Banner
today rss facebook twitter

Bonkers Blog October 2016

Index: 2009201020112012201320142015201620172018

31 October - Undeliverable. Nothing to see here

Due to having a number of family problems to sort out - I get lumbered with maintaining their computers and internet connections - it is very unlikely that there will be anything new here for the next couple of days. There is next to nothing to report anyway.

Why do three email systems all fail at the same time? There is a reason but it's far too long a story and not relevant to this place.

 

30 October (Part 2) - Bexley Council. Endemic lying keeps the cash tills ringing

There’s a sure fire way of getting more visitors to Bonkers; write something about Bexley Council’s vendetta against motorists. Better still, get someone else to write it.

On 9th October a reader described how he had been caught out by the yellow box junction at the end of Danson Lane in Welling because as he was about to move into an empty space beyond the box someone who doesn’t observe the rules of the road or common courtesy shot out of Danson Lane without pausing. Driver of Nissan Qashkai P16 MGH, that means you.

A Penalty Notice duly arrived in the post and the following relates how things went from then. It’s a long story but to edit it more severely risks missing a vital point.


SpyingYou have twice referred to my encounter with Bexley Council’s Yellow money box at the junction of Danson Lane and Welling High Street. (9th October and 15 October). The story continues.

The Penalty Charge Notice arrived and I immediately appealed it on the basis that…

1) The Penalty Charge Notice alleged that I had committed a moving traffic contravention of “Entering and stopping in a box junction when prohibited”. There is however no such offence.

The Bexley Council liars have made it up!

The only offence relating to box junctions according to the Highway Code is “Entering a box Junction when your exit is not clear”.

This is, of course, entirely different to the Bexley Council version.

I have been lied to by Bexley Council officials in the past - it would seem to be endemic. Bexley Council presumably use their distorted version of the law since as soon as a vehicle stops in a box (for whatever reason) ‘kerching’ another PCN is issued in the hope that the recipient does not know the law and just pays up

2) Bexley Council provided what they stated to be their evidence of the alleged offence. This comprised of a still photograph of my vehicle’s rear number plate and a short video clip of my vehicle in the box junction. This clip however had been heavily edited to only show what Bexley Council wanted to show but NOT the full sequence of events.

An offence is only committed if a vehicle enters a yellow box when its exit is not clear. Their video clip failed to show the situation as I entered the box and hence their ‘evidence’ did not demonstrate that I had committed any offence.

Instead of starting the video clip as I entered the box the clip only started when I was part way across by which time the clear exit space on the far side of the box that had existed as I entered the box and that I was aiming for had been taken by a car which had shot out of Danson Lane. (To the female driver of the black Nissan Qashqai registration P16 MGH who ignored the Danson Lane Give Way signs, thanks a lot! I trust that you too will get caught in this yellow box one day.)

In the circumstances I had not committed an offence and this would have been obvious to the Bexley Council officials viewing the complete tape. Such officials though, steeped in the Bexley Council culture of lying and cheating must have deliberately edited the clip to only show what they wanted to show in the hopeful expectation that it would not be challenged.

As usual with many Bexley Council issues there is one rule for them but a much more restrictive rule for others. Any appeal must be lodged within 28 days from the issue of a PCN but then Bexley Council have 56 days to accept or reject. Typical!

Eventually a letter arrived from Bexley Council accepting my appeal and cancelling the Penalty Charge Notice. No apology for the stress and aggravation caused, of course, and indeed it was altogether a most begrudging letter. It still claimed that the PCN had been correctly issued but that they had cancelled it on this occasion after looking again at the camera evidence. They warned me that they may not cancel any future PCNs in similar circumstances.

In reality they had little option but to cancel the PCN since the doctoring of the video clip was so blatantly a try on that any Traffic Adjudicator worth their salt on viewing the full video would immediately throw out the Bexley Council case.

The official justification for yellow boxes is for safety reasons and to keep junctions clear for emergency vehicles etc. Bexley Council’s box junctions are designed to be far far larger than necessary for these purposes and are in reality primarily designed to entrap motorists for revenue raising purposes, i.e. they are cash cows!

It was recently announced at a council meeting that the Danson Lane box junction, on its own, had caught 1,879 motorists over a short period. To any right minded person this statistic should have raised concerns that there must be something seriously seriously wrong with the design or traffic management at this junction.

To the Councillors present though there was only glee at the vast sums of money this junction was raising from the borough’s motorists and hence that they could continue to enjoy their generous allowances.

The lesson from this saga is that if despite being as careful as possible you still find yourself entrapped in a Bexley Council yellow money box and receive a PCN then do not meekly pay up but appeal and appeal all the way to the Traffic Adjudicators if necessary.

Councils rely on most people just paying up and do not like to have their dodgy practices exposed to scrutiny. The chances are that an appeal would be successful.

As a final thought where an appeal is successful should there not be some automatic compensation paid by Bexley Council to the motorist for the stress and aggravation caused? Say £65, the reduced PCN value. This to apply equally to parking PCNs as well as moving traffic PCNs.

This might make Bexley Council consider more carefully each case individually on its merits before issuing a PCN. At present they can just issue PCNs on the scatter gun principle and it does not really hurt them to agree a few appeals provided they can scare the vast majority of recipients into just paying up without argument. Bexley Council also at present do not care two hoots about any stress and aggravation they cause. They should be forced to be more honest and considerate.

 

30 October (Part 1) - The regular Crossrail update

12 carsThe usual fortnightly pictorial update of the Crossrail work going on in and around Abbey Wood station is again of little interest except perhaps to civil engineers. Nearly all ground preparation for the platform and the second track and the finishing touches to the station roof. A continuation of what went on earlier in the month - nothing like as exciting as seeing a 12 car Southeastern train!

The real activity has taken place over the past 24 hours east of the station. The Crossrail access track, or should I call it the Tandy Line is now in place.

 

29 October (Part 2) - Thamesmead South proposals. Some extra detail

Bexley’s Planning Committee galloped through Peabody’s planning application so quickly on Tuesday that a simple report on what was said on the night leaves some important gaps in what is to happen.

Not only is Tavy Bridge to be called Southmere Village, the other three areas coming along later all get new names too. The area nearest the railway station is to be called Gateway Quarter, Coralline becomes Lesnes Quarter and the old Binsey Walk becomes Lakeside Quarter. The development I live in was called Priory Gardens by the builder, ask where it is now and no one knows apart from one or two residents who have an unhealthy interest in property values. Unless Peabody sticks up a named and literal gateway few will remember the name - estate agents excepted of course.

There will be a new walking route from the Gateway to Lakeside via the new supercrossing in Yarnton Way.

As the three sites are only at the outline planning stage at the moment, figures given below are for guidance only but Sedgemere will have up to 219 residential units and 3,225 square metres of commercial floor space with a maximum height of 58 metres. 14 or 15 storeys.

Coralline will be bigger, 549 units and 3,225 square metres. Binsey is 329 units, 1,050 square metres and both destined for 14 or 15 storeys. Brick will be the dominant building material.

The GLA will be putting in £54 million of funds across all four sites to which Peabody is adding £300 million. Together with what is being done on the Greenwich side of the border, the total investment is in the order of £700 million.

Bexley Council is the lead authority for improvements to Harrow Manorway with Peabody chipping in up to ten million pounds. They have reserved another eight million for expansion of primary school form entry streams.

The Harrow Manorway roundabouts at Yarnton Way and outside Sainsbury’s will both be improved on their southern exits to try to improve traffic flow which is forecast to become worse than it is now, but the application blames factors other than the Peabody developments. Locals are already living in dread of the Crossrail related traffic.

Whilst Coralline is redeveloped, Lensbury Way will be blocked and will eventually be given a new access point on Harrow Manorway. The forecast is that the increased population will have no significant effect on bus and train loadings but residents parking provision is to be dropped to 0·6 spaces per dwelling (Binsey), 0·5 (Coralline) and 0·4 in Sedgemere. Tfl suggested none at all.

Traffic noise is expected to rise by about 3dB when construction is completed. 3dB is barely perceptible but they have a habit of adding up. Living rooms will not face main roads. Neither will there be “no new exceedances of the Government’s air quality objectives”. Bexley is already over the limit so making pollution worse will not set off any new alarm bells.

Provision will be made for CCTV.

 

29 October (Part 1) - Paranoia. Setting the record straight

Sorry to borrow one of Bexley Council’s slogans but BiB is occasionally on the receiving end of the weirdest of messages, usually anonymous.

One reader is very upset that the Labour party would go to the trouble of maintaining a website to “stalk innocent people”.

How many times do I have to state that Bexley is Bonkers is not backed, sponsored or in any way connected to a political party and certainly not the Labour party? Since I became eligible to vote in 1964 I have voted Conservative at every opportunity except when I happened to know another candidate well.

Because of that I voted Liberal In the late 1960s in a local election in Aldershot. (I won’t make that mistake again.)

In recent years I have cast two votes for Labour candidates and two for UKIP, again I thought I knew them well enough. Except for that I have voted solidly Conservative but not always enthusiastically.


StalkingThere is no way that BiB backs Labour and it stalks no one. If it is anything political it is an occasionally right leaning blog that reflects the appalling dishonesty and lack of transparency to be found within Bexley Council - which happens to be controlled by the Conservatives. I have come to believe, and have a fair amount of evidence now, that the leadership in Bexley is dishonest to an extent far greater than is to be expected of the average politician.

The use of the stalk word in the anonymous email is intriguing to say the least because on the very same day that the anonymous message came in another came from a regular correspondent. It suggested I take a look at Councillor Sharon Massey’s Facebook page, something I think I have only done once before, only once in the past few years that’s for sure.

I have never seen the attraction of Facebook; I keep my eye on the Crossrail and Thamesmead Regeneration pages but that’s about it.

So what is currently to be seen on Councillor Massey's Facebook page? Paranoia by the looks of it. Over the past few days she has done nothing but post comments about stalking. Why? Losing it if you ask me. If she is being cyber stalked it’s not by me. She gets my attention no more than any other vocal member of Bexley Council. If she said nothing her name would never appear on BiB - like several of her colleagues no one ever hears from. Ray Sams. Who is he?

To be honest I never give Sharon Massey a thought when not actually listening to her on a recording of a Council meeting. Someone who has met the Masseys several times because of, well I had better not say, told me that a close relationship is difficult because they always have to be seen as superior to everyone else. They may be for all I care, but no one, not even them, should assume I have any connection with the Labour party. Nice enough people but not since I was chucked out of their hustings in 1959 have they done much for me.

 

28 October (Part 2) - Coralline, Sedgemere and Binsey

After a ten minute recess the Planning Committee reconvened to consider the outline planning application for the remainder of South Thamesmead stretching from Abbey Wood station to Eastern Way. It was a much shorter session than for Southmere Village but represents a bigger change. In the short term Southmere won’t affect anyone, the site is already flattened, but elsewhere the loss of green space, industrial units, shops and the local community, even if only temporary, will be upsetting for some.

Once again the Council officer summarised the situation. Southmere Village will provide 525 homes but together with Coralline, Sedgemere and Binsey the number will rise to 1,622. They will likely be similar to Southmere with the tallest blocks facing Harrow Manorway, perhaps as high as 14 storeys and “falling away towards the east”.


BPThere was an objection to the Coralline proposals, it came from Ms. Thind who was speaking on behalf of her parents. She was not impressed by the way Peabody had “dealt with the communities’ problems, it’s been more of a generic letter” approach.

For thirty years the community had established itself with residential and commercial property and owners who had taken the leases. Some had children who went to nurseries there and there are pensioners and families who live close to each other. “It might be called regeneration but it is actually gentrification.” Communities that do not want to move are being moved.

There have been comparisons with Kidbrooke, half of that estate was moved to Thamesmead and they are being displaced again. A beautiful picture of greenery is painted, but what is the cost? In Kidbrooke a one bedroom apartment costs a minimum of £420,000 with a 35% discount for preferred professions, nurses teachers etc. On the other side of Harrow Manorway all the apartments were sold to people in Hong Kong.

Peabody has regenerated in Westminster and Southwark but how many local people could afford them?

It was not reasonable to send out letters that said nothing more than fill in this form by this date with threats for non-compliance.

After Ms. Thind sat down the two Peabody representatives spoke again but said even less than on Southmere. Ms. Epps took up well under two minutes of her allotted nine and Mr. Bakie only a few seconds over two minutes of his nine. He had tried very hard to rehouse residents according to their wishes and “iterally 99% of them” chose to remain within Thamesmead.

The view of the Planning Committee appeared to be that Peabody had made such a good impression with their Southmere application that the three outlines could be taken on trust, indeed Councillor Davey said as much.

The Chairman directed that the Sedgemere plan be discussed first.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) was very unhappy with the concept of Compulsory Purchase. It was not part of the Planning Application but it had to be done “for the common good”.

Whilst in favour of the application, John Davey had concerns. One was the loss of the BP petrol station, “there are fewer and fewer of them” and another was the loss of the nearby convenience stores although Sainsbury’s was a mitigating factor. He was also disappointed by the fact that the Council Car Park in Felixstowe Road, currently the Crossrail HQ and due to return to Council control “probably won’t happen”. The area under the flyover might be used for “a cycling hub. He moved the Sedgemere plan for approval.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) seconded John Davey and 100% of members voted in favour of Sedgemere. (Possible construction date January 2020 to October 2022.)

Next was Binsey. Only Councillor Hackett had anything to say. He moved it straight away (seconded by Councillor Newman) and there was no further discussion. 100% again.  (Possible construction date March 2021 to May 2024.)

Finally Coralline, the area currently set back behind a green area alongside Harrow Manorway. Councillor Hackett, as ward member, said it was the one that had generated most correspondence. He asked Ms. Thind to speak to him after the meeting.

Councillor David Leaf also sympathised with Ms. Thind and the threat of Compulsory Purchase. He said Coralline Walk was the the site of Thamesmead’s very first occupant and thought “the birthplace of Thamesmead” should be marked in some way, perhaps with a plaque.

