According to yet another Council press release, Bexley people are the second fattest in London. Sell off a just a few more parks and with just a little more effort Bexley may gain the top spot!
As you will have noticed, things are a bit quiet at the moment. I had planned to be at the Communications Sub-Group meeting on Thursday but a panicky phone call took me to East Ham instead. The nearly 97 year old said two letters had come, one from an estate agent to say someone wanted to buy her house and another from a solicitor to say someone wanted to take over her garden. She couldn’t be persuaded to read out the letters.
It turned out that the former was just a phishing trip by an estate agent looking for business and the other was from Newham’s planning department asking if she had any objections to the neighbour to the rear building an extension. Newham’s website didn’t give any clue as to what proportion of their own garden might be built on - most of it if the dimensions are any guide - and all the documents were presented upside down.
The Agenda for the Comms Sub-Group meeting suggests I did not miss a lot, but I hope they take some account of the effect Council communications have on vulnerable people. After 40 minutes of repeated explanation I’m not sure my aunt understood that her neighbour and Newham Council had merely followed the law, she couldn’t see why the Council was involved at all. She may have a point, all the houses in her road apart from her own have shacks in the back garden, some equipped with satellite dishes and they would discredit downtown Calcutta.
Maybe if Bexley Council wanted to improve communications they would restore my address to their Bexley Magazine circulation list. Not had a single one this year and a promise by a Council officer to report on the situation came to nothing.
The post bag suggests that Thames Water continues to wreak havoc across the borough. They came to dig up my front garden a couple of days ago. The path I had laid less than a month ago goes over a water main and now there is a big valve in it. It was just bad timing and they were very nice about it.
Not so in Townley Road apparently.
There the water was turned off without notice, TW did their work, let a whole load of crud into the pipes and then flushed it into residents’ plumbing.
That doesn’t just mean some brown water at the kitchen tap for a few minutes but mud in the storage tank and jammed float valves. More expensive will be the new filters on the washing machine, dish washer and filtered water tap.
As yet Thames Water has failed to respond to the complaints.
I have been more fortunate. Thames Water first told me that they would be fitting a water meter last November and it has taken a whole year of dithering for them to decide it cannot be done. Now that it is official my bill has been reduced from £497.83 a year to £238.74. Should I be pleased or annoyed that their inefficiency has cost me £260?
Crossrail. Is there no end to the misery?
Not much happening at Lesnes Abbey again and you have to look hard for the progress being made at Abbey Wood station. The problem is that one hole in the ground looks much like any other, but it’s all essential work before the Crossrail platform goes in.
A reader has suggested that the promised tea room at Lesnes Abbey will go the same way as the one promised for Danson House, that is it will never happen. I am inclined to agree, the place is dead this time of the year.
Those looking forward to a let up in the programme of weekend North Kent line closures are in for a disappointment. In April 2016 the Liaison Panel was told there would be no more after August 2016. Then in June they were told that closures would be extended until October.
At the last meeting the information was that closures would end on 4th December except for one more on 5th February 2017.
The latest newsletter from Network Rail says that there will be no work from 24th December 2016 to 3rd December 2017 which looks to be another mistake. Should be 3rd January 2017 I would think, but don’t look forward to February and the end of travel disruption. On Friday Network Rail announced 22 closure dates for 2017 right through to 15th October.
I have the dates but Network Rail asked that they are not publicised in case they are changed again. Seems like a good idea!
Note: The flooded station access is Bexley Council’s fault. It has been like it for 30 years to my knowledge.
A reader has suggested that there is a link between several Bexley pubs and not a good one.
They are The Drayman, The Nordenfelt, The Belvoir Tavern, Ye Olde Leather Bottle and The Great Harry. Apart from the fact that all but one are now closed and some ran into trouble with the licensing authorities, I cannot think of one.
The associated comments were interesting. Does anyone have any theories?
the beginning of September
BiB reported that Cory Environmental wanted to
increase the amount of rubbish delivered to their incinerator by road. Most
comes by boat along the Thames (660,000 tonnes) but the company was likely to lose the use of a wharf in Tower
Hamlets and needs to make up the shortfall somehow.
The figures sound big, 85,000 tonnes come by road now and they would like to shift 195,000 tonnes a year. The man from Cory had said that equates to another dozen deliveries every day.
A couple of residents kicked up one hell of a stink about the company’s requirement which I thought was irrational. Another twelve vehicles a day into the Belvedere Industrial area is rather less than the number of extra buses going there after the frequency of route 180 was increased very recently - and that was welcomed.
The issue came before the Planning Committee two weeks ago. I wasn’t there but the News Shopper reported that Councillors kicked up a big stink too with Councillor David Leaf taking the lead.
The number of trucks heading for the incinerator appears to have increased from a dozen to 56 which is perhaps verging on the significant. On the other hand if the incinerator had been built a mile or so to the east and Dartford was in charge, the 56 lorries would cut across the borough’s roads with Bexley not being able to do a thing about it.
Maybe Bexley’s Councillors should decide if they want the borough to grow or not. How many lorries will the Ocado warehouse bring on to our roads?
The Ocado plan agreed by Bexley Council includes 1,377 car parking spaces, 380 for vans and a total of 116 for trailers, tractor units and miscellaneous HGVs. All heartily welcomed by Bexley Council, but fifty trucks full of rubbish to be burned for power generation? It’s headless chicken time again.
The Planning Committee deferred their decision.
It’s only a month ago that I pondered rejoining Erith & Thamesmead
Conservative Association, I don’t suppose they would have me but I even mentioned it in a
conversation with Councillor Alex Sawyer, but how could anyone associate
themselves with such a bunch of liars?
According to the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative’s website the Belvedere Beach to be constructed next year is all Conservative candidate Anna Firth’s idea. Well I went to all her meetings on the subject (and all the Council meetings too) and had several private discussions with Anna while the Tory axe was being held over the Splash Park and nothing like The Beach was ever mentioned.
The lies told on that Conservative web page have all the hallmarks of Councillor Philip Read (Northumberlandheath) and he is quoted on it as saying
It was unfortunate that the Labour Councillors and the short-sighted campaign funded and run by their Party did not seek to engage constructively at the early stages of this process. Instead, they preferred to stand on the sidelines throwing metaphorical stones.
As a result, they helped nobody and let down those they purport to represent. The only constructive contribution came from Anna Firth the Conservative candidate in Erith & Thamesmead at last May’s general election and now the Conservative Party’s local Parliamentary Spokesperson.
Anna and the Conservative Party put forward the suggestion that has led to finding a way to develop the park’s potential for year round use rather than for just two or three months. Some malicious ill-informed idiots would like people to believe we planned to sell the park. That was a lie peddled whilst we worked hard to create a playground that will be unique and different with an educational and developmental bias including areas such as sensory play which is so important for many children.
So a campaign to save the much loved Splash Park headed up by Faye Ockleford was short-sighted and not constructive? Not being constructive was Bexley Council taking a unilateral decision without consultation to close the Splash Park and not offering any alternative.
Without the public meetings hastily organised by Faye with the assistance of her local Councillors there would have been no campaign and no Belvedere Beach. It was Labour Councillor Daniel Francis who identified most of the funds now diverted to the Beach. It wasn’t her fault but Anna Firth’s funding ideas came to nothing.
The Belvedere Beach will cost almost exactly the same as a refurbished Splash Park but will be cheaper to maintain and can be open all year.
It is true that some people feared that Bexley Council would sell one of the Belvedere playgrounds but apart from that everything Councillor Philip Read says on the E&T website is a lie and it is disappointing that Anna Firth appears to be happy to associate herself with them.
The Belvedere Beach should be an unmitigated good news story but the dead hand of Councillor Read ensures that the excellent proposals put forward by Council officers are soured by his determination to rewrite history.
There’s just one thing left from last weeks Cabinet meeting which might be worth a brief mention, it was a report on how Bexley Council has contracted out some of its homelessness responsibilities to Southwark Council.
