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Bonkers Blog July 2016

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30 July - Next move; The Man with No Name

When planning matters are the subject of Public Notices, Mrs. Susan Clark signs off the papers with her name and position within the Council.

When roads and traffic regulations need to be announced, Graham Ward, Deputy Director of Regeneration does the honours.
Clark Ward
And this week with six more public parks up for sale it’s Mr. Alabi’s job to sign off the necessary documentation.

AlabiBut look…

Not only can the Law Society find no qualifications under the name Alabi, neither can the Bar Council come up with the goods, and Bexley Council has failed him too. Enquiries there also drew a blank.

Now he doesn’t even seem to have a job title.

For the record the six parks and open spaces for sale announced by Mr. Alabi are…

• Land adjacent to Railway Gable Close, Maiden Lane, Crayford.
• Open space adjacent to 1 Holly Hill Road, Erith.
• Land at junction of Bexley Road and Kempton Close, Erith.
• Land at junction of Napier Road and Wellington Road, Belvedere.
• Land at junction of Fraser Road and Alford Road, Erith.
• Open space at Millfield, Iron Mill Lane, Crayford.


29 July (Part 2) - Ms. Gill Steward. Fame at last!

Moon faceFollowing the new Chief Executive’s declaration of war against the press in general and me in particular by petulantly withdrawing the Press Desk which has been a feature of Bexley's Council meetings for ever and a day I thought she would appreciate her name being brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP.

I sent him the following letter earlier today.

Dear Mr. Javid,

One of your predecessors, Sir Eric Pickles legislated to make it much easier for what he called citizen journalists to report Council meetings. Bexley Council was one of several that had been highlighted for their unreasonable behaviour, calling the police to those who wished to record the proceedings. The lies told about residents by Bexley Council following an incident of that nature were so extreme that the police sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service where it is still under consideration for a Misconduct in Public Office charge against four individuals.

However Bexley Council has found a loophole in Sir Eric’s regulations the relevant part of which is as follows.

Councils or local government bodies are required to provide “reasonable facilities” to facilitate reporting. This should include space to view and hear the meetings, seats, and ideally a desk. Councils and local government bodies should use their common sense to determine the range of reasonable facilities they can actively provide to support the free press in all its forms.

For longer than anyone can remember, Bexley Council has provided a Press Desk at public meetings, albeit one too often placed where the view is extremely limited.

However the newly appointed Chief Executive in Bexley, Ms. Gill Steward has informed me personally that a Press Desk will no longer be provided because, and I quote, she is not compelled by law to do so.

This as you will recognise is an act of small minded spite. There is no reason for it, there is plenty of space, the facility has never been abused and it flies in the face of your Department’s recommendation that common sense be applied.

Perhaps you could offer some advice to Bexley Council and maybe consider how such petty minded people come to be appointed to such responsible positions. When there is next an opportunity a tightening of the law might be considered.

Yours sincerely,

Malcolm Knight

Why do these overpaid idiots do such things? Surely they know there will be consequences? Secretary of State Javid may now know that the name Gill Steward is synonymous with petty minded petulance.


29 July (Part 1) - Oh dear! This looks nasty

Low payAccording to the Office of National Statistics Bexley not only has one of the lowest rates of average pay in the country but those levels have fallen faster than anywhere else. The UK average is a 6% pay rise in five years but in Bexley average pay fell from £27,535 to £25,792.

I wonder why.

Maybe it has something to do with the Leader of Bexley Council being so keen on preserving the borough as a sleepy little backwater. ‘Don't let the bridge back in.’ Yeah right! What an idiotic ambition!

Or perhaps all those Ocado, Asda and Tesco warehouse distribution centre jobs that Cabinet Member Linda Bailey is so proud of do not pay very well.

Click image for BBC report.


28 July - Two places featuring old walls are rejuvenated

There are free activities for everyone this weekend. If you live in the south of the borough you can see how Councillor Rob Leitch, now Deputy Council Leader, overcame Bexley Council’s neglect and restored Sidcup’s Walled Garden with the aid of volunteer workers and sponsorship money.

In the North where the Lesnes Abbey park regeneration was supposed to have been completed a couple of months ago, the ‘Fun Day’ is going ahead anyway. It’s to be held in the recreation ground which probably is just about complete, I have not had the time to look.
Walled Garden Lesnes
Note : Not much of a blog while Council meetings are still unreported but I have been compelled to spend far too much time the other side of the river leaving little left for Bexley matters - not to mention it is exhausting! There is little chance of getting back to normal before next Tuesday.


26 July - Objection overruled. Five times

Following the exciting stuff that occasionally arises from Questions and Motions and the Leader’s report to Council comes the mundane and frequently boring reports and recommendations of the various Committees, but on Wednesday even those provoked controversy.

The Labour group didn’t accept the reports of any of the three Overview and Scrutiny Committees, the Licensing Committee or the Constitutional Review Panel.

Borella PallenOn the last of those Councillor Stefano Borella made several comments which were all dismissed by the Council Leader in a condescending tone while suggesting Stefano might have no real understanding of what democracy is all about.

If you think this is a somewhat inadequate summary of the proceedings you would be right. A recorder placed on a Councillor’s table picks up far too much of their whisperings and the jeering from Conservatives opposite. Stefano’s comments were largely obliterated by the noises off. I could hear Councillor Francis protesting about the vote not being properly taken but little else.

He claimed it was not clear to him who had voted for the revised Constitution and who had not but the Mayor didn’t seem to care. Undeterred Councillor Francis said he “had not seen a single member of this Council vote to change the Constitution of this Council”. The mayor eventually relented and asked for "a show of hands again".

The Licensing Committee report was subjected to a similar routine. Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour, North End) said a good team had run licensing for a very long time but it is now being “fragmented across four local authorities” with little consideration for the staff concerned.

The new Chairman of the Licensing Committee is Councillor John Fuller (Conservative, Christchurch). He said that the affected staff did not think the changes would make a great deal of difference to them. One Council officer was singled out for special mention, she was a very good Licensing officer but “we will be losing her”.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) made reference to “the growing population” and the problems with “HMOs and garage conversions” which wasn’t a million miles away from the UKP question earlier. Residents are living in “poor and illegal conditions” but she had been told it “was not a big issue now” and she had not been told what sort of support they might be given. “There has been no clear answer on primary school places and we should be prepared for this.”

Councillor Hunt who chairs the People Scrutiny meeting said it would have been better if Councillor Ogundayo had raised her concerns at his meeting and she said she had. He insisted that his “report is accurate and there has been no Motion or Amendment and so Madam Mayor I propose to Council that it accepts it”. Tory Councillors eagerly kicked Council Ogundayo’s concern for housing conditions in Thamesmead deep into the long grass.

Councillor Seymour wasn’t at the Council meeting so questions about the Places Committee that he chairs were passed to his Vice-Chairman, Councillor Cheryl Bacon; which was an odd decision given that she was absent from most of the Places Committee meeting. She left it after only 30 minutes.

BridgeCouncillor Borella asked about the Tories’ attitude to the Thames Crossings and the infamous picture from 2013 of the Council Leader and her then Deputy holding their embarrassing banner. It was probably Councillor Sharon Massey whose voice called out that Stefano was speaking rubbish, it is the sort of rude interruption for which she is famed. Other Tories continued to noisily advertise their confusion between the original bridge design that the government inspector rejected with the smaller one advocated by Boris Johnson. Either they are forgetful idiots or continue to believe that repeatedly lying is an effective strategy.

“Residents consistently say we need crossings and we need it now. We could have been sitting with already a bridge” said Councillor Borella.

He turned his attention to fly tipping and the ludicrous Tory claim that he is in favour of fly tipping. He complained that the statistics “had moved the goal posts” and were unreliable but at the last Places meeting the Cabinet Member responsible (Peter Craske) was more interested in telling the Committee of "the failed" Katie Perrior’s appointment to No. 10 than addressing his concerns.

The Leader objected to Ms. Perrior’s name being brought into the discussion and asked him to “withdraw his comment about Ms. Perrior which was well out of order”.

Sensitive soul isn’t she? The borough’s vulnerable children were failed during Katie Perrior’s reign. OFSTED knew it, surely everyne knows it? Councillor Borella said it was “a statement of fact and the truth is on the record”.

The Mayor asked Members to refrain from personal comments about former Members.

Wilton Road Wilton RoadCouncillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) referred to the regeneration of Wilton Road in Abbey Wood. The plans were good “but it was too little too late”. He also said about Lesnes Abbey that ”it was disappointing that the Places Committee had not been given any presentation on that [the failure of the contractor). It is now significantly behind schedule”.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon said she had left the Scrutiny meeting early “for childcare reasons”. She was paid £750 to be at that meeting, most people would think that was more than enough to pay for reliable child care. £25 a minute is even more than the Chief Executive earns. Councillor Bacon said she wanted the “right bridge in the right place at the right time” and refused to comment on the notorious “Don't let the bridge back in” banner featuring her husband. The fly tipping statistics were defined by the Environment Agency. The Lesnes Abbey delay is “unfortunate” and with that the Places Committee report was accepted.

The Mayor asked Members to refrain from personal comments about former Members again even though none had done so.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) accompanied by table banging from the Members opposite referred to the rather disgraceful deferment of his Places’ questions until next February. He said it “s bizarre that both he and Conservative Members were not allowed to ask questions at a meeting which ended at nine p.m.” Councillor June Slaughter was one of those affected and he thought it was because “the questions were getting too diificult”.

Massey SlaughterHe said that not for the first time the Cabinet Member (Don Massey) was making hand gestures to the Chairman that discussion should be curtailed. “It is beginning to show why we have this strange seating arrangement, [the Cabinet Member faces the Chairman] it is so the Cabinet Member can indicate to the Vice-Chairman Maxine Fothergill when a difficult Member wished to speak”. He referred to “the stand up row” between Councillor Slaughter and the Cabinet Member over Old Farm Park and “we saw her closed down. It is a complete disgrace”.

Councillor Slaughter said “she could look after herself” and proceeded to praise both the Committee Chairman and “she had little doubt that Councillor Massey in his efficient way would have taken that [her comments] on board. I have absolutely no complaint”. It didn't look or sound that way on the night but I suppose the whips are all powerful.

Committee Chairman Councillor Hall said his new seating arrangement had been is place for two years - which isn’t true, the change took place in October 2015 - although the Cabinet Member had always sat in that position. “This paper should be moved and that’s it. Thank you very much.”

And it was.


25 July (Part 2) - Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

I’m not sure what the correct protocol is when friends fall out; ignore or take sides or try being a peace maker? I tried the latter via Twitter recently but got pretty short shrift.

That was over support for the Tory’s slash and burn budget but this time I’m referring to the unseemly squabble between Councillor Hackett (Labour) and Councillor Beazley (UKIP).

Chris Beazley said that uncontrolled immigration has led to an increase in HMOs and called on Bexley Council to do something about it - which they have promised to do. My own opinion is that a population that has grown too big is the root cause of most of our problems. A factor is that people like me outlive their three score and ten but I suspect I will still be labelled a small minded, bigoted xenophobe, which is what Councillor Beazley was called.

The argument escalated to the pages of the News Shopper which misrepresented the facts as one has come to expect from that once respected local newspaper. Among other things they should learn that uncontrollable immigration is not the same as uncontrolled immigration.

TweetThey linked Councillor Hackett’s “bigoted and xenophobic” comment directly to the “vile and hateful” anti-HMO protest in Penhill Road and some of the comments caught on video during that protest undoubtedly were. Maybe the News Shopper misquoted Councillor Hackett but he appeared to make the link too.

Linking Penhill Road to Councillor Beazley’s question looks like pure mischief to me, but then I am by no means a leftie.

