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Bonkers Blog April 2017

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Sidcup Place

30 April (Part 2) - Wilton Road is nearly done. And about time too

Wilton RoadHere's a picture that will bring joy to motorists who dare to venture into the redevelopment mess that is Abbey Wood - and many a bus driver too. After three long weeks the Abbey Road/Knee Hill traffic lights have gone.

The Wilton Road regeneration which was slated for completion by 3rd March is now pretty much done bar the tidying up.

Why the job took so long no one knows but the quality of the work looks to be pretty good, the design perhaps less so in places. The Greenwich side is strewn with grit from planted areas and the Bexley footpath is undulating and impedes the shop shutters here and there.

One of the men working there yesterday was more than a little upset that he had turned up early with his gang intending to finish the job by midday but the traffic lights had failed causing him to put two men behind Stop Go boards.


Wilton Road Wilton RoadMaybe as a result the final section has rather more concrete infills than can be seen elsewhere and late in the afternoon when the men had left the site it was still protected by the traffic lights. Sometime later they disappeared so congratulations are due to whoever came back to clear the road.

Meanwhile, only a short distance to the north nothing significant has been done on the Harrow Manorway flyover and a quarter of a mile away absolutely no progress has been made in demolishing the last remnants of Tavy Bridge.

According to my Thamesmead reporter no date has yet been fixed and demolition will be at the end of May or even later.

 

30 April (Part 1) - Beware the 7 day parking restriction coming to a street near you

Last May Bexley Council sent a letter to residents who live near the centre of Bexleyheath which said they were planning to extend on-street parking restrictions to midnight and enforce them seven days a week. It claimed that businesses had been complaining about the amount of Sunday parking - which most people took to be a lie - and further restrictions were justified by the redevelopment of the town centre.

There were protests but to no avail.

In the fullness of time the proposal was watered down to retain the old restriction times - although beware the frequent stealthy extension creep across the borough - but Bexleyheath would get seven day enforcement which if Bexley Council is correct will have got every town centre trader on his feet cheering.

But don’t think that is the end of the matter. Bexley Council’s greed knows no bounds. The contagion was forecast in the blog for 6th June 2016

Various reports, vaguer than I would like, have come in from around the borough suggesting that all, or maybe most, of the other shopping centres will be meted out the same treatment.

Unfortunately no one has sent me a copy of any letter Bexley Council may have sent out but presumably it will be similarly welcomed by all the traders who are clamouring for a footfall reduction.

Has Bexley Council used the same old “substantial expansion and redevelopment” excuse they applied to Bexleyheath or has another far fetched story been manufactured?

 

29 April (Part 2) - Teresa Pearce first off the starting block. Tory heads still on one

The first election blood in this neck of the woods goes to Labour’s Teresa Pearce. I was out when her card arrived; too many sick friends unfortunately. Whipps Cross on Thursday, Queen Elizabeth Hospital today.
Labour
One reason Teresa has a head start is that as far as I know, no other party has chosen a candidate. The Tories are still playing silly buggers with Anna Firth. Should she or should she not be struck off their list because of her enthusiasm for Brexit? Anna must be an ideal candidate for a Brexit voting area but the Erith & Thamesmead Conservatives are still squabbling with Central Office. Or rather vice-versa! They deserve to be rejected again.

Click image for the whole thing. If it looks familiar, that’s because it is.

 

29 April (Part 1) - Vodafone to give Bexley two fingers?

The unwanted Vodafone mast in Blackfen provoked several comments, among them a report that at a police community meeting the local Councillor was “clearly furious”.

I’d guess that would be Peter Craske, it will be good for residents to have an attack dog on their side.

Meanwhile, further north, another resident has poked his nose into some suspicious goings on. Two men in Kingswood Avenue, Belvedere were caught out surreptitiously surveying and admitted it was on behalf of Vodafone.

There does not appear to be a current planning application but presumably Bexley Council will not make the same mistake again so soon after the last one.

 

28 April - Vodafone gives Bexley the finger!

Vodafone VodafoneA lady from Wellington Avenue called me yesterday with a disturbing story of a total cock up by Bexley Council, although she believed corruption was not impossible.

Her complaint was about a phone mast which has been put up opposite her house. I didn’t know where Wellington Avenue was but a good old fashioned map put that right and I drove over to take a look.

It was only when I got to Blackfen that I remembered I hadn’t asked where the Vodafone mast was and Wellington Avenue is a long road. However I had no need to worry, the mast stood out like a big and ugly sore thumb.

As I put my camera to work two residents ‘jumped’ on me asking if I was for or against it. How can anyone be for a monstrosity like that I replied.

How did Bexley approve it?

Well strictly speaking they didn’t!

My correspondent said it went before the planning Committee last November with a recommendation by planning officers to approve it. However the Committee said it was a poor application and obscured the view of a historic World War II bomb shelter. (Photo 3) Councillors refused the application and the objectors and local residents went home from the meeting happy and relaxed for the first time since the application was submitted the previous September.

And then the cheap and nasty pole, without a hint of any camouflage in evidence, and to the surprise of everyone, made an unwelcome appearance complete with a very large equipment box.


Bomb shelterHow could things possibly get to that stage after its rejection?

The answer varies depending on who Bexley Council gets to manufacture the excuses. One answer was that Vodafone appealed the decision in which case shouldn’t residents have been told. All of them insist that Bexley Council kept everything totally quiet.