It is not as bad as that might sound, Southwark is only reviewing Bexley’s decisions on the homeless. In fact it is almost certainly a good idea.
Mr. Paul Moore (Director of Regeneration, Communities and Customer Services) made a rare contribution to a Council meeting, he said that Southwark has a much bigger commitment to housing than Bexley and it made sense for them to help “balance Bexley’s workload pressures”.
Housing applicants are authorised to request a review of decisions under the Housing Act and there are 90 to 100 of them each year and Southwark charges £100 for each case. About 15% of decisions reviewed are changed.
A trial system has been running since last August 2015 and been judged a success. The Cabinet voted for it becoming standard practice.
This relatively minor matter had been brought before the Cabinet because a similar procedure in the borough of Welwyn & Hatfield had been challenged in court and the judge ruled that Cabinet approval, which the officers of Welwyn Council had not sought, was required.
As Councillor David Leaf pointed out, an independent review is in principle a good idea.
Bexley Council is pushing on with its litter fines, £64,000 in the bag already, so it's not going to stop in a hurry.
There is a new Press Release out today and a new poster. Can you spot the difference?
The first version ran foul of the Coca Cola company by portraying their can in their colours. Both are trademarked and copyright.
I didn’t report Bexley Council to Coca Cola’s legal department - far too busy - but a BiB reader did.
If anyone can suggest why tossing an apple core into a hedge to rot or be eaten by a blackbird is a bigger offence than dog fouling and giving a child a dose of Toxocariasis I'd like to be informed. Maybe the Tosser in charge knows?
We seem to have moved on a long way since 2011 when a Councillor used the word Tosser in the Council Chamber. In 2013 it was revealed that a complaint against him was the only one upheld against any Councillor in the previous three years. Tosser was judged to be far too rude a word to be directed at a Councillor - but residents are fair game.
Click an image for its full size counterpart.
Note: The link provided in the Council’s Press Release doesn’t work. It should of course be gov.uk not co.uk. Plonkers! No, Tossers!
Teresa O'Neill didn't want to tell you but said it would be good news. Seems
like she was right and people will like what will replace BHS in Bexleyheath.
Look what has shown up at the Companies House website.
With thanks to an eagle eyed reader and the sharp eared security guy in the shopping mall.
It wasn’t just
Belvedere Beach and
park sales on last week’s Cabinet Agenda.
Taking back Hall Place from the Bexley Heritage Trust also figured large.
The Council is doing its best to make the failure of the Heritage Trust a good news story but if it was considered beneficial to hand Hall Place to the Trust after the Conservatives came to power in Bexley, how can it be an equally good thing to take it back? The simple fact is that Bexley Council gave the Trust lots of money and it wasn't enough for the Trust to survive, so now the Council will have to pick up all the bills themselves. That is the gist of it but the Cabinet discussion added a little flesh to those bones.
Deputy Director Toni Ainge said the changes will take place next March after notice was given by the Trust that they would surrender the lease two months ago in September.
Their reasons were obvious enough, Bexley Council had taken their grant away.
The Council accepted that Hall Place must be maintained and it would be “business as normal from 1st April 2017”.
Cabinet Member Don Massey said he “can’t understand why Trustees decide at some point that they don’t believe that something is ideal’ which as a statement doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense. Maybe he pulled his punch mid-sentence.
"There are lots of lessons to be learned from the Kidscape debacle and it has very much concentrated minds of a number of Trustees around the country. You have to remember we lent a substantial amount of money and we have never even had any interest on it let alone a repayment”.
“There are some advantages to the Council taking it back. The Trust did not have the resources to take on investment propositions [such as a children’s playground]. We have to take it back but there are no fixed plans on what to do. It is unfortunate.”
Cabinet Member Peter Craske said that taking back Danson House had been a success. “It is one of the greatest places in London and the South East and probably the whole country.” Everything the unremittinly optimostic Peter Craske has a hand in is always best, biggest, cheapest, fairest or fastest.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked for how long the Council could afford to maintain Hall Place, “the Trust couldn’t make it work” even though they had been loaned £2·5 million in 2008”.
In response to a question from Labour Leader Alan Deadman, both Teresa O’Neill and Councillor Massey said that the Council always had been responsible for structural maintenance and that would not change. Relinquishing the lease was at relatively short notice because it was only a few months ago that the Trust had said “they were confident, Danson House having been handed back, they would be able to carry on [with Hall Place]. There are lots of questions and not many answers but I expect Hall Place to remain at the forefront of leisure activities and wedding activities and everything else it provides.”
Finance Director Alison Griffin had something to say about the unrepaid loan. “There may be some assets [by March 2017] that might be set against that outstanding balance of £2·5 million. However given the situation we made full provision before this loan in our bad debt provision so we will be in a position to write off the loan fully if we need to and it is already accounted for in our financial plan”.
The decision to take back Hall Place and the associated £2·5 million hit took up a whole ten minutes of the meeting, but The Trust had dropped Bexley Council into an impossible position so there was little choice. I still can’t see how the Bexley Heritage Trust’s effective bankruptcy can be good for the borough but I am not a PR expert.
Bexley Council is just a waste of space. They go on about the public being their ears and eyes but it’s all BS.
I spoke to Steve Didsbury, Bexley’s top man for recycling, on 11th October about regular fly tipping close to my home and the deliberate contamination of various large communal Council bins with builder’s rubble. He asked me to send the photos and asked if I would be a witness if he could bring a prosecution. I told him I would be happy to do so.
Since then; not a word.
Also on 11th October a neighbour who had video of the same incident and others drove over to Footscray to deliver the files personally to Steve Didsbury. Similar conversation, same result.
It isn’t special treatment meted out only to me, although being taken off the Bexley Magazine distribution list may be.
The following reader’s email tells the same old story. We may be Bexley Council’s eyes and ears but when they are both blind and deaf and totally incompetent it is a waste of everyone’s time. I doubt I will be risking a bashing to photograph fly tippers in the act again.
Re your item on BiB today about reporting unlit street lamps. I made an on line report via the Council’s ‘portal’ on 29 October that the street lamp outside my house was not lit. My message was acknowledged but the lamp remains unlit.
On 7 October I reported on line that my rubbish box lid was missing. Again acknowledged but no replacement yet received. Re the abandoned badly damaged car which I reported to Council on 23rd August (I sent you a photo which you published). A warning notice to owner dated 13 October was eventually placed on the car to the effect that the Council would remove it if the owner did not do so within seven days. Needless to say, the car, well over a month later, is still in situ. Nine months now altogether.
Why are we asked to act as the Council’s “Eyes and ears” if they don’t act on the info?
It will be for the same reason we are asked to participate in consultations which are without exception ignored. It looks good at the superficial level and doesn’t cost too much.
Not much of a blog today because I am going to Richmond and on to Twickenham. No trains
from Abbey Wood. No connection from Plumstead to Waterloo for the Richmond
service and no District Line from Cannon Street. I shall be lucky to do it in
under two and a half hours.
I had a visit from Thames Water this week, they had noticed that when they fitted meters at the beginning of this year they missed me out.
I am not the only Bexley resident to get a visit this week from my least favourite utility company - dreadful company - as this message from an address in the middle of Bexleyheath relates.
I’ve discovered a way of totally avoiding parking fines even when parking on single yellow lines, double yellow lines, parking with two or more wheels on the pavement where it is not allowed, parking outside the designated bays of a controlled parking zone, not telephoning to pay when parking in a designated bay and I am sure Bexley Council would come up with a sixth motoring infringement if it were you or me - breathing with the lights off perhaps.
The way around being issued with penalty charge notices is to don an orange suit, get a white van and paint a Thames Water logo on its side. Such a van has been parked in various places in my road all week committing all the above offences but Bexley Traffic Enforcement Gestapo have taken no interest.