Councillor Leaf was not satisfied with the new roundabout outside Sainsbury’s and was told that improvements would be instituted. The Lensbury Way leg will be moved and the road markings changed to encourage two lane use. Peabody will be putting up a maximum of £10 million towards the improvement of Harrow Manorway.

Councillor Davey returned, perhaps unwisely, to his experience as a Councillor for the Coralline Walk area. He said it doesn’t meet present day standards and “it was a nightmare for crime, one of the biggest headaches of my time as its Councillor. Drug dealing and all sorts of things. As long as we put in the same sort of attention to cutting down crime as the things we have just looked at it will be a vast improvement”. He lamented the loss of the green space fronting Harrow Manorway and seconded the application.

Councillor Newman chided Councillor Davey for his remarks, saying his family came from the Coralline area and to suggest it suffered “endemic crime and was depressing was unfair. It is a vibrant community”.

Councillor Davey said his remarks about crime were directed at people from outside the area who came in to cause trouble. Councillor Cafer Munur said that nevertheless, the area “like Kidbrooke is not fit for purpose”.

Another 100%. (Possible construction date July 2018 to January 2023.)

A footnote on Southmere Village accommodation from Labour’s former Shadow Housing Minister: The plans originally allowed for 168 social rents. This was changed at a late stage via the addendum to the agent to “affordable". The Mayor’s housing zone requirement is only for affordable housing not social. Peabody first said there would be new social rented housing built but that changed. It’s very disappointing.

 

28 October (Part 1) - Two rogues. Only one of them punished

A Councillor who rented a house in Sidcup but didn’t live there is “delighted” that a man who rented a house in Erith but didn’t live there has been given a suspended prison sentence, 80 hours of unpaid work and made to pay a total of £5,380.

One, a (former?) magistrate knows his way around the law, the other flouts it.
Press Release
Click image for full story.

 

27 October (Part 2) - Southmere Village transforming Tavy Bridge by late 2019

I imagine everyone knows by now that on Tuesday evening Peabody Housing Association (PHA) was given permission to rebuild large chunks of South Thamesmead but it might be worth describing what it was like to be at the planning meeting and hear what some of the Councillors had to say about the scheme.

Apart from myself there were 20 people in the public area, ten from Peabody and ten residents. Once again the seating was not laid out as dictated in the Agenda by the small minded dictator.

As usual at planning meetings the Chairman had a relatively easy job to do and Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) does it well. I don’t often go to Planning Committee meetings but in my experience Councillors are on their best behaviour. It must help that no Cabinet Members attend and nor does Councillor Sharon Massey, so there is unlikely to be any unnecessary nastiness.
Committee
Full planning permission was being requested by PHA for what is to be called Southmere Village to replace the area formerly known as Tavy Bridge.


SouthmereA Council officer described the location and the plans. All the land under consideration lies to the east of Harrow Manorway and Southmere Village is to the north of Yarnton Way - for those who know the area well, just north of the Health Centre. The pedestrian crossing at that point is to be replaced by a ‘super crossing’, that is wider and raised.

There will be a town square with water features, a cafe area and library - the triangular building in the picture - and the whole site will occupy 3·78 hectares. Buildings will extend over 3,691 square metres and car parking will be provided beneath the residential blocks with a small provision for visitors at ground level. The highest buildings will be on eleven floors but most will be less than that down to three storeys.

Overall the site will be comprised of 35% affordable homes and be predominantly of brick construction “of different hues and tones”.

Ms. Epps from Peabody addressed the Committee but chose only to give a brief history of the charity. Established in 1862 and managing 29,000 homes, accommodating 80,000 people in London and aiming to build 1,000 new houses each year. The Thamesmead scheme will be Peabody’s largest ever and Ms. Epps was confident it could be delivered.

Mr. Baikie, Peabody’s Director in Thamesmead did not push his case particularly hard, one might suppose he knew he was pushing at an opened door. He said that one of the challenges is the marshy ground which makes construction expensive coupled with the low property values in the area. Additionally the affordable housing grant is a bit lower than elsewhere in London.

The first Councillor to speak was Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) who thanked Peabody for its extensive public consultations. He asked for some numbers and was told that there would be 92 one bedroomed properties, 78 two bed, 40 three bed and 25 four bedrooms. 127 units on Southmere Village would be at affordable rent. PHA has been emphatic that there will be no buy to let but it is not part of planning conditions.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) wanted to congratulate Peabody on a very attractive application but also had three questions. Who was going to look after the landscaping? (Peabody.) Another was on the number of affordable homes (“the first phase is skewed towards one and two bedroom properties”) and the third was a request to look at a floor plan - which cannot be answered here.

Councillor Hackett asked about charging points for electric vehicles. It will be provided in line with current standards with monitoring for future growth. With that Danny said he was happy with the application and moved its approval. However other Councillors still had some questions.

Councillor John Davey said “it is an excellent scheme. It used to be grim and depressing and this is a vast improvement. It should be outstanding”. However he was concerned about parking, the north south public transport situation is pretty atrocious. More people living here will make it even worse. But there is no real solution unfortunately”. Because of this “we need more car parking in Bexley than in the London plan.

John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) was also worried about the potential for high wind velocities between buildings but he wished to second the application.

It was agreed that parking must be carefully considered but Southmere Village was “for decanting existing residents and the forecasting was based on existing car ownership”. Future parking provision would be lower because the marketing would be based on the facilities for cycling and “the sustainable methods we try to encourage. TfL had proposed a car free environment [for future developments] which was something that Bexley did not support”. The wind situation “was not considered inappropriate”.

Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) wanted to comment on the difficult north south links. He said that the Overground was going to be extended to Barking Riverside “and there is talk of it being further extended under the Thames”. His view was that it should pass underneath Abbey Wood station to provide a Crossrail interchange and “in the fullness of time” it should burrow under Knee Hill “to Upper Belvedere and Bexleyheath”. It would provide the much needed north south link across the borough.

Councillor Tandy speaks more sense about railways than the rest of the Conservatives put together who still harbour dreams of knocking down Abbey Wood station even before it is completed and running Crossrail to Slade Green or even Ebbsfleet - and leaving the north south problem to fester.

With questions exhausted, the vote was taken and planning permission was granted unanimously. Site clearance was started by Gallions Homes two years ago so renewed progress is likely to be seen by February 2017.

The Committee then took a break before considering the plans for two areas between Abbey Wood station and Yarnton Way and a third one between Southmere Village and the A2016 dual carriageway, Eastern Way.

Note: The above is a factual report of what was said at the meeting. I am aware that there has since then been clarification, some might say confusion, of the figures for affordable homes. The murkydepths blog provides some details.

 

27 October (Part 1) - Delays everywhere

Wilton RoadTwo weeks ago Bexley Council announced that the start of its Public Realm improvements around Abbey Wood station would be deferred until May 2018, that’s more than six months after the new station will open for North Kent line services.

Last night Greenwich Council announced to local traders that its Public Realm improvements to Wilton Road, Abbey Wood which were due to have started this week will not now commence until the first week in January. A change of mind on the paving to be used caused a supply problem.

The previous clear statement (recorded) that the kerb lines would be moved resulting in a slighter narrower carriageway has been withdrawn. Nothing will change; it would have been nice to see some equalisation of the footpath widths.

The public exhibition that had been promised to be in place by the middle of this month is still not on view but the material was delivered to the Abbey Arms and Able Estates (opposite the demolished Harrow Inn) yesterday so should make an appearance very soon.

If you have already seen the images here you may be disappointed, the two artist’s impressions (click the associated image) is augmented only by a plan view.

 

26 October (Part 2) - Running out of Resources. Early

I am losing track of what part of the three recent Scrutiny meetings have not yet been covered on BiB. The Places meeting is probably not worth pursuing further but People may not yet be completed. However the one that needs no checking is Resources, it has not so far been covered at all.

The downside to Resources is that it is rarely the most interesting and when it is the last of the three, as it was this quarter, it is a little repetitive. The back end of Agendas are usually very similar to each other.
Committee
The first significant item on the Resources Agenda was analysis of a ‘How are we doing’ survey. There were more positives than negatives but the “small number of people who have taken part” was said to have made the results unreliable. One might argue that without greater participation it was a waste of time. Mr. Ferry the Communications Manager said it tended to be people with strong views who took part. The Council’s expert gave the impression that he took the results with a pinch of salt.


AbenaCouncillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) noted the low take up by young people, only 4·1% out of the total of 412. As she did at the Communications meeting she offered advice on how the response figures might be improved.

Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said that despite the low response rate the findings were broadly in line with what he hears from residents in his ward.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was optimistic that the Communications Sub Group would make recommendations leading to improvements.

Councillor Seán Newman ( Labour, Belvedere) drew attention to the six subjects hidden away at the bottom of a long list which all got negative responses from residents. Youth Services, Street Cleaning, Town Planning, Parking, Footpath Repair and Roads Repair.

Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) took issue with Councillor Oppong-Osare for daring to comment on the low response rate as had the Communications Manager several times. Councillor Tandy said “that was fine but I wonder if she would share with us any views she has on how we might do that. Could she make some suggestions?”.

She drew on what appeared to be professional experience in marketing communications and occasional techno-talk may have taken some Councillors out of their comfort zones.


HollierThe Council proposes to change its Complaints Procedure. Instead of it being a three stage process, it will be only two which means it might be that less time elapses before it is necessary to go to the Information Commissioner or whatever.

Mr. Nick Hollier said that about 20 London Councils already use a two stage procedure. Under the new arrangement the Council will give themselves 15 days to answer the initial complaint instead of the current ten. How that speeds things up overall I am not sure but Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) said the time would come down from 46 days to 30.

Labour Leader Alan Deadman said there might be a correlation between the existing two stage complaint councils and those with high references to the Local Government Ombudsman, but Mr. Hollier thought not.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) didn’t think that references to the LGO was altogether sensible. “Looking at the number of references is not a reliable indicator of how well we are responding to complaints” but the new procedure was “a positive step”.

The new procedure will take effect next April.

Before moving on to the Cabinet Member’s report, the Chairman Councillor Steven Hall, apologised for the unavailability of the documentation. In plain English, the website had been down on and off for several days.

Except to say that the web problems were due to “settings”, Cabinet Member Don Massey did not have anything to say and the single question posed was of no interest other than to Councillors. (Making confidential documents available securely on the web.)

The meeting moved on to its staple diet of budget cuts which it repeats ad infinitum with minor revisions. It has however dreamed up a new name for a ‘Savage Cut’; it is now a ‘Deep Dive’. Presumably it is the Buffoon trying to justify her existence again.

After an hour and 15 minutes of a somewhat boring meeting I was persuaded by Messrs. Watson and Bryant that my time might be better spent in a pub, so knowing that I could revisit the meeting via the webcast I allowed my arm to be twisted.

The meeting went on for a further 50 minutes. I noted that Councillor Slaughter again asked Cabinet Member Massey what provision had been made for accommodation for Voluntary Services (as promised by Tesco) on the “much lamented Tesco site”. Councillor Massey repeated his previous answer, he had no idea. Councillor Slaughter made reference, accompanied by much laughter to Sports Direct’s public image.


Bridge I also noted that a few minutes after I left Cabinet Member Massey took a leaf out of his wife’s book by telling Councillor Newman that he could not speak - surely the Chairman’s job?

Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) was critical of the London Mayor’s transport decisions. Cabinet Member Massey said it was “disappointing that he doesn’t understand the need for a road link’ and Councillors, Labour I assume but the webcast doesn’t reveal such things, could be heard falling over themselves laughing. Now remind me, who was it that did not want a bridge anywhere near Bexley in the past?

Two addresses, two faces.

 

26 October (Part 1) - It was Danny wot dun it

I don't get to speak to my own Councillor Danny Hackett as often as I should but it has nevertheless been obvious to me that he has a close working relationship with Peabody Housing Association whose big plans for South Thamesmead won approval last night. He believes in its future unlike his predecessor, Conservative John Davey now ‘serving’ Crayford who was still suggesting last night that Thamesmead’s real problem is that it is populated by thieves and petty crooks - I’ll check the recording to see if he overstepped the mark for a later blog.

It therefore came as no surprise to me that it was Danny Hackett who spoke up for residents and it was Danny who first moved Peabody’s plans for approval by the Planning Committee.

He has issued the followings statement this morning…


BEXLEY LABOUR GROUP WELCOME APPROVAL OF PEABODY PLANNING APPLICATION IN THAMESMEAD

Councillor Danny Hackett, Councillor for Lesnes Abbey Ward and Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Growth said:

“I was delighted to propose Peabody’s planning application for approval at Planning Committee on Tuesday 25th October and offer my support to both the Southmere Village scheme and wider outline proposals for Coralline Walk, Binsey Walk and Sedgemere Road.

Thamesmead is a unique place with a unique history and heritage which should never be eroded, the plans put forward by Peabody pay homage to Thamesmead’s past and also position it perfectly as a new and thriving part of South London. I look forward to working with the Peabody team alongside local residents over the coming months and years as they bring to fruition more detailed plans for Coralline Walk, Binsey Walk and Sedgemere Road.”

 

25 October (Part 3) - It’s a cross party love fest. Everyone likes Peabody

PlanPeabody Housing Association’s detailed plan for the Tavy Bridge area of Thamesmead, henceforth to be known as Southmere Village, was approved unanimously by Bexley Council’s Planning Committee tonight. There was barely a word of dissent, some concerns about wind tunnelling, parking and traffic congestion but never the slightest suggestion that any Councillor felt strongly enough about anything to object. And from what could be seen of the plans, deservedly so.

There are still some formalities to be gone through such as reference to the GLA but construction could start as early as February 2017.

Also passed unanimously were outline plans for the Coralline Walk area with a pencilled in start date of July 2018. Sedgemere, the area near Abbey Wood station in which the BP station stands (January 2020) and to the north of Southmere (centred on the old Binsey Walk) construction is expected to start in March 2021.