The Penhill protest took place on 10th July; Councillor Beazley tabled his question to Kevin Fox, the appropriate officer at Bexley council at crack of dawn on 27th April. Any suggestion that Councillor Beazley saw the disturbance in Penhill Road as an opportunity to make political capital from it is pure bunkum.

When Councillor Hackett asked Councillor Craske to condemn the UKIP question he answered only with a reference to Penhill Road. I doubt that he was being mischievous, it seemed a reasonable response at the time, but he may have unwittingly encouraged others to be so.


25 July (Part 1) - Teresa O’Neill lectures on “Porky Pies”. She’s an expert in the field

After making a complete pig’s ear of managing the debate on Councillor Brenda Langstead’s Motion on housing the Mayor must have been pleased to hand over to Teresa O’Neill for the Leader’s report.

Timing is everything!

Pallen O'NeillIt would be fair to say the Leader’s report is usually delivered quickly and informatively and sometimes without any political mud slinging - but not this time.

She began by congratulating Councillor Gareth Bacon on becoming a GLA Member, David Evenett and James Brokenshire on both becoming Secretaries of State in the new Government and former Councillor Katie Perrior working at No 10. “Isn’t it great to have so many people around the centre of Parliament who know all about Bexley”.

Given the number of web hits that come to BiB daily from the Palace of Westminster I suspect rather more Parliamentarians know about Bexley than the Leader might like.

The Leader said that the EU Referendum campaign was Project Fear but the St. Michael’s ward by-election campaign was “Project Porky Pies”. She said that the only positive message came from the Conservatives. (If they managed to squeeze something positive about any recent event their literature must have been very selective indeed.)

The Leader claimed that a rumour was started on the North End Labour website that the Council was going to sell St. Steven’s Park in Welling. (It spoke only of “local parks”, nothing specific, so who’s the porker now?) She also claimed that “a lady in a complete panic” had told her - now there’s a reliable source that would never get confused - that Labour had told her that only they would keep the street lights on.

Councillor Stefano Borella reminded the Leader that she was supposed to be summarising her written report and there was nothing in it about election literature. The Mayor brusquely dismissed his complaint.

The Leader said she felt entitled to report Labour’s “Porky Pies” to residents. She moved on to HMOs.

She said there could be “good reasons for HMOs. If they work well they serve a purpose”. However she said some “had become an issue in the last 18 months”. She said that other local authorities do not have Article 4 protection. “Certainly Greenwich hasn’t got one. Certainly Bromley hasn’t got one and as far as we are aware they have no intention of getting one. Bexley will have one in place in the very near future. We will [also] have a licensing scheme in place for small HMOs.”

“We are looking to bring in a scheme for Thamesmead and Erith to start off with.”

Massey ReadCouncillor Sharon Massey welcomed the Leader’s comments and said that Councillor Borella had “mocked people living in rented accommodation”. I must have somehow missed his comment. I’ve heard him refer to out of borough Councillors who rent an accommodation address in Bexley; perhaps that is what Massey meant. Councillor Borella protested but Massey reacted aggressively and he wasn’t allowed to counter her nonsense.

Does anyone seriously believe that a Labour Councillor would mock people living in rented accomodation? Does anyone believe that Councillor Massey might be the one addicted to Porkies?

She was unhappy that people “behind a computer screen are inciting others to harass and make victims of people who come to Bexley seeking a place of safety”. She said that “we have got to make sure we are targeting the rogue landlord and not the honest legitimate landlord providing a purpose”, which is not what Cabinet Member Brad Smith had said earlier. He backed the Amended Motion because it would control both.

Councillor Massey then asked the Leader to comment on the situation at the Danson Youth Centre. The leader deftly passed that on to the Cabinet Member Philip Read who repeated his ‘Setting the Record Straight’ routine.

I was asked after the meeting to provide a transcript of what he said so I will be lazy and let you listen for yourself if you feel so inclined.

Councillor Read revealed that negotiations with the Danson Youth Trust had restarted.

CraskeCouncillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) was concerned about the serious Anti-Social Behaviour that affected his ward. Cabinet Member Craske began his response by praising the work of the Community Safety Team which has presumably failed Councillor Reader’s residents or he would not have asked his question. “They have identified issues” he said, thereby confirming what Councillor Reader will have told them about already. “The police are on top of it and parents will receive letters. It is a difficult situation there but I think we are making progress although we could probably do a lot more.” There’s an admission!

When “problems arise like this we don’t just sit around saying there is a problem we find a way to get on top of it and it is a tremendous team we have at the Council and I thank the ward Councillors for raising this issue”.

How’s that for meaningless waffle and not a word about effectively closing down the CCTV system?

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked the Leader if she could discount the rumours coming from the Conservative side that she has ambitions to be a directly elected Mayor of Bexley. She said it was another Labour Porky Pie.

The Mayor asked Council Leader O’Neill to sum up. She said that the Conservatives have been in power for ten years and “still have a lot of steam”.

She highlighted the Bexley bridge which opened a bit earlier than planned (but which was totally closed for much longer) and the radiotherapy unit due to open at Sidcup Hospital, the first primarily due to the efforts of Transport for London and the latter the National Health Service.

Name me something that has been undisputedly improved in Bexley in the past ten years.


24 July (Part 2) - Stagnation v Coordination

LesnesThe fortnightly comparisons between progress on the Lesnes Abbey regeneration and Crossrail activities around Abbey Wood station are in danger of becoming pointless. Nothing much has happened at Lesnes since the landscape contractor went broke whilst Crossrail construction powers on.

Bexley Council cannot be held responsible for the company liquidation but the general neglect is more difficult to explain. Why has the area around the Mulberry tree which used to be bark covered been allowed to become a weed bed? The cuts presumably.

There is to be a park event next Saturday, a Family Fun Day (Click to enlarge Photo 1) aimed at parents and young children. Please be aware that there are no public toilets; well there is a Men only facility a quarter of a mile away (across the borough boundary) by the Abbey Wood Post Office but I wouldn’t recommend anyone goes there. Not without wearing Wellington boots anyway.

As you might expect, the Crossrail project marches on relentlessly. The asphalt is going down on the new Platform 2, the canopy is done and the lighting, CCTV and public address system is going in.

Over this weekend the Harrow Manorway flyover wall has been torn down to allow access to the station podium which has been extended with more concrete beams and slabs and provided with a working platform to facilitate installation of the main station roof. At the other end of the platform the lump of concrete dumped there several months ago is growing into a support for the second footbridge. By August 20th everything should be ready for the first North Kent train and the real Crossrail work will commence.

Let’s hope that Network Rail remembers that the North Kent platform could do with a few seats. None there at all at the moment.
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes


24 July (Part 1) - Stewardship of Bexley is clearly devoid of common sense

I think if I was newly appointed to be the Chief Executive of a borough which is best known for being bonkers, pilloried almost daily for its actions and has been reported to the police for its criminal activities more often than any other, I might give some thought to how that situation might be brought to an end. Maybe an exploratory olive branch of some sort, it is so much harder to be negative about friendly faces, even if you don’t have a lot of respect for them, than those determined to be sworn enemies.

Probably I am naive and far too optimistic about human nature but I don’t think my first act would be to deliberately exacerbate the situation.

StewardPerhaps that is why I was never on the best part of two hundred grand a year. Presumably you have to have a ruthless and combatative streak to blag your way to that level of income with no obvious skill other than getting away from one disaster zone to the next before the last one implodes.

Gill Steward, Bexley’s new Chief Executive, must be an idiot. With one pointless act she has ensured she will never be far away from the BiB headlines. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill waited about 70 weeks before asking her bent friends in Arnsberg Way to have me arrested for “criticising councillors”. Whenever I think BiB may be being a bit harsh towards her I remind myself she wanted to see me in a cell for reporting her Council’s activities, and go right ahead with reporting her next failure. Gill Steward managed to get to the same position in barely 70 days. Moronic or what?

To unnecessarily go against the Department for Communities’ recommendation that “common sense” be applied to the accommodation of the public at Council meetings is just plain stupid. The act of a petulant child.
Common Sense
For that is what Gill Steward did when she withdrew the desk that has been provided for news reporters at Council meetings for longer than anyone remembers.

I wonder what she is like as a Chief Executive?

Sources say that one of her first acts was to adorn more walls at the Civic Offices with televisions. I bet that having those professionally installed would be best part a thousand each and whilst reports vary there is said to be six or more new ones.

She has been heard to say that she doesn’t like Bexley related web searches most often coming up with pages run by a gang of old men. Well tough, the answer to that is not to keep supplying the ammunition to fire. I would have expected Bexley’s pay levels to buy an intellect that could have worked that out for itself, but apparently not.

The postman has not yet delivered the promised letter formally withdrawing the desk facility and I suspect he never will. It would make a formal complaint against moon face easier and might give BiB readers another good laugh at her expense.

Meanwhile I should perhaps get the desk into perspective, her main job is taking Council employees’ desks away, and their jobs with it. How else will Bexley be able to pay the loon’s inflated salary?


23 July (Part 1) - Mayor wrong footed when everyone agrees. Meeting descends into farce

Before leaving the subject of Councillor’s questions it might be worth mentioning that Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer’s opinion of Thames Water is much the same as my own.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) enlarged on Councillor Slaughter’s question about the sewer network, first with a regret that the water utilities were not in public ownership and then a suggestion that Councillor Sawyer should meet personally with Thames Water officials in order to hold them to account.

The Cabinet Member said a letter will be “winging its way to the Chief Executive of Thames Water but I do not particularly expect a response if I am honest”. He said that state intervention was prohibited by European law, “but thanks to the good judgment of the residents of this borough…”, and masked by the jeers and cheers I think he went on to say that nationalisation may now be possible if, “God forbid, Jeremy Corbyn ever gets his hands on the levers of power”.

Perhaps Councillor Sawyer could, when writing to Thames Water, ask why it is that the company dug up my road at the end of last year and completed the installation of water meters by March but it still hasn’t commissioned them all.

BaileyThe next item on the Agenda was left overs from the last meeting and the first (and because of time constraints, only) slot in the timetable was allocated to Councillor Langstead (Labour, North End) who continued her longstanding campaign for better housing conditions. Her Motion proposed a crack down on rogue landlords, better support and advice for those seeking social housing, more affordable housing and the lobbying of government to allow local authorities to build more homes and in her short speech she added that Boris Johnson’s affordable homes had been far from affordable. £600,000 for a three bedroom house!

It was a very reasonable Motion that one would think would be welcomed by most residents but the Tories did not want to see a Labour Councillor take the credit for it, so Cabinet Member Linda Bailey proposed an Amendment. It was a slightly more polished variant of the original with greater emphasis on the control of HMOs and designed to make it look as if the Tories’ recent record on housing is better than it actually has been.

Councillors Catterall and Munir (Conservative, both East Wickham) spoke in favour of the Amendment, the latter being particularly upset about Councillor Langstead’s suggested Landlord’s Register. He said it would duplicate national regulations but he attracted adverse comment for failing to declare that he was a landlord himself. Councillor Munir accused Labour members of having “tunnel vision”, the insult was in his pre-prepared script so he had to say it, irrelevant or not.

ButtarCouncillor Borella was able to criticise Conservative housing policy on several levels, and the fact that Bexley Council has recently been in a bidding war to buy back houses it used to own is perhaps the silliest of them. He also referred unfavourably to the 2014 UKIP candidate for Barnehurst (pictured), kicked out of Labour after coming under suspicion of being a rogue landlord. Perhaps one day the Labour Members will come up with chapter and verse on what he is supposed to have done.

Councillor Borella said he was not happy that the Amendment made no reference to rogue landlords although otherwise there was much he could agree with.

Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) said that residents were very annoyed about the HMOs springing up in her ward and was very critical of the limited powers that government had given to local authorities.