Should you or I have a builder in to do work it is a dead cert that within five minutes of them stopping their van outside to drop off materials or equipment, traffic enforcement will be hassling them if not actually issuing a PCN. They will then be required to take their van out of the Controlled Parking Zone at great inconvenience or pay through the nose to park - either way adding to the cost of the job for the householder.
My own visit from Thames Water was more satisfying. When my house was built the developer laid a footpath in the wrong place. It was removed later but not before Thames Water had come along and fitted all the stop cocks. Only my stop cock was affected but it left it in my front garden rather than on the public highway. That is how I came to be omitted from the meter fitting programme.
The TW man said that as a matter of policy they did not install meters on private land but they could fit one inside a private house. Strange logic but I knew they couldn’t and after they inspected the plumbing they agreed. So no water meter for me.
However they offered to change my tariff to the average of metered households the same size as mine. I thought that a pretty fair offer. Maybe I was influenced by the prospect of my bill falling to less than half of what it is now.
Bexley’s Cabinet not only
approved the Belvedere Beach last Tuesday but they
also agreed to sell four more relatively small parks. (Land near Holly Hill
Road, Gable Close, Maiden Lane and Kempton Close.) This was the end of a process
which started more than two years ago (October 2014) when Bexley Council decided it was a good
idea to scare the life out of 27 communities by putting 27 parks on a For Sale list.
The Council claimed that the sale had been given general approval by residents in the 2014 consultation which was another of the regular deceptions. The parks weren’t named until February last year and it’s easy to approve the sale of an unnamed park which cannot possibly be the one at the end of your own road.
The sale was said to be to raise enough funds to ensure that those that remained could be maintained to a decent standard. The idea proved to be hugely unpopular with various campaigns organised, most notably at Old Manor Way and Old Farm Park.
Possibly fearing the electoral consequences Bexley Council has abandoned plans to sell more than the eight now approved for disposal.
One has to ask who dreamed up this idea. Why 27 parks when eight is now said to provide enough money?
Once again it was Cabinet Member Peter Craske who had to stand and make the excuses all of which you will have heard before. “The decision is in the long term interests of the borough” but he “absolutely understands why you might upset” if you happen to live near one of these parks.
For justification he said that Labour when in power “sold two libraries, a school playground and tried to sell every single allotment in this borough” and had not come forward with any alternative proposal to park sales. He said “they are opposed to all land sales” as if that is an unfathomable and disgraceful position to adopt.
Cabinet Member Don Massey said that his colleague “was quite right. There was a budget deficit to face” and that 18 of the sites for sale “had been dropped because of technical issues”. Funny that there has been no mad scramble to plug the budgetary hole that they might have filled.
Cabinet Member Linda Bailey also “understood why residents get upset but we have to look at things as a whole”. She said that a lot of residents had complained to her within the last few days “but nothing has changed my mind”.
Councillor Joe Ferreira said that the Napier Road site had been removed from the list “at the last minute” due to the protests and its low value. He suggested that the Holly Hill Road site was no different. It had little value and there were protests so he made “a final plea” to Peter the Park Pilferer.
And a fat lot of good it did him.
Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, West Wickham) did what he usually does, thank the Council Officers for the work put into the proposals to flog off the parks. “it was a necessity. It is a difficult decision but one I am comfortable with.”
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) said he took the same position as the Deputy Leader of the Council Rob Leitch. That he was opposed to all sales of open spaces. Like me he was very puzzled by the fact that no one had any idea of the value of the land at the outset but instead plucked the number 27 from the air. It might have saved a lot of anguish not to mention time spent at meetings if a little more research had been done.
Stefano corrected Craske’s report that Labour had sold two libraries, it was only one and one of the Conservative’s first acts was to close three mobile libraries.
Councillor David Leaf again put in his twopennyworth feeling the need to thank Council officers once again. He said that the 18 sites with “issues” were discovered only when those officers checked the sites. Did he really say that? Better check the tape again.
Yes it seems he did. “They looked at each site incredibly closely and those where there are issues with them have decided not to proceed with them and that is why we are left with a much smaller number of sites.” Labour had “no idea” and Sadiq Khan came to Bexley “and said he would stop these things yet we have heard nothing since. He doesn’t know where Bexley is and clearly does not care about this borough”. So Mayor Khan does not care about this borough because he hasn’t saved the parks? I’ll let you twist that one round and fire it back at Councillor Leaf.
There is, he said, a large park close to Holly Hill Road and that Councillor Borella’s opposition to land sales was “rank hypocrisy from the party opposite”.
Cabinet Member Craske repeated what he had said a few minutes earlier. That the Labour group had not come up with any alternative proposals.
The sale was nodded through unanimously in just eighteen minutes.
Bexley Council is keeping BiB’s new
Index of Press Releases
busy, they have issued another one today.
It says that the Council will only accept reports of failed street lights online in future. This is going down the path adopted by Newham Council which has left my 96 year old aunt without Council services. She can’t get the full range of rubbish collection services, she can’t order parking permits and until recently when they agreed to set up a direct debit she couldn’t pay for the Emergency Link service.
It’s no good telling her to go to the library or get a friend to go on line for her, the only friend she has left doesn’t have a computer either. Councils pretend to care but some don’t. Bexley appears to be joining that club.
Those of you reading this will of course have net access and probably will be able to report street light failures without too much trouble but putting parking services wholly on line is massively inconvenient.
When I come home and find someone parked across my drive it means leaving the car in the middle of the road while I come in to use the computer. I am far from being alone in not having net access away from home.
Bexley Council: Working for you. Dream on.
Click image above for Press Release (PDF)
Note: I have had to install broadband at my aunt’s address and buy a laptop PC to keep there to get around the many restrictions. There is no telephone access to any Newham Council service.
For the past couple of years Bonkers has been providing links to Bexley
Council’s Press Releases which I would guess most readers would otherwise miss.
The problem has been that after a day or two when the blog is half forgotten the
link becomes virtually untraceable.
That shortcoming is now corrected, there is now an Index to all the Press Releases deemed to be worthy of interest at the time of publication. That’s most of them but it is not a comprehensive list.
A new Press Release was added to the list today, quite an important one dealing with Homes in Multiple Occupation. You can have your say about the licensing proposals on Bexley’s website.
The Press Release Index is accessible from the Main Menu system above under both Navigation/Indices or Miscellany/Indices.
The so called Belvedere Beach which was one of the main features of last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting probably came as a surprise to many, but the idea has been around all year, there was
a Press Release last February.
Whilst the loss of the former Splash Park was a blow to the community and the constant references to cryptosporidium by Bexley Council were verging on fraudulent it was undoubtedly very difficult and expensive to maintain and in many ways its replacement looks to be an improvement. No one likes losing 100 years of tradition but in an age where Health & Safety rules its demise was perhaps inevitable.
Cabinet Member and birthday boy Peter Craske did not forego the opportunity to say so. (Pictures here.)
Cory Environmental Trust has given £150,000 towards the cost and construction will start in the late Spring of 2017 with opening scheduled for early Autumn.
Importantly, and unlike the Splash Park, the Beach will be an all year round facility with special provision for disabled children. Councillor Craske said the 15 children sitting opposite (the Labour group) would have a place to play.
There will be stainless steel percussion instruments, water play, roundabouts suitable for wheelchair users and sensory play activities.
Cabinet Member Don Massey said the playground was “exciting and innovative” and thanked Cory for their continued support for the borough’s leisure activities.
Councillor Philip Read said that we had Conservative Election Candidate Anna Firth to thank for the present situation. He said it was Anna who first proposed a commercial operation and the comments on social media that “there was a Conservative campaign plan to close the Splash Park” was a “lie. “It was complete nonsense” put about by “malicious ill-informed idiots”.
Anyone would think that it was not the Conservatives who announced without notice in the Autumn of 2014 that they would close the Splash Park and via a doctored report on its viability went on to do so. And the idea for a commercial venture failed.
Philip Read again - Those who opposed closure of the Splash Park should have “their sterile contributions ignored” because “they lack the ability to countenance change even when it is for the better”.