Some more serious concerns came to light, the displacement of residents through Compulsory Purchase Orders, the loss of the petrol station and the unexpected loss of the Felixstowe Road car park currently commandeered by Network Rail.

However nothing approved in outline is set in stone - or brick which appears to be Peabody’s preferred construction material.

Some of the road design errors of the recent past are recognised but further traffic congestion in Harrow Manor Way, especially in the morning peak, is seen as inevitable.

More on this another time - probably.

Peabody’s announcement.

 

25 October (Part 2) - Two questions are better than one

Only a couple of days ago Bexley Council told Elwyn Bryant that they could not tell him how much they had spent on countering the Judicial Review of the Chief Executive’s refusal to confirm that she would ensure compliance with the law. It might prejudice the outcome. I understand they told the Court that the case was challenging the manner in which they reached their decision in the Maxine Fothergill charade. It was not, but when did the truth ever concern Bexley Council?
JR
Council statementThey will need to find a barrister and judge who will skim through the Council’s case without reading John Watson’s - probably easier than you might think.

However the point of returning to this subject so quickly is that I have discovered that Mr. Bryant is more cunning than I gave him credit for. He put his question to two different Council officers and one has given him an answer.

Bexley Council has so far spent £3,690.90 on legal services, about two thousand of which is subject to VAT. The odd ninety pence was levied by Bexley Council.

 

25 October (Part 1) - Comms cons - and pros

It really is about time that something was said about the Communications Scrutiny Sub Group meeting which was held almost four weeks ago. It was the first I had attended after the Bexley Buffoon had imposed her new restrictions on members of the public who like to see what is being done in their name. There was as expected no Press Desk but neither was there a barrier. Only three chairs had been provided for the public and two were occupied by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Resources Scrutiny Committee, Councillors Steven Hall and Maxine Fothergill. Fortunately no one but me was nosy enough to put in an appearance.

Also present was Councillor June Slaughter, I remember that because she made a point of speaking to me, maybe because she has been told not to.

Present too was Gill Steward, the Buffoon in person. I’m not sure why because her only contribution to the meeting was to tell us that when she was at West Sussex County Council they used to Tweet about traffic conditions on the A27 and in Hackney, where she lives, the Council runs an “exceptional” website. Better than Bexley’s anyway.
Comms
When the meeting ended I found myself thinking ‘What was the point of all that?’ We had the Council’s Communications Manager, the only one who might be an expert on the subject, being given the benefit of Councillors’ views. Maybe they are better able to give the views of the average man in the street but on the way out of the building a Councillor posed the same question to me. “What use did I think the meeting was.”

Right at the very end of the meeting all the Councillors were asking what the objectives of the Sub Group was, no one seemed very sure.

The Council acknowledges that times are changing when it comes to communications and it has fallen behind those times. In ten years the borough has lost much of its weekly newspaper coverage and social media has done much to fill the gap. And its website is poor to say the least. One might also say ‘technically fragile’.

It has already agreed to use targeted email for both communications and marketing, to make more use of social media and refresh the Bexley Magazine; and a fat lot of good that will do for me. Since Bexley Council engaged London Letterbox Marketing to do the distribution I have not seen a single copy. I would not be surprised if I have been blacklisted.

Before the meeting began the Sub Group went through the pretence of electing a Chairman. Without any debate they unanimously selected Councillor Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) who by an incredible coincidence was already sitting in the Chairman’s position and had his opening speech ready.

John Ferry the Communications Manager (photo centre) was asked to summarise the current situation. “The website is key but we all know it is not our strength at the moment. The new one is expected to launch in April”.

There is a new email system and the Council has gathered 86,000 addresses and profiles of individuals from its various departments and residents will be able to subscribe to the subjects which interest them. A pop up on the website will encourage sign ups. using residential addresses and ages the Council will be able to target its emails.

Social media is “very powerful but demanding on resources”. The Council’s use of it “has been building very slowly”. Distribution of the local newspapers is shrinking as is the editorial space so the Bexley Magazine has become progressively more important.

“There are Councils which do not respond to newspapers.” Bexley is not one of them according to Mr. Ferry. Even so, news releases have fallen from 60 plus a month to under 20. The Legal Notices in the News Shopper cost about £12,000 a year but its distribution is “not what we would like”.

The Chairman then asked Councillors to inject their own thoughts on the Council’s use of the new communications opportunities.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) said that people “are always moaning about how difficult it is to get around the website”. She was not an enthusiast for social media “life’s too short” but because of her membership of the Sub Group she “will have a go”.

She thought the Bexley Magazine “was valued” but the advertising revenue covered only 40% of its cost. A full page advertisement costs £1,500.

Councillor Joe Ferreira asked how communications priorities are set and reviewed and asked about the website’s compatibility with mobile devices. He said he found that it “struggled” and there were “thousands and thousands of pages which are out of date”. The number of Twitter followers was low too. He didn’t think sufficient use was made of video either. Finally he wanted to know what the Council would do if the Bexley edition of the News Shopper ceased publication, some editions have already gone.


StewardMr. Ferry began to say that the website content was badly in need of a good weeding but the Buffoon decided she would say it for him. When he was able to say so he said the new site would be “shorter and much more to the point”.

No money has been spent on social media and “it was hard to know how much appetite there is for us on there”. There would be more video and it would be more mobile friendly. Statute dictated that Public Notices must go in a local newspaper and it was unclear what happens where there are none.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) asked about “the reach of the Bexley Magazine and the poster sites” and she was interested in placing blogs and forums on the new Council website.

There is little good information about ‘reach’ but Mr. Ferry thought it was better to join residents on the popular media channels such as Streetlife rather than attempt to tempt them into moving elsewhere.

Councillor Sharon Massey (Conservative, Cray Meadows) was responsible for the most insightful comments of the day, she said that an on-line presence was extremely costly and even the world’s most visited website (The Daily Mail) had been forced to make 400 staff redundant. “We must be really aware of what we decide in here.” It’s no good having “all dancing media and we can’t afford to empty the bins any more.”

“It is brilliant that we are on Twitter and Facebook, it is not scary. It can be good news stories all the time but we are very aware how lies get published about Bexley Council, there’s loads of people making up stuff. Councillor Newton saw stuff on social media today, it’s almost laughable how some of the stuff gets made up but one of the things that really bothered me was during the Northumberland Heath concern and there was a big social media story about someone being stabbed and somebody had died and that had loads of legs before the actual reality came out. Do we have the legal power to do almost a police bulletin saying what the reality is? Can we address something that is particularly shocking to hear that someone had been stabbed and murdered when it wasn’t true?”

Mr. Ferry said “we have made pronouncements on something like that in the past but in partnership with the police. I think we would only do it with their blessing”. Councillor Massey wanted to know if the Council could use their 86,000 email addresses. The answer was No, what was needed was an out of hours media presence. In passing, Councillor Massey said she did not trust emails from London Councils, she “just deleted them”. On the other hand, the Chief Executive said she thought “the Local Government Association Comms Group was really good”.

Councillor Massey did not think it was a good idea to “allow residents to chat on our website to each other, I know people who run Facebook pages and they have to really monitor it. People shout and row with each other. You only have to look at the News Shopper comments after an incident.” She did not want to see “racist and homophobic comments on our website”.

Coming out with more good sense, Councillor Massey warned about too many adverts. “On the News Shopper site, it is so full of adverts you can’t even see the news any more.” I never dreamed I could agree with Mrs. Massey that much.

After that there was not an awful lot left that Councillor Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) could say but she warned about the website being too text heavy and put forward ideas for increasing the number of Twitter followers. She recommended more links to Council meeting webcasts and obviously wanted to put BiB out of business by suggesting a summary of meetings for people who don’t have the time or stamina for the webcast.

Mr. Ferry took the Twitter suggestions on board and the subsequent discussion revealed that the webcast audience was very small, never more than 30 and sometimes only four or five or six.

With the discussion concluded, Councillor Fothergill said that her business experience is that emails are increasingly left unread or missed because of the deluge of spam, but surveys have shown that texts to mobile phones are answered within three seconds. Perhaps the Council should harvest mobile numbers. I wonder how many people are like me, I reluctantly signed up for a mobile phone but I haven’t a clue what its number is.

 

24 October (Part 2) - Bexley. Where Council promises are worth nothing

It’s not only the usual complainants who Bexley Council treats with contempt, it is practically everyone, the only real difference is that the usual suspects do not give up and will report Bexley Council to the police, the Information Commissioner and the Ombudsman whenever they can.

However they are not quite alone, the organisations and charities that aim to protect wildlife are usually quick to make a fuss when the natural habitat is under attack.

They fought, unsuccessfully, to protect the Crossness Nature Reserve when Cory Environmental wanted to build on its doorstep and they objected to six storey buildings on the Crayford Rough. Whatever happened to that?

They scored a little more success when they pushed for the inclusion of a Biodiversity Management Plan when permission was granted to build in Erith Quarry. It was all there in black and white, but what does that count for in Bexley?

Nothing.

Eighteen months on with the site clearance well under way, Bexley Wildlife is still waiting for an indication that Bexley Council has not reneged on its promise.
Promise
Click image to see all of Bexley Wildlife’s statement.

 

24 October (Part 1) - Any excuse will do

BuffoonBexley Council said it could not tell Mr. Bryant how much they had spent so far in response to Mr. Watson’s Judicial Review application because it was somehow personal information relating to John Watson. John provided Elwyn Bryant with written confirmation that he was happy to have his ‘personal information’ made public. I said I would let you know what Bexley Council’s next excuse would be.

Their new reason is “the potential to prejudice the court proceedings that are the subject of your question”. They make them up as they go along

Just how knowledge of the vast sum Bexley Council is spending to defend the Chief Executive’s refusal to confirm in writing that she will always comply with the law is likely to influence a judge remains a mystery. Something known only to the criminal minds to be found within Bexley Council perhaps.

 

23 October - The Tossers can’t get anything right

At the Places Scrutiny meeting, Cabinet Member Peter Craske announced his Don’t be a Tosser campaign. Staff were to be trained up from the following Monday and the cashing in would start on the 24th.

His Press Release said the same thing, albeit somewhat clumsily. The “scheme starts today” which was the 17th but “patrolling the borough” will commence on the 24th. You would have to have been one of the four people who watched the webcast to know about the week’s training session.
Press Release
The notice on Bexley Council’s website is dated 17th October and again says the scheme will start on Monday 24th.
Tosser
TweetA Council Tweet drew attention to the Press Release on the 17th - fair enough, but not so fair is that Bexley Council started issuing fines in the week before they said they would. (See below.)

Why can’t they stick to their own rules? Why do they always try to trick residents out of their money? I asked but they were unable to give an answer.

Few will object to litter fines if they are applied fairly and with common sense although that is perhaps a little too much to expect in Bexley, but Bexley Council can’t stop falling over itself in its rush to extract as much cash from you as it possibly can.
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
So that looks like 150 people have grounds to appeal their fine. It was issued too early.

 

22 October - He reaps what he sowed. And complains about it

I’ve had to get myself to East Ham twice in the past three days so I am more than a little biased in favour of more river crossings. Teresa O’Neill and Boris Johnson were damn fools to put a stop to Ken Livingstone’s bridge. Now that they realise how stupid they were Bexley Council has several times tried to confuse the issue at Council meetings by telling us that Ken’s relatively small scale bridge was the same as the three lane motorway bridge thrown out by the planning inspector several years earlier.

It would probably become clear sooner or later so it may as well be now, but I thought London was mad to elect Sadiq Khan as Mayor. The only plus I could see was that he might not be such a fan of O’Neill and perhaps clip her wings. I suppose one could say he has done that but I am not so sure it is panning out the way I would like.

A couple of weeks ago Mr. Khan made his river crossings announcement. No mention of the Gallions Reach and Belvedere crossings, plans for which were well advanced and consultations done. Instead there is to be a DLR extension to Thamesmead, the Greenwich side, and no advance tip off to Bexley Council.

Councillor Gareth Bacon who is also Bexley’s GLA Member doesn’t like Khan any more than I do and says he “has torn up years of work”.


These are extremely complex engineering projects that will be very expensive, take a lot of time and require major consultation with residents in the affected areas and the relevant boroughs, including Bexley, Newham, Greenwich and Havering.

Yet the Mayor felt it appropriate to simply go ahead and announce a DLR extension at Gallions Reach without speaking in any detail with the affected local authorities, despite knowing it could blow their hard-thought proposals out of the water.

Not only has Sadiq Khan risked severely damaging the relationship between City Hall and the local boroughs in east London, he has also left major doubts over his ability to deliver these much-needed crossings.

The Mayor has been entirely cavalier in his approach to these river crossings so far. He quickly needs to recover some good faith with those he will need to work with to deliver these major infrastructure projects.


He’s changed his tune somewhat. Maybe if Gareth Bacon hadn’t been so negative in the past the Mayor may have taken Bexley into consideration when making his plans - or should I say off the cuff remarks?

Gareth Bacon has made it absolutely clear that he doesn’t want a bridge in Bexley. In January 2013 he even spent taxpayers’ money on spreading his propaganda as widely as possible. The following leaflet was posted to every household in the borough. Click image below to see a bigger version.
Propaganda
Propaganda

And in case that wasn’t enough to convince residents that Bexley Council was against the bridge he issued the following three months later.
Propaganda
It looks like for now at least he will get what he campaigned for.

Every now and again a blog risks annoying both Bexley Conservative and Labour parties equally, this could be one of those times. In my opinion Sadiq Khan has already broken far too many of his promises.

 

21 October - Five on a Friday

The Cheryl Bacon case
A fat file has been with the Crown Prosecution Service since August 2015 and various dates for a decision on whether to charge Councillor Cheryl Bacon with Misconduct in a Public Office or not have come and gone. The last ‘promise’ was made in August and the implication was that there would be an answer at the beginning of September. We are still waiting.