Never before - according to local residents who have been fighting masts for the past ten years - has Bexley ever approved a phone mast on its land. It’s why some residents are talking about corruption and dirty deals.

Another story is that Bexley Council sat on the application for so long that it went through by default. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true. Bexley’s Planning Committee is horribly inefficient but refuses to contemplate improving it - and that comes from the horse’s mouth so to speak.


PlanningCommittee procedures must be inefficient. The mast is up and running while Bexley’s Planning portal is still saying a decision is awaited.

It’s a scandalous situation if inefficiency - I’m not sure I believe the corruption theory - has been allowed to blight residents’ lives. The possible adverse health effects of phone masts are still a big worry to many, especially to parents of young children.

The people I met there are to say the least pretty mad about Bexley Council letting them down and no amount of compensation will satisfy them. They are looking for a reversal, nothing less and who can blame them?
Vodafone Vodafone Vodafone Vodafone
The cabinet will probably get used as a public urinal, it’s more than big enough.

There is an interesting historical report on Bexley Council’s attitude to mobile phones on the Barnehurst based website, Name ‘n’ Shame. Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) makes some particularly interesting, some might say utterly stupid, comments.

 

27 April - The last Full Council meeting - The first half

PallenYesterday’s Full Council meeting was not the most exciting affair I have witnessed in the chamber. The last meeting of the civic year is usually marked by a bad tempered display by the Mayor but last night it didn’t happen.

A Mayor (Val Clark excepted) invariably starts a term of office with the best of intentions and is fair to all but towards the end of the twelve months realises that they must soon return to the fold and prepares the ground by going all tribal again.

CraskeHowever last night Mayor Eileen Pallen asked for Members to show respect to each other and reprimanded Conservative Councillors several times when they unnecessarily aimed minor abuse at opposition Members. It was forgivable perhaps that she allowed Cabinet Member Peter Craske to get away with worse because abuse is his stock in trade and to put a stop to it is probably an impossible ask.

It’s a shame that Councillor Craske feels it’s necessary to plumb the depths because beneath that ruddy exterior lies some good ideas. Why he feels the need to add a veneer of lies might occupy a psychiatrist for a lifetime.

Someone else in need of a good psychiatrist is Chief Executive Gill Steward. For some unknown reason a camera and lens that had behaved perfectly at last week’s People meeting and not used since had lost all its focus calibration settings so many of my shots last night were just tests while I fiddled with the settings. I never did get them right.

However the Chief Executive thought it was appropriate to stare at me adjusting the lens while she pulled idiotic faces. The photos are below par but one just about passes muster as a new banner overlay (above). Every time you see it remember that we pay that twerp £176,000 a year.

A question from a member of the public managed to link President Donald Trump, his alleged responsibility for climate change and how it potentially might drown everyone in Bexley so it wasn’t too surprising that the questioner didn’t want to show his face. I was very much looking forward to Councillor Craske’s withering put down but it wasn’t to be.

The first proper question came from Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) who wanted to know if Councillor Craske thought that the Northumberland Heath riot might have been prevented if he had not cut the £225,000 expenditure on CCTV surveillance. Councillor Craske said “the question does not make sense to me” because only last week the Borough Commander reported to the People Scrutiny meeting that the disturbance was first noticed in Bexleyheath on the CCTV.

This would have been a nice answer if it was truthful but as you might expect it was not. The Police Commander’s only reference to a camera was his own “mobile camera used as a deterrent after school”, and not the abandoned Council system. The early signs of a ‘riot’ were picked up via social media messages which were monitored by teachers. (I listened to the recording of the Police Commander again to make sure.)

Councillor Craske got away with another of his trademark deceptions and Councillor Ferreira never did get an answer to his question.

Councillor Derry Begho (Labour, Thamesmead East) was concerned about the standard of street cleaning in Thamesmead. This gave Councillor Craske the opportunity to trumpet his Tosser scheme.

Councillor John Fuller (Conservative, Christchurch) chipped in with an uncharacteristically spiteful and presumably Craske inspired comment to the effect that the Labour Group had voted against increasing the frequency of street cleaning which technically they did, but that was because the budget as a whole cut expenditure on street cleaning.

Waters DaveyCouncillor Craske said he would “not waste a moment pointing that out to voters [at the forthcoming election]”. The truth it may be but far from being the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) asked Councillor Craske if he would kindly boast for his entertainment and the webcams about the street cleaning machine he has purchased. Councillor Craske duly boasted about what he termed his “boys’ toy” accompanied by the customary distortion of the facts relating to who voted for what.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) asked a similar question about fly tipping. Cue Craske returning to his Tosser campaign which he said was widely welcomed across the borough and resulted in a reduction in levels of fly tipping.

John Davey asked if the Cabinet Member had any figures for fly tipping in other boroughs and by an enormous stroke of good fortune he had. He reeled off a list of London boroughs with far worse fly tipping figures than Bexley, all of them Labour controlled as he proudly told us.

1,000 fly tipping reports in Bexley. 70,000 in Enfield.

He rounded off with abuse of Councillor Danny Hackett who had earlier unsuccessfully asked Councillor Craske to look at the fly tipping problem in his ward. Craske said that Councillor Hackett had a good record for clearing up rubbish himself but it transpired that Craske was alleging that Danny Hackett had deleted many of his old Tweets. Allegations that are both untruthful and irrelevant. The Mayor thought so too. She cut Craske short and moved rapidly on to the next question.