Cabinet Member Linda Bailey “echoed what everybody said. I’ll go as far as to say it is better than the Belvedere Splash Park”. For once she may actually be right.
Councillor Alex Sawyer was “proud of an exceptional facility” especially of its commitment to the disabled and the north of the borough.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) welcomed the proposals and complimented those who had come up with the design. He suggested there might be more water and his comments were noted.
It wasn’t quite his maiden comment since his recent election, but Councillor Ray Sams made an important contribution. He said that with two playgrounds opposite each other separated by a busy road the crossings and barriers should be re-examined. Councillor Craske agreed.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) had some concerns about the facilities for the disabled, nothing can be much easier than pushing a wheel chair into a shallow pool but lifting a growing child on to play equipment gets ever more difficult. As Daniel said at the meeting, one of his twins is disabled, so he will know that better than most.
He asked if Cory had set a time limit to their generosity, usually they insisted the public facilities must be available for a minimum of 25 years or similar. The Deputy Director for Leisure said she “did not have the answer to hand”.
No Council meeting is complete without Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) making his views known. “The previous Splash Park and previous paddling pool was, outside the time there was water there, an empty pit with leaves in Autumn and rubbish during much of the rest of the year”. Leafs and rubbish! Nice pun Councillor Leaf.
Unlike the Splash Park (mandatory jibe directed at the opposition warning!) the price will not go up by 60% a week after the scheme is approved with no consequent raid on the budget for disabled people.
Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) said the Beach was better than a Splash Park because “this is Bexley not Barbados”.
The decision to go ahead with The Beach was approved unanimously.
The Cabinet had important things to do last night; to approve their own
proposals. Firstly for a new children’s playground in Belvedere to be known as The Beach, then to sell off four more
small parks and finally to take the management of Hall Place back in house after the Heritage Trust ran out of money.
Click image for more pictures of The Belvedere Beach.
As Cabinet meetings go it was a pretty good one, not too much Labour bashing and not too long. It would seem fair to say that Bexley Council has made the best of a bad job in each case.
Once again the Bexley Buffoon’s directions on the room layout printed in the Agenda bore no relation to practical reality which puzzled the three members of the public sitting nearest to me. I’d not seen them before and asked them why they had come. “To see if Councillors are as evil they seem to be.” I told them that they are not all evil but some of those present tonight might be.
But the Cabinet was on its best behaviour. Nevertheless the three newcomers were not at all happy with what they heard. I must be getting immune to it all because, putting recent history aside, I thought a lot of sense was being talked on both sides of the political divide. They may have dug themselves into a hole but they know how to build a half decent ladder.
There will be a formal report later but for entertainment - which probably resonated only with myself - I had to rely once again on my old friend Councillor Peter Craske.
He twice or maybe even three times referred mournfully to the misinformation that is the subject of garden fence gossip and on social media.
Of the fate of the existing playground in Belvedere he said it is safe and all rumours to the contrary are false. “By the way nothing is going to happen to that playground on the other side of the road despite some of the more ludicrous claims that are being made. Baffling why people spend so much time and energy to make up things that are not true, but that’s up to them I guess.”
It’s getting there, the Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre that is, and it has been a long time coming.
The original leaflet clearly states that it would open at some time between July and December last year. In other words it is a good year late.
It is probably fortunate that the landscaping contractor - not the Centreְ’s builder - went broke last June. It provides a good excuse to add to the one about finding old bones.
As you would expect, Bexley Council has issued another Press Release. The use of the word ‘Early’ is interesting in the circumstances.
I have been working on an Index to Press Release. It needs another day’s work.
The reductions to Bexley’s payroll would appear to have come to a halt, for the highest earners anyway and since the
new Chief Executive took over in May.
Her staff job reorganisation which was made public last month cost taxpayers an extra £70,000 a year and now comes news that she has created the new post of Planning and Development Adviser.
The job has been filled by Mike Kiely, late of Croydon, who was on more than £100,000 a year while there.
His departure was wrapped in mystery. He was deeply unpopular locally for allegedly allowing Croydon Council’s new offices to run up a bill some £100 million more than had been expected. Seems excessive but that is what was reported in Croydon.
He left Croydon “to seek new challenges” - always an ominous sign - and Croydon Council kept his departure a deadly secret. Possibly they were ashamed of his achievements and glad to see the back of him.
Why on earth Bexley needs to employ him goodness only knows. Bexley’s Cabinet is constantly telling us how successful and financially beneficial its regeneration in the north has been. Why does it need another adviser at such a high salary?
A lot more background news is at Inside Croydon.
Note: This story has not been leaked by a Labour Councillor.
On Thursday I apologised
for ruining the Mayor’s big day in Bexley. The
presence of three members of the public at the bridge opening to which everyone
had been invited sent the Mayor and Council Leader Teresa O’Neill scurrying indoors.
How is it that three old men whose average age is closer to 80 than 70 can change the course of civic history? Whatever is it that Bexley’s leaders are afraid of? Maybe this picture sent to me by someone standing much closer to the glum pair than I did tells its own story of despair.
The sender’s name must remain anonymous of course which brings me to another subject. It has again been suggested that BiB is supported by the local Labour party. Their question is, where else does all the news come from if I am not in league with the local Labour party?
I do wonder myself because almost none of it comes from Labour Councillors. Mainly it’s from readers and from keeping in touch with whoever I can. There are no regular contacts with Councillors of any hue and news as you must have noticed sometimes dries up.
Having given the question some thought I came up with only one subject which might link back to a single Councillor. The tip led to the revelation that the Leader has her own private park behind her house; but there the trail goes cold. Nothing!
When I wrote to all the Councillor witnesses (apart from the two Bacons) asking for their support when Councillor Cheryl Bacon lied big time about me misbehaving at a Scrutiny meeting in June 2013, ten replied and only three were Labour - if I include Danny Hackett who wasn’t a Councillor at the time. No one supported Cheryl which was very helpful.
For the record I have briefly entertained more Conservative elected politicians in my house than Labour ones.
Harrow Manorway has become quite a dangerous place since the adjacent footbridge was taken away to make way for the Crossrail station. There used not to be any need for pedestrians to use the flyover but now there is no alternative.
Two light controlled crossings have been installed and for the time being at least that is about the best one can hope for, but they delay and frustrate everyone - and some motorists display that frustration by ignoring the lights.
I have frequently felt inclined to stand outside Sainsbury’s for five minutes and grab a few pictures. But those who think that amber means jump on the accelerator pedal are not the worst offenders, they are those that overtake the queue and send the pedestrians scattering. I have only seen it happen twice so far but when I cross now I constantly look right and left. Those who do so while staring into a small screen are dicing with death.
I don’t know what happened on the flyover last weekend, I didn’t notice the demolished barrier and non-working traffic lights until Monday morning, but maybe it was a driver with his eye on a screen too.
All of which is a long-winded way of introducing the latest batch of photos taken around the station. It’s mainly concreting and roofing again.
think I may have ruined someone’s day. In fact several people’s day, for which I
apologise, but I am not at all convinced it was my fault.
A few days ago I said I wouldn’t be able take up Bexley Council’s invitation to see the Bexley bridge being opened by Mayor Pallen, tea and cakes and all! But Elwyn Bryant found me a free parking spot close by so I could hardly refuse.
We got there at much the same time as the Council contingent and were soon joined by a local shopkeeper who is incensed by Bexley Council and the effect they have had on his business, but they are ignoring him. Just before the ribbon was due to be cut John Watson showed up too, delayed by a car park ticket machine that wouldn’t accept cash. And that was it, just four members of the public were sufficiently interested to witness the civic spectacle.
A shame really because although one could criticise the enormous interval between the first traffic crossing and today, the public invitation was a nice gesture.
The photos below are all displayed in sequence. The mayor in her finest was shown the pink ribbon but then it looks like the members of the public were spotted and the Mayor and the Leader went inside. (Photo 2 below.) The road was closed for a very short time and Councillor Alex Sawyer wielded the golden scissors in lieu of Mayor Pallen. St. Mary’s ward (Bexley Village) is very fortunate in that all three of their Councillors appear to be reasonably nice people and certainly approachable blokes.
