearce was engaged in Parliamentary business.

Now that the electorate has declared Anna to be a loser, Teresa has been able to devote more time to Southeastern trains. She too has had a meeting with Claire Perry the Under Secretary at the Department of Transport. Improving Southeastern is a hard nut to crack. That last meeting didn’t go too well because the government has extended Southeastern’s franchise without them having to go through the bidding process.

Undeterred, Teresa is due to tackle Claire Perry again next week. What’s Anna doing? Is the Sevenoaks line so very much better?
News Shopper
Click letter for the News Shopper’s August 19th report.

 

2 September (Part 1) - How the other half lives

PerriorShe lagged behind councillors Peter Craske and Val Clark in being featured on Bonkers but councillor Katie Perrior was keen to elbow her way in. She had become fairly high profile by running Boris Johnson’s successful election campaign in 2008 through the Public Relations company that she owns.

Katie Perrior was handed the job of Bexley’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services which deteriorated to such an extent while she was in charge that OFSTED rated Bexley Inadequate. Children were put at risk. The senior manager at the head of the department remains in her position under the patronage of council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Orphaned Babies Endangered) but Katie Perrior left the council in 2014. Even now, by almost every measure, Bexley remains the worst performing borough in London for Children’s Services. Councillor Philip Read struggles to put it right.


Perrior whinesEarly in 2011 a storm blew up because Bexley councillors were discovered holding meetings (there were two)  in the Flackley Ash Hotel. If a hotel venue was essential there was a perfectly good one next door to their offices.

Before the News Shopper changed direction Bexley had two fearless local newspapers. The now defunct Bexley Chronicle did not hold back on its criticism of Bexley council and was not impressed by council meetings in posh hotels.

Katie Perrior was one of several councillors who reacted badly to its reports. She claimed that councillors had paid out of their own pockets. It would have been more honest to say that she did not claim subsistence while being put up at taxpayer’s expense.

Ms. Perrior’s letter to The Chronicle’s editor said he had facts wrong. She said she’d paid for the hotel herself (despite the bill clearly showing it went to Bexley council) and the all expenses paid weekend away was hard on her because as a poor penniless mother she could not afford it. She was not rich she bleated and without her councillor’s allowance she would be out of pocket and could not survive.

Her allowance at the time was £22,615 on top of which she claimed childcare.

The truth was always likely to be very different and last Wednesday Katie Perrior appeared on BBC TV to reveal all - for a fee no doubt.

She is on £100,000 a year and shops in Waitrose as her interview inside Sidcup’s branch reveals.

Bexley’s schools are not good enough for Katie. I wonder what Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller thinks of that.

 

1 September - Vexatious Facism

I hate making written complaints. Too often by the time the answer arrives life has moved on and I don’t much care any more.

You probably think I am constantly complaining to Bexley council but for the past four years at least I have only complained when they have committed a criminal offence against me. The obscene garbage that started life at the end of Cabinet member Peter Craske’s phone line and the lies perpetrated by councillor Cheryl Bacon and repeated to the press that I had participated in some sort riot in the council chamber when every councillor present knows that I neither moved nor said a word.

For someone who doesn’t like making complaints the past week has not been a good one. I spent most of Sunday writing a long report on the disaster zone which is Newham council’s Social Services Department. Quite literally they have not done a single thing right since I got involved with them in mid-July.

A few days earlier I had send a complaint to The Docklands and East London Advertiser because they reported that this blog was run by a vexatious fascist. There has been no reply and now I shall have to make a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. As if I have the spare time for that!

My email to Tower Hamlet’s Commissioners went unanswered too except that the copy to Council Leader Rachael Saunders provoked the comment that it wasn’t me she had called a vexatious fascist, it was Mick Barnbrook. There is only one place she could have got that nonsense from and that is the Obsessive Bun Eater at Bexley council of whom the Commissioners sought a report.

Mick didn’t get a reply to his email to the Commissioners either (there was an acknowledgement which is more than I received) and he is not the sort of man to take that lying down. Unlike me he is not reluctant to pen complaints.

Within the last few weeks Mick Barnbrook has extracted £500 compensation from Virgin Media after they left his elderly in-laws without a telephone service for 50 days, and rather incredibly he fought EasyJet who had swindled him as that airline is wont to do and beat them in court. The BBC took note of that triumph and interviewed Mick for a forthcoming programme on persistent complainers.

You will not therefore be surprised to learn that Mick has complained about the Tower Hamlets Commissioners ignoring him, to the Secretary of State for Communities Greg Clark no less.