Councillor Hackett stood to deny deleting any Tweets but the Mayor would not let him continue.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked if any of the unspent Section 106 money was about to expire. Cabinet Member Sawyer thought not but added “Labour will get a thrashing [for their inclination to spend] at the next election”. The Mayor told him that her words about respect applied to him too.

Labour Leader Alan Deadman (North End) askd the Council Leader if, following all the cuts, residents now had lower expectations of service delivery. Teresa O’Neill said “No”. She had taken £1·7 million out of the budget and the alternative was doubling Council Tax.

Councillor Deadman said that people were now very aware that “they no longer get the services they were used to and their expectation is that will be the norm.” The Leader said it was what people wanted and “she was sure they will vote for it again”. Much the same response as Alex Sawyer’s but without the Mayoral rebuke.

To be continued…

 

26 April - The last few days of Tavy Bridge

Tavy BridgeBexley Council has issued another Press Release about its Albion Road wrecking programme. (A dual carriageway is being reduced to a single track.)

Next week the section between Townley Road and the Oaklands (Bowling Centre) roundabout - will be reopened but it is not time for celebrations.

Immediately afterwards the Westbound section from Highland Road to Townley Road will be closed for a couple of months. Access to adjacent property will be severely restricted and a map is linked to the Press Release.

The residents of Bexleyheath have the benefit of a Press Release for this road closure but Thamesmead has only a Legal Notice for theirs which doubtless few have read.

It announces that the principal route to and from Abbey Wood is to be closed completely for approximately two days. The Notice says the road was due close last Monday but it wasn’t and if common sense prevails it won’t be done until the weekend. The reason for the closure is that the ugly concrete footbridge and adjacent library is to be demolished.

If you are feeling nostalgic that another chunk of Thamesmead is due to bite the dust, a selection of old and new photographs from 2012 to the present day is available.

 

25 April - Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee; cards in close proximity to chest again

My prediction that the public would be thrown out of last Thursday’s Code of Conduct Committee meeting proved to be totally wrong. I had a conflicting appointment and despite it being cancelled at the very last minute I still didn’t think it was worth turning out, especially when John Watson said he would attend and let me know what I had missed.

Not a great deal it would seem. This is a slightly shortened version of his report.


Bexley’s Code of Conduct Meeting was to be held in the smallish Public Gallery West and I was hopeful the sound system would be working because all too often Councillors and staff are inaudible.

On entering the room I was pleased to see that microphones had been provided but the deafest complainants were absent, I was the only member of the public present.

As usual the public seating area was arranged to be as far away from the speakers as possible, separated from the action by an entirely unnecessary black ribbon. Bexley Council really does like to create division whenever possible.

No copies of the Agenda had been provided for Press or Public.

Regrettably the sound system failed almost from the start and my recorder flashed up a “No audible speech is detected” message.

Chairman Councillor Cheryl Bacon referred to items 5 and 7 of the Agenda which gave Notice that the Public and Press were to be excluded but if Committee Members were not planning to refer to the restricted Green Papers she proposed that the Press and Public be allowed to remain.

There was no desire to refer to the Green Papers so both Press and Public (me!) were allowed to stay. This was a first for Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee.

TylerLynn Tyler is Deputy Monitoring Officer and decides whether or not there has been a breach of Bexley’s Code of Conduct. She said that there had been six complaints against Councillors since the last meeting of the Committee. One was from a member of the public, three had been made by the same Councillor against another and there were two other complaints from Councillors.

The Committee had made one finding but no details would be disclosed to the meeting.

Chairman Cheryl Bacon thanked Lynn Tyler for the work she had done for the Code of Conduct Committee, explaining it was her last attendance at a Committee meeting. Lynn Tyler was moving on to new pastures.

The Chairman informed the Committee that five applicants for the position of Independent Person had been interviewed by the Appointment Panel and two ladies chosen.

The appointment quango consists entirely of Bexley Councillor Members of the Code of Conduct Committee. This is a management technique commonly known as ‘Keeping things in the family’.

At this point the sound system was on its last very wobbly legs so it was unsurprising that the Committee decided it should be abandoned entirely.

Mr. Akin Alabi, employed by Bexley Council as their Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, explained to the Committee that the Council was required to appoint at least one independent person under Section 27 of The Localism Act 2011. The two ladies who had been selected were to be recommended by the Code of Conduct Committee to Full Council for formal appointment. It’s a rubber stamping operation which does not comply with the requirements and spirit of Section 27 of The Localism Act 2011.


Lynn Tyler is probably pleased to be getting away from Bexley Council. When Councillor Cheryl Bacon lied about what happened at one of her meetings, Lynn Tyler who wasn’t present was called upon to write a set of excuse notes which blamed members of the public for what happened. The truth could not be allowed out so her notes could only be untruthful. She carefully avoided getting any of the people she was compelled to defend with her largely false statements to put their name to what she had written on their behalf. The lies were so extreme that the police didn’t require much persuasion to send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for alleged Misconduct in a Public Office.

One of the people who Lynn Tyler ‘impersonated’ was disturbed in the middle of an expletive ridden tirade about the dishonesty of making up false statements in employees’ names. It’s not what one expects of someone from the legal profession but it is what a Bexley employee has to do to defend the indefensible. It is to be hoped that Ms. Tyler finds a happier working environment.

The appointment of the Independent Persons will come before tomorrow’s Council meeting.