Eight witnesses to the events of 19th June 2013 were interviewed by the police and all of them made statements which confirmed that there was no disturbance on the evening in question beyond Nicholas Dowling calmly clutching an audio recorder. All totally contrary to what Councillor Cheryl Bacon said and at odds with what was written in support of Bacon by various senior Council officers who weren’t at the meeting and knew nothing.

In addition to the eight official police statements two other people wrote supporting statements but were not interviewed by the police.

In total four Bexley Councillors told the police that Cheryl Bacon lied and the only witness statement that supported Cheryl Bacon was written by Cheryl Bacon - if indeed it was not just made up in Bexley’s legal department. It was neither dated or signed.

How the hell is the CPS going to wriggle out of that one? It wasn’t just simple lying, it escalated to being a huge conspiracy by everyone up to Chief Executive level to try to get Bacon off the hook she made for herself.

We know that the CPS intended to refer the case to a barrister for an opinion because they said so. On second thoughts, do I believe them? But if they do my theory is that they will strip out the witness statements first. Then the case would collapse into a his word against hers fiasco.

Whatever the case, something weird is going on. The CPS should not need 15 months to come to a decision, but a whitewash that will stand up to scrutiny is going to be hard to find.

The Peter Craske case
The investigation into the police cover up of what became known as Bexley’s Obscene Blog is still ongoing. Even during this past week new documents have surfaced and more have been promised for next week. I am cautiously optimistic that it will be proved that Bexley police danced to Bexley Council’s tune in 2011/12; Bexley Police already owned up to it in an off the record comment.

If corruption is proved I will make suitable criminal allegations against the Councillor and Council Officer who pulled the police’s string.

Judicial Review reviewed
Mr. John Watson has been told by Bexley Council that they engaged Clive Sheldon QC to fight his Judicial Review application who according to John charges £5,000 an hour for his services.

The always inquisitive Elwyn Bryant asked Bexley Council how much they have so far spent on this case but they refused to tell him citing personal information. They decided they could do that because Elwyn identified the case to them with a reference to John Watson by name. Perhaps he should have simply referred to the current Judicial Review and hope there was only one.

John Watson has provided a written consent for Elwyn’s information request and he has sent it in again. Let’s see what their excuse is this time.

Sharon Massey’s family album
Councillor Massey’s concern for her daughter at last Tuesday’s People Scrutiny Committee meeting was very strange, She, or her husband Don or her daughter Victoria (accounts vary) asked the police to arrest me for harassment. The police issued threats but did nothing and I never did find out what I was supposed to have done. I can only suppose it was something to do with publishing Natasha Briggs’ report on noisy parties held at the Massey’s address.


DoorI was under the impression that when Councillor Massey accused a Labour Councillor of being in possession of a photograph it must have been a picture of her daughter. For it to be anything less would surely be a total non-event. The complaint was reported here but it would seem I was wrong about the photograph. According to those involved, the picture at the centre of this furore was the one shown here and reported on 21st May. North End Labour had posted it on their Twitter feed.

It is a picture of an anonymous front door captioned ‘Who lives here?’ Few could answer the question but it was at the time the Massey’s front door. Sensitive souls aren’t they?

At the Scrutiny meeting Councillor Sharon Massey went on at length about adults passing pictures of her daughter to other adults via social media and creating false stories based on them. She made unreasonable demands on Borough Commander Jeff Boothe and sought his protection against unspecified people in possession of pictures of her daughter. She went further and forgot for a moment who was the politician and who was the copper and asked him to make lying a criminal offence!

What a pity that Sharon Massey fails to make any effort to protect her brood from social media’s downside.

I Googled ‘Sharon Massey Facebook’ and was rewarded with a score of new pictures of the Masseys. Nice, happy family photos the like of which most parents would be proud to show to friends. But if they don’t want those who are not friends to see and maybe circulate them, why can they be freely downloaded from an unprotected Facebook page? And why do they expect the Borough Police Commander to harass innocent residents who take a look, and maybe take copies?

Power crazy idiots.

Charting a course to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean
Long term readers will know about Mark Charters. He was in charge of Education Services in Bexley when it managed to get the worst OFSTED report in London. Absolutely zero schools were rated Outstanding.


LiesMark Charters also supposedly looked after Children in Care. OFSTED said that service was Inadequate in Bexley but all was well because Leader Teresa O’Neill said so in the Bexley Magazine and she carried on paying him the best part of two hundred grand a year.

Two years later in June 2014 Mark Charters resigned his position and took a government job on the Isle of Man. Chief Executive at the Department of Health.

it didn’t last, he managed to upset too many people and he was out on his ear a year later.

Mark Charters seems to like islands, preferably remote ones where he may not be well known. Few islands are more remote than St. Helena. He landed a top job there too. Director of Safeguarding, a role pretty much the same as the one for which he was criticised by OFSTED in Bexley four years ago,

St. Helena
That didn’t last long either. May to October 2016 according to Linked In and the Isle of Man discussion forums.
Linked In
I bet Mark Charters wishes he had stayed in Bexley where he was able to carry on for two years after the services collapsed all around him.

 

20 October (Part 2) - A big Occasion. Fame at last

Occasions OccasionsThis is a day I didn’t think I would see, the long awaited addition of a flower motif to the Wilton Road florist’s shop facia.

And why is that so important to me? Because it is my small contribution to the Wilton Road regeneration scheme. I took the picture.

It was a real flower, a Gerbera I was told, and we took some care in selecting a near perfect specimen that would stand the scrutiny of the macro lens. We found that at that magnification there is no perfect specimen, not that it really matters, the plastic replica shows none of the detail (Photo 2), but it is the real thing right down to the petal which had a blackened tip left in to make it look more authentic - possibly.

The sticking out sign was reflecting sunlight over the adjacent three flowers but I am being picky.

No charge but discounted birthday cards for life perhaps?


Occasions
A good job Bexley Council didn’t know about my involvement, they may have withheld payment for its manufacture and installation.

 

20 October (Part 1) - Bins, Bridges and Broadband

When Council meetings are held on successive days the reporting of them is inevitably delayed and never more so than now, one is three weeks behind the times! However for now BiB returns to last Thursday’s Places Scrutiny meeting, to conclude with recycling issues.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) pitched in with fly tipping again because at the last meeting, Cabinet Member Craske accused him of being the fly tipper’s friend when Stefano suggested that the practice was likely to increase. Councillor Borella said he could “clearly see a very large increase in fly tipping going on as a result of Council policy for a number of years”.

Councillor Craske’s response was to say that “starting on Monday is our new pilot for the enforcement of fly tipping and litter, people who let their dogs leave a mess behind. Do members of the opposition support that pilot scheme? So that’s a positive thing we are doing to tackle this issue and I am looking forward to seeing this start and there is a very good campaign starting on Monday to promote it. Billboards everywhere under the slogan Don’t be a Tosser”. A week of staff training and patrols from the 24th October.


Bryce-SmithDavid Bryce-Smith said that fly tipping had been higher in the last quarter but overall fly tipping “is at a similar level to previous years but we are treating this issue seriously”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) said there had been “a spike in the number of missed bins”. Mr. Bryce-Smith said that there were 23 million collections a year and “the number of missed bins is much higher than we would want. We are working with Serco to address that. Serco has no ability to differentiate between a badly performing crew and a good performing crew and the [IT} integration we are getting will enable better monitoring”.

Some bins are reported missed when crews are merely running late, the improved IT will solve this problem “and there will be occasions [contamination for example] when they are left for a reason”.

A question from Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) about delays to planning applications and the broadband black spots in Thamesmead and Sidcup found Mr. Bryce-Smith apologising on behalf of “the Planning Service, we have had significant staff turn over, two thirds of the team left during the year and had to be replaced. That’s been coupled with increasing volumes of work that has impacted on the termination time overall and it has been a challenging year. We have introduced a retention scheme for staff which has also helped in attracting new planners. The service generates more income than it costs.”

“On superfast broadband we have had positive discussions with Virgin in particular who are provided with details of major developments in the area so that they can get in early. We are also working with BT but it hasn’t been so positive as with the likes of Virgin.”

Councillor Cheryl Bacon, standing in for its Chairman Councillor Val Clark reported on the recommendations of the Transport Strategy Sub-Group which have already been reported here in some detail. However since then London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made his announcement on river crossings without mentioning any that would make landfall in Bexley. “He should be reminded of where we are and who we are and what we need to deal with regeneration and housing that are needed in Bexley”.

Councillor Borella whose party had suggested the creation of the Sub-Group commended its report.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) whilst welcoming the new destinations, was concerned about the Thameslink proposal to run a train from Rainham to Luton Airport which would not stop at Belvedere or Erith but would stop at rarely used stations like Stone Crossing in Kent and the proposed reduction from six to four trains per hour in services serving Slade Green, Erith and Belvedere.

Cabinet Member Alex sawyer noted his concerns.

The following Agenda item was the Regeneration update which was reported out of sequence on 14th October.

 

19 October (Part 2) - Wilton Road regeneration plans revealed at the 11th hour

Wilton RoadI have been sitting on two pictures (click image to see them) of the plans for Wilton Road since September awaiting Greenwich Council to emerge from its self imposed secrecy about their plans for the so called Abbey Wood Village.

The work is due to start before the end of this month but today they have made their long awaited announcement.

It all looks very good but the plan for granite benches provokes mixed views locally. Street drinkers can be a problem at times. The announcement implies that Bexley’s statement that the footpaths would retain the same kerb line was mistaken.

As is usual with Public Realm matters, themurkydepths has done its usual fine analytical job which is fortunate because I have not got the time; there is another Bexley Council Scrutiny Committee to watch this evening - and if I am lucky, listen to.

 

19 October (Part 1) - Bexley Councillor wants a law against lying. You couldn’t make it up

I find the People Scrutiny meeting to be hard going at times and I think I know why. The subject matter is not the problem, it is just so damned difficult to feel involved because of the audio problems.

The number of people around the table forces the public into an alcove which acts as an echo chamber not served by the public address system which directs all the loudspeakers into the main chamber.

All the Cabinet and Labour Members sit back to the public and are hard to hear although Councillors three times as far away on the far side of the room come across loud and clear.

Last night 50 chairs had been put out for the public but with only two copies of the Agenda. Fortunately for Bexley Council I was the only observer although that probably added to the alcove echo chamber effect. It’s a pretty poor show for the £42 million spent on refurbishing that building.

There was little incentive to stay but Item 10 (Youth Services) of the 12 item Agenda looked potentially interesting so I waited for that but it proved to be a waste of time. The guest speaker’s voice had some sort of incompatibility with the sound system. Probably not her fault, there is a prominent Councillor whose voice never comes across clearly either, even when he is close to the microphone. I doubt I will be saying much on Youth Services.


BootheThere were no such problems with Borough Police Commander Jeff Boothe who confirmed that he has been posted to Croydon and his position is to be filled on a temporary basis by Superintendent Stuart Bell.

Councillors were naturally keen to hear what he had to say about the Northumberland Heath “disorder” on 19th September when young people, most of whom were of school age and many in uniform, rampaged across the borough.

It started in the Broadway and “a number of school kids were dispersed”. Later there “were about 60 reports from residents of disorder across the borough which we narrowed down to five specific locations. It was a very unclear situation at the time, we did not know what the cause was”. Additional resources were brought in, two people were injured but they were released from hospital the same day.

“There was absolutely no indication that this disorder was going to take place. A team from Scotland Yard is scouring the CCTV, looking to identify individuals. We have already arrested eleven individuals currently on police bail with restrictions but there are ongoing investigations.”

“There has been a partnership response” aimed at “identifying the cause and prevent this from reoccurring”. The Commander was “confident” that by the time of the next Scrutiny meeting “there would be a report back”. The incident “was not a schools issue, it was not race issue and there is no intelligence to say it is gang related”.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) thought that provision of “a Universal Youth Service would have given those young people something else they could have been doing that evening”.


ReadCabinet Member Philip Read was not at all happy with Councillor Ogundayo’s comment as one might expect but devalued his analysis of the situation by drawing unnecessary attention to Mabel being a minute late to the meeting. Councillor Read “did not see it was the responsibility of the borough’s residents to provide things for the children of the borough’s residents to do every night of the year”.

Councillor Sharon Massey abruptly switched the discussion from what may have had its roots in bad parenting on the grand scale to bad parenting at the individual level. She introduced the subject rather craftily by saying it was the first time the Chief Superintendent had been at a Council meeting since the murder of Jo Cox MP and she wanted to know what “steps” the Commander “was taking to protect public servants in Bexley and their families from harassment, you know. I know Councillors here and the MP do fear for their own safety”.

The Commander said he had “contacted all the MPs and if any public representative has any concerns they should contact us so that we can look at mitigating any perceived risk. Hopefully that answers your question”.


MasseyPresumably it did not. Councillor Massey referred to her “family, particularly my daughter” and “I really welcome the hate crime hub [recently introduced by MOPAC] . I am particularly concerned about school children. What concerns me is that there is no law against lying, that’s the problem. Can I just talk to you as a mum, and just how does that feel about some of the ways social media is shared around, like Facebook, Snapchat, even Twitter and what you are doing and how you might do it if one adult downloads a picture of a child and shares it with another adult and then they use that picture to create a story of fictional circumstance. I mean to me as a mother, I have really great conversations about why adults are sharing pictures of school children and I just wondered what you felt you would do to protect children. Can we use this on line hate crime hub to protect children about photographs being shared and can we bring in a law against lying?” (sic)

The Commander may have been caught on the hop and was not at his most lucid, choosing his words with some hesitancy and care.

“The main thing for me is about education, increasing children’s awareness of their actions of what might be unintended consequences. It’s about how do we work with schools, with parents to increase their awareness of what might be happening in terms of what might be a crime and what isn’t a crime. Our job is always to take the report, we will then take the complaint, we will then look into it, try to investigate.”