Out of the blue The Mayor called for a vote on Councillor Bailey’s Amendment but immediately went into a huddle with the apparently unqualified Monitoring Officer. When she came up for air, the Mayor said there would be a vote on the Amendment followed by another on the Substantive Motion if the Amendment was carried.

Councillor Borella said that would be wrong and it was not the normal procedure. The Mayor said there was no time to follow the usual procedure.

O'NeillCouncil Leader Teresa O’Neill also said the Mayor was wrong and there should be a summing up of the Amendment before the vote. The Mayor thanked the Leader for her opinion but she was going to the vote immediately.

After acknowledging the raised hands the Mayor decided on a role call instead which confused members of all parties. Labour Leader Alan Deadman said he was happy to accept the Amendment which further confused the hapless Mayor. She asked “for all those in favour” and the cries of “of what?” were numerous. The Mayor went back to square one, she wanted a vote on whether the Amendment was approved. Councillor David Leaf started quoting Standing Orders but few were listening. Someone called out that he was wasting time.

The Mayor again said she was “looking to see who was in favour”, but once more failed to make it clear what the vote was on. The recorder picked up murmurs of “Bullshit baffles brains” as the meeting headed for total farce.

In a rapid about turn, Cabinet Member Brad Smith was asked to sum up on the Substantive Motion, which was the Leader’s idea for the Amendment. Councillor Smith was obviously caught unawares as he waffled on about HMOs for a minute or so. He wanted to tackle all landlords, not just rogues.

VoteStefano Borella said he was entitled to a reply but the Mayor said he was not as she called for a vote.

Councillor Sybil Camsey spoke for most when she said she had no idea what she was voting on. She said there was “genuine confusion” about it.

The Monitoring Officer chipped in that the vote would be on the agreed Amendment which became the Substantive Motion when Labour raised no objections. It seemed a simple and logical conclusion but apparently well beyond Mayor Pallen’s comprehension. The vote went ahead and just for once hands of all colours went up together.


22 July - Turning a blind eye to crime

CCTVI managed to be at BiB related meetings every evening this week as well as doing a plumbing job for the old lady in Newham, hence the lack of an earlier blog for today.

The final meeting was of the Thamesmead East and Lesnes Abbey Ward Police Panel which was fortunately held only a few hundred yards away from home.

Bexley Council’s CCTV system has until very recently been monitored from their surveillance centre in Lessness Avenue and is another service that has fallen victim to the cuts. Bexley Council said it could save £225,000 a year by transferring the responsibility to the police.

The police have no more spare cash than the Council.

It was confirmed at this evening’s Police Panel meeting that all the staff employed on CCTV monitoring have been made redundant and according to one person who worked in the same building on non-CCTV work no one at all is looking at the screens any more. No longer will it be possible to direct the police to trouble spots or follow miscreants from one locality to the next. The CCTV system is now close to useless.

Bexley has the cash for cameras which raise revenue via fines but none to spend on public safety.

It won’t be long before the criminal fraternity takes advantage of the situation and then how long will Bexley’s safe borough status survive?


21 July (Part 2) - And she started so well…

MayorThe established pattern for new Mayors has been that they do a fair job chairing their first Full Council meeting and things gradually deteriorate as they become ever more power crazed dictators. The same pattern has been detected with Mayor Eileen Pallen except that she degenerated into a bungling dictator after only an hour or so behind the bling at her first meeting! It was an unedifying spectacle but perhaps one I should have anticipated as soon as it was announced that her Deputy was to be Councillor Val Clark, by far the most dictatorial Mayor of recent times.

It’s all very regrettable as Councillor Pallen is probably not all bad like some of her Cabinet colleagues and relying on Mr. Alabi for legal advice might well add to her discomfiture. No one by that name is recognised as qualified by the Law Society or the Bar Council and Bexley Council has failed to come up with any evidence of legal expertise either, nevertheless he continues to sit by the Mayor’s side whispering into her ear.

The former Chief Executive who used to sit on the top table under a wig has been replaced by the pathetic figure of Gill Steward who has been too busy to accept a report of possible criminality by Mr. Barnbrook and who thinks indulging in petty mind games is a worthwhile occupation.

The meeting started well enough with the question session, answered in a professional manner by Cabinet Members Craske and Sawyer.

There was only one question from a member of the public; there would have been two but the ultimatum to Danson Youth Trust arrived just a few hours after the deadline for questions which is an unreasonably long five working days not including the day of the meeting or the day of submission.

The public question suggested climate change was “a serious threat to Bexley” and did Councillor Craske agree. Councillor Craske said the borough was “well prepared”. He was so sure of it he said it twice.

The questioner then thought it relevant to castigate the Council for including Shell and BP in its pension fund share portfolio. Councillor Craske rightly said that was nothing to do with him, it was a matter for the Pensions Committee.

The first serious question came from Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) who said his ward residents were concerned about hate crime since the Referendum decision that Britain should leave the EU.

Councillor Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) deplored the horrific hate crimes perpetrated both in this country and overseas but said that locally there had been no increase in reported hate crime. He spoke eloquently about how it was tackled by “hard work by a lot of dedicated people, day in and day out” and was especially concerned by “internet trolls peddling poison from their keyboards” which caused a titter of laughter from those who remember the obscenities that the police traced to Councillor Craske’s telephone line, but apart from that he did not put a foot wrong. “We must stand together to condemn the mindless morons.”

QuestionCouncillor Hackett’s supplementary question was not a question at all. He was keen to label Councillor Chris Beazley’s (UKIP, St. Michael’s) question “disgraceful, small minded, bigoted and xenophobic” and called for the Cabinet Member to condemn the “outrageous question which inflamed hatred”. Rarely have I heard such utter nonsense in the Council Chamber. Chris’s question seems entirely reasonable to me and I simply cannot see what the problem is.

The population is rising much more steeply than in the past and immigration is the only credible explanation. Would Danny deny that house building is at a historic low and if it is that there must be consequences?

Cabinet Member Craske expertly dodged the question by speaking only of the extremely unpleasant events recorded in Penhill Road a couple of weeks ago.

Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked how he would prevent an increase in violent crime in the borough. Councillor Craske batted that one away in just over ten seconds. A follow up question was about better recording of hate crime. Councillor Craske thought that was one for the police.

Councillor Bishop (Conservative, Colyers) complained that Labour Members never recognised that Bexley was “the safest borough in London”. It is good to be able to report that both parties can talk rubbish when they put their minds to it.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) enquired about discussions with Thames Water to ensure that sewers are adequately maintained. Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said there was a quarterly meeting and the recent spate of sewer problems, Main Road, Sidcup in particular, had been fixed but Thames Water suffered from “poor communications skills”.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) asked Alex Sawyer about the installation of LED lighting. Councillor Sawyer quoted public response figures. 200 residents were against the switch off, 132 for it and 43 undecided. He had taken the decision to accelerate the installation of LED bulbs despite the higher than anticipated costs and keep the lights on. The bill will be £3·8 million this year and £1·4 million next year with 92% of the borough’s street lights converted. Councillor Newton’s follow up question was a particularly silly one, she wanted to know who took the credit for the outcome of the trial. A generous Alex Sawyer gave credit mainly to officers and residents with only a small “pat on the back’ for the Council.

The Mayor then declared that time was up.


21 July (Part 1) - A Declaration of War?

Ever since Sir Eric Pickles got fed up with Councils ejecting people with cameras from their meetings Bexley Council has been very relaxed about the use of electronic wizardry in its Chamber. To be fair they updated their Constitution in advance of the new laws coming into force. In full compliance with every recommendation they provided a Press Desk and sometimes even managed to place it in a position with a view of the Chamber.

At the last People Scrutiny meeting the desk was missing but the always helpful Chairman James Hunt said I could sit at an unoccupied table at the back of the chamber. I chose to drag it to one side. At the Places meeting a couple of days later, the table was ideally placed affording as good a view as is ever likely to be possible in such a poorly designed Council chamber but at the Audit Committee meeting on Tuesday this week the desk was missing again. So was the hearing loop system. There was no desk at last night’s Full Council meeting either and I thought it was about time I said something about it.

Three Labour Councillors went off to try to find a desk while Councillor Colin McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) said I could put my recorder on his table and sit next to him, which I did whilst Councillor Danny Hackett and his friends were trying to find out where the desk had gone.

Moon faceAfter a minute or two Danny returned to say that the new moon faced Chief Executive, Gill Steward, had decreed that I should not be provided with a desk in future. Danny said she had written to me about it. If she has the letter has yet to be delivered and if it ever is it will of course appear here.

What sort of cretin would disturb an arrangement which has worked well for years? The Press Table has been a feature at Council meetings since I first attended one in 2010. I was at the Press Table when Councillor Cheryl Bacon notoriously put her meeting into what she called a closed session and I have a letter from the former Chief Executive Will Tuckley recommending I don’t sit in the Public Gallery so as not to be associated with any disturbance that might occur there.

So I carried on sitting next to Councillor McGannon and after a minute or two I found moon face only inches away from me stinking of cheap scent.

She said that she had decided not to allow the provision of a desk as she wasn’t compelled to do so by law, which is true.


Department for Communities and Local Government on ‘Open and Accountable Local Government’.

Moon faceMadam Steward asked me to accompany her outside but I refused. What had she got to say that she was too ashamed to say within earshot of Councillors?

Moon face then told me to go and sit in the public gallery where there is nowhere to safely place two cameras and a sound recorder. The demarcation line between the Council Chamber and the Public Gallery appears to be where the wooden floor changes to carpet and I pulled my chair back to be on the carpet. I told moon face that if she didn’t like it she should “fetch a policeman”.

I was rather hoping that the lunatic would and it would ultimately lead to her joining her predecessor in a big file at the Crown Prosecution Service.

Why would the cretin pick an unnecessary fight and not exercise the “common sense” advocated by the government department?

Bexley Council hates criticism, we know that, and likes to report me to the police on trumped up charges which fall apart, and I don’t like them and report them to the police whenever they commit a criminal offence. Then the Council corruptly interferes with the judicial processes which in turn leads to years of further police investigation. Anyone with a brain would be looking to break the circle not compound their previous errors.

Current investigations into Bexley Council’s criminality add up to more than nine years of police time.

It can only be a form of madness but this spiteful brain dead moron from West Sussex and Cornwall and a dozen other places over just a handful of years chooses to start a war rather than let relations gradually improve. It will inevitably lead to relentless criticism, but if that’s the way she wants it…

Is Madam Steward really the best one can get for £173,957 a year?

Click for the idiot’s CV.


20 July (Part 2) - Setting the record straight

The Cabinet meeting on 27th January was the scene of a protest by youth workers and their supporters. Bexley Council, assuming all young people to be trouble makers, requested a police presence. Typical; but in practice the only sort of youngsters Bexley Council is interested in are the trouble makers, their limited funds are spent on them and the ‘prevention is better than cure’ strategy that Bexley Council claims when it suits them does not apply to nurturing frequently needy children into responsible adulthood.

Protest That Cabinet meeting approved the abolition of grants to the Scouts (£49,000) and the Danson Youth Trust (£89,000) from April 2016. Most of what I hear at Council meetings is related to cuts and to be honest I forgot all about this one. Then the attack on The Danson Youth Centre went into stage two. Not content with taking £89k. out of their budget, Bexley Council decided they should become a new income stream.

Facebook and the News Shopper carried accounts of the fast developing situation and Bexley Council launched a counter attack in the shape of one of their Setting the Record Straight web pages. Not wanting to be left in ignorance of the facts I arranged to meet some of the Youth Centre management who gave me a quick history lesson of a place I pass quite often but never really noticed.

The Centre has been on Brampton Road since 1954, predating Bexley Council, and provides activity and play facilities for young people of all ages. I saw children from toddlers to ten year olds but at other times there may be older ones too. The admission charges are affordable and special provision is made for those suffering impediments such as autism and ADHD. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.)