 

24 April - Councillor Craske conquers Cryptosporidium. Contracting Conway

Beach BeachTwo weeks on from the start of work on constructing Councillor Craske’s Beach in Belvedere there is just a little progress to be seen. The base of the old Splashpark is pretty well destroyed and the last remnants of the children’s play things are piled in a sad heap.

As with Crossrail recently, the views are uninspiring. The site is locked and surrounded by a hedge, the views are mainly blocked by trees or by Conway’s Portacabin.

With luck it will be nice when it is done but a brief conversation with a local resident suggested that Bexley Council will not be easily forgiven for the destruction of the 100 year old water park tradition. Nor should it be.

Beach

Click to enlarge and rotate.

 

23 April - In Abbey Wood either the train service is a mess or the roads are

It’s been three weeks since the last set of Crossrail pictures were ‘released’ and there are fewer pictures than usually in the previous two weekly sets. The reason is simple, I can no longer see what is going on, fences everywhere.

The eagle eyed may spot that a couple of cables are now draped on the overhead gantries from Church Manorway to the station but in the station itself there is only one place left with a view of anything, and a pretty dull one at that..

Abbey Road It’s possible that Crossrail has been progressing at a cracking pace, hard to tell, but something that hasn’t is the Wilton Road refurbishment, it started on 9th January and was supposed to be used as a training exercise for apprentices. None have been seen and the job is still not completed seven weeks after the target date.

Naturally it’s causing its fair share of chaos, none more so that over the past two weeks when Abbey Road has been blocked by three way traffic lights.

Throughout this weekend traffic has been held for lengthy periods for no very good reason. Greenwich Council’s contractor, Riney, could have spent 20 minutes clearing up and restoring two direction traffic flow before bunking off early on Friday. But they didn’t.

Progress has been pictured daily in Wilton Road and Abbey Road and the latest Crossrail photographs are in the usual place. The next regular lot will be deferred for a month but if everything goes to plan there should be a rather special set a little before that.

Date

 

22 April (Part 2) - And you think parking in Bexley is bonkers!

As you may know I have to be in East Ham (Newham Council) a couple of times a week and I sometimes pass the time there by reading the Council’s magazine. It’s very like Bexley’s but with one big difference, it comes out every two weeks. How do they get away with that when Greenwich was banned from weekly issues?

The current magazine, which is typical, carries only two commercial advertisements and still Newham manages to have the fifth lowest Council Tax in London.

They do things very differently to high tax Bexley, among them their targeting of rogue landlords. 1,072 prosecuted in three years and 415 cautioned. Fines under the 2016 Housing and Planning Act can be up to £30,000 a time.

However living in Newham is far from being a bed of roses. Their latest wheeze is to make every road in the borough subject to a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ).

Consider what that means. Within the borough you will only be able to drive to destinations in your own small zone (where the local permit code is valid) or elsewhere in the borough if you know someone who lives there who will let you have a visitors’ permit. £1.20 for six hours. £5 for ten hours.

Many people will be unable to drive to and park near their doctor’s surgery. It will potentially be the end of the school run.

Shopping in the borough will be next to impossible as there are very few public car parks. Stratford has the only multi-storey which has 548 spaces. There are 241 more spaces around Stratford but a mile or more from the shops. Elsewhere in Newham there is a total of 136 spaces in East Ham and 31 in Plaistow. And that’s your lot. £2 an hour too - and you thought Bexley was ripping you off.

East Ham’s Labour MP Stephen Timms is supporting the protest. (Newham Recorder.)

Make the most of Bexley’s freedoms, they may not last. It has already been discussing quadrupling the size of the CPZ around Abbey Wood station.

 

22 April (Part 1) - Bin Tax On Track

There were only two Press Releases from Bexley Council yesterday, one on brown bins and one on the possible removal of the train services to Charing Cross and Victoria.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske was crowing about the success of the brown bin scheme as well he might. From his point of view it has gone unbelievably well. He has imposed a 2·5% Council Tax increase (figure based on my own payments) and saved the Council £444,000 a year (Council’s own figure) in processing costs by getting residents to separate food from garden waste. An act, or deception if you prefer, displaying both financial genius and political cunning.

Having said that, Bexley’s bin tax is definitely on the low side compared to other Councils. I share my bin with a Bromley resident where the charges are twice as high for an inferior service. My sister in Hampshire has to pay more than twice as much as Bexley’s £33 and she had to buy her own bin.

Count yourself relatively lucky. Councillor Peter Craske is a devious manipulator.

Press Release.
Council’s web page.

On_Track On_TrackThe other Press Release was about the political protest against the plan to cut Bexleyheath off from Victoria and Charing Cross railway stations. Slightly erratic behaviour from a Council that has spent years making sure the borough is cut off by road from East London.

There is no equivalent Council organised protest against the loss of Charing Cross services from Slade Green, Erith, Belvedere and Abbey Wood, just a simple written objection.

In the Conservative’s own party announcement they forgot to mention that Labour MP Teresa Pearce was at Bexleyheath station too but her party had been campaigning about the issue three days earlier (Photo 2). No Tories helping out.

Unfortunately Labour locally do not have a web based propaganda machine.

 

21 April (Part 2) - People Scrutiny meeting, continued

To my mind the most important aspect of last Wednesday’s People Scrutiny meeting not yet reported here concerned Domestic Violence. The Police Commander touched on the subject but the Agenda devoted a dozen pages to it exclusively. The statistics have not been improving. “It is a serious issue for Bexley and it is the reason for many of the referrals of children to social care.” Bexley Council has been reviewing its procedures with the help of Kensington & Chelsea Council which has a very good reputation in the field. The methodology adopted was the same as if it had been an OFSTED inspection.