“One of the key things we will look at is whether or not there is an existing offence, whether an offence has been committed and we have to take that on a case by case basis. We then sometimes before we make a decision we need to find out what is the intention of the individual to have a clear distinction of whether an offence has been committed. We take each case on its merits and from that will look to see if within the law we can with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service and whether it is in the public interest. So that, I hope, kind of covers your question but I do take pride in the fact that our officers do deal with a wide variety of issues with the utmost compassion; we don’t always get it right but if we make mistakes we hold our hands up.


MasseyIt was unclear if Councillor Massey is the subject of abuse on Facebook and Snapchat which we do not know about, if so one must have at least a little sympathy.

I use neither (†), and my Twitter account is used only to draw attention to new blogs. It seemed possible that Councillor Massey is still trying to attack this blog which did not mention her daughter until after the police told me that she had accused me of harassment.

It is also possible that Sharon Massey is still attacking the Councillor who she claimed was in possession of a photograph of her daughter but as she reported him to the Code Of Conduct Committee rather than the police, maybe not.

If the Masseys have a problem with on line pictorial harassment much of it must be their own fault. Over the last few months I have been on the receiving end of eleven photos of the Masseys in and around their home. Goodness knows why I am supposed to be interested but if I was I could download most of them plus a few more from Google images. The Masseys appear not to have given a thought to their on line actions, and as the Commander said, there can be unintended consequences.

A lesson everyone should learn is that if you don’t want your information and personal data shared, don’t make it freely available on the internet.

The much blurred photograph taken at a party in the Massey’s home which may have sparked their vendetta against BiB was posted alongside a score of similar pictures unprotected on Facebook. It wasn’t really necessary to listen to Natasha Briggs’ audio recording of the party to know there was one.

As for a law against lying, Commander Boothe wisely said nothing and every politician in the room breathed a sigh of relief.

† The Bexley is Bonkers Facebook page is run with my permission by a third party. Like the Twitter account it rarely goes beyond advertising this blog.

 

18 October - Decision making in Bexley. Deplorable

Napier Road CraskeAfter a short update on the burst water main problem in Crayford (the disruption will go on for at least another week from today), Places Scrutiny moved on to the sale of parks.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) reiterated his party’s position that it is against all such sales and referred back to the General Purposes Committee meeting where it was revealed that the value of the Napier Road site “was not sufficient for disposal”, so moving on to his question Stefano said “I would like to ask the Cabinet Member why and when did he decide not to dispose of this site”.

Councillor Craske said “I was thinking about it on Friday and over the weekend and I decided on Monday morning”.

Councillor Borella thought it “was bizarre not to have asked for the figures before it was even on the list. The objectors were given an email on Monday morning by the Cabinet Member and he said very clearly that it was going through the decision making process. In the afternoon the Cabinet Member said he was going to stop the sale. The disposal value was not worth anything, he should not have had it on the list in the first place”.

Well in a competent Council Stefano, then maybe…

Councillor Craske said “there were 27 sites on the list and we are only taking forward eight. The policy was to generate a sum of money, we have got to the point when we do not need to sell the rest off”. Just how big is their miscalculation? 27 sites put under threat with all the consequent worries for residents and they are only going to sell eight.

“I have known the value of that site for ages”, Craske said “and it was touch and go but there were questions about utilities that may or may not be underneath and by the time you put all those through you come to the view it is not really worth…, it doesn’t justify the worth of what comes out of it. I rang Mr. Moore [Director of Regeneration] to tell him about it at 08:30 [on Monday].”

“This site wasn’t going to make a difference one way or another.” So there you have it, Napier Road would never have been on the list if Bexley Council had exercised an iota of common sense.

How many hundreds of residents were put to so much trouble? How many of them now think that Bexley Council is a well run organisation?

 

17 October (Part 2) - The long and the short of it

Four months ago we were all noticing that the grass in the borough’s remaining parks had been allowed to grow to ridiculous heights and apparently we were experiencing the wrong sort of rain.

At last Thursday’s Places Scrutiny meeting there was a sort of inquest into it. The contractor who was appointed only last January had been invited to give its side of the story.


ISS ISSThe company is ISS founded in Denmark in 1906 and now the third biggest privately owned company in Europe.

It has established depots at the Council’s premises in Footscray, Danson Park and Thames Road.

It was acknowledged that there were initially problems with the demotivated staff who had transferred to them from their previous employer. They had been trained and provided with new machinery but unfortunately the weather proved to be against them. Extra resources were brought in at a total cost in excess of £50,000 to overcome the various problems but it took until mid-August to get things back on track.

Since then, in addition to the contracted work, ISS has been helping the various voluntary groups who tend to the the borough’s open spaces.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) had a question. Were the additional costs incurred this year sustainable? The company chairman thought they would not be but did not expect the problems of 2016 to be repeated every year.


ISSCouncillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) said the complaints about the excessive grass growth were at “an unparalleled number this summer”. “What flexibility was built into the contract” she wanted to know. She did not get a straight answer from Ms. Ainge, the Council Officer, it’s not yet been worked out.

Councillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) said the frequency of grass cutting was the Council’s decision but was concerned about the quality of the cutting. Some bits were missed altogether and it “looked a bit shabby”. The cause was probably due to unfamiliarity with the new equipment but all staff had been trained on it as quickly as possible.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) suggested the number of cuts was insufficient and contrasted Lesnes Abbey Park with the adjacent housing association land where grass cutting is much more frequent. Cabinet Member Peter Craske said the frequency was a budget decision and “there were things to learn from it”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) thought the excessive amount of grass cuttings left on the surface were a problem. The company spokesman said it was looking at a mulching mower but storage and removal of grass cuttings is prohibitively expensive.

 

17 October (Part 1) - It takes one to know one

Tosser CraskeAt last week’s Places Scrutiny meeting Cabinet Member Peter Craske gave advance notice of his renewed anti-litter campaign. Its slogan Don’t be a Tosser caused a chuckle on the Committee’s top table although I doubt it will receive universal approval.

The scheme introduces on the spot fines of £80 for littering, £50 for dog fouling and £400 for fly-tipping bringing Bexley into line with several nearby authorities. It’s a pity that Bexley no longer ensures that litter bins are emptied sufficiently often.

Bexley Council has issued a Press Release and a poster. Click the image to see it all.

 

16 October (Part 3) - Deaf as posts v thick as planks

Ever since Councillor Peter Craske failed to use his microphone (and hence disabled the hearing loop) in the old Civic Centre and the Mayor said he didn’t have to, Bexley Council has been a little more responsive to the needs of the hearing impaired. Mick Barnbrook reported them to the Equalities Commission.


LoopHuman Resources Manager Nick Hollier promised that a hearing loop would be provided and to be fair it usually is. The main chamber has one ‘plumbed in’ and in smaller rooms portable equipment is sometimes provided. Not that it is well received by Mick or his friend Elwyn who both suffer from deafness.

At the Code of Conduct Committee meeting last Wednesday they complained about being unable to hear anything despite the presence of the equipment pictured. I thought I should do some research to find out why.

The portable panel includes a boundary microphone, which is good, and radiates an electromagnetic field for the benefit of suitably equipped hearing aids.

Unfortunately it is unfit for the purpose to which it is put. The device shown radiates that field over a maximum of one square metre - or 1·2 square metres if it is the latest top of the range model.

So now we know why Mick and Elwyn can’t hear at the small meetings, they are made to sit too far away. The equipment is intended for use in one to one discussions across a small desk, an interview with a financial adviser in a bank for example. Utterly useless in the circumstances to which Bexley Council habitually use it.

Perhaps the Council should have bought some more (or better) hearing loop panels instead of wasting our money on barriers. Their hearing loop is £99 on Amazon.

 

16 October (Part 2) - Lesnes Abbey and Crossrail

The occasional comparison of the progress being made at Lesnes Abbey and at the end of Wilton Road no more than 500 metres away shows one common factor. Only the most observant of people would notice any change to either.


Lesnes Lesnes LesnesThe Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre must be close to being complete and only a year late too! Sometimes the shutters are down and at other times up. When they are up it really does look finished as does the forecourt but the paths around it are still muddy.

Three minutes walk away the view down Wilton Road is changed for ever. The station roof sports a plastic membrane and on the northern side the wooden roof beams which trailed behind those to the south are now all in place.

Installation of the drainage systems and support piles for the Crossrail track and platform have also advanced considerably, although one pile and one hole looks much the same to the next one to me.

I understand that installation of the final zinc covering of the roof is still some weeks away if not months, but even without it a weather proof environment is very nearly ready for fitting out the station. Only a year to go now.

The past two weeks in pictures may be seen here.

 

16 October (Part 1) - Bexley Parking Services Report

Another ‘popular’ segment of last Thursday’s Places Scrutiny meeting was the Annual Parking Services report. I know it is popular because whenever BiB reports on parking and associated injustices inflicted by Bexley Council the number of web hits more than doubles.

Ben Stephens who heads the joint Bromley/Bexley gestapo unit had decided to absent himself from the meeting but David Bryce-Smith (speaking to microphone below) fielded the questions instead.
Places
The assault on blue badge misuse has been stepped up. It can be reported on 020 8313 4800. Half the 521 appeals to the Adjudicator (ETA) had failed and the Council continues to employ the same bailiffs who have cheated every affected motorist out of various sums of money to such an extent that Bexley Council’s internal auditor referred to their practices as “maladministration” over and over again.

In Bexley, dishonesty and criminal practices go unpunished, presumably because when dealing with a whole den of thieves it is impractical to attack just one for fear he might bring down all the others in retaliation.

The Council extracted £451,000 from motorists in on street parking fees last year, £2,192,000 in on street fines, made a profit of £88,000 and issues more penalty notices than any of its neighbouring boroughs, north and south of the river apart from Bromley which is jointly administered with Bexley.

From August last year, when Bexley Council began attacking motorists on the move, until the end of the financial year in March 2016 it fined 1,372 motorists for minor indiscretions and in the few weeks it has been under CCTV surveillance, the Danson Lane trap has netted nearly 2,000 motorists.


BishopCouncillor Brian Bishop said that the Parking Services Report indicated that PCNs could be appealed on line but feedback from electors was that the system didn’t allow it. The details of the offence were there but there was no provision for an appeal. Mr. Bryce-Smith confirmed that that was the case.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked about public requests for enforcement of anti-social parking behaviour. Mr. Bryce-Smith said there was “a large number of such requests. Some residents were more persistent which presents a challenge, and they may get more follow up”. I still don’t know how such reports can be made apart from via the cumbersome web form.

Councillor Borella welcomed the introduction of fines for moving traffic offences in principle but was concerned that there now eleven locations being surveyed and asked the Cabinet Member which location was netting the highest number of motorists.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) confirmed that the most lucrative site was the yellow box junction at the end of Danson Lane and seemed to be particularly happy that as a he drove through earlier in the day “a lady in a red Honda” was caught out.

Councillor Stefano had researched the current fines (1,879) at that location and contrasted the Council’s current attitude to persecuting motorists with their 2006 election campaign based on the Welling bus lane. Town centres are no longer monitored by CCTV but road junctions are.


SawyerCouncillor Sawyer said that there was a big difference between the box junction and a bus lane; the former was “short and yellow” and the latter was “red and long”.

He said “the yellow box junction is about safety” (but apparently town centre CCTV is not). “Traffic used to be gridlocked to Crook Log, now it is only gridlocked as far as the football ground”.

“On every issue”, he told Councillor Borella, “you are fundamentally wrong”.

Councillor Gareth Bacon said it was not true that Bexley used PCNs as a revenue raiser. The bus lane had generated a million pounds a year and been cancelled. A million sacrificed to ensure a Tory victory!

Councillor June Slaughter asked if the new parking contract to be awarded in the very near future would be broadly the same as the last one. David Bryce-Smith said the new one (unlike the existing contract) would not incentivise CEOs to issue more tickets. There would be a new pay by phone contractor.


SmithCouncillor Linda Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) spoke up for motorists. “Speed humps, speed cameras, double yellow lines, red lines, red routes, it goes on and on.” It leads to road rage.

She was concerned about unlawful incentivised ticket issuing too. Mr. Bryce-Smith said that would be a thing of the past and repeated that incentives would not be in the new contract.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) in an obvious response to Councillor Smith ended the discussion with “to say we are persecuting motorists is bonkers”.

Note: A reader informs me (I never went anywhere near the Welling bus lane and wouldn't know) that the bus lane was longer than the regulation that authorised it permitted and the camera overlooked that ‘illegal’ section. The bus lane was therefore unenforceable and appeals on the right grounds had to succeed. It was simplest to remove it before too many people discovered the truth which might have involved the Council in refunds. It sounds plausible, Conservatives turning a mistake to their advantage.

 

15 October - Saturday Miscellany

Abbey Wood regeneration
Abbey WoodI returned to Sainsbury’s today to see what more I could discover about the regeneration of Wilton Road which is due to see the first pneumatic drill within the next two weeks. Not a lot as it turned out, Bexley’s display was more concerned with longer term plans for after the Crossrail terminus is completed, however it did confirm the Wilton Road start date.

In another capacity I attended a Greenwich Council presentation on Wilton Road two weeks ago and their story was different to Bexley’s. Greenwich said that the footpaths in Wilton Road will be made “slightly” wider. When asked what would be the impact on parking spaces the answer was “none at all”. The road would be a bit narrower.

The Bexley representative said today the kerb line would be exactly the same as it is now, but parking would be “new restricted”. When asked what that meant he did not know, but given Bexley’s reputation for fleecing motorists it gives cause for concern.

There is no detail for Wilton Road publicly available two weeks before work is due to commence but the plan is said (†) to include York stone, cycle racks, trees and granite benches. The street drinkers will be delighted.

I was told that copies of the plans displayed in Sainsbury’s are on the yourabbeywood website (password Bexley1617 although it was unrestricted earlier today) but if they are they are well hidden. Photographs of the plans are fine at the full 36 megapixels but at web size are only just readable.