In 1993 the Trust’s wooden premises burned down and the Council gave them its estimated value of £86,000 and £50,000 on top. There was also a loan of £30,000 - long since repaid - to help the Trust establish a new Centre. Through their own efforts the Trust raised enough money to erect a half million pound facility. Bexley Council contributed nothing beyond the £136,000.

Since then the Trust has continued to support the Centre. The Council used to provide a grant but contributed nothing else, all the maintenance down to the last light bulb is paid for by the Trust. Major new facilities such as a Skate Park came from Lottery funds, albeit with administrative assistance from Bexley Council.

Since last April this invaluable facility has cost Bexley Council nothing and kept thousands of children amused, entertained, guided and educated. The Setting the Record Straight propaganda says that the Council provided both the building and the skate park which is in direct conflict with the information provided to me.

The Council propaganda goes on to dispute the Trust’s claim that most of their funding comes from families and says it came from Bexley’s past support. Support that has now ceased and they want to see go into reverse.

Not having to dip into their own pocket is not good enough for Bexley Council, they want to profit from other people’s efforts and announced the imposition of a £75,000 annual rent, since negotiated down to £25,000, phased in over two years.

The Trust could survive for a couple more years by calling on reserves but their compromise rent offer in the region of half Bexley’s imposition was dismissed by Cabinet Member Philip Read as “derisory”. He would rather see children playing in the streets.

£25,000 may be a reasonable price for a facility that cost half a million pounds twenty years ago and enhanced since but Bexley Council didn’t pay for it and in the past only helped out with the running costs.

What they want to do now in charging a commercial rent is effectively confiscating the property from those who built and improved it on Council land. It’s perhaps no different to evicting a council house tenant who spent all his money on transforming his home into a palace, so it is probably legal, but it is definitely short sighted and shabby treatment by a Council that has mismanaged its own finances and knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing. It will likely transfer the costs to the police and the NHS as it allows youth services to wither away.

Unless Bexley Council can prove that what the people from the Youth Centre told me is untrue, I know which party I am inclined to believe.


20 July (Part 1) - Audit Committee in the dark

There is rarely a good reason to go to an Audit Committee meeting, it is not unknown for it to reveal something interesting, but it is rare. On a hot and sticky evening you might think that there would be no good reason to attend at all, but there were a few.

For trivia, there is the fact that it is usually all over and done with well inside an hour and by the end of the week it looks likely that the attendance will allow me to brag that all five evenings have been taken up by BiB related meetings.

Only slightly less trivial is the fact that the new Chairman is Councillor David Leaf who has proved to be intensely annoying at Council and Scrutiny meetings since he was re-elected in 2014.

His predecessor Joe Pollard did his best to make Audit meetings palatable by exchanging pleasantries with members of the public; there was none of that last night and Councillor Cafer (Conservative, East Wickham) alone made small talk, no one else offered any acknowledgement of a public presence.

While I am in a complaining mood , it was impossible to see what was going on. The bright evening sun through the window of an unlit room turned everyone into silhouettes; I spent the first 40 minutes thinking the man to the Chairman’s left was Vice-Chairman Brian Bishop but as the sun began to fade I discovered it was David Hogan, the Head of Internal Audit.
So how does Councillor David Leaf shape up as Chairman? I really have no idea, he did little more than call for the next Agenda item to be discussed every five minutes or so. There was none of the usual slagging off of the opposition.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) did what all the Labour Councillors seem to have been obliged to do over the past four weeks, that is make a comment about the consequences of Brexit on the borough’s economy based on the assumption it must be negative. “House building shares have gone right down.”

A disembodied voice came from the blackness of the right hand corner of the room which said that Brexit represented both risks and an opportunity. “There is an upside.” The camera tells me it was Finance Director Alison Griffin who can usually be relied upon to give a sensible response. Another disembodied voice, it may have been the Chairman, said that “we must not go talking down our economy and avoid the self-fulfilling prophesy of doom”.

An item on countering fraud provided the nearest the meeting got to excitement and it had saved £474,000 which is not to be sneezed at, but the number of people involved was tiny. One Blue Badge recovered, four single Person Council Tax Discounts withdrawn, one Notice to Quit. Seven people removed from Temporary Accommodation and nine taken off the Housing List. Including a few other things there was a total of 35 individuals and companies. Doesn’t seem like a lot of cheats uncovered from a population approaching 300,000.

The Agenda proclaimed that Bexley Council is “committed to the highest standards of openness and accountability” and that its Internal Audits are subject to External Review by another London borough at least once every five years”. Better than nothing perhaps but plenty of time for things to go wrong in between.


19 July - Hanging baskets. It seems like a good idea

TweetDanny Hackett's Tweet is only a few days old and already there are men on the Harrow Inn (Abbey Wood) site putting in fence posts. I think there were four camera shy men in orange jackets hiding behind the bushes in the foreground of Photo 1 this morning.

The site has been an eye-sore for the past six years. The Harrow Inn public house was demolished in 2009 despite being, like Ye Olde Leather Bottle, locally listed.

A message from a reader contrasted the lack of grounds maintenance in Bexley’s parks with the immaculate flower baskets in Broadway. I went to take a look and they are certainly magnificent. I began to count them but gave up, there must have been more than 100 double baskets, one on every lamp post. The watering operation must be an extensive one.

If the baskets are not the work of the Bexleyheath Business Improvement District, then like the BiB reader it would appear to me to be a strange sense of financial priorities from a Council that plans to force the closure of Danson Youth Centre which keeps around 90,000 youngsters usefully occupied each year.

Harrow Inn Broadway Broadway Broadway
The William Morris fountain (Photo 4) was drained on the instruction of Cabinet Member Peter Craske to allegedly save £20,000 a year.


18 July (Part 2) - Heads in the Nitrogen Dioxide clouds

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) had pushed for Bexley’s Air Quality to be monitored and a report prepared. “Growth is going to produce more pollution.” He said he couldn’t find an Air Quality Action Plan in the report. The borough has three air quality monitoring stations, all in the North and they are funded by Cory and Thames Water. There is another monitor just across the borough border in Falconwood to which Bexley has data access. Referring to Transport for London, Stefano was less than complimentary about ‘Boris buses’ and “buses are not as environmentally friendly as they should be”.

BorellaThe Council’s report said that “there are no practical measures that the Council can implement to reduce nitrogen dioxide concentrations” but Councillor John Davey said he disagreed. Councillor Davey seemed to be on the side of the motorist in thinking that traffic congestion is a big contributor to pollution. He wanted better traffic management avoiding the forced speeding up and slowing down and humps and unnecessary traffic lights.

In 2009 Councillor Davey (Conservative, Crayford) told me he thought traffic planning in Bexley was “bonkers” which was seized upon as the name of this website, it would appear he has not changed his tune.

The Deputy Director for Public Realm said that the paragraph quoted was intended to refer to the A2 area over which the borough has no control but he was otherwise inclined to agree with John Davey but diesel pollution had been a big problem too.

Councillor Seán Newman said that the Brexit vote would lead to “the loss of air quality safeguards” - more sniggers from certain Tories - and concluded that there must be greater use of public transport. Not one of his colleague's polluting buses presumably. The Chairman said that for some people a car or van is the only choice and it is.

Councillor Colin Tandy said he was “seriously worried by the air quality question but hadn’t got an answer”. Abraham Lincoln would be proud.

The Thamesmead East and Erith Councillors said that Thames Water’s sewage plant was still emitting bad smells and Councillor Val Clark related how she descended into the pollution zone when she drove down from Upper Belvedere.

The report claimed that it was produced only for “information and discussion” and said little other than that Nitrogen Dioxide and particulate levels have very slightly improved in Bexley over the past ten years except near the A2 road. The conclusion was that nothing can be done about anything, Councillor Davey’s comments will change nothing.

Bexley Council’s 2014 report on air pollution was a far more comprehensive document than the latest one and referred to many more monitoring stations, none of which appear to exist any more if the current report is accurate.


18 July (Part 1) - Cuts are cut

As noted previously, Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) does a pretty good job of chairing what is usually an interesting Scrutiny meeting. Perhaps ‘Places’ is simply a more interesting subject than Resources can ever be.

The first item on last week’s Agenda was grounds maintenance which has come in for a great deal of criticism in recent months following various financial cut backs. The Deputy Director of Leisure and Parks, Ms. Toni Ainge was ready with her excuses.

AingeShe said that “Bexley had experienced unusual weather conditions in 2016 which had led to exceptional grass growth”. The weather station in Danson Park showed “three times as much rain than the June average since 1990 and twelve times as much as last year. It has led to exceptional grass growth. The situation has been exacerbated by the removal of a scheduled cut from the contract”. Ten down to nine.

The contractor has addressed the issue with extra staff and machinery and sanctioned weekend working at a cost close to £20,000, without additional charge to the Council.

Councillors Tandy and Slaughter (Conservatives, St. Mary’s and Sidcup respectively) both referred to climate change and the possibility that this year’s rain might become the new norm.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour North End) said the reduced number of cuts “was a political decision” and he was not sympathetic to the weather related excuses. Sceptics might agree that there has been more rain this year but would it alone account for the grass approaching three feet high in places? Councillor Borella thought it was “interesting” as does the remainder of the borough, that a Craft Fair was held during the new rainy season in the very same place where The Danson Festival used to be held before it was permanently cancelled because the ground conditions were said to be far too wet.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) said that Ms. Ainge’s report “made sense and accords with common sense”. He spoke briefly of the grass growing to a couple of inches instead of an inch and causing additional cutting problems. Perhaps he doesn’t often venture outside and failed to see rather more than two inches. He thought that the contracted nine cuts a year should be made more flexible to allow for variable weather conditions. Ms. Ainge said she was looking at that sort of thing.

BaconCouncillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Cray Meadows) said she was concerned about the quality of the cut.

BettsCouncillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) said that the longer grass helped biodiversity and not all residents are against it. Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said he had had no complaints from residents at all.

Councillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) made a plea for grass verges around schools to be given priority as long grass has proved to be a hazard for tiny feet. Ms. Ainge promised to take Councillor Smith’s comments on board.


17 July (Part 2) - Keep Bexley spotless. And spitless?

TidyStarting in October this year Bexley Council will commence a trial of litter wardens. Four uniformed and CCTV equipped wardens will patrol the borough. Fines up to £400 are envisaged.

Another gem of information from the Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting!

Is it a criminal offence to accidentally drop a tenner? Will Serco incur the biggest fines on bin collection day?

The introduction of fines for litter dropping immediately after slashing the bin emptying frequency is just the sort of logic and service one has come to expect from Bexley Council.

Around Abbey Wood a spitting warden might also be usefully employed.


17 July (Part 1) - Excuses, excuses

It goes without saying that Bexley Council doesn’t like criticism and bad publicity and to counter it they have two weapons. Reporting critics to the police is their preference but occasionally they resort to the internet and social media.

In the past five years the Council has on eight occasions put an entry on a web page with the title ‘Setting the record straight’ (STRS) on which they pick on organisations, newspapers etc. which have caused the Council embarrassment for which they believe there might be a defence.

Bexley is Bonkers has never been featured for a wrong report despite a Councillor telling me last month that a third of BiB reports are incorrect and half of what remains is conspiracy theory. He ducked the invitation to find 23 ill-founded reports from June’s 70 blogs.

The latest organisation to earn Bexley’s accolade of a page on STRS is the Danson Youth Centre which has had its grant withdrawn.

Bexley’s STRS page confirms that is the case so I am not very sure what they are bleating on about. They additionally put the boot in by claiming that Bexley Council is responsible for the Trust's healthy financial position and not parents.

The Council appears to think it is a completely acceptable excuse that the Youth Centre is a “unique” organisation in that it still gets support and that phasing it out rather than cutting immediately makes it alright.