Councillor Christine Bishop (Conservative, Crayford) spoke up for male victims. How many, how often, how many refuges?

The reply.“There are males who are victims of domestic abuse and there are males who make ccounter-allegations. There are also same sex [male?] victims. There are no male safe refuges.” Bexley females in need of a refuge are always placed outside of the borough.

“Working with male victims of domestic abuse is very challenging” and the training programme is being reviewed.

The meeting also briefly dealt with the mental health of children. Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) expressed some concerns about the present situation in Bexley; she was “disappointed” with it. I am not surprised, the ladies that have in recent months taken over all aspects of child care in Bexley are a singularly unimpressive lot. I might except Ms. Tiotto (far left in the picture) but generally the replacements for Sheila Murphy (Child Care) and Moyra Pickering (Education) either don’t know answers or admit to guessing them; “speculating”. They have made such an impression that I cannot even tell you their names!
Unimpressive
Some of Bexley’s ladies do give the impression of being totally on top of their briefs, Jane Richardson (Regeneration), Alison Griffin (Finance) and a little lower down the food chain, Tiffany Lynch, (Infrastructure).

Somehow or other a number of interesting facts that came to light at the meeting or in the Agenda have not been mentioned so far, so in no particular order…


•Bexley Council has bought 75 properties for use as temporary accommodation in the past three years, most of them, 63, in the past twelve months. They cost more than £20 million. 52 more such transactions are in progress right now. Another £14 million.
•The number of households in temporary accommodation has doubled since April 2013.
• Bexley is in the lower mid range among London boroughs for domestic abuse, 20th out of 32 with 15 cases per 1,000 population. Richmond is lowest at ten per 1,000, while Barking & Dagenham is almost twice as bad at 28 per 1,000.
• Domestic violence represents 13% of crime in Bexley (latest figures are a year old) and 26% of victims are male.
• 19% of Bexley’s children are classified as living in poverty and the figure is getting steadily worse.
• 36% of pupils in Bexley schools are from ethnic minorities.
• 22·5% of Bexley’s ten to eleven years olds are classified as obese.
• Substance abuse in Bexley is worse than the English average. Alcohol abuse is better.

 

21 April (Part 1) - Oh no, not another one!

Teresa PearceFrom a BiB point of view I am not particularly looking forward to the General Election. Making up a library of election leaflets is a bit of a chore and it is tempting to ignore the election altogether, but I doubt that will be possible.

The three sitting MPs will be standing again (what a delightful contradiction) but if any opposition candidates have been chosen they must be keeping things very quiet.

One might guess that the irrepressible Anna Firth will be back in Thamesmead & Erith but that is far from certain.

She ran a high profile ‘Get out of the European Union’ campaign last June but it got her into big trouble with the Conservative Party bigwigs, Undemocratic revengeful idiots that they are they took her name off the list of approved General Election candidates, but then Cameron and his cronies lost the Referendum and either walked away or were sacked by Mrs. May. Will Anna be readmitted to the fold? No one seems to know.

Will Councillor Stefano Borella stand again in Bexleyheath & Crayford? Will Councillor Danny Hackett throw his hat into the Old Bexley & Sidcup ring or was the Bexley Times journalist winding us up? (Click image below for Bexley Times report.)


Bexley TimesAs someone politically inclined to the right I find myself once again with nowhere to go. I have learned the hard way that Conservatives, locally at least, are more than happy to lie and perjure themselves and my little experience of their MPs is that they are useless.

When Bexley Council committed a crime against Mr. Elwyn Bryant, his MP James Brokensire admitted that he was severely shocked by the evidence put before him but he told Elwyn it would be “inappropriate” to offer any practical help.

When blogger John Kerlen of Crayford (at the time) was prosecuted on the basis of a false statement by a Bexley Councillor, his MP David Evennett did not lift a finger to see justice prevail - fortunately an Appeal Judge did.

However whenever Bexley Council has committed a crime against me, Teresa Pearce has offered immediate assistance. More than once within minutes of the news becoming known.

She has been by my side four times when I have had to meet the police, twice with Bexley officers and twice more with officers from Scotland Yard.

When Councillor Don Massey leaned on the police this time last year and I was on the receiving end of an unwelcome late night visit by police eager to do Bexley Council’s bidding Teresa Pearce immediately agreed to accompany me to the police station. The police backed down so the interview never took place but the offer was there and maybe it helped the police to see the error of their ways.

Maybe I need two votes.

 

20 April (Part 2) - Selling Bexley down by the river

After years of turning its back on the outside world, turning down offers of improved road links and failing to lobby for Crossrail at the right time, Bexley Council saw the folly of their old policy in the shape of a looming financial disaster. Credit where it is due they are not holding back now.

31,500 new houses, production centres and facilities for modern clean industries. The mind boggles at the transformation.

Today the Council launched its sales drive, a bus ride around the borough for investors.

The video produced for the event is quite nice. Take a look.

Press Release.

Note: At the time this blog was posted, Bexley Council’s YouTube video had had 20 views in its 24 hours existence. Within half an hour the number had climbed to 40 and in four hours to 70. Is BiB due a referral fee?