Immediately after Alex Sawyer snipped the ribbon the Mayor reappeared briefly, (Photo 6) never to be seen again. Elwyn, John and I went into the warm where we were offered tea or coffee with a plentiful supply of cakes and biscuits. The Leader stayed outside in the cold, no idea why.
Councillors Tandy and Sawyer are not afraid to meet the public so we had a friendly chat about Donald Trump and the less than ideal positioning of the weight restriction warning signs. They have been improved since I last looked. It used to be the case that the first sign a lorry driver would see was beyond the point of no return. (Photo 9 shows the original pole scarred by the original sign.) It has now been placed nearer the roundabout. (Photo 10.)
An additional sign has been placed before the roundabout but it is on the wrong side of the road where one would not naturally look and it could be obscured by a passing vehicle. There isn’t a lot of room on the correct side of the road but it would have been more obvious if placed on the traffic island. Photo 12. Councillor Sawyer said he would take another look at the situation. Not all Councillors snub the public whenever possible. Not all Councillors report them to the police on any imagined pretext they can find.
There isn’t actually a sign to say there is camera enforcement until one gets to the bridge but by then it is impossible for any vehicle to turn around, which is perhaps the object of the exercise. Penalty Notices at (probably) £120 a time. No one I spoke to knew what the fee actually was.
With no one but three members of the public two Councillors and a couple of Council people taking advantage of the generous provision of cakes the organisers were able to take them home or back to the office.
I said to one that it was a shame to have wasted so much effort and money when nobody had shown up but he told me it didn’t matter and not to worry about it. They waste money all the time. He said more but as I have already ruined the Mayor’s day I won’t ruin his too.
Council’s Press Release with links to their picture.
It is a nice bridge.
Leader Teresa O’Neill is in bragging mode again. This time it is that she has succeeded in
persuading the Boundary Commission that the number of Bexley Councillors should
be reduced from 63 to 45. Bexley Council has issued
another of their Press Releases. The Commission’s website has
all the details.
The object of the exercise is to save money from, if all goes according to plan, May 2018.
A good idea you might think, but why are Councillors' Allowances the last thing to be cut?
The press cutting seen here is from an edition of the News Shopper published on 27th October 2010. Reducing the number of Councillors was under consideration way back then, it just wasn’t a priority. Obviously.
Teresa O’Neill’s report to each Full Council meeting is an opportunity for a bit of bragging and exaggeration but it’s generally kept within bounds and I quite look forward to it. It’s the only item outstanding from last Wednesday’s meeting that I shall bother to report.
The first announcement was a non-announcement, she is still unable to reveal the name of the company that will move into the store vacated by BHS.
An announcement that was imminent was OFSTED’s report into local schools following the riot centred on Northumberland Heath, It was going to pick out for special attention, St. Colombus, St. Catherine’s and Erith Schools.
Councillor O’Neill said that the police commander Jeff Boothe was “concerned about the factual inaccuracies in them”. His investigation into the cause of the disturbance is continuing.
On Crossrail she had presented her proposals to The Thames Estuary Commission and they were well received.
You can see what the Leader is up against with her plan to extend Crossrail to Slade Green and beyond in the associated picture of the track and station at Abbey Wood.
The curved track in the foreground is the Crossrail access to the North Kent line which runs half way to Belvedere, effectively a siding, and the deeply shadowed expanse is the back end of Abbey Wood’s new station. Solid concrete. I have my doubts that Network Rail will want to knock it down just because Teresa O’Neill has changed her mind on borough growth. The time for that was when Crossrail was planned.
The Leader also mentioned the Mayor’s recent “disappointing” announcement on river crossings. He hadn’t even bothered to tell her it was coming but he issued a “grovelling apology” when their paths crossed the following day. Labour Councils had been given notice by Mayor Khan.
The Gallions and Belvedere crossings “endorsed by the previous Mayor and in public consultations were ignored”.
She said the leaflet shown by Councillor Borella "was a different crossing". (If you tell a lie often enough someone might believe it.) “Two crossings would actually make a difference to our borough, much more so than a bicycle bridge costing £250 million”.
The Peabody plans were mentioned. She “had to say that the Labour group did not achieve the same when they were in control”. Well that would be because Peabody weren’t around at the time. Doesn’t the Leader ever think before opening her mouth?
Following the disagreement on Constitutional matters she reminded the Labour members that they were on the Review Committee too. Outnumbered but they were there it is true.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) was surprised that the Leader did not mention moving traffic violations, maybe she was "embarrassed" about what was going on in Welling and nothing about the ThamesLink proposals either. His main attack was on the subject of river crossings. "The Conservative Council has been against regeneration full stop. We have had leaflets and a variety of positions over many years.”
There was nothing in the report about the parking report either which showed an £88,000 profit, the recent survey showed residents to be very unhappy about the state of the borough’s roads but nothing was spent on repairs.
The Leader repeated the lie about the 2013 crossings brochure, claiming the bridge she was against then was a vey different one to that proposed by Boris Johnson. If she was against Mayor Livingstone’s bridge the facts are he was out of office by 2008, it would have been operational by 2014 but Boris cancelled it as one of his first acts. Why would Teresa O’Neill be campaigning against it in 2013? But don’t let the facts get in the way of a Tory lie.
She said that the Council was now putting a lot of effort into growth and “Labour when it was in control did absolutely nothing for Thamesmead”.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer took over. He said the £88,000 parking profit did not exist, “it had been misrepresented”. He apologised for the error, not that he used the word error.
Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) queried “the significant disparity between [11 plus] selection results across the borough”.
Cabinet Member and Deputy Leader Rob Leitch agreed that it did vary but the examination entrants and passes had both increased this year. Additionally parents and carers can register their children for the entrance exam independently from schools.
Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) contrasted the financial provisions being made for the Danson Youth Trust to allow it to continue independently when the grant is withdrawn but a similar bid by the Howbury Centre had been refused and derogatory comments had been made about the management. She said the Council should not only look after people in the better areas.
The Leader only made reference to the Howbury process that took place several years ago.
The Mayor said there were more questions than the time limit allowed but nevertheless permitted Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) to speak. She wanted to know how the Looked After Children Awards were funded. The Leader said that thanks to sponsorship and volunteers working free of charge the budget had fallen to £2,600. O’Neill and Camsey both represent Brampton ward and are best friends. She could have asked any time and probably knew the answer but not asking would have deprived the Leader of a bragging opportunity.
This is going to be another of those days when real life things get in the way of keeping BiB boiling, but let’s keep it ticking over anyway.
Abbey Wood Village
This should have been mentioned a week ago and probably everyone interested will know by now, however the Abbey Wood Village website is now live. It is part of the regenerations scheme funded by the GLA, the two councils and a 10% contribution from the traders.
As you can see the village sign will soon be revealed to complement all the fancy new shop facias.
In the New Year the road will be transformed with new paving, trees, litter bins and benches. You won’t recognise the old place.
On the other side of the borough the Cray bridge in Bexley which was brought into use on 24th May will be officially opened by Mayor Eileen Pallen at 10:30 next Thursday morning. Free tea from the Council’s Thermos flask apparently. Not sure I will be able to get there so any photos would be appreciated. Is Elwyn listening?
Probably it is just me, but my irony alarm went off loudly this morning.
Bexley Conservatives had Tweeted one of their anti-Labour stories. It was directed at party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Councillor Gareth Bacon said he was pathetic and if media reports are correct I would not disagree.
It would appear that a journalist asked Mr. Corbyn a straight forward question about the possibility of an early General Election. He accused the reporter of harassment.
It is a reasonable line of political attack from Bexley Conservatives if the story really is as reported, but it also confirms they are a bunch of irrational hypocrites.
When a Labour Councillor became too inquisitive about where the two Masseys really lived they got their revenge by reporting him to the Code of Conduct Committee.