Is that any reason why the Youth Centre should just stand back and take it on the chin? Ultimately their protest will all come to nothing. Bexley Council listens to no one.

Meanwhile there is a petition to sign. Maximise Bexley Council’s embarrassment. It’s their fault they failed to foresee that hard times were coming.

News Shopper report.


16 July (Part 2) - No more Clockwork Oranges

Last week’s Places Scrutiny meeting wasn’t just an excuse for Councillors Peter Craske and John Waters to make exhibitions of themselves, it was also a useful source of information, it usually is and Chairman Melvin Seymour generally strikes just the right note being neither overly officious or jocular as some who could be named - notwithstanding his ignorance of the history of Thames crossings.

For many the most interesting feature would be Peabody’s vision of the future for South Thamesmead and Executive Director Pauline Ford and Head of Neigbourhoods Nicci Talbot-Morris put on a good show. Their plans were based on conversations with more than 3,000 residents.

PeabodyOne of the major goals is to “change perceptions of Thamesmead”.

There has been a consultation with all the residents “around the Wolvercote Road area, 600 residents, about redeveloping those homes over six to eight years”. The proposal is to “move and rebuild at much higher density”.

13 tower blocks would be refurbished and residents have welcomed the idea. The Yarnton Way wall which divides the estate would be removed and communal areas upgraded.

82% of residents responded to the consultations and those who had reservations have been given individual attention. The consultations are ongoing.

Owner occupiers were particularly concerned because the value of their homes is “very low” and the price of the replacements “will be relatively high due to the poor ground conditions”. Existing tenants will continue to pay “social rents”.

The offer to owner occupiers is that Peabody would buy their old home at 10% above market value with an option to take an up to 50% share in the new home on which no rent would be paid. Those down sizing will be offered a £3,000 per room bonus. “It will tie up Peabody capital for a long time but there are no hidden catches. It probably sounds too good to be true but it is true.”

Peabody has recently repossessed the Lakeside Centre which requires extensive repair. It will become “a community based facility”. £1·5 million is available to “kick start” the refurbishment.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked for an update on plans for Harrow Manorway.

The plans for a “pop up High Street” (temporary shops along Harrow Manorway north of the fly over) have been shelved because the demolition of Coralline Walk is likely to be earlier than at first envisaged and the life of the pop up would be too short for it to be viable. The “resources” will be diverted to the Lakeside Centre.

SawyerCouncillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) asked what “resilience” there would be post Brexit against Peabody’s loss of European funding. Mrs. Ford said that Peabody did not get any EU funding. Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer, resplendent in pink pyjamas and rainbow socks could not contain his mirth. Peabody had checked all their funding arrangements and “there are no concerns at all. We are well funded into the future”.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) was concerned about transport links and Mrs. Ford rightly said that transport in Thamesmead was too often a question of “spending a very long time going a very short distance”.

In Harrow Manorway Bexley Council is the design lead and was keen “to segregate pedestrians, cyclists, buses and cars and create an environment which is appealing”. Bexley’s Deputy Director of Regeneration and Growth said that “the space down the middle [of Harrow Manorway] is safeguarded for the future, potentially trams”.

The Deputy Director said that the cost of trees can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds so there is a balance to be struck between cost and how long they would be there. There will be a statement on transport in Thamesmead in about two months time.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske said he “had not followed Thamesmead until tonight but it is a tremendous opportunity” and then bored everyone to death with some ancient tale about the redevelopment of Birmingham.
Harrow Manorway

Alternative artist’s impressions of Harrow Manorway photographed from projected image.
Will we have to drive on the wrong side of the road? Left image.

As some of you will know my son works on road safety issues and is a consultant to the European Union. He told me only a couple of months ago that Germany has been putting a lot of effort into segregated carriageways and seen a big spike in the cyclist death rate. He said it appears to be caused by putting a tree barrier between the tracks, the end result of which is that both sets of road users forget about each other’s presence. Then when it comes to a junction and vehicles turn right (left in the UK), Bang!

Maybe Bexley should forget about its £100,000 trees.


16 July (Part 1) - Poor little rich girl

Just after nine o’clock last Thursday evening, Cabinet Member Peter Craske, presumably more interested in his mobile phone than what was going on in the Council chamber, interrupted the Places Overview and Scrutiny meeting to announce that former Bexley Councillor and his Blackfen ward colleague until May 2014 had been given the job of Director of Communications by Prime Minister Theresa May.

MagazineThere is every reason to believe that Katie Perrior is a first class Public Relations guru but as a Cabinet Member in Bexley she proved to be the master of ignominious failure.

Under former Councillor Katie Perrior’s watchful eye at least two children known to Bexley Council died for lack of care. (†)

The neglect was widespread and OFSTED rated Bexley’s Children’s Services ‘Inadequate’.

Since then, her successor, Councillor Philip Read, has struggled, with some success it has to be said, to restore Bexley’s shattered reputation. A couple of staff heads rolled but Ms. Perrior was allowed to slip away gracefully to run the PR group, INHouse Communications which she founded. It made its name politically by masterminding Boris Johnson’s election campaign in 2008.

Ms. Perrior is said to be unusual in becoming a spin doctor without a journalistic background although the experience within Bexley Council will have given her a good grounding in political spin.

She may not have been a journalist but her name was not unknown to the local newspapers. In 2011 she wrote to the now defunct Bexley Chronicle to justify her £22,650 allowance.

She was free to do so but implying that she was a penniless single mum and that she was “best placed to know exactly what residents of this borough are going through" was over-egging the situation somewhat.

“The majority of Bexley’s residents are not rich and sadly neither am I.”

You can see how she came to get the job of chief spin doctor. Deceit comes naturally to her.

† The other one was Ndingeko Kunene who died of rickets.


15 July (Part 2) - It’s all bollo balderdash

You’ve seen the picture below many times before but maybe the accompanying text will have faded from your memory.

It represents what was probably the worst bad policy decision made in Bexley this millennium. Teresa O’Neill didn’t like Thames crossings for her own selfish reasons despite every consultation showing overwhelming public support for a bridge. Her stupidity has become a major contributor to Bexley being slow off the mark in the race for growth. Teresa O’Neill is personally responsible for making Bexleyׄ’s financial position calamitous instead of just bad.

The centrepiece of Bexley’s Magazine, Spring 2013

At last night’s Places Scrutiny meeting it was said there is renewed pressure from government to press on with plans for Thames Crossings and Councillor Stefano Borella not unreasonably made mischief by referring to the above picture.

Councillor Stefano Borella.

WatersCouncillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) took issue with Stefano’s comment. He said it was “complete rubbish” and that Councillors O’Neill and Bacon were campaigning against the Thames Gateway bridge and were ultimately supported by a government inspector. Nonsense, the inspector threw those plans out in July 2007, six years before the two Luddites stood at the top of Knee Hill.

Councillor Waters is not known for lying in the style of Peter Craske, the worst you can say is that his thoughts are often more than a little muddled. In 2011 he said that the electromagnetic emissions from a mobile telephone mast are not as great as a vacuum cleaner.

Labour members reminded Councillor Waters that the Knee Hill protest was mounted to try to have the current crossing proposals thrown out at the first consultation stage. The same proposals which are now heading towards approval belatedly backed by Bexley Council.

Councillor Waters was 100% wrong in his assertions and the Labour Group was 100% right.

Councillor John Waters.

A Councillor talking total nonsense about local infrastructure at the Places Overview and Scrutiny meeting is disappointing but not entirely unknown but there can be no excuse for the Committee Chairman being equally ignorant as Councillor Melvin Seymour appears to be.

Note: The above audio clip has been slightly shortened. Only irrelevant comment has been removed. The original is available from Bexley Council’s webcast archive.


15 July (Part 1) - Councillor Craske is crazy. The proof

Mobile RubbishIf I should pass by a heap of rubbish and ignore it and Councillor Danny Hackett walks by later I am liable to get a stroppy text message from him, so on Wednesday I told him about another pile of black sacks in Gayton Road next to Abbey Wood station. I took a picture which you can see here.

Maybe Danny’s ward is unique but few would doubt that it has seen a big increase in fly tipping over the past year or two. At last night’s Places Scrutiny meeting the Deputy Director of Public Realm, David Bryce-Smith denied that things were getting worse and various questions were asked.

Councillor Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) invited the Deputy Director to walk around his ward where the fly tipping was “atrocious and it’s got a lot worse in the last six months. It’s disastrous”.

The rubbish Cabinet Member, Peter Craske, said that the flytipping epidemic “was not caused by Council cuts or Brexit but was the fault of fly tippers”. He invited the Labour members to condemn them which of course they did, rather loudly. In the second of the two audio clips below you can just hear Councillor Hackett’s voice rising above the general din saying “yes”. (17 seconds in.)

Later on (the third audio clip), while talking about the garden waste service and bin sign ups, Craske decided, quite unnecessarily to anyone not mentally deficient, that he would refer to Labour members as “friends of fly tippers”.

Craske as we know likes goading people on social media, he was arrested for it in 2012, but this time he was relatively restrained and fell back on his normal modus operandi, he lied.

TweetWithin a few minutes of the meeting ending Bexley Conservatives put out a Tweet. It was a total lie as Tory Tweets often are in Bexley. The audio clips below prove them liars.

Bexley Tories have form for this sort of thing. When Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) correctly lamented the fact that Barnehurst railway station was quite a lot closer to the Civic Offices than Bexleyheath, the Tories lied on their website that Seán was so ignorant that he didn’t know there was a railway station in Bexleyheath. Craske was responsible for that too.

Even if you didn’t hear what Seán said you’d have to be totally stupid to believe he was unaware of what station was where.

Bexley Tories. “We lie, it’s what we do best.”

Cllr. Hackett: Flytipping is atrocious. I report it daily. It’s a disaster.

Clown Craske: Flytipping, are you going to condemn it or not? "Yes".

Clown Craske: Accuses Labour members of preferring flytipping to recycling.

More lies © Peter Craske.


14 July - The peasants are revolting

Everywhere you look in Bexley you can find people who are unhappy with their Council. School transport is to be cut again and this time it’s children with Special Educational Needs who are in the Council’s sights. They are to be consulted but if that makes a scrap of difference it will be a first.

Wardens in care homes are also under fire. I thought Bexley had already forced them out by imposing conditions that led to their pay being cut massively, but some must have survived because 16 more are on their way out.

RegistrarAlso on its way out is the Registrar’s Office in Sidcup. Danson House has lost its grant and closed so the Registrar can move there and Sidcup House can be sold off.

DansonPetitions are becoming more popular, not that any have so far had an impact in Bexley. Since the Council refused to accept a 2,219 signature petition to cut senior salaries in 2011, every petition organiser has seen his or her hopes dashed. Those aiming to get Bexley Council to do something about unregulated HMOs have tried their luck with a petition. 3,000 signatures so far.

Also under attack from cuts is the Danson Youth Trust. It’s a charity which has been working for the borough for 62 years and already been stripped of most of its Bexley contracts. Now there is only one left and all the funding for youth services has gone. It too is hoping a petition will carry some weight. (2,500 signatures in six days.) They have a Facebook page too.

The very fabric of the borough is being unpicked stitch by stitch.


12 July (Part 2) - Bexley Council bows to the inevitable and accepts that Crossrail cannot be stopped

It wasn’t at all surprising to see that the patch of ground in Gayton Road, Abbey Wood wasn’t going to be sold after all. Why it was ever on the list is a mystery and probably one can only go back to basics and assume that Bexley Council really is bonkers.

That small area which has been empty since a couple of houses were knocked down to make way for the Harrow Manorway flyover forty years ago is earmarked for £6 million of public realm improvement in connection with the Crossrail project.

Recently it has become notorious for constant flytipping and being the back entrance to the Wilton Road brothel.