 

20 April (Part 1) - People Scrutiny. Children and Cops

HuntThanks to the Table Snatcher’s barriers one doesn’t often get to speak to Councillors at meetings these days - it’s her idea for enhancing democracy in the borough - but James Hunt the Chairman of the People Overview and Scrutiny meeting somehow manages to make members of the public (and official guests) feel welcome at his meetings. Not quite sure how he does it but he is not afraid of making eye contact and smiling - even in my direction!

DowningThe first significant Agenda item was about children in need and Ross Downing (Conservative, Cray Meadows) noted that there had been a big increase in the numbers this year.

The Director of Children’s Services Jacky Tiotto said she was watching the number carefully and they are all “new children, so it is real”. She “speculated” that one of the reasons is “that there are more families with less money”.

The relevant Cabinet Member, Philip Read, said with, obvious care over his choice of words, that there was “a thought that increased demand might also be due in part to the increase in diversification of the demographic population in Bexley. It is a possibility we are looking at”.

The responses gave the unfortunate impression that no one knew what was really going on.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) continued with her favourite theme, housing. “How many in temporary accommodation are out of the borough and how many children are commuting back to Bexley schools?” she asked. The answer was that 60% of temporary accommodated families lived outside the borough including about 580 children out of a total around 1,300. The number of ‘school commuters’ was unknown.

There were audibility issues because the public have no clear view of the speakers and the foregoing may not be the whole answer, fortunately the Borough Police Commander, Stuart Bell, at twice the distance, was as clear as his name implies.

BellMr. Bell holds his position on a temporary basis following the departure of Jeff Boothe and he said he that situation was likely to continue until the end of this year. There will be a restructuring within the next twelve months “which is likely to see a reduced number of Borough Commanders with greater geographical responsibility. A decision will probably be made in June or July”.

“Over the past twelve months there has been a slight rise in overall crime rates, about 5·8% which is 600 more crimes.” There are about 13,000 reported crimes in Bexley every year.

Residential burglary continues to reduce but violent crime is increasing some of which is down to changes to the recording method. Domestic violence is up by about 11%.

The Northumberland Heath incident last September continues to be studied. It began with a “pre-arranged” fight In Bexleyheath in which social media played a part and the combatants were moved on and ended up in Northumberland Heath “by chance”. Eleven were arrested and “action has been taken against four”.


DowningCouncillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) lamented the apparent disappearance of the Safer Neighbourhood Team in his boroughs, he had not seen them for months. The same decline has been seen in Lesnes Abbey ward too. especially in the field of communications.

Councillor Downing related how things worked at a local level when he was himself a copper. The Commander said he had in fact “increased the number of dedicated ward officers on the borough and by the end of this year each ward will have two dedicated constables and one PCSO”. I could have sworn that there was a time when a bigger team with sergeants was promised. Will we lose more officers when ward numbers are reduced from 21 to 17 next year?

Commander Bell said that the local policing methods outlined by Councillor Downing were exactly what he was aiming for.

CamseyCouncillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) related how she had witnessed two PCSOs in Bexleyheath Broadway apprehend two young boys who had been riding their bikes in the pedestrianised area. “They were in floods of tears because their bikes were about to be confiscated for 48 hours” and “the Broadway is now a much safer place to walk down so congratulations to everyone involved in that scheme”.

I find it interesting that a failed headmistress should rejoice at the thought of two ten year olds reduced to floods of tears by police officers. Brought up in the country as I was I don’t think I spoke to a police officer until I was nearly 50 years old when I opened my door to one who without a word immediately punched me in the face. I’ve rarely had a good word to say about any of them since. What are we going to do when the police have given every youngster a reason to hate them?

In response to a question from Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) which was inaudible due to her back being to the public, the Borough Commander accepted that there is “a fine line” and “that he did not want to alienate young people”.

Councillor Sybil Camsey went on to ask about the number of known gang members in Bexley, up from 5 to 17. Apparently they have been placed here as part of a protection scheme and if they are still active it is not in this borough. The number is still “exceptionally low compared to other London boroughs”.

Councillor Esther Amaning (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked about punishments which the Commander was not able to answer fully (it’s not his responsibility) but it did reveal the fact that only 20% of crimes reported in Bexley are solved.

Councillor Sharom Massey (Conservative, Danson Park) piped up to say she disagreed with Councillor Alan Downing. She “couldn’t praise Danson Park SNT enough”.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) wanted to “echo” Councillor Massey and was concerned by inconsiderate cycling and motorcycling in Welling. The Commander thanked her for bringing it to his attention and was “really keen” to deal with it.

Councillor Langstead reported that North End Road was used as a motor cycle racetrack.
People
Once again there was no one from UKIP present. Holidays and family commitments again.

 

19 April - Growing Resources

HallI wouldn’t call Councillor Steven Hall’s Resources Scrutiny meeting boring, not all of it anyway, but it can certainly be rather dry. At ‘Places’ you get to hear where in Bexley the Council plans to improve or wreck something next. (Harrow Manorway is to close for three days imminently. Cutting off Thamesmead from Abbey Wood should be fun.)

At ‘People’ you might hear the police give the low down on burglaries or underage terrorists riding on buses or medics introducing out of hours doctors, but at ‘Resources’ it tends to be unrelenting figures which sometimes drone on for ever.

It’s not usually Steven Hall’s fault and last night he several times asked Councillors to get straight to the point with their questions but that didn’t stop one of them telling us how he had taken tea with his sister who wasn’t very interested in politics - just when I was hoping the meeting would be ending soon.