When I did much the same thing they reported me to the police for harassment and Sharon Massey has been raising the subject at Council meetings and on Facebook ever since.
According to Bexley Conservatives, the Labour leader wittering on about harassment when a journalist does her job is a very silly thing to do, and probably it is.
However two Bexley Conservatives at the very least think it merits a trip to the police station requesting an arrest and a charge of harassment when their address and the use it is put to is questioned and that it is entirely justified. Now that truly is pathetic.
More parking restrictions
Every few months, when Bexley Council thinks you may have forgotten the last time, they slip in a few more restrictions on parking.
The proposed further erosion to spaces is relatively minor but takes away some residents’ parking bays near to both Welling and Abbey Wood stations. I can only guess what it is like in Welling but Abbey Wood has lost huge numbers of parking spaces in the last couple of years. Maybe as many of two thirds of them thanks to Crossrail construction and it doesn’t look like they are coming back.
At certain times of the day roads around Abbey Wood station are utter chaos and gridlock frequently ensues.
Special needs children
Bexley Council has today issued another of it Press Releases. if there are SEN children in your family you should probably take a look at it.
Crossrail goes into reverse mode
If you are one of the readers who regularly keeps an eye on Crossrail developments via the Index to the thousands of photos now available, then I should advise you of some changes.
Such people might be forced to scroll through well over 100 pictures before they can see the new ones, so the option of reverse sorting has been introduced.
The plan is that photo features which are still in development with new pictures daily, will default to most recent at the top. Older features will be in chronological order, but both have the alternative as an option. Any complaints or suggestions to the usual place.
Let’s return to the
once traditional Sunday comparison
between progress on Crossrail and the Heritage Lottery funded improvements at Lesnes Abbey.
Neither is totally covered in glory even if Crossrail has taken great strides over the past two weekends.
There is now three quarters of a mile of Crossrail track down to the east of Abbey Wood station and from Church Manorway to Abbey Wood station. The former may be seen here in what is now a finished set of photos and the other set is still work in progress.
Network Rail spent months clearing, piling and concreting the soft ground and then laid the track towards Belvedere in a well executed operation that didn’t take much more than 24 hours.
A similar operation took place over this weekend to the west of Abbey Wood but too far from home to be monitored almost constantly.
Where things are not going so well is with programmed weekend closures. The Liaison Panel heard last April that there would be no closures after the new platform opened on 22 August. This was hastily revised to there being closures on most weekends through to October.
Then at the September meeting the dates were extended through to December 4th with a welcome break until 5th February 2017. I took photos during the slide presentation so I am certain of that.
Last week a new poster went up on the Crossrail Noticeboard at Abbey Wood station and I took another picture (left). Click on it and it is clear enough.
Compared to the announcement in September there are two extra closures in November, 26th and 27th.
December is unchanged, closed only on 3rd and 4th but February 2017 is much worse than expected. Six days of closure instead of the promised one. And for good measure the 5th March is a goner too.
I know from my connections with the Traders’ Association how much each closure costs them with no compensation from anyone.
Things were much better when the station staff put up their own home made list at various places around the station but their bosses in Southeastern HQ who have little concept of what pleases passengers, told them to take them down. They were making the place look untidy apparently.
One also begins to wonder what the Liaison Panel meetings are for if the information provided is unreliable. The Liaison Panel was told long ago that it takes more than a year to plan and schedule a line closure so I am at a loss as to how things keep changing at short notice.
But if it’s the engineering that interests you it is undoubtedly magnificent and progressing at an amazing pace.
Note: I am going to try to display Crossrail photos in reverse order. To find the latest at the bottom of a column of 150 is becoming a bit of a chore for viewers who look daily. Maybe it only makes sense for the latest photo sets. In due course it may become switchable.
around supermarkets is not my idea of fun, especially early in the morning in
the local Sainsbury’s when they seem to be reluctant to take your money. I
usually use the self-service tills but that’s not so
easy when picking up a newspaper with a pre-paid
token. I won’t mention the weekly Stannah travelator failure.
But at least the self-service tills give change. Would anyone tolerate a supermarket that didn’t? So why do we accept it from local Councils just because most of them are run by crooks? Who was it who first decided that not offering change was a reasonable thing to do?
A Freedom of Information request reveals that Bexley Council has never operated a machine that gives change as you would expect from a Council that has a criminal mindset.
The same FOI also shows how Bexley Council believes in killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
The natural growth in the economy and car ownership should see a steady increase in car parking revenue but it hasn’t gone that way in Bexley.
The Council took £1,275,925.17 in 2009/10 and before Councillor Craske got greedy it rose to £1,508,170.80 by 2011/12. However his price increases knocked it back to £1,310,645.47 in 2014/15. Where do these odd seven pences come from?
The official inflation calculator says that the equivalent of £1,275,925.17 in 2010 would be £1,528583 in 2015 so the revenue then was worth a lot less than it was before the price increases kicked in.
Fortunately increased car park usage took the revenue up to £1,427,646.38 in the year ending last April, still £120,000 behind the inflated 2010 value. I wonder how much of that came from renting the whole of the Felixstowe Road car park to Network Rail?
But what did Bexley Council do as soon as it saw the revenue on the rise again? It whacked up car parking charges by various rates between 10 and 50%. Will history be repeating itself?
Before Mayor Eileen Pallen
lost the plot at approximately one third of the way through last Wednesday’s
Council Meeting, events were for the most part fairly mundane. It was question time for
Councillors. Nothing from the public because none had been asked that Bexley Council was prepared to answer.
Questions from Conservative Councillors are too often nothing but an excuse for Cabinet Member grandstanding and the first was not an exception.
It came from Social Media Queen Sharon Massey who asked the Cabinet Member for Education to welcome expansion of grammar schools in Bexley.
Deputy Leader Rob Leitch said he strongly welcomed anything that would diversify education.
Councillor Massey came back to admit that she was a governor of a local grammar school and to brag that her daughter was deputy head girl. She gave the Cabinet Member another opportunity to push the case for grammar schools with another loaded question. “What sort of children do you think would benefit from expansion of grammar schools?” During his 50 second, beautifully delivered and presumably pre-prepared response, Rob Leitch didn’t actually answer the question.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if Cabinet Member Leitch would like to see the expansion of good state schools. Councillor Leitch said “absolutely. The borough has outstanding grammar and outstanding comprehensive schools. Choice and competition is a good thing”.
Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) asked about progress towards a new river crossing in Belvedere.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said the London Mayor had set out plans for new crossings. “A DLR extension to Thamesmead town centre which is across the border in Greenwich is being considered but the Belvedere crossing has been kicked into the long grass. The Council will carry on fighting.”
Councillor Seymour asked if Alex Sawyer thought that the new Mayor “had let Bexley down”. Councillor Sawyer said that Mayor Sadiq Khan “has let everybody down. It is our residents who will suffer the most”. He did not think a DLR extension, “though welcome would benefit this borough as much as road crossings. The Mayor seems to think that London ends at the boundary of the People’s Republic of Greenwich. It remains to be seen if the Mayor is a Mayor for all of London or just his socialist comrades”.
For what it is worth, this alleged Labour supporter, falsely accused by Bexley Conservatives of hurling abuse from the public gallery during this Council meeting, agrees with every word Alex Sawyer uttered. I am ready to say that I believe Sadiq Khan, after less than six months in office, is proving to be a disaster for London. And still the Bexley liars would like you to believe BiB is a Labour sponsored blog!
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) displayed the taxpayer funded anti-crossing propaganda sent to every Bexley resident three years ago which demonstrates even more clearly now than it did in January 2013, that Bexley Conservatives made grave errors of judgment on the subject.
Cabinet Member Sawyer repeated the old excuse that the ‘old’ bridge was in the wrong place despite one of the two crossings he recently encouraged being proposed for the same location and he instead spoke of some of the inadequacies of the proposed DLR extension.