It has to be coincidence but today Bexley Council was making preparations to remove two Gayton Road trees which it had neglected for so long that they had grown around what was originally protective ironwork.

A ‘secret’ camera has been installed to overlook the site which may help identify the rubbish dumpers. Local traders will be saying ‘and about time too’.

As has been noted here before the tree roots have become a considerable trip hazard and today the whole area has been surrounded by plastic barriers. They will not please shopkeepers who will presumably suffer from Crossrail vehicles displaced from their favourite parking place.

Rush hour commuter crowds won’t be happy either at being forced to walk in the road but the litigious won’t be able to sue the Council for tripping any more.

Gayton Road Gayton Road Gayton Road Gayton Road
On rainy days it will be even more difficult to get into Abbey Wood station.


12 July (Part 1) - Council tax up by 12·5% by 2019

By Bexley Council standards, last night’s Cabinet meeting was a civilized affair and someone had arranged the chamber so that the public had a better view than a row of backs. A big improvement on the normal situation and all three residents present could see who was speaking.

Just for once, Leader Teresa O’Neill did no gloating at all and Cabinet Member Linda Bailey spouted only a few platitudes while Philip Read was on his best behaviour. Alex Sawyer didn’t say anything at all. Fortunately Peter Craske was his usual good value, providing in this instance an unnecessary and irrelevant history lesson.
Leader Cabinet
GriffinAs usual the meeting began with Director of Finance, Alison Griffin, repeating the usual frightening numbers. Maybe repeating is the wrong word, the figures always seem to be expressed slightly differently.

This time Ms. Griffin said that her estimate of the money the Council would have available to spend would be “around £200 million in the next three years rising to £215 million by 2020/21/22 and this assumes that Council Tax will rise by 3·99% over [in each of] the next three years”.

“The financial funding gap is £14 million in 2017/18 rising to £30 million in 2020/21.” Last week the savings target for the current year was £21 million.

Don Massey, Cabinet Member for Finance and Harassment of Neighbours was concerned about Brexit. He said it would “have enormous consequences for this Councilְ’s financial position but it would take many weeks, many months, indeed many years before we can determine the full effects”.

He claimed that the Council’s proposals to change the Council Tax Support Scheme was not an attempt to save money. New applicants will get £17·45 a week less than hitherto.

Cabinet Member Philip Read said he “was proud to be a Councillor in Bexley as it had not taken the soft option of putting up Council Tax”. As Bexley is in a slightly worse position on Council Tax rates relative to other London boroughs compared with when the Conservative administration took over it is difficult to see why that should make him especially proud.

Raising taxes, he said, was "basically an immorality" and the residents of St. Michael’s ward where there was a by-election on 30th June “appreciated the decision not to raise [tax] levels and maintain it at the minimum level up to 2018”. You will I hope note that Bexley’s proposal is to maintain tax at the maximum permitted level not the minimum as stated by Councillor Read.

Philip Read forgot to say that the permanent “front line” posts in his Children’s Services Department had risen to 73% so Teresa O’Neill spoke up for him.

CraskeCabinet Member Peter Craske showed no real interest in the financial quagmire from which Ms. Griffin is trying to find an escape route, his mind was firmly set on 2006 because it was exactly ten years since a Conservative Cabinet first sat in Bexley’s Council chamber. He wanted to recount its many successes.

It approved a new school in Crayford, it scrapped the Welling bus lane and it secured a reduction in Bexley’s contribution to the Freedom Pass scheme. Bexley had been paying £8 million a year and it went down to £4 million. (It has since gone up to £6·8 million in 2016/17.)

Having recounted three, Peter Craske ran out of successes to report and he preferred instead to accuse the opposition of “sneering”. I was hoping he might have carried through to 2012 and told us how he apparently rose to defend the Council from critical bloggers and came to be arrested by the police for the obscenities that originated on his home phone line.

Francis BridgeCouncillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said “there was certainly no sneering on this side” and he had supported Councillor Craske’s pursuit of smart Freedom cards. He welcomed the new emphasis on growth but said it should have been done earlier. “If we had done then what other boroughs were doing we would not have the level of black hole we now have.”

Cabinet Member Craske wasn't the only one to indulge in nostalgia, Don Massey thought it was relevant to remind everyone that unlike some of the borough's neighbours it did not invest in any Icelandic bank back in 2008. Something that makes it even more curious that Bexley’s financial position, in terms of Council Tax levels at least, continues to be worse than them.

The final item on the Agenda was the sale of parks and open spaces. 27 were proposed originally, one fell by the wayside because no competent council would have listed it in the first place, and four, including Old Farm Park, are already as good as sold.

Six more have reached the top of the list. They are…

• Land at Junction of Bexley Road and Kempton Close, Erith
• Millfield Open Space, Crayford
• Land at Gable Close and Maiden Lane Land
• Land adjacent to 1 Holly Hill Road, Erith
• Junction of Napier Road/Wellington Rd, Erith
• Junction of Fraser Road/Alford Road, Erith

They will go through the usual procedure which means that the consultation will be started any day now.

Councillor Craske said that the four sites already approved for sale are expected to raise £10 million and then made it as clear as he possibly could that the remaining 16 sites will not be sold at all. They are…

• Berwick Crescent (Triangular site to east), Sidcup
• Hook Lane Open Space, Welling
• Land adjacent to 115 Frinsted Road, Erith
• Land adjacent to 44 Maximfeldt Road, Erith
• Land adjacent to 1 Slade Garden, Slade Green
• Land adjacent to 14 Stuart Road Welling
• Land fronting 11 & 12 Court Avenue, Belvedere
• Land fronting 65-69 Blackfen Road, Sidcup
• Land adjacent to 246 Bedonwell Road, Belvedere
• Land adjacent to 95 The Grove, Bexley
• Land at St. James and North Cray Road
• Land at Gayton Road adjacent to 28 Wilton Road, Abbey Wood
• Land adjacent to 154 Upper Abbey Road
• Berwick Crescent (Two corner plots to south west), Sidcup
• Erith Station/Stonewood Road
• Land adjacent to 1 Pearswood Road, Northend, Erith

Councillor Ferreira (Labour, Erith) repeated his party’s view, that like that of the new Deputy Leader Rob Leitch, the sale of land is unsustainable. In particular he wanted to know why the six named sites had been chosen and not others. No one had an answer.

The Deputy Leader said he would be supporting the sale of a further six open spaces because unlike the first four which he had opposed, “it was important to distinguish sizeable parks and small patches of highway land”. He said being a Cabinet Member, (and not Councillor for Sidcup) “requires a whole borough perspective”.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) said that Councillor Leitch was originally against the sale of any open space. Millfield Open Space in Crayford is quite obviously an open space. He was concerned too that the 16 reprieved spaces will eventually be sold off for which remark he was reprimanded by Councillor Craske for spreading false claims.

Everything referred to above was approved unanimously and the meeting lasted a little under 50 minutes.


11 July (Part 2) - A taste of things to come

There is to be a Cabinet meeting this evening and the main subject will be, guess what? Money.

Today’s Press Release puts the spin on what will be bad news. The Agenda for tonight makes things amply clear. Six more public spaces are recommended for fast track sale, Council Tax will go up by 3·99% again and there will be another round of price increases and stealth taxes.


11 July (Part 1) - The really nasty party

An email came in last night containing information about the Conservative Spokesman for Erith & Thamesmead and Sevenoaks Councillor Anna Firth…

Hi Malcolm,
You’ll be interested to hear that the wretched Anna Firth of Sevenoaks pretending to be of Erith has been unceremoniously thrown off the Tory candidate list.

It has been said she received unfavourable references from David Evennett and from the Tory Association. With some accusing her of disobeying Tory HQ by not campaigning in target seats.

Can she really carry on calling herself Tory spokesman any more?

She ain’t going anywhere near Parliament any time soon.

Actually that is old news but now that it appears to be circulating a little more widely maybe it is time to say something about it.

Anna Firth was a founder member of Women for Britain which campaigned for the country to leave the EU where, according to Prime Minister David Cameron only a few months ago, it will thrive.
Several leading Conservative politicians campaigned for the same thing while the most disappointing Prime Minister of my lifetime changed his tune. Around a month ago I was told, and Anna Firth confirmed it, that Cameron and/or his equally nasty colleagues had taken revenge on Anna by removing her from the list of approved Parliamentary candidates.

It was that childlike act of spite that persuaded me to push the pro-Brexit cause on BiB a major feature of which was to include Anna’s short videos. Anna didn’t want Cameron’s appalling attack on free speech to be widely known while she argued for reinstatement, however I could not resist a subtle tease along with the videos.

• Anna is the founder of a group called Women for Britain which is stridently anti-EU and been making a noise all over the place. She ran an excellent General Election campaign in 2015 and lost badly. Even if history repeats itself she won’t be the most popular of ladies in No. 10.
• The way she is going she will be flung out of DC’s nasty party.

Maybe it was too subtle, nobody commented.

The nastiness of the Conservatives at the highest level can surely not be in doubt, especially after the past weekend. It’s almost enough to persuade me to join UKIP.

For the record, I cannot confirm whether or not the MP for Bexleyheath & Crayford is party to this disgraceful attack on democracy.


10 July (Part 3) - It’s all kicking off

117 Penhill RoadThat’s what BiB’s Facebook admin. lady said to me earlier today. She keeps an eye on local Facebook pages and sent a number of screenshots of comments showing varying degrees of discontent with Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMO.)

A month or so ago I didn’t know what an HMO was and now the acronym crops up every day.

Bexley Council put out a Press Release on the subject three weeks ago and on Friday in response to criticism it highlighted a particular case in Penhill Road on its website.

When the subject of HMOs first came to the fore and I was unsure of the facts I asked my MP if she could explain it. It may be worth reading what she said again. At the time it was being said that Bromley and Greenwich had an Article 4 Direction in place to offer some protection against bad landlords but at last week’s Resources Scrutiny meeting the Deputy Director of Housing said that those two boroughs were in the same boat as Bexley. I suspect that Bromley and Greenwich have applied for, but not yet been granted, an Article 4 while Bexley is still dithering putting our neighbours ahead of the game.

TweetDuring the past month a Facebook page has come into being and membership has shot up very quickly indeed. A lot of people are very agitated about the Penhill Road HMO and a protest was scheduled for today; maybe that is what is needed because there are more than 1,000 HMOs in the borough and Bexley Council has not taken any effective action before now.

The HMO Facebook posts suggest that 16 male refugees moved into 117 Penhill Road and women living nearby have already been threatened by them.

The lack of housing in the borough is at crisis point, local residents are being shunted out to Manchester whilst those who manage to cross the Channel are accommodated.

Whether one sympathises with the migrants or not, the downsides cannot be ignored.

There is a distinct possibility that overcrowding will bring problems with noise, squalor and extra traffic.

FacebookFortunately the Penhill Road case seems to have had a happy conclusion, the next door neighbour has reported on a Blackfen Facebook page that the Home Office has stepped in and had 24 men removed.

Keep your fingers crossed that the next HMO is not in your road. Bexley Council is still thinking about whether or not it should apply for an Article 4 Direction.

Council Press Release.


10 July (Part 2) - 18 months to build a simple glass box. 18 months to build a major transport hub

LeitchBexley Council eventually got around to admitting that its Lesnes Abbey contractor (Blakedown) went out of business last month which is obviously going to put the already long delayed £4·2 million regeneration project even further behind schedule, not that they were alone in being adversely affected. Blakedown was doing work for Peabody too.

Late it may be but on a rare sunny day this week the park was looking magnificent where Bexley Council had managed to open it up - mainly the Monk’s Garden.

The Visitor Centre may or may not be nearing completion, it’s impossible to get a clear view through the fences and the weeds. Elsewhere the standstill is only too obvious; well maybe not, the pond viewing platform has almost disappeared from view.