As usual with planning matters, this subject is covered in far more detail and with pictures at fromthemurkydepths.

† Information given to the Traders’ Association by Greenwich Council on 28th September.


Erith Quarry
QuarryI drove along Fraser Road on Thursday and was amazed to see the vast open space of Erith Quarry for the first time. There was an Open Day held there today, probably the sort of thing that will be covered on the Maggot Sandwich in due course.

Meanwhile, there is the brochure to pore over, kindly hand delivered by one of BiB’s very first readers.

Previous BiB Erith Quarry blog.


Fly tipping
Fly tipperThe Coptefield Drive fly tipper returned on Thursday evening and took away most of what he had dumped on the previous Saturday morning. Not all of it, there is still some unwanted junk in the big bins.

Perhaps he is a Bonkers’ reader.


Yellow Box junctions
Yellow BoxA reader told me that Bexley Council is circumventing the law that says that it is OK to enter the box when your exit is clear - and then someone barges in and blocks it - by editing the video so that it doesn’t show the whole junction from the time the box is entered. It starts only when the vehicle is half way across. Typical, and what you would expect from a Council hell bent on making money.

Danson Lane, Welling Yellow Box junction.

 

14 October - Regeneration Update

If one can have a favourite Scrutiny meeting, mine would be Places. Consistently interesting subject matter chaired by someone who knows how to charge through 216 pages of Agenda in only 150 minutes. All without annoying fellow Members which is more than one can say for some Chairmen.

Councillor Melvin Seymour went through the Agenda items in an almost random sequence for which he had his reasons and I am going to do the same and once again for a good reason; it is particularly topical.

The subject is the Regeneration Update, Item 9 on the Agenda.
Committee
BaconThe first comment came from Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Cray Meadows) who welcomed Bexley’s support for a college of rail engineering. Having not supported infrastructure expansion at the critical time when government might have authorised Crossrail being extended further east than Abbey Wood perhaps the Council has decided to build their own railway.

The first sensible comment and questioning came from Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) who complimented Peabody Housing Association for keeping local Councillors fully informed of their plans. He was pleased to see that the Wilton Road shop regeneration was now well advanced and asked when the Public Realm improvements might commence.

He said, somewhat to my surprise because I am in contact with the Wilton Road traders almost daily, that residents had told him there was another consultation in progress. No one had told him officially. He sought information.

He also asked what impact Crossrail was having on “businesses large and small” and for the latest information on the Council’s lobbying for a Crossrail extension.

Mrs. Jane Richardson (Deputy Director of Regeneration, £93,288 p.a. plus 20·6% Council pension contribution) said the Council was working with partners in Kent on a business case coordinated by TfL. It had been signed by Council Leader Teresa O’Neill and gone to the Treasury. It had also been signed by the Leaders of Gravesham and Dartford Councils. The case “made it very clear that extending Crossrail, certainly as far as Slade Green is outstanding value for money. Beyond there things get more difficult and more expensive.”

On the subject of Thames Crossings, there was disappointment with the London Mayor’s statement last week which failed to mention the Gallions and Belvedere crossings proposed by the previous Mayor.

Ms. Tiffany Lynch (Infrastructure Strategy Manager) reaffirmed that Abbey Wood station will open for North Kent services in October 2017. She said the current line closures are having a detrimental effect on trade in Abbey Wood and repeated what had been said at the last Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting. viz. That it was promised that rail closures would be much reduced after Platform 2 opened in August but in practice were continuing with only four weekend days of respite before Christmas.

Whilst Ms. Lynch accurately reported the complaints made at the Liaison meeting, my recording of the previous meeting in June clearly shows that what is happening now is almost exactly what Network Rail forecast then. There will be no let up in the closure programme until the Crossrail track is laid which is unlikely to be completed before January.

Completion of Public Realm work around the station will be delayed until May 2018 because of various conflicts with other Crossrail related work going on in earlier months.

Councillor Hackett again asked if there was a current consultation about the regeneration of Wilton Road and the surrounding areas. Residents had been told nothing about it if there was. Ms. Richardson said “we will have to come back to you on that”.

Sainsbury'sWhen I went into Sainsbury’s Abbey Wood at one o’clock today there was indeed a visual display of the Council’s plans. Clearly the left and right hands are not talking to each other in Bexley.

The attendant told me that the display will continue through until Sunday. I was a little alarmed to hear that further restrictions were to be introduced on parking in the area when only two weeks earlier I had attended a Greenwich presentation where it was promised that no further restrictions would be imposed. It is a joint Bexley/Greenwich scheme so perhaps another left and right hand problem.

Why a consultation at this late stage I do not know. Both Councils are saying work will start on Wilton Road by the end of this month and today’s display shows a November start date for Harrow Manorway.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Northend) said he was delighted at the Mayor’s promise of a DLR extension to Thamesmead and the possibility of an Overground extension to Abbey Wood. He hoped the DLR might eventually be brought further south, perhaps to Bexleyheath. The present plans see it terminate in the Borough of Greenwich.

Councillor Churlish Bacon said that nothing the Mayor said had been agreed. She suggested that Stefano tell “his Labour Mayor where Bexley actually is”. She also asked Stefano “if he was in the Mayor’s faction or in your Leader’s faction”. The only sour note of the entire evening.

Crossrail TandyCouncillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) had “no doubt that Crossrail will be extended further east perhaps incrementally bit by bit. Sidings already go a considerable way towards Belvedere which ties in with our regeneration aspirations there so perhaps we can have some of the Crossrail trains going there and then back again.”

This seems to me the only relatively quick and simple solution. One of the Crossrail tracks is by design well and truly blocked by the new Abbey Wood station but the other goes beyond it for the best part of a mile towards Belvedere to provide a dumping place for failed trains and to allow engineering train access from Kent to the Crossrail depot at Plumstead. Extending the track for a further half mile to Belvedere and running a train every 20 minutes looks to be an easy thing to do with no need to switch to third rail operation which might otherwise be necessary.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked what was happening to the two big empty sites in Bexleyheath. The old Civic Offices in Broadway and the BHS store.

Ms. Richardson said that things are well advanced on the BHS site and “residents will be really pleased within the month”. (The security guy in The Mall says it is to be a branch of the department store Morleys.)

The Broadway site bought by Sports Direct is also progressing well but there are big issues about road access. There is a “very active dialogue" and there should be an announcement before the end of the year”.

Councillor Brian Beckwith (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked about the regeneration of Blackfen but Ms. Richardson said it was “very difficult to come up with a solution. It is not straight forward”.

Bexley Council's Abbey Wood regeneration webpage. There is also a website at www.yourabbeywood.co.uk. It isn’t finished and needs a password. It is Bexley1617.

Note: The room was laid out exactly as shown in The Buffoon’s Agenda map. More than sixty chairs for the public complete with Berlin Wall and apart for the opening session of the meeting, only me there!

 

13 October (Part 2) - The Misconduct Committee seeks a more compliant Independent Person

The third Council meeting this week was the Code of Conduct Committee. They met to agree how the next Independent Person should be appointed in accordance with the requirements of the Localism Act. Probably the current one is no longer flavour of the month for refusing to go along with the stitch up of Councillor Maxine Fothergill.

Chairman Councillor Cheryl Bacon was late because she had failed to take sufficient account of the traffic problems following the burst water main in Crayford and the Vice-Chairman Peter Reader had excused himself. Councillor Louie French stepped into the breach and in the 15 minutes the meeting lasted acquitted himself well.
Committee
Apart from myself, four members of the public, the usual suspects, and Councillors Alan Deadman and Maxine Fothergill were present. One can only guess at why Councillor Fothergill chose to be there.

The recommendation was that two Independent Persons are appointed and it was agreed that the positions should be advertised and that applicants should be selected by a panel of two Conservative and one Labour Councillor, Cheryl Bacon to be one of them.

Agenda Item 7 was to review recent complaints against Councillors but it was recommended and agreed that they were merely noted.

At this point Mr. John Watson asked the Chairman if he would agree to use his discretion and allow him to speak. Councillor Cheryl Bacon who had arrived two minutes earlier attempted to influence the Chairman by shaking her head vigorously. She was successful and Mr. Watson was silenced. I imagine that John wanted to draw attention to the inaccuracy in the Agenda which said that the Council’s ‘conviction’ of Maxine Fothergill is under Judicial Review. Unless Maxine herself is going to court, the (apparently incomplete) statement below is totally untrue.
Complaint
The actual complaint which John Watson has submitted for Judicial Reviewed could hardly be simpler. He asked its Chief Executive if Bexley Council would in future comply with the law and she refused to confirm compliance. I suppose she can’t and keep her job. Full compliance with the law would tend to bring any corrupt organisation to its knees.
JR
Stupid isn’t it? Chief Executive Gill Steward could have stopped the entire business if only she had replied to one letter. She may have found it difficult to confirm that Bexley Council is a law abiding organisation but to instead allow the affair to escalate to the point that Bexley Council has already hired the most expensive barrister it can find shows an abysmal lack of judgment, like the Press Desk withdrawal and the Berlin Wall, but taken to an entirely different level of idiocy.

Note: The room was laid out in accordance with the diagram shown in the Agenda but the two hearing aid wearers in the public gallery both said that the hearing loop system. if there was one, was not working.

 

13 October (Part 1) - Cabinet. Some new numbers on an old story

As already noted, Tuesday’s Public Cabinet was very much business as usual, just the same old financial gloom adorned with updated figures. As usual, Finance Director Alison Griffin was called upon to give us her latest proposals and warnings.
Cabinet
Ms. Griffin said she was “really pleased to report that the current forecast is an underspend of £1·6 million in 2016/17. This is excellent progress”. A major contribution was the success of the garden waste scheme “beyond all expectations”. Maybe it is time for a reminder that this was a double-edged fraud upon residents. Getting them to separate garden and food waste saved the Council £444,000 a year in processing costs and then they were made to pay for their own efforts.

The ‘success’ of her achievements meant that the Council might not need to eat into its reserves however a severe Winter could have a significant impact on environmental and adult social care services and costs. Money would also have to be found to “advance cohesion in the borough following the disturbances in Northumberland Heath”.

For 2017/18 and beyond an “Efficiency Plan had been produced” which includes a two year pay award to staff of 1% (2% total). As a result “the budget gap has been revised to £15 million rising to £32 million for 2021/22”.


Massey“The annual value for money review has identified over £5 million of savings however there will remain a £2·7 million budget gap for 2017/18 rising to £12 million in 2021/22.”

“Property taxes and fees and charges are funding universal services and the cash inflows are unlikely to match the spend in the future so it is important that we use reserves to help smooth fluctuations.”

Exactly ten minutes after Ms. Griffin began the presentation of her strategy for the next five years, failed businessman Don Massey made his attempt to claim some of the credit for the Cabinet. He waffled for 30 seconds longer than Ms. Griffin but apart from a warning to benefit fraudsters, we learned nothing that Ms. Griffin had not espoused in far greater detail. His ten minutes could be summed up by just one of his sentences. The future represented “a long hard road”.

Cabinet Member Linda Bailey’s sole contribution to the meeting was to ask for news of an introduction date for the New Homes Bonus, but there was none.


Tiotto ReadJacky Tiotto, Director of Children’s Services, set out her ideas for adoption services. She “recommends an arrangement with Kent and Medway”. This will create a much bigger pool of adopters and help reduce the delay in allocating children which can be up to 18 months from a court hearing. The alternative was to partner with London’s 32 boroughs but Ms. Tiotto thought that Bexley would have “a stronger voice in a group of three”.

Another failed businessman, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Philip Read welcomed the plan to “work together”. The adoption proposals were also welcomed by the Labour ‘shadow’ Councillor Mable Ogundayo.

Mr. Tom Brown who heads up the Adults’ Services department spoke of the progress made to allow disadvantaged people to lead independent lives. It is not good enough that “the pinnacle of their lives is to go to a day centre”. He wanted to “listen to the voice that uses the services”.


SmithCabinet Member Brad Smith agreed with Mr. Brown. He wanted to “improve the lives of those with learning disabilities despite the financial challenges”.

Tom Smith outlined his proposals to form an alliance with the Oxleas Health Trust to further improve the outcomes for elderly people in need of care. Councillor Smith said the “closer working” with Oxleas would commence on 1st April 2017.

The Bexley Buffoon, the pinnacle of whose life so far is the installation of the Berlin Wall and a map to tell the public where the chairs are, was on the top table alongside Teresa O’Neill but said nothing and did nothing apart from gaze thankfully into the eyes of the Council Leader who fell for the claimed achievements in her CV.

Teresa and Gill Teresa and Gill Teresa and Gill Teresa and Gill

 

12 October - Four Council meetings in a week but nothing much to report

Public Cabinet meeting
While listening to last night’s Cabinet meeting I noted very little that I considered sufficiently interesting to make into a blog immediately. The recording may reveal that I wasn’t paying enough attention but I think reviewing that may have to wait for the weekend.


Sisters Public spacePossibly of note is that once again the Chief Executive’s direction that members of the public may only sit where indicated by the plan on the inside cover of the Agenda page, proved to be another waste of time and effort by Council staff. The diagram did not accord with the actuality.

Once again The Berlin Wall, as I overheard one Councillor call it, was in evidence, serving no useful purpose whatever, not unlike its progenitor. I suspect it would not deter a determined axe murderer. Unusually, almost uniquely over the past two years, there was a newspaper journalist in evidence who scribbled away in shorthand throughout the meeting. Presumably he found it more interesting than I did.

He was Simon Allin who is responsible for most of the Bexley Times’ web page. Strange coincidence that the press was present at the first significant meeting following The Buffoon’s review of meeting arrangements.


The News Shopper
While on the subject of newspapers, the News Shopper seems to be doing funny things. Last week there were no Readers’ Letters in the Bexley paper edition but there were five on Page 15 of the on-line version. One was from Cabinet Member Peter Craske explaining why most people are paying more this year to have their garden waste collected than they did last year.