“It once again isolates Thamesmead and the journey times do not make sense. Gallions Reach to Canary Wharf is 22 minutes” and obviously longer from Thamesmead. From Abbey Wood it will be eleven minutes.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked Cabinet Member Peter Craske about the 50% increase in fly tipping and why there was an underspend of £221,000 on street cleaning when the roads are filthy.
Councillor Craske said he would be spending the money on more cleaning.
Councillor Ferreira reminded the Cabinet Member that a recent survey revealed that a majority of residents felt the Council was very poor at street cleaning. Councillor Craske acknowledged the need to do better.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) made an apparently innocent enough comment - though you can never be absolutely sure of what is staged - about the need to make further investment in cleaning which gave Councillor Craske the opportunity to say that the Labour group had voted against his Don’t be a Tosser initiative.
I have no recollection of that but the usual trick is to bundle the acceptable into a single package with the not so acceptable to force Labour into a reluctant No vote.
335 fines had been issued including 13 for spitting.
Councillor Craske went on to say that on fly tipping, he looks for evidence and then prosecutes. My neighbour and I are still waiting for any response to the video and photographic evidence delivered to the Council offices four weeks ago.
Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked how many fly tipping prosecutions there had been. “Four fined in court with two cases pending in the last few months.”
Councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP, St. Michael’s) put his question to Cabinet Member Craske. He wanted to know if racist crime in Bexley was increasing. At the previous Council meeting Peter Craske reported that it had not increased in the month since Brexit.
Fortunately Councillor Craske said the same thing again. There was no evidence of an increase since the referendum. There were actually more racist crimes in Bexley in the month before the Brexit vote than there were in the following month.
Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham) introduced an entirely new subject and referred to a Parliamentary committee which alleged that the Labour party was “a safe place for anti-Semitism”. Labour Councillors Stefano Borella and Daniel Francis both drew the Mayor’s attention to the Constitution (Rule 20.4) which does not allow questions of a non-local nature. It was at this point that the Mayor first demonstrated that she is the worst since Val Clark who is her Deputy.
She said she saw no need to abide by the Constitution, she wanted to hear what Councillor Hunt had to say and that was her ruling whatever the Constitution might say.
After Councillor Hunt had finished his attempt to besmirch the opposition Councillor Craske tried to pull the question back to a local one. There had been no anti-Semitic crime in Bexley during the past year. The fact that he had that obscure statistic to hand strongly suggests that James Hunt’s question was pre-arranged. The statistic was accompanied by some clapping. The webcast does not reveal who was responsible for it but my recorder suggests it was someone very close to me. My money is on Michael Barnbrook.
Cabinet Member Read was asked what the latest percentage was for permanent staff within Children’s Services. He said it was 77% in August and now 84%. Philip Read is obviously a far more successful Cabinet Member than his predecessor Katie Perrior who has gone away to work in Downing Street for Theresa May. What a disaster she was.
Philip Read’s response was not without a jibe or two at the opposition party but was otherwise informative. The academy for new social workers, the combatting of tax avoidance schemes and taking the lead role with a London wide cooperation scheme are all going well.
For the record it was a this point that I was left alone in the Public Gallery and the possibility of there being Labour supporters shouting abuse later, as published on the Conservative’s website, evaporated.
Councillor Nick O’Hare asked Councillor Craske to crow over the success of community libraries and denigrate the opposition. He was happy to oblige. He confirmed that the joint venture with Bromley Council has failed.
The Mayor finished the session on time which meant we missed some absolute gems of questions like, for example, Councillor John Wilkinsons’ which asked Peter Craske what he was doing to tackle the litter problem. Is he really the only person in the borough who has not seen the Tosser posters and the Council’s constant stream of Tweets about the number of penalty notices issued?
As the Agenda moved on to the next Item the Mayor announced that it must be kept within its allotted 30 minutes, an instruction that she instantly forgot.
From the outset Bexley Council is Bonkers has set out to present
facts about Bexley Council, wherever possible providing the background information, documentation
and web links that allow the reader to check out the facts for themselves. Had
it set out to peddle falsehoods I doubt it would have survived seven years and
be read by more than a thousand people every day - sorry, most days.
Bexley Conservatives do not subscribe to that philosophy and yesterday confirmed via their own blog that they are liars through and through.
Yesterday's BiB blog was written over many hours by listening to the recording, one statement at a time and writing down as accurately as I could all of those that seemed relevant to me. Doubters can check everything via Bexley Council's webcast. I made reference to every statement by every Councillor who spoke during the part of the meeting so far covered. There is therefore little scope for distorting the truth but that is exactly what Bexley Tories have done.
They have published their own report which ranges from the heavily biased to the most outrageous of lies.
Click image for page of (mostly) Tory lies.
At the beginning of the meeting there were four members of the public present,
all of them sitting behind the Labour Councillors because the Buffoon does not
allow any alternative. They were all people you hear of regularly on BiB.
Michael Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant, John Watson and me. Soon after question time
three went home - I could check the time because I recorded their whispered
goodbyes - two on the grounds that they couldn't hear and the other
just got bored. None of those three are Labour supporters and I was once a
member of Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association.
There were no Labour supporters sitting behind the Labour Councillors at any time, for most of the meeting there was only me. You can check for yourself because the webcast occasionally shows the public gallery. The two other people you might see there are Council Officers from the Committee and Press Offices.
Let me give Bexley Conservatives a much needed tip. You do not attract a loyal readership by pumping out deliberate lies, especially when they are so easily disproved.
Last night’s Bexley Council meeting was a very silly one. Probably not a
strong enough word as you will soon see. There were no questions from members of the
public because all those I am aware of were thrown out as being unacceptable. The Mayor
can do what she likes, and that will be the theme of this blog.
Some useful information came out of the meeting - not a lot - and BiB will cover that later. In the mean time the silly bits. Not just the silly bits, but more importantly the utterly disgraceful bits.
The Chief Executive’s instructions that a map of the seating area must appear in the Agenda had been overlooked but the barrier was there as normal but had gone further than ever before. For the first time It forbade public access to the water dispenser. Not that it mattered much, there were only four members of the public present and three of them left within the first hour complaining that they couldn’t hear a thing despite two of them prominently sporting hearing aids.
That left just me struggling to hear what was going on. With the Labour members’ backs facing me I missed quite a lot of what they said.
There was of course no Press Desk because as the Chief Executive has correctly pointed out the law only says common sense should be applied to provision of a table and she does not possess an abundance of that commodity.
It was my turn to be silly too. The law says that I may take photographs during Council meetings without putting any restrictions on the equipment used. So I took along a 450mm lens instead of the usual 200 to see if I could hold it steady in the comparatively dim light.
It’s cruel but I can now see every pimple. The Chief Executive removed the gloves when she decided to be spiteful. Two can play that game.
This was the first Council meeting to be held under the new Constitution. There may have been an element of testing its limits.
The fun and games began when the Labour group put forward a motion that Bexley Council should pay the London Living Wage (LLW) to its staff, anathema to the nastier elements of the nasty party of course. It was Councillor Amaning’s (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) motion but in her absence was moved by her ward colleague Councillor Hackett. The Motion included incentives to be offered to local business that followed suit.
Councillor Hackett reeled off a list of 15 London Councils that already paid the LLW. I’m not sure it helped his case that they were all Labour controlled.
Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) was the first to condemn the idea. She moved that the Motion should not be considered but that the idea should be floated by Cabinet Member Don Massey in private instead. The ruse was seconded by Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands), another member of the disreputable wing of Bexley Councillors. They received 100% support from the blue sheep.
Councillor Brenda Langstead wanted Bexley Council to adopt the standards for care services recommended by the public services union UNISON. Referring back to an earlier meeting at which Councillor Sharon Massey said she would be unwilling to be a Councillor for the Living Wage, Brenda said care workers did not even reach that pay level.