See when building started - January 2015

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes
Half a mile away Crossrail progress has been evident daily. The basic structure for Abbey Woods Platform 2 is now complete. The glass canopy is about one third installed and over the past two days the new track has been installed.

As usual a fortnight’s worth of Crossrail pictures has been put on line. Five more weeks and the first train will run through but there is still no sign of the return of a weekend train service. The new track will be used for delivering materials to the first Crossrail track.


10 July (Part 1) - Spoilt for choice

LeitchCouncillor Rob Leitch sent me an invitation to see how his Sidcup Garden Project was shaping up after a year of hard work. He rescued it when Bexley Council abandoned the Walled Garden and Rob arranged another Action Day yesterday morning.

On 30th July there will be a celebratory Open Morning in the garden.

I probably should have taken the opportunity to see Councillors at work but how do you get to Sidcup and back from Abbey Wood in a reasonable time on a Saturday morning? The train would be the best plan but a train service from Abbey Wood on a Saturday is a distant memory.

So sorry Rob, I took the easy option and stayed close to home. Didn’t even get around to replying. Pretty poor show!

If it were not for a mention on Hugh Neal’s Maggot Sandwich on 12th June I would have known nothing about the Erith Fun Day. Not being an Erith resident I didn’t even know where the Erith Sports Centre is. I forgot about the event.

Fortunately Hugh has agreed to write today’s report and supply some pictures.

The event was two to three times bigger than when it was held on the Riverside Gardens site - more exhibitors, but less atmosphere. The Field is absolutely huge and difficult for people with mobility problems, wheel chairs or buggies to get across. Also difficult for people using public transport, as there are few local bus stops compared with the Riverside Gardens.

Overall better, but with reservations. It was held in the field behind Erith Sports Centre and was very well attended, safer for small children too as it’s not on the road like Riverside Gardens.

I think the organisers will have learned from this year and next year will be the one that counts. Attendance was much higher than in previous years probably the Erith Park residents (next door) may be much of the reason.

Fun Day Fun Day Fun Day Fun Day
Fun Day Fun Day Fun Day Fun Day
Because a couple of Hugh’s photos were not the ideal shape for BiB’s usual display format, uncropped versions have been provided in an alternative format.


8 July (Part 2) - Bexley Council is hiding something again

Nearly two months ago Mr. John Watson made the surprising discovery that Bexley’s Head of Legal, Mr. Akin Alabi did not appear to hold a solicitor’s practicing certificate. The Law Society’s website didn’t list him and a phone call to their offices confirmed the omission.

Mr. Watson subsequently went through the same procedure with the Bar Council. They denied Mr. Alabi is a barrister too.

Step up Mick Barnbrook with his unending supply of FOIs. He asked what qualifications were required to be Bexley’s top law officer. The supplied job description was totally clear; it said that it was essential that the post holder was either a qualified solicitor or qualified barrister.

Strange when neither professional body recognises Mr. Alabi.

Mr. Barnbrook submitted another FOI.
One would think that if Mr. Alabi is qualified the obvious way to lay this issue to rest is to provide a copy of that qualification. After all, it shouldn’t be secret, the professional bodies are happy enough to supply their members’ qualifications, when the qualifications exist of course.

However Bexley Council appears to prefer to create suspicion.
All that they will say is that Mr. Alabi “is suitably qualified”.

Maybe there is a reasonable explanation. Perhaps Alabi qualified overseas and hasn’t bothered to register in the UK. Perhaps he had a practicing certificate when he was appointed but let it lapse. Or perhaps Bexley Council likes creating the suspicion that they have something to hide.

Mr. Barnbrook, as a former policeman, does of course have a very suspicious mind. He points out that to obtain employment via a false declaration is a criminal offence and I know the way his mind works. He will be considering how he can formulate a criminal allegation and present it to one of his contacts at Scotland Yard. The Economic Crime Unit perhaps.

It’s all so unnecessary. Why can’t Bexley Council be open and transparent? Probably because their dishonesty would then be proven and not just a suspicion.


8 July (Part 1) - The Fatal Flaws

Crossness BridgeThe planning decision on the old Borax fields at Crossness went the way that was all too easy to predict. Bexley Council is determined to make up for the time lost by its leader Teresa O’Neill who used to be intent on borough isolation. Financial realities have put an end to that and every opportunity for growth and the income it generates must be seized.

Cory Environmental’s application was a good one. They want to build a data centre and communications hub and power it from their nearby incinerator. The data centre will be big. 95 feet high, 180 feet wide and 370 feet long. And if that is not enough, there is to be two of them.

The loss of wildlife habitat is already well known and Mr. Todd (Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve) was allowed to run through the naturalists’ objections once more.

Mr. Pike, a Director of Cory provided an impressive catalogue of benefits that his company claims to have brought and plans to bring to the borough. Among them…

• A million tonnes of material is brought in by river each year and it produces enough electricity to power 120,000 homes saving 200,000 tonnes of coal.
• The demand for data centres must be met if London is to retain its position as a world class city.
• The site is ideally placed to be supplied with electricity and heat under an expanding Central Heat & Power scheme.

Nobody disputes that if it was not for the birds and the bees the proposals would have been welcomed with open arms. It should provide 70 new jobs.

Mr. Miles, also acting for Cory Environmental, said the claims of the naturalists were exaggerated. He said the proposal would not have any direct affect on the Nature Reserve and that "the value of the site will decline as natural succession occurs" and "will be lost therefore". I have no idea what that is supposed to mean and no explanation was forthcoming.

He said the site supported only a small number of birds and a very limited range of species and repeated that the site was in decline. “Only a single pair of skylarks bred this year”.

Three local Councillors (Hackett, Newman and MacDonald, all Labour) absented themselves because they were members of Forums funded by Cory leaving nature conservancy mainly to the ironically named Conservatives.

Councillors John Davey and June Slaughter were sympathetic to the objections raised. Councillor Slaughter felt “it would be criminal to build on land indistinguishable from the adjacent Nature Reserve when brown field sites are still available”. She “was very unhappy about it”.

ClarkSomeone who would never offer sympathy to anyone is Councillor Val Clark and was unsurprisingly the first to dash the hopes of the objectors.

She said that the proposed site was not part of the Nature Reserve, it was merely adjacent to it and “you have to draw a line somewhere”. It would be hard to argue otherwise and it proved to be Fatal Flaw No. 1 for the objectors.

Councillor Clark went on to say that “because the land had lain dormant [since its past industrial use] nature had taken over. As it had always been designated [for industrial use] there is no loss of nature”. She said she had no objections to the application.

WatersCouncillor John Waters said that old maps showed an “alarming” decline in the natural habitat over the past 100 years but the proposed site was industrial land until very recently. That being the case he felt the application could not be refused. Councillor John Wilkinson agreed. The Borax Fields are, as the name implies, a brown field site. (Fatal Flaw No. 2.)

Head of Planning, Sue Clark, said that if the Fields had been in continuous use instead of being neglected since the incinerator was built, the present situation would probably not have arisen.

Councillors Alan Downing and Joe Ferreira (Labour) had misgivings about the application and pondered the possibility of deferring it in the hope that compromises between the opposing parties could be achieved. They received no support from colleagues.

Councillor Colin McGannon (UKIP) said that the birds that had moved into the Borax Fields could easily fly off and take over somewhere else. I suspect that is not how nature works.

Munur Beckwith Bishop MarrinerIt fell to Councillor Howard Marriner to kick the last skylark out of its nest.

He said that the Borax Fields had been “an industrial site for more than a century which had reverted back to an ecological site but London is a growing city. We need a data centre and it is a good opportunity to provide employment for 70 persons and frankly I do not see how it would affect the population of breeding species to any great extent. I move to approval of this one.”

And that was the final nail into the Borax coffin. If I was quick enough on the draw, I believe it was Councillors, Beckwith, Beazley, Clark, Marriner, Waters and Wilkinson who voted for more concrete. Possibly Councillor Christine Bishop too.

There were a little over 70 people in the public gallery to watch events unfold under the efficient and effective chairmanship of Councillor Peter Reader.

A 1,076 signature petition against the proposal was, in accordance with Bexley Council’s established protocols, not looked at.


7 July (Part 2) - Hunting down the few interesting bits

The People Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting is not the place to go to see a petulant Chairman in action. Councillor James Hunt is always exuding good humour, perhaps that is why his meetings can go on a bit. Two hours and forty minutes last night.
Hunt and Co
The People meeting is not the easiest to report, it rarely gets into anything deeply or controversial, instead there are usually scores of short questions directed at specialist guests, Council Officers and Cabinet Members. None of them were ‘stand out’ questions yesterday and listening to the meeting all over again via the recording is not the most attractive proposition. Instead here are a few things that were noted at the time. (†)

The Clinical Commissioning Group has been trying to find out - and keep a record of - where Bexley people would prefer to die. Somewhere else presumably.

The CCG representative said she had been told earlier in the day that the R11 bus from Sidcup to near the Princess Royal Hospital (Orpington) is to be withdrawn. No one knew if Bexley Council had been consulted.

HennisCouncillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis was concerned about the lack of mid-wifery services in Crayford. She had raised the issue at a previous meeting and felt that the shortage was “totally unacceptable” and had still not been addressed.

ReadCabinet Member Philip Read, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said a ‘Young Director’ had been appointed to provide a better insight into young people’s needs and communicate with them more effectively. It seems like a good idea.

Councillor Sybil Camsey was critical of the high number of pupils not being given the required minimum of 25 hours a week of education. 142 of them. Most had medical problems and all were closely monitored on a regular basis.

50 Bexley people are now living in Council funded accommodation in Manchester.

The number of Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the borough has grown by 150 in the past 18 months.

MasseyThe number of HMOs in the borough is estimated to be more than 1,000 and could be as high as 1,400, mostly in the north. Councillor Sharon Massey said she had to argue with residents in her ward that not everyone living in an HMO would be a bad neighbour. She is right and as an acknowledged authority on the subject of bad neighbours her view should be respected.

Five more schools are on course to become academies. Chatsworth Infant School, Shenstone Special School, Castillian Primary School, Barrington Primary School and Parkway Primary School.

PickeringTwo schools previously rated ‘Good’ by OFSTED had lost that rating. Bexleyheath Academy dropped to ‘Requires Improvement’ and The Business Academy, Bexley has been put into ‘Special Measures. Woodside school remains in the ‘Requires Improvement’ category. 86% of pupils are in schools rated ‘Good’ or better.

Bexley is to join a consortium of three councils in September (Maidstone, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells) to pool licensing administration. It hopes to save £70,000 a year.

Deputy Director for Education Moyra Pickering was attending her last meeting prior to retirement and Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care, Sharon Wood, was at her first, having replaced Sheila Murphy.

† Actually I did listen to the recording and it produced no forgotten gems.


7 July (Part 1) - Bee is for Bankrupt Bexley

BeeOn April 1st I joined fifty plus wildlife enthusiasts at the Crossness Nature Reserve which is under threat by a Planning Application for a data centre to be built there. Given Bexley Council’s lack of interest in the preservation of green spaces I feared the worst. Sure enough, the application was recommended for acceptance.

The Nature Reserve is home to many rare species. The Bumble Bee shown here is the rarest in the country and photographed on the Reserve just a week ago.

The planning application is to be discussed at this evening’s planning meeting. I don’t usually go to planning meetings but I am going to make an exception for this one. If nothing else the faces of those Councillors who vote for further destruction of our green spaces deserve to be shown here.

The conservationists say that the applicant’s survey on breeding birds was carried out before the breeding season was fully underway and it claims that as the rare species under threat are few in number, they are not worth preserving. What sort of logic is that? There are only three sites in Bexley supporting breeding skylarks. Two have current planning applications aimed at their destruction.