Those five letters are repeated in this week’s on-line edition but they are in the paper one too. It’s not as though the News Shopper is short of material, some people send me copies of what they send to the editor, so I know that.

For those of us who keep their eye daily on local news, Readers’ Letters is the only section of the paper that comes as a surprise. The only genuine news in fact.

Fly tipping
Sofa Fly tipperSome roads in this neck of the woods can be rubbish strewn from end to end. I noted three piles in a 150 metre stretch of Alsike Road Abbey Wood yesterday. The sofa first featured on 24th August has been joined by a fridge. Soon Bexley Council will be able to let it as temporary accommodation.

Better news is that I sent my pictures of Saturday’s fly tipper to Stephen Didsbury (Head of Waste) and my neighbour drove over to see him to deliver a USB stick of video of two incidents. Mr. Didsbury made all the right noises so we will wait to see what happens.


Bexley Council’s website
Bexley Councillors are strongly advised to save money by not having meeting Agendas delivered by courier to their home addresses, they are supposed to get them from the Council’s website. All very laudable.

Members of the public interested in how the Borough is misgoverned have to get their written information the same way, indeed the law says it must be available to them a week before any public meeting can be lawfully convened.

Bexley Council’s website, the sub-domain where important documents are kept, was down all day yesterday and still is. If they are to make a success of being a digital council they are going to have to find a more reliable IT contractor.

 

11 October (Part 2) - Four park sales voted through, none debated

Yesterday evening saw the first General Purposes Committee of the municipal year, that is since May, with several new Committee Members attending.
GP
The main subject up for discussion was the disposal of six more parks and open spaces to add to the tally of four already up for sale - except that there weren’t six any more, two had fallen by the wayside. Cabinet Member Peter Craske announced only three hours before the meeting that the sale of Napier Road would not raise a significant amount of money and was not worth selling. Less than £100,000 was mentioned during the course of the meeting.

Peter Craske has a track record of offering up sacrificial lambs to the cuts agenda. He was going to cut Lollypop patrols and then thought better of it and portrayed himself as the hero of the hour. He said he would sell Old Manor Way playground even though Council records showed it was prohibited by covenant and riddled with dene holes, but once again he was able to pitch himself as its saviour, and if Napier Road is not worth selling, why the late decision? Its value is no different now to what it would have been when Craske first added it to his list.

The Fraser Road site had been withdrawn from possible sale following advice from Transport for London which left only the sites at Bexley Road and Holly Hill Road in Erith, Millfield Open Space and Maiden Lane both in Crayford.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) was concerned that most of the Members present, in part because they were new to the Committee, had not received any legal training on how to reach a decision sufficiently robust to withstand a Judicial Review. He returned to the subject several times but the Tories were simply not interested, maybe because they felt that the comparatively small number of objections (single figures in each case) rendered them pretty much immune from that course of action.

Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said that the legal training was of no use.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) was rightfully critical of Cabinet Member Craske for putting residents living around Napier Road through months of stress, meetings, petitions and marches, when there was never much likelihood that the site would be sold. With Councillor Peter Craske being notable by his absence there was no realistic prospect of a reasonable excuse for his volte-face being forthcoming.

Councillor Francis thought it was reasonable to know the approximate value of each piece of land being considered for sale so that Members could better judge whether a sale was sensible. His request was refused. He said that the legal training which Councillor Betts thought worthless indicated that he should be in possession of that information. Legally the Council was trying to raise £710,000 by the sale, without monetary information the Council could over achieve the target. Mr. Alabi, the Council’s top legal bod then downplayed the status of the legal training he had given to Councillors, it was not legal advice, it was simply advice. As Alabi appears to have no legal qualifications there is I suppose a certain logic in that.


Parks for saleCouncillor Betts then suggested that a vote on the disposal be taken immediately. Not a single site had at that point been debated, only the above generalities. He did the same when the previous sites were put up for sale.

Councillors Hackett and Francis valiantly attempted to keep the discussion going for a further ten minutes and even managed to speak briefly of the Bexley Road site, but Chairman Cafer Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) sided with Councillor Betts when he again called for an immediate vote.

Councillor Francis objected that there were people in the public gallery who had come to hear the debate on the fate of their local park but his concern counted for nothing. Councillor Betts rudely suggested that Councillor Francis had placed bets on how long the meeting could be spun out. All the Conservative hands went up to recommend the sale. Labour and UKIP voted against.


BuffoonThe final part of the meeting was to hear the Chief Executive set out her new vision for the Council. The Buffoon descended from her Ivory Tower to explain herself.

In essence she has rearranged the Titanic’s deckchairs or as she put it, “ְprovided additional capacity in the organisation”. No names were attached to the organisational chart so it is difficult to be sure of who will be doing what in future however it is interesting to note that the job of Monitoring Officer will no longer be Akin Alabi’s; that role will go to the Deputy Director of Human Resources, currently Nick Hollier.

The other thing of note was that the changes will cost us an extra £70,000 a year. Quite why I am not sure because the battery on my audio recorder chose that moment to expire and I rely on it for picking up the detail so easily missed while live listening.

 

11 October (Part 1) - Gill Steward. Skilled in the art of trivia management

Barrier Reserved seatsSo what was the effect of the Bexley Buffoon’s review of meetings aimed at giving Councillors the opportunity to take an active part in their meetings? There was more to it than the arbitrary removal of the Press Desk from the vast empty spaces that you see in Photo 1.

If she had really wanted to ensure Councillors participate fully in meetings the Buffoon could have done worse than suggest that Chairmen allow a debate on the subjects listed in the Agenda. Last night we were treated to the spectacle of a Chairman calling for a vote on subjects that had not been mentioned at all, but more of that anon.

As you can see from the two photos we now not only have a trip hazard to contend with someone has gone to the expense of providing laminated notices on a handful of chairs.

The Agenda did indeed give guidance “on the new arrangements” as promised by the Buffoon. However it was wrong on all counts. The Councillors’ desks were not laid out as shown and the areas reserved for members of the public were not as described by the diagram.

More subtle is the change of wording on the front of the Agenda packs. This is how it used to be…
Agenda
And this is how it has been since the Buffoon’s recent review.
Agenda
Note the difference. The Buffoon thinks she can stop the public filming or otherwise recording Council meetings if a Junior Officer might be present. How does that work in practice? Does it mean no more group photos? Am I to turn off my recorder the moment a Junior Officer speaks? Will I recognise a Junior Officer when I see one? Will the Council’s webcasts be halted as and when required?

It must be borderline illegal. The Buffoon has spoken. Bexley takes a further step back in time.

 

10 October (Part 2) - Utterly bonkers

This evening sees the start of the new season of Council meetings and they are going to be “effective” with “all participants able to take a full and active part”.

I was not aware that Councillors were not able to take a full and active part in the past but apparently Chief Executive Gill Steward has conducted a “review” and she came up with only one but nevertheless brilliant idea to effect the improvements she desires.

And what has the Bexley Buffoon done? She has removed rather less than six square feet of wood supported by four legs from the Council Chamber. Doing so is going to transform the effectiveness of Council meetings. One would expect rather more than that to have come from a review by such an overpaid bureaucrat.

The woman is stark, staring bonkers. This is what she said last week in reply to my enquiry of 22nd August.


Dear Mr Knight

Thank you for your e mail.

The Review was initiated by me and involved talking to the officers who regularly attend and support Council and other meetings but more importantly my own observations. The intention of the review is to ensure that meetings are able to run effectively with all participants able to take a full and active part. My view is that the arrangements I have introduced will contribute to this outcome.

The new arrangements will apply to all members of the public and press who wish to report and our own Communications Team. We wrote to you because you are the only person who regularly attends meetings to report on proceedings but as you are aware all agendas now provide information about the new arrangements.

Yours sincerely

Gill Steward
Chief Executive


Do people of this ilk know when they are talking nonsense or are they so inured to such balderdash that they no longer recognise it?

 

10 October (Part 1) - Shifting the legal goalposts

Mr. Watson has asked me not to report on his Judicial Review application which seeks to declare Bexley Council’s decision to ban him from asking questions unlawful. His email account is blocked, however the following information reveals nothing that is not already in the public domain so I should be safe!

The current saga began when John Watson asked probing questions about the Maxine Fothergill affair and discovered that among other irregularities including the conduct of the disciplinary hearing there was not actually a written complaint against Councillor Fothergill as required by law. What the Code of Conduct Committee had was a statement written by a member of the Committee who was sitting in judgment on Maxine. Accuser, judge and jury.

The Independent Person representing you and me did not think there was any case to answer. Nevertheless a punishment was dished out which may or may not have been revenge for Councillor Fothergill reporting one of Teresa O’Neill’s favourites to the police for theft.

John Watson would have taken Bexley’s failure to observe the letter of the law to Judicial Review had he been legally able to do so, but he isn’t. Instead his case is confined to Chief Executive Gill Steward’s decision to cut him off from further contact with Bexley Council and does not refer to the Fothergill case at all.

Bexley Council, either because it seeks only to fight a battle which it would win on a point of law, or because it is incompetent, refuses to recognise John’s court action for what it is. A statement on Bexley’s website says that it is the Fothergill affair which is the subject of a Judicial Review. Totally wrong.
Code of Conduct

 

9 October - Keep away from Welling. Bexley Council has turned it into a no-go area

Yellow Box Yellow BoxThe report that Bexley Council might have set up another driver trap in Welling was soon confirmed by readers. One gave an account (much abbreviated below) of his experience at the junction of Danson Lane and Welling High Street.


While on my way to Woolwich, despite taking much care I was still forced to stop for a few minutes in the yellow box and hence I’m waiting to see whether I will receive a Bexley Council penalty notice.

The slow traffic lights at Welling Corner were, as is often the case, causing a queue well past Danson Lane and there was also a queue of cars trying to exit Danson Lane. Traffic was generally leaving the yellow box clear but when the Welling Corner traffic moved up to create a space on the far side of the yellow box it was promptly filled by vehicles turning left out of Danson Lane.

Traffic back to the football ground was hardly moving. In due course I reached the yellow box where I stopped to await my exit being clear.

When the Welling Corner traffic next moved up there was nothing exiting Danson Lane so I took my chance to cross the yellow box. Just then a car came screaming up Danson Lane and shot out turning left to take the space I was aiming for. I was therefore forced to do an emergency stop to avoid rear ending this car but at the same time stopping in the yellow box until the traffic moved up again.

Should I receive a penalty ticket I will contest it on the basis that when I entered the box my exit was indeed clear as required by the law. I was forced to stop in the box by the other driver barging in as I was part way across the box. If the camera records video it should show this sequence of events rather than just a still photo of my vehicle stopped in the yellow box.

There was a programme on TV recently featuring the yellow box cameras which have raised the most revenue for councils. The problem I experienced was featured. The local bus company was deducting fines from their drivers and as a consequence they just wait and wait for their exit to be clear sometimes up to 45 minutes causing massive queues. Bexley council will not do anything about the design of the junction because it is such a good revenue raiser.


When the Conservatives were re-elected in Bexley in 2006 they succeeded on the back of two promises. One was to put an end to 17% Council Tax increases and the other was to do away with the Welling Bus Lane which was unfairly penalising motorists who clipped its corner when turning left.

The tax savings proved to be hot air, the Tories did not return any of the extra money taken by their predecessors. They inherited 24th worst position in London for Council Tax and ten years later the borough remains at 24th place from the top. One could argue that if Labour had not raised that extra cash, Bexley would be far deeper into the mire now than it actually is.

However the Tories did do away with the Welling Bus Lane, but even that achievement is now effectively cast aside. I took a look at the newly CCTV surveyed junction today (Sunday) at a few minutes after two. It was exactly as described by my correspondent above. In five minutes I stood there with my camera, three cars got stuck in the yellow box because of people darting out of Danson Lane. It would have been five but one SUV driver realising his predicament drove on to the pavement and another just managed to force a two lane queue until it moved on a little. It wasn’t just the Welling Corner traffic lights that were doing the damage but those outside Tesco too.


Yellow BoxI had parked my car a short distance to the east and when it was my turn to head the queue for the box I copied the aforesaid bus drivers and contributed my little bit to the queue stretching back to Danson Park. I was probably stationary for about three minutes but no one hooted.

Eventually a space opened up that coincided with someone in Danson Lane signalling right. Ordinarily common courtesy would demand I let him out but the box compelled otherwise so I dashed across in front of him. The car behind wanted to turn left which might have started the whole horrendous episode all over again.

Bexley Council has said that fining moving traffic is a safety measure, but me dashing across the junction and the 4x4 on the pavement suggest otherwise. The box junction has been there for donkey’s years. It’s a strange coincidence that it only requires ‘safety measures’ applied once the money grabbers decided to issue penalties. Lying thieving bastards is I believe the correct technical term.

A friend in the Council, yes I have some, told me that the Danson Lane junction is the biggest money spinner Bexley Council has ever seen, far exceeding the notorious bus lane, so that makes Bexley Tories hypocritical bastards too.

Their camera would have been catching someone at least every three minutes while I watched, possibly more. Steer well clear of Welling, a half mile queue and a sixty pound fine awaits.
Yellow Box Yellow Box Yellow Box Yellow Box

All vehicles shown were stationary when photographed between 14:06 and 14:10.

 

8 October - Caught in the act - twice

Fly tipper Fly tipperThe constant fly tipping in the Council bins just across the road from my home has been featured on BiB before. It’s been going on for years and at first I thought it might be a keen DIYer who perhaps wasn’t able to read a rule book written in English, but no one fitted that description. The immigrants in the road are for the most part better neighbours than their English counterparts.

Gradually it has become more obvious what is going on. A rogue builder has dumped two vans in a private parking space and uses them as a storage facility. They have not moved for years. Photo 3 shows that the fence was painted around them a long to me ago.