Bexley Council as you might imagine did not approve of anything that may have come from a union and Councillor James Hunt put forward an alternative. It spoke only of providing a “high quality and value for money” service. We know what Bexley’s idea of value for money care services is because former Cabinet Member for Adult Care told us. Under him Bexley was paying the smallest care rate of any south London council.
Despite Labour objections that Councillor Hunt's suggestion was so far away from the original motion that it was no substitute, the Mayor told them politely to shut up. In contrast she was almost subservient to Councillor Hunt “thanking” and “begging” him to continue.
Part of Councillor Hunt’s objection to the Motion was that as it had been held over from the July meeting, the level of pay quoted was no longer up to date. Pathetic or what? Councillor Hackett had covered that point in his opening remarks.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) brought up another point of order but the Mayor told him to shut up too, less politely this time. Councillor Hunt went on to say that UNISON’s Charter was national and not specific to Bexley the logic of which is that it shouldn’t apply anywhere. He said the Charter was a “publicity stunt” and continued to speak over his allotted time without rebuke from the Mayor.
Councillor John Fuller seconded Hunt’s so called amendment based on the fact it would increase costs and the number of users would therefore decrease. He said that all the worst payers were Labour boroughs and Bexley is now half way up the London league table. Taylor’s malign influence is a thing of the past.
The Mayor took it upon herself to extend the discussions and allowed Councillor Leaf to speak again. He rambled on about the Labour party to such an extent that the Mayor asked him to get back on track. He rambled again and Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked the Mayor to adhere to the Council’s agreed Constitutional timetable. She refused claiming she had the discretion to override the Constitution. “Thank you very much, it is my ruling.”
Councillor Lyn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey)) spoke up for family carers who get paid next to nothing.
The responsible Cabinet Member Brad Smith spoke in favour of James Hunt’s amendment saying that “Bexley is far better than UNISON’s Charter”.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvdere) said something which I didn’t quite catch - back to recorder - but whatever it was Councillor Sybil Camsey thought it worthy of personal criticism. It must have been something about the Mayor breaking the Constitutional rules because she said that the Mayor has the authority to drive a coach and horses through the Constitution. I have broken off and wasted best part of an hour reading it but the nearest I got to it was that the Mayor could interpret the rules how she wished (Paragraph 34.3). Surely that doesn't mean she can change them wholesale?
Logically if the Mayor can adapt the Constitution as she thinks fit well there lies chaos - and before long that is what we got.
Councillor Newman tried again but the Mayor began to lose her temper as she told him imperiously “I have ruled”. I was expecting ‘We are not amused’ next. Councillor Newman formally moved a point of order but the Mayor ignored him and asked for the vote to be taken. When Councillor Newman spoke again he was accused of being disrespectful. “What about the rules?” he said.
The Mayor announced that “the Motion is carried”. She meant the Conservative substitute one, not the real thing.
Before the next Agenda item could be taken, Councillor Daniel Francis also queried the Mayor’s interpretation of the rules. What sort of interpretation does a number like 30 minutes require? He was “seeking guidance on the issue that one Member of the Council can overrule all other 62 Members on any procedural rule”. The Mayor said feedback could be given after the meeting but her decision was final. Councillor Francis asked for “feedback now”.
Councillor Newman asked where the Constitution gave the Mayor the right to use her discretion on procedural rules. Clue: the answer is nowhere.
The Mayor moved on to the Leader’s Report. Ironically she introduced the Item by saying it would run to 30 minutes - unless she changed her mind as she had done earlier.
The useful stuff reported by the Leader will appear in a later blog, this one is for covering Bexley Council’s difficulty in understanding the concept of a Constitutional Democracy. In a final swipe at the Labour group she reminded them that they were part of the Constitutional Review Committee which approved the Constitution. Only a minority component of course, with no power to reverse Tory ambitions.
When the allotted 30 minutes of the Leader’s Report was close to being used up and no one from Labour had managed to get a word in edgeways, Councillor Borella asked for an extension as permitted by Constitution Rule 22.1 subsection l. His request was denied. Instead the Leader was asked to sum up.
Councillor Newman pointed out that Rule 25.1 did not allow discussion to go over 30 minutes. The Mayor told him to “kindly sit down”. She was breaking the Rules and according to her she was entitled to do so.
Councillor Newman said he had a right to be heard immediately (Rule 30.5). Councillor Francis said Rule 32.2 (if I heard him correctly) was being broken too.
The Mayor decided to take advice from the man who doesn’t appear to be a solicitor. His advice could not be heard but the Mayor decided to press on anyway. Councillor Francis came up with another Rule number that was being trampled on. The Mayor told him to sit down too and ruled that the summing up could fall outside the 30 minute discussion.
Councillors Newman and Francis both mentioned rule 25.1 again which clearly states that the debate and the Leader’s contribution to it must not exceed 30 minutes. The Mayor was in blatant breach of the Constitution. The Mayor said she was going to speak over them because they were both “appallingly rude” and irony is not her strong point. Councillor Sharon Massey interjected “here, here”.
It was “my ruling and I will repeat it as often as you want” said the Mayor who was quite clearly in the wrong.
To dig her out of her hole Council Leader Teresa O’Neill proposed that Councillors Newman and Francis should be banned from speaking and the Tories voted 100% to kill democracy rather than accept that the Mayor hadn’t a clue about what was written in the Constitution. Failed headmistress Sybil Camsey had seconded it.
Councillor Danny Hackett uttered the two words "Madam Mayor" for which she pronounced him “rude” too.
The meeting moved on to the next item. The Mayor continued in the same belligerent manner.
It should be noted that most Conservative Members said absolutely nothing during this unseemly episode. Only those named above. But the whips are obviously very effective.
lesson of recent years is that you should never agree to any Bexley Council proposal. It is
currently claiming that everyone has already agreed to additional charges being
imposed on residents. As if the 3% (individual percentages vary) of Council Tax
above the 4% advertised increase represented by the
brown bin tax and the thousands of £120 yellow money box charges are not enough already.
Bexley Council is now planning to extract another £3·6 million from the collective borough pocket and has issued a Press Release. A very low key affair which does not contain any link to the Consultation said to be currently in progress. I find it particularly obnoxious that the additional levies are proposed by a Councillor who doesn’t even live in Bexley.
£3·6 million a year is more than £150 for every man woman and child in the borough (2011 Census.)
The proposals include the rather worrying suggestion that Bexley should not charge less for a service than any other local authority and to charge higher fees whenever it is legal to do so. After Bexley Council has adjusted all its fees so as never to be cheaper than anywhere else the borough will surely die, as democracy did in the Council Chamber last night. (Detail later.)
The Transport User’s Committee is a meeting I like to go to but it often
conflicts with my responsibilities with the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association
which it did again last week.
I read through the Agenda so that you don’t have to and the only thing that caught my eye concerned the proposed Rainham to Luton train service. It might seem like an interesting idea but not when one gets down to the detail. As a result there will no longer be any service to Waterloo East and Charing Cross or even to Blackheath and Lewisham.
So holiday makers heading to St. Pancras for Eurostar or Luton Airport once a year will be given preference over the daily, for some, trek to Lewisham and from there perhaps the connection to King’s Hospital at Denmark Hill.
Absolutely crazy. Fortunately the Transport Committee thinks so too and recommends that Bexley Council objects.
So should you. Click image to do so.
Bexley Council has progressively reduced the grant to The Bexley Heritage Trust. At the time of
the last cut Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said "how the hell can that be
sustainable" and Finance Director Alison Griffin said "it was running a risk".
The same meeting revealed that around half a million pounds had been paid to a
handful of the top brass that had left the Council in 2014/15.
As Daniel Francis predicted, the end is now nigh. The Trust has thrown in the towel.
Click image to see the whole of the Press Release.
The job of announcing the demise of Hall Place's management by The Bexley
Heritage Trust has fallen, as bad news generally does, to Cabinet Member Peter
Craske. He still plans to impose
parking charges at Hall Place, thereby ensuring further difficulties for
the hall, the restaurant and the businesses that operate from the gardens.
The Trust had been declining financially for several years.