More detail of the objections may be found on the Bexley Wildlife website and there is a petition too.


6 July - How low can they go?

You go seven weeks without a significant Council meeting and then seven come along within the space of three weeks. The first of them was held last night. It was the Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee chaired by Councillor Steven Hall.
Hall and Co
There are many ways of subverting democracy and Bexley Council knows them all. The best of them are subtle and pass unnoticed. For example; who would know that in the past two years the number of public meetings in Bexley has plummeted if it had not been reported here?

Scrutiny meetings are down from 28 to twelve a year and Ordinary Full Council meetings from four to three. The Resources meeting had in the past a tendency to run over three hours but was down to 90 minutes last night, in part achieved by changing its format.

The Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee no longer includes a Cabinet Member’s Report. Committee Members were requested to put questions to the Cabinet Member for Slamming Doors, “outside the meeting”. That way the public are not able to hear his response and kept in the dark.

Fothergill GriffinMaxine Fothergill (Conservative, Colyers) was keen to emulate her recent TV appearance by asking the first question. She asked the Director of Finance Alison Griffin how the EU Referendum result might affect Bexley’s investments. Ms. Griffin said there was “a risk increase” but was “confident that the reserves were at an adequate level to withstand any potential shock. However at present our growth fund is doing better than it was previously”.

Councillor Fothergill is paid £750 per meeting as its Vice Chairman so it is just as well that the value of Bexley’s investments is up.

Maybe better value than her fellow Vice Chairman Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands), also on £750 a meeting. He left after half an hour because it was the Festival of Eid. However before he went he wanted to “congratulate the Conservative Administration on finding £1·14 million of underspend through unfilled staff posts. A wonderful achievement”. Err, yes, I suppose it is if cutting services and putting people out of work is the best way forward. He asked the Director of Finance what the new savings target was for 2016/17. She said it was £21 million.

DeadmanCouncillor Alan Deadman (Labour, North End) expressed concern about “the strain put upon staff“ called upon to do the extra work due to the unfilled vacancies. The Finance Director said that the Council tried “to take advantage of those who had got jobs elsewhere by encouraging all officers to look again on whether it was necessary to recruit that post like for like or can we do that work in a different way”. She was “pleased to see the direction of travel [on staff savings]”. She “recognised the increased work load”.

MasseyCouncillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked the Cabinet Member about Homes in Multiple Occupation. The Cabinet Member said he didn’t understand the question but immediately followed up with “it was a big concern but other boroughs were much worse than here“. He had agreed with James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup and the responsible Minister, to employ an expert from his department to assist Bexley tackle “the issue of fraudulent applications“. The cost of this appointment is £92,000.

There has already been some success in reducing expenditure.

Councillor Howard Marriner (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked if Bexley was better equipped to handle the Garden Waste renewals and cancellations than it was a year ago when the scheme was set up. Deputy Director Graham Ward said the on-line renewals facility was improved.

The Chairman asked the Cabinet Member for Changing Addresses if he would like to say something about the Digital Futures proposals. He said he “would reiterate what he said last time”. He was less keen on forcing Councillors to adopt technology than the Sub-Committee was”. Apart from that he was happy with their report.

Councillors Deadman and Francis said that it was taking an hour and a quarter to fail to download an Agenda. (I’ve frequently waited 15 minutes and sometimes given up but I am not as patient as Councillor Deadman.)

The Cabinet Member for Noisy Parties said that the IT provider knew there were issues and different servers were occasionally not talking to each other. There is no easy solution to it. He asked for Committee Members to submit reports. (It’s been going on for years, did nobody notice?)

LeafThe next Agenda item was was about the voluntary sector in Bexley. The borough has 840 registered charitable organisations and a further 1,000 unregistered with a combined income in the region of £235 million per year. Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) had chaired a Sub-Group looking at their activities.

As has become the norm, Councillor Leaf managed to squeeze some political capital out of a serious subject. “Ten to fifteen years ago the New Labour Blair approach to everything was to throw money at it, but it is about how the money is being spent.”

Councillor Francis said he had spoken to many of the voluntary groups and they were saying they couldn’t cut any more staff. If they did it would put “cost pressures back on the Council” but the Chairman stopped him in mid flow asking him to be more specific.

Councillor Francis asked the specific question but it wasn’t answered and the Chairman wanted to move on quickly. Councillor Francis protested.“Sorry Chair but that was not the question I asked.” The Chairman’s ill tempered response is provided in full below.

Councillor Francis, can you stop?

And if you think that was a little uncalled for, Chairman Hall said it again, but louder, 25 seconds later.

SlaughterCouncillor June Slaughter asked if the accommodation promised for the voluntary sector on the former Tesco site on Broadway would be forthcoming. The Chairman told her it wasn’t relevant. He relented when he was told the subject was mentioned in the Sub-Committee’s report.

MasseyThe Cabinet Member for Reporting Bloggers to the Police said it was up to the developer and it may or may not be included. Councillor Slaughter thought he should be more proactive.

The Chairman said that any further questions should be deferred to the meeting scheduled for “six months time”. (See Tweet below.)

The Chairman said he and officers had been “looking for ideas” to be incorporated in the Committee’s Annual Work Programme and they were listed in Agenda Item 12. Councillor Francis thought a good one would be to invite the BVSC’s Chief Executive to next April’s Scrutiny Meeting. The Chairman wasn’t keen and offered a number of petty objections. Councillor Francis said that the BVSC was a “major issue within the remit of this Committee and the Chairman should be invited to come and see us annually”. The Chairman reluctantly said "I will certainly consider it”.

TweetCouncillor Francis didn’t think that was good enough. He proposed the invitation as a Motion swiftly seconded by Councillor Gill MacDonald (Labour, Belvedere). Chairman Hall continued to say he would consider the invitation and was slow to recognise what Councillor Francis had done. A vote was called and Councillor Francis’s Motion was passed with six votes to one against. Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s). Many abstained.

Obviously the Chairman didn’t like that and in best European Union fashion called for the vote to be taken again. Fortunately the Committee Officer ruled that a valid vote had already been taken.

The final comment came from Cabinet Member Don Massey. He thought “social media ought to be embraced“ and he “very much welcomed it”. Presumably not when it uncovers something he’d prefer it didn’t.

I don’t know what has happened to Councillor Steven Hall, I used to think he was one of the good guys.


5 July - Another broken promise

Abbey RoadI doubt I could claim to be unique by saying there are three road marking idiocies within five minutes walk of my house. Actually there are more, some occur several times over.

There is the deliberate trap in Abbey Road with four parking ticket machines and associated signs saying absolutely nothing about the fact that the £4·20 tickets are valid only in certain bays which are not clearly marked and the boundaries are sometimes totally obscured by parked vehicles. That will never be fixed because it is too good a money spinner.

There are the bus stops adjacent to traffic islands which bring traffic to a standstill whenever a bus is picking up passengers. That will never be fixed either because few, or more probably no one, in the road planning department have any common sense. A new example was installed at the St. Augustine’s junction only a few weeks ago.

And finally there is the parking space which Bexley Council forgot when it wrecked the layout of Abbey Road in 2009. It had promised residents during the consultation which says “no overall loss in parking space”. The promise was kept but one bay has been a serious hazard and the cause of two accidents that I know of because our idiot Council built another traffic island next to it. (The other one.)

It was mentioned here again for the umpteenth time only a couple of weeks ago.

This morning the hazard was being removed. Not very intelligently as the photo shows but just for once breaking a promise to residents may have some justification.


4 July - Teflon Don

Bexley’s Legal Team Manager has ruled that nothing that the Masseys have done recently has brought the Council into disrepute. Arguing with refuse collectors, wagging fingers in the face of residents, shouting at them, reporting them to the police after they acted on Bexley Council’s advice on noise nuisance, being recorded stomping up and down stairs and allowing guests to shout four letter words at neighbours - recorded again - does not bring Bexley Council into disrepute. Given the Council’s dubious reputation, maybe the decision has some logic.
The Massey’s neighbour, Natasha Briggs, reports that they have moved out of Larch Grove and a check on their Register of Members Interests now proclaims ‘Address withheld’.

To be within the law, a Councillor may only withhold his address if he believes he would otherwise be in some sort of danger and the Monitoring Officer agrees. I think one can reasonably assume that the Masseys are either paranoid or abusing the law once again. It must help enormously that Bexley’s Monitoring Officer is not a qualified solicitor.
Section 32

The Section 32 exemption to the Localism Act 2011.

In 2013 when a London wide check was carried out, 15 councillors across the 32 boroughs were making use of the Section 32 exemption. Eleven of them were in Bexley. Teresa O’Neill’s  “open and transparent” borough.


3 July - Tempers are running high

If too much time is spent following Twitter comments it’s very easy to wrongly assume everyone else must be doing the same and there can be no point in repeating things here. But not all BiB readers Twitter and someone who isn’t an addict is the lady who runs BiB’s Facebook account. Over the weekend following the EU referendum she sent me some rather shocking images she’d seen her ‘friends’ post on FB. The message was “asylum seekers are going back” and was definitely hateful. I refrain from showing it here only because it might identify my FB administrator.

Protest It was possible that BiB’s FB lady may have thought that all the hatred was coming from the Brexiteers so I started to keep a tally of outrageous comments by Remainers. The number of people who said they planned on shooting Nigel Farage soon ran into double figures, augmented by those planning on raping his daughter. Where do these morons come from? Will the police be taking action?

Among other comments noted and directed at those who voted OUT were that they were Nazis, facists, traitors, lemmings, bigots, racists crawling out of the sewer, zealots and evil f**kers. Further down the hate scale was Dad’s Army still fighting WW2, criminally irresponsible, dumb and Little Englander. And all of those came from the same Twitter account! The hatred was far from being one sided.

The bad tempered spats extended into Bexley Council too.

May MayBexley’s newly elected Deputy Leader retweeted, i.e. endorsed, a Tweet (see below) which purported to come from Home Secretary and REMAIN campaigner Theresa May. It said “Please join my campaign & let’s rebuild a country that works for everyone who was born here”. Another really nasty message. Unfortunately for Councillor Rob Leitch the Tweet he was endorsing was from a spoof account, nothing to do with the real Theresa May. I suspect Rob didn’t read it properly, nevertheless it set off an interesting train of events.

From time to time I am sent information which cannot be published because there is no corroboration, among them is the allegation that senior Conservative Councillors in Bexley refer to Labour Councillors as c**ts. These are the same people who had a resident prosecuted for using the same word on Twitter.

However thanks to yesterday’s Twitter spat a reliable source confirms that the C allegation which I felt unable to publish was true.

Tweet Tweet

The false Tweet and the Twitter spat. Click to see more.
(It wasn’t c*nt or dickhead, it was both.)

It’s a pity more voters don’t know what Conservative Councillors get up to, the St. Michael’s result may have been different.


1 July (Part 2) - Bexley borough. Getting dimmer?

Bexley Council has decided not to turn the borough’s lights out soon after midnight. The accident and crime statistics (†) persuaded them that it was not a very good idea after all and they have issued a Press Release.

Where possible Bexley’s street lights, usually of the yellow sodium variety, will be converted to LED as suggested at the Places Scrutiny Committee in February 1ast year.

† At various meetings over the past year the Council reported that accident and crime figures were no worse than before.


1 July (Part 1) - Conservatives win St. Michael’s with 37% of the votes cast

They failed to answer yesterday’s question. Bexley’s Tories couldn’t think of three things that they had improved over the past two years but they scraped home in St. Michael’s anyway. Things can only get worse.
ChallengeSt. Michael’s Ward Results…
Conservatives: 939
Labour: 840
UKIP: 456
Lib Dems: 117
BNP: 105
Green: 54
Turnout: 30·3%. Majority reduced from 457 to 99.

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