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Bonkers Blog January 2016

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14 January (Part 1) - The future may not be bright

One of Bexley Council’s money saving plans is to push as many services as possible on line. I am not hopeful that it will be a success although I confess my doubts are based on what I have seen in Newham. Residents there must rent a broadband connection, own a computer and know how to use it or they are totally cut off from council services.

My 95 year old aunt can no longer meet the third requirement and so in theory is unable to have visitors who need to come by car. Visitor permits are only available via the web, no exceptions whatsoever. Fortunately she does not need any form of domiciliary care but that would be impossible too because the support staff are not exempted from the Controlled Parking Zone regulations. Maybe Bexley council will not be so stupid but I wouldn’t count on it.

Bexley’s Digital Future Sub-Committee met last night (first meeting reported here) and I had planned to be there. Unfortunately the local Traders’ Association called one of their occasional meetings and its chairman has persuaded me to take on the job of secretary. I am therefore reduced to reporting yesterday’s Digital Future meeting based on the Agenda.

It is encouraging to see that system tests will involve focus groups. Maybe they will recruit a 95 year old?

Councillors are not unanimously in favour of all their own papers going electronic only. Like me, some find that when reading from the paper page the comprehension factor rises higher than when staring at a screen.

It is proposed that residents should open a single account providing access to council tax, library, leisure, garden waste parking and adult social care services and the log on will be via one’s Twitter and Facebook account if preferred. I managed to register a service via Twitter last month on my third attempt. I paid my money but have not managed to log back in again. I find it impossible to navigate the web on a smart phone too. As a Digital Dinosaur I may be in a minority but I doubt I am alone.

Probably the law of unintended consequences will be much in evidence once the changes begin to bite but a website redesign should be beneficial. It’s difficult to imagine anything could be worse than Bexley Council’s present one.

The Traders’ meeting was in some ways more attractive than Councillor Rob Leitch’s Digital Future. It is held in a pub and is fewer than ten minutes walk away. Last night it would have been twice as long by car.

Thanks to the Barnehurst landslip (now in its third day) and commuters taking alternative routes, the roads around Abbey Wood station were gridlocked.

Traffic in Abbey Road was queued back to Lesnes Abbey because those wishing to turn right into one way Wilton Road were blocked by people parked and awaiting the arrival of the next train. No one could exit into Gayton Road or Florence Road because Florence Road was going nowhere due to the aforesaid queue in Abbey Road which blocked right turns.

Those with local knowledge who took the alternative route via Fendyke and Fossington Roads met the same problem at its exit.

The perfect log jam and I shudder to think what it will be like when Crossrail attracts the forecast 20,000 passengers an hour.

Unusually I was not carrying my camera last night and this morning’s chaos was not nearly as bad.
Abbey Road Florence Road
Wilton Road/Knee Hill Harrow Manorway
Frustratingly, the chairman of the Traders’ Association was unavoidably called away, so the meeting was cancelled and deferred until next Wednesday. I could have gone to Digital Futures after all.


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