While I was busy in my garage last Thursday afternoon I became aware of a commotion behind the flats opposite. Shortly afterwards one of the residents there showed me a video he had taken of someone filling the bins with builders’ rubble. He said he was going to send it to the land management company. I suggested he send it to Bexley Council as the bins are theirs even though they are sited on private land.

I gave the neighbour Stephen Didsbury’s phone number. Mr. Didsbury is Bexley’s Head of Waste and Public Protection. He phoned him but with no response so far but it is early days.

This morning while working in the garage again I heard the same commotion so took the photos you see below from a safe distance. Click for the larger view. I was not seen.
Fly tipper Fly tipper Fly tipper Fly tipper
Quite clearly, someone had forced open the bins and was chucking all sorts of rubbish into them while carefully scrutising each piece, for tell tale ID presumably.

Maybe there is enough evidence for Cabinet Member Peter Craske to do his thing and organise a prosecution. He seems to like appearing in the News Shopper claiming another fly tipping conviction.

 

7 October - Congratulations Jeff!

Jeff Boothe Bexley’s Borough Police Commander is off to Croydon, not the usual direction of travel, we tend to we get their cast offs, Tuckley and Stringer for example. Jeff Boothe first got a mention in these pages in April 2015 when he was the new boy. Usually the Borough Commander lasts two years in Bexley where they have been traditionally accused of Misconduct in Public Office after covering up for Bexley Council’s criminal activities. All three of Jeff Boothe’s predecessors are under ongoing investigations, the oldest for well over four years and it looks as though it could be going places.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that that case will lead back to the Bexley Councillor who sought the favour from the boys in blue.

So congratulations to Jeff on getting through his stint in Bexley without allowing himself to be sucked into the morass of dishonesty that pervades its Civic Offices.

 

6 October - Behave yourself

Bexley Council appears to have recognised what everyone else of a certain age has known for a long time. That Bexleyheath Broadway is best avoided in the afternoon. They are going to introduce a Public Space Protection Order.
Order

Click to read Council Press Release.

There doesn’t seem to be any restriction on being noisy or pushing and shoving at bus stops, so the PSPO may not go far enough for some.

 

5 October - Why did the bin man cross the road?

Bexley Councillors’ three month holiday from meetings comes to an end next Monday. They will be rubberstamping the sale of four more parks and open spaces. After that, those who wish to keep abreast of the nefarious civic goings on, will have the dubious pleasure of approximately one night out and one night in for a couple of weeks. It’s not just Councillors who must stir themselves from their current lethargy. BiB must too.

Things are particularly quiet on Bonkers at the moment, not entirely because of a shortage of things to report, but because of a shortage of time while I rush to complete a DIY job before the meeting season restarts. For that reason I shall fall back on the easy cop out today; readers’ messages.

An old favourite is the rubbish rubbish collections. I must declare an interest; I almost never encounter a problem. I thought someone had nicked my green bin a month ago, I went to collect it from the footpath where I had left it and it wasn’t there. I walked the short length of the road and it was nowhere to be seen. I thought I should check the CCTV to see who the thief was.

There was no thief. The bin man had wheeled it back to close to where I usually keep it, which cannot be seen from the road. I didn’t think to look there. Maybe he likes me. As a special favour to Cabinet Member Peter Craske, and in full on Green mode, I have been weighing my non-recyclable waste. It is a very consistent ten ounces a week. That’s under 300 grammes to those of you who weren’t taught both systems at school.

Not all bin men are as caring or perhaps as sensible as mine is, someone who lives in the centre of Bexleyheath witnessed the following bizarre behaviour this week…


Today was green bin emptying day in my road and the bin men employed a new technique not seen before.

Previously an operative would collect one (or often two at a time) wheelie bins from premises, take them to the lorry for emptying and then return them to the premises - i.e. once across the road and back again.


UntidinessToday all green wheelie bins from one side of the road were first moved to the pavement on the other side of the road. To do this an operative must have completed one return road crossing - once across pulling one or perhaps two full bins then return across the road empty handed to collect the next one or two bins.

Later the bin lorry came down the road on the side where all the full bins were waiting and they were duly tipped into the lorry. An operative then had to make a second return road crossing to take the empty bins back to the properties and then back empty handed to the lorry for the next one or two.

Unless the bins had prominent house numbers on them the operatives would not always know where they came from or even which side of the road they came from so the chances of getting back your original bin was quite low.

Hence to empty one (or two) bins an operative had to make TWO return road crossings whereas previously under the previous system only ONE had been necessary.

Whether the new system is something devised by the bin men themselves which they think makes their lives easier or is something imposed on them from on high is not known. For the life of me though I really cannot see how the new system benefits anybody. Very strange.


The correspondent lives on a busy road close to a large school. The new technique sounds unnecessarily dangerous to me.

Another message said that more money making yellow box junctions had appeared in Welling but didn't say exactly where but I would guess from the context that they are somewhere near Tesco’s. I shall have to go and take a look, but not by car. It will have to be via multiple buses. Belvedere to Welling is not the simplest of routes.

There was a slightly puzzling report to the effect that the parking bays at Riverside Gardens in Erith have been sold off to private enterprise, or more specifically that enforcement was now in the hands of a private contractor. I suspect I have misunderstood something, Bexley Council will not be employing private parking companies as commonly found outside supermarkets because it would be illegal. Oh wait!

Maybe it is Morrison’s car park where the arrangements have changed.

 

4 October - Khan do

The new Mayor is not hanging about. There is a lot of ground to be made up after the mistakes made by Teresa O'Neill and her good friend Boris eight years ago.
Crossings
Click image for source website.

‘Reliable sources’ also speak of an Overground extension from Barking to Abbey Wood too. The Belvedere road crossing appears to have been placed further down the list of priorities. There will be another consultation early in 2017.

See The Murky Depths for a more critical analysis.

 

3 October - The establishment fights dirty

You may have noticed that BiB is reluctant to report the intricacies of stories which are heavily based on legal argument. The detail takes more time to digest than is available to me and as I have no legal expertise whatsoever there is a too great a danger that I might get hold of the wrong end of the stick. The worrying case of the police arresting a Bexley resident as she passed through Heathrow on her way home from a holiday was dropped for exactly that reason. It was alleged the police did it for a lark in support of their civilian employee involved in a marital dispute but it all became so complex that it was impossible to summarise - or fully understand if truth be told.

For similar reasons I have not given a running commentary on John Watson’s Judicial Review application. His complaint is that after getting rather too close for comfort to the truth of the Maxine Fothergill stitch-up he was banned from contacting Bexley Council and his emails were put on a block list.

It is very difficult to fight authority and it requires dedication to even try. Authority in general and Bexley Council in particular will employ a catalogue of dirty tricks.

When Councillor Peter Craske was arrested on suspicion of authoring obscene blogs aimed at me and others, Bexley Council intervened to undermine the case against him. It was “crippled by political interference” was what the police told me.

There is overwhelming evidence that Councillor Cheryl Bacon and former Chief Executive Will Tuckley committed Misconduct in Public Office and ten witnesses to the events of 19th June 2013 wrote accounts disputing Councillor Bacon’s version of events. No witness spoke up in her defence. The Crown Prosecution Service has been considering the case against both of them for an unprecedented (according to police sources) 13 months and their decision must now be imminent. There is absolutely no way that the establishment can see the new CE at Tower Hamlets hauled before a court on Misconduct charges after he was specially selected by government commissioners to sort out the corruption in that borough. How the CPS will manage to circumvent the ten to one majority of witnesses against Cheryl Bacon remains to be seen, but dodge the issue they will.

When Bexley Council’s contracted bailiffs were found to be breaking the law (and fleecing residents) in very nearly every case they handled, Bexley’s auditors accepted there had been widespread malpractice but refused to take action against anyone. Instead they said they only way forward was for me personally to organise a prosecution which they could have undertaken themselves.

When Bromley - which runs the parking enforcement regime for Bexley - was found to have signed unlawful contracts the auditors once again looked the other way while the experts at Notomob said it was the worst case of illegal practices they had ever seen.

Once again the auditors asked a resident to fund a prosecution if they wanted to pursue matters further and once again the crooks-that-be are able to continue their malpractices with impunity.

Bexley Council will set out to crush John Watson’s efforts to protest his disenfranchisement from full participation in local democracy. They have emailed to him various threats to the effect that they will employ a barrister to fight him using your money and mine to pay for him and claim the money back from John.

Then they do not allow John to respond to their emails because they have blocked him from so doing.

It is interesting to note that Bexley Council is not using the ‘expertise’ of their Head of Legal whose job description demands he is either a solicitor or a barrister but appears not to be. The Council’s letters are signed by other Council staff. The correspondence is bogged down in legal argument.

 

2 October - Goodbye to Scabby Wood

CrossrailThe fortnightly comparison of progress at Lesnes Abbey and at Abbey Wood station is abandoned for today, neither have shown a great deal that is new. That is one reason why far fewer photographs have been taken at Abbey Wood station over the past two weeks. It has been non-stop trench digging, trench filling, piling and roof building but one hole dug or roof beam installed is much like any other.

The other reason is the finger wagging episode and the impediments placed on weekend photography. If the sequence of photographs cannot be maintained through the weekend there doesn’t seem to be a lot of point in maintaining a regular record at all.

Network Rail emailed an apology for “a contractor being rude” but the threat to sue me was not from a contractor, it was Network Rail staff.

As tends to happen when instructions are passed down from HQs, they can be embellished as they filter down the line. One of the train enthusiasts on the platform told me that he was stopped during the past week by Southeastern ticket inspectors from taking photos with his phone. They were not one of the regular staff at Abbey Wood, every one of whom tries to be helpful.


CafeRound the corner in Wilton Road the £300,000 regeneration (less in excess of 100k. of Council fees) is making its presence felt but very slowly. Things are undoubtedly looking better but not everyone is happy although some traders clearly are.

If individual shop owners had organised a refit of their own premises I imagine that the new window would go in on Day 1, an awning, new fascia and shutter on Days 2 and 3, and snagging work carried out on Day 4. Job done.

Not so in Wilton Road, the work is being done more on production line principles. Several shop fronts over a couple of weeks, then back to do the fascia and awnings etc. much later. One shop had its windows replaced in August, its new fascia installed in late September and is still waiting for a replacement shutter. Its insurance company must be pleased.

If things run to schedule Greenwich Council will start work on the Public Realm quite soon and with a break for Christmas finish before Spring.

Photos taken over the past four months will give some idea of how much better things will look. The corporate shop fronts are now the ones that look both messy and shabby.

For the record, West End Styles did not take part in the Council scheme, their improvements were self financed. The florist’s fascia was due to have a flower within the design, it has not shown up yet, and work on the chip shop has yet to start.

 

1 October (Part 2) - Bah Steward

It’s six weeks since I asked the Chief Executive if there was any reason for the writing desk to be withdrawn from Council meetings, but Gill Steward has not had the decency to reply.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that only one resident was informed of the change and although his name was redacted it is not difficult to work out who that was.

Before referring the situation to the local Government Ombudsman I emailed the following. Last time anything was emailed to me from Bexley Council it was sent to a non-existent email address but I have taken the precaution of making it active. It is possible that the Buffoon has invented another invalid email address but my suspicion is that she is unable to answer the questions.


Dear Ms. Steward,
As six weeks have gone by since I wrote to you seeking information about your perverse decision to abandon the long established provision of a writing table at Bexley Council meetings I am going to assume that you have no intention of replying. I do not find it particularly surprising that the Common Sense advocated in government guidance is not to be found in your office.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that your policy change was directed at one resident only. Maybe I should feel privileged to be singled out for special treatment but I would have thought that someone in your position might display a little more intelligence and understanding of the likely consequences.
I shall refer the situation you have created to the Local Government Ombudsman to seek their opinion on your petty mindedness.
Yours sincerely,


The probability is that the Chief Executive is under orders from the Fat Controller. It's the way she operates, keeps her head down low while others get the flak and find their idiocies at the top of every Google search.

Crafty she may be but at least we have the evidence that Teresa O’Neill is happy to see thieves elected. Leader for now but for how much longer?

 

1 October (Part 1) - Greed and desecration

This is a repeat of yesterday’s blog which would otherwise ‘disappear’ with everything else from September. The eyesore in Abbey Wood, if not the other two items, demands the maximum amount of publicity.

You soon won’t recognise the place, pubs are disappearing at an alarming rate as owners recognise that Bexley Council’s primary interest is infrastructure levies and the council tax base and not the overall wellbeing of the borough.

The Coach and Horses in North Cray Road looks likely to go the same way as the Charlotte in Crayford and Belvedere’s Ye Olde Leather Bottle have over the past couple of months.
Pub Planning
Meanwhile, down in Sidcup there is consternation at the prospect of a characterful Edwardian house being demolished.
Sidcup
I don’t think I can add anything to that.

Nearer home but just over the border with Greenwich another monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend is to join the blot on the landscape which is Sainsbury’s Abbey Wood.

Everything you need to know about this proposed dreadful edifice may be found on The Murky Depths blog.

When I first moved to Lower Belvedere in 1987 and was more interested in technology than I have time for now, I was struck by the fact that most people’s television aerials from here to Erith were pointing at Bluebell Hill (Chatham) or in the case of a few optimists, Sudbury (Suffolk), both the home of powerful transmitters. Crystal Palace was blocked for most addresses by the surrounding hills. Fortunately I could see the low powered Woolwich transmitter mast from my front door but as it did not transmit Channel 5 I rigged a large aerial to drag it in from Croydon, from which it came at the time.

Sainsbury’s put an end to that, the TV mast disappeared from view. I’d stopped using it anyway, it only transmits a sub-set of the available Freeview channels and in any case a DIY satellite dish provides a much better signal.

But for anyone in Belvedere or Erith still relying on terrestrial TV from Woolwich, prepare to say goodbye to your favourite programmes.
Carbuncle

Absolutely horrible isn’t it? 30 storeys of ugliness.

Return to the top of this page