As you can see below, the number of people who may wish to speak steadily increases as has the number of senior staff in post since Gill Steward took over the reins.

I gave it two and a half hours before I crept out but don’t worry I won’t be inflicting very much of it on you, just a few statistics that sparked at least a fleeting interest.

Resources
Bexley pools some resources with Havering and Newham Councils (they call it OneSource) to try to save money and Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) had noticed that some of the OneSource figures in the Agenda didn’t seem to add up. Finance Director Alison Griffin said (if I may paraphrase) it was all down to various dates at the start of the scheme not lining up precisely. Nothing much gets past June.

The Agenda confirmed what every resident knows, that Bexley Council is pinning its hopes on increasing income from fines. “if referrals [to the Enforcement Service] increase in 2017/18 as expected…”. Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked if that was all due to installing and enforcing more and more yellow box junctions. It was. Nothing much gets past Daniel either.

FothergillNewham Council had partly withdrawn from OneSource by taking Council Tax and Benefits back in house. Councillor Maxine Fothergill (Conservative, Colyers) asked if that decision would have a financial impact on Bexley. Havering stands to lose, or to be pedantically accurate, not save, up to £600,000 but Bexley had not yet placed all its eggs in that basket so it was said the impact would be practically zero. (But presumably Bexley can’t make a saving either.)

It was calculated that OneSource delivered £284,000 of savings to Bexley last year.

Slightly more interesting was Mr. Dave Easton’s report on Electoral Services. Dave is suddenly busier right now than he expected to be thanks to Theresa May.

Voter registrations and elections are a very complex business which, as far as I can see, Dave runs fantastically well, much better than many other parts of London. Not a single complaint was registered by a Bexley elector last year. (The EU referendum.)

The borough manages to get 92·42% of residents registered to vote against a London average of 84% and Mr. Easton and his team send up to ten reminders to unresponsive residents before wiping them off the register; an act which very often prompts a belated response.

There are nevertheless some blackspots. Thamesmead East is divided into six areas four of which hover around the 70% response rate. Lesnes Abbey ward north of the railway line is just as bad. The reasons are very often due to rented houses being home to half a dozen or more men who move on to somewhere else every few months, they are not easy to pin down. Councillor Francis said he knew of a block of 52 residences where not a single occupant was registered.

Bexley has done well, or at least got off lightly, with Business Rates. The London average increase is 24% but Bexley gets away with only 6%. Only Hillingdon is lower.

Taking into account the various reliefs available, 34·43% (1,854) of businesses in Bexley will not pay any business rates at all.

The biggest losers appear to be in Erith where the industrial parks will suffer increases this year over last of between 500% and 700%. The wind turbine is going up from £500 a year to more than £2,600. The livery stables and riding schools around Vicarage Lane, Bexley, get a hammering too.

UKIP was not represented again. Enquiries reveal it is due to a combination of family holidays and family emergencies and with only three UKIP Councillors, substitutes are not always an option. Perhaps we should elect more UKIP Councillors although some might argue that their problem would be solved if none were elected. Anything would be better than Lib Dems!

 

18 April - Katie Quitter

At the Places Scrutiny Committee meeting last July, Cabinet Member Peter Craske wasn't paying attention; instead he was fiddling with his mobile phone and then suddenly interrupted proceedings to announce that former Bexley Cabinet Member Katie Perrior had been appointed to the position of Theresa May’s Director of Communications. Ms. Perrior lasted nine months, this morning she walked out of the job.

PerriorThere is another Places meeting tomorrow evening. I wonder if Councillor Craske will be making another announcement? Probably not; tonight there is a Resources Overview and Scrutiny meeting.

There is a brief report on Perrior's departure on the order-order political website. Let’s hope she has left Theresa’s office in better shape than she left Children’s Services in Bexley.

It took all of Cabinet Member Read’s energies to gradually turn things around after the devastating OFSTED report.

Without an easy path back to her former job with INhouse PR, will she revert to being the hard pressed single-mum as was implied by her letter to the Bexley Chronicle in 2011?

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

 

17 April (Part 2) - Two tribes go to war - With each other

There are three Council meetings that I could go to this week but on Thursday I have two alternative offers and one involves driving through Blackwall Tunnel but both are more attractive than a Council meeting. A big factor is that the public will almost certainly be thrown out of Thursday’s meeting within minutes of it starting.

The reason is that Bexley Council doesn’t want you to know anything about complaints made against Councillors.

The Agenda reveals that the Code of Conduct Committee is considering six complaints against Councillors, one from a member of the public and five where the children are squabbling among themselves.

The member of the public is complaining of “outright lies” being told on a political website. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the culprit is a Tory. There are enough clues in the Agenda to work out that the lie was this one which a lying Tory put on their local website.
Lie
There was only one member of the public sitting in the gallery and that was me and I am not the greatest Labour supporter there has ever been. In any case I make a point of never making a sound while in the Council chamber and I was sitting next to Dave Easton, the Council's Committee Officer. Not the best position for cheering the opposition and the Tory claim has to be a massive lie. Bexley Council is renowned for big lies.

So whoever authored the website was found guilty, right?

Afraid not. “It was determined there was no breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.” The Committee Chairman, Cheryl Bacon, is a known liar, there is abundant evidence of that, so what else would one expect?

A decision has not yet been reached on any of the Councillor on Councillor complaints. Three are about technicalities at Planning meetings and as I rarely go to them I cannot guess who may might be involved and a fourth complains about abrupt, rude, bullying and abusive behaviour. Well that could be any one of a dozen Tories so I am none the wiser, but the seventh complaint rings bells.