Dear Mr Clark,

I wish to make a formal complaint against Sir Ken Knight, Max Caller, Chris Allison and Alan Wood, Commissioners appointed by you to oversee the appointment of Mr Will Tuckley as Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council.

My complaint relates to their failure to take proper account of an email I sent to them on 20th August 2015, relating to the appointment of Mr Tuckley.

On 12th August 2015, in accordance with directions issued by you on 29th April 2015, pursuant to Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999, requiring Tower Hamlets Council to complete the appointment of the Chief Executive post by 27th August 2015, Mr Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Bexley Council, was appointed as Chief Executive, subject to the appointment being confirmed at an extraordinary general meeting to be held by the full Council on 26th August 2015.

My email of 20th August 2015 sent to the Commissioners for Tower Hamlets Council, together with the Mayor, pointed out that Mr Tuckley was the subject of an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office, made by myself and three other members of the public and that the file relating to the allegation was with the Crown Prosecution Service awaiting a decision.

I also pointed out in the email that, as a result of the corrupt relationship that existed between Bexley Council and Bexleyheath Police whilst Mr Tuckley was Chief Executive, three Chief Superintendents, one Chief Inspector and two police constables were currently the subject of investigation by the Metropolitan Police Professional Standards Department for criminal offences and gross misconduct.

One councillor and two other Bexley Council employees are also subject to a criminal investigation along with Mr Tuckley relating to the same matter.

I suggested that in the circumstances it would be prudent to defer the appointment of Mr Tuckley, until a decision had been reached by the Crown Prosecution Service.

My allegation was the subject of a supplemental report by the Service Head, Human Resources and Workforce Development that was discussed prior to the decision by the full council at the council meeting on 26th August 2015.

In Section 3.5(c) of the report it states that as part of the technical assessment element of the recruitment process Mr Tuckley mentioned a website about Bexley Council (Bexley-is-Bonkers which the complainant is associated with) on which, from time to time numerous complaints, allegations and concerns have been raised. Reference was not made to any specific allegations.

I believe that section is deliberately ambiguous, in order to cover up the fact that both Tower Hamlets Council and the Commissioners would have been fully aware that Mr Tuckley was the subject of a criminal allegation, which is mentioned on the first page of the website.

I also consider Mr Tuckley was disingenuous in not mentioning at any stage of the selection process, the fact that he was the subject of a criminal investigation, a fact he was aware of.

Evidence that Mr Tuckley never mentioned at any time during the selection process, the fact that he was the subject of a criminal allegation, is contained in Section 3.3 of the report, where it states - AFTER receiving the emailed concerns of 20th August 2015, Mr Tuckley was asked to comment on the comments of the email.

I am confident that had he mentioned the fact, he was aware that he would not have been selected, bearing in mind the previous history of Tower Hamlets Council.

In Section 3.7 of the report it states that if the Council were concerned about the available information, it could refer the matter back to the Appointments Sub Committee for further consideration, HOWEVER, THIS WOULD CAUSE THE COUNCIL TO BREACH THE SECRETARY OF STATE'S DIRECTIONS.

I consider that Tower Hamlets Council selection process was not carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Officer Employment Procedure Rules.

By failing to defer the appointment, by referring the matter back to the Appointments Sub Committee for reconsideration, Tower Hamlets Council failed to take into account that all appointments be made on merit, in accordance with Section 7 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

In Section 3.5(b) of the report it states that the Commissioners have been consulted about the matters in this report and they have confirmed that they will remain satisfied should the Council proceed to confirm Mr Tuckley's appointment

If that statement is correct, I consider the Commissioners have failed to carry out the responsibilities delegated to them by you, by not properly supervising the selection process of the appointment of Chief Executive.

A major element of their failure was their reliance on information provided to them, that was ambiguous and incorrect.

I also think their support of Tower Hamlets Council was due to the fact that had the matter been referred back to the Appointments Sub Committee, which was the proper course of action, Tower Hamlets Council would have been in breach of your directions.

This may have reflected badly on the Commissioners.

I am therefore requesting a full investigation into the failure of the Commissioners to properly supervise the selection of Mr Will Tuckley as Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Barnbrook, Inspector, Metropolitan Police (Retired),


As previously noted, with corruption being widespread, Mick’s letter has to be an open invitation for someone to get the CPS to resolve Mr. Tuckley’s situation, to borrow the phrase used by the police to get councillor Craske off of a Misconduct charge.

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