It says that one Councillor accused another of “not having knowledge of specific details relating to two schemes and accusing the complainant of being incapable of holding their position”. That form of words identifies a Cabinet Member as the complainant without much doubt.

It is said that the same thing happened at a Committee meeting, a Cabinet meeting and a Council meeting although no one used words like that at any meeting.

I’d put money on the complainant being Cabinet Member Linda Bailey. I clearly remember two occasions in the fairly recent past when she was seriously adrift in her knowledge. Craske is cunning and cares nothing for the truth, Read is sometimes devious, sometimes clever and occasionally misogynistic, Sawyer overdoes the claimed sincerity, Smith likes to hide himself from view, Massey thinks he is a superior being and Rob Leitch is too nice to be a Councillor but only Bailey displays obvious incompetence.

To research this blog I have had to search for every occurrence of her name over the past two years. Over and over again it is reported that all she does is thank officers for their hard work and agree with what everyone else has said.

Bailey MooreThat research threw up the fact she didn’t know that the Broadway and Erith Shopping Centres were owned by Bexley Council (it’s leased to a management company) and had to be corrected by Director Paul Moore. Another was a couple of months ago when Councillor Stefano Borella complained that he had only just learned of developments proposed for Slade Green.

Councillor Bailey flew off the handle. She said Stefano was “outrageous” and “he knows damn well that I have briefed Councillors regularly”.

Unfortunately, such is her ignorance, Councillor Bailey had been confused about the location of the Arthur Street estate and had briefed the wrong Councillors. Given the date of her ill-tempered outburst and that of the complaint it has to be Linda Bailey retaliating against a Councillor whose innocent question unintentionally exposed her incompetence.

Further back in time was Linda Bailey’s publication of a list of 27 sites ripe for regeneration but she back tracked rapidly and all her pet schemes came to nothing.

When the subject of Homes In Multiple Occupation became a hot topic after an unfortunate incident in Penhill Road, Linda Bailey backed out of the media spotlight and fielded David Bryce-Smilth. She wouldn’t have been up to the job.

 

17 April (Part 1) - Targeting tossers and linking Bexleyheath to Barking. Not barking

With all the Agendas intended for public consumption taken by Councillors I was left to guess whether the Places Scrutiny Committee meeting would include a report from Mrs. Jane Richardson on Public Realm improvements, Regeneration and Growth but sticking around until the bitter end fortunately paid just a few dividends.

Before getting there Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) wished to comment on refuse collection. She has been getting far too many complaints about bins lids which are not properly replaced by Serco operatives and eventually go missing.

Bryce-Smith BaconDeputy Director David Bryce-Smith said that the wind was very often the culprit which prompted Councillor Gareth Bacon to say “the age old blaming of the wind is cobblers”.

Gareth Bacon ought to know what he is talking about as he was the Cabinet Member who introduced the present refuse collection regime. “I have personally witnessed more times than I care to mention bins being strewn around and the lids habitually chucked inside the bin. They are then invariably left on the pavement not even back on the drive.”

Mr. Bryce-Smith agreed that most complaints are due to “a lack of attention” but there are more complaints during windy weather.

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) said that the newer bins have better “catches on them so wind shouldn’t be a problem”.

He asked about the statistics which were showing reduced levels of fly tipping and defy what can be seen on the streets. He asked if there was a definition of fly tipping.

FinesDavid Bryce-Smith confirmed that statistics are showing a reduction in fly tipping year on year but “it remains a serious issue”. Statistics are prepared in accordance with Department of Environment rules.

70 £400 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) have been issued for fly tipping since last October and he promised to provide Councillor Newman with a precise definition of fly tipping. One might have hoped that wardens out looking for offenders would have been given precise instructions on what constitutes a £400 fly tip and what is classed as littering (£80) but apparently not.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) said there had been “big increases [in fly tipping] in my ward especially around the Thamesmead estate” and sometimes it is Peabody that cleans it up. Mr. Bryce-Smith said that if they did, it would not go into the statistics.

ClarkCouncillor Val Clark said that she rarely sees the litter wardens and never in the evening.

“Outside the night economies [in the Broadway] the number of dog ends and detritus is absolutely appalling and these establishments put ashtrays there [on or adjacent to the footpath] which they take away in the morning but leave all the dog ends [on the ground].”

“Why should our ratepayers pay to clean up for those who are making money? Can we send people out at night?”


Types Mr. Bryce-Smith said that “there are five officers which is clearly an issue when you have the whole borough to cover. They have been out with the police for evening work. There is a proposal out to increase the fine to £150 which will mean there will be more resources to deploy in targeting people.”

Councillor Newman thought that licensing conditions could be usefully imposed on the night time economy. He went on to comment on the fact that 94% of FPNs had been issued for dropped cigarette ends. He had anticipated a wider spread of offences.

He looked forward to the time, “with the coming of Crossrail etc. to more than 0·13% of enforcement being done in Abbey Wood”. (That figure includes Thamesmead.)

Mr. Bryce-Smith had himself queried such low figures - it was similar in Belvedere and Erith - and it was all down to “footfall“.

“For the time spent to catch someone can be quite hard when you have a low footfall”.

For similar reasons, “dog fouling is also difficult, we have only caught seven or eight people”. Councillor Newman remained unhappy about 94% of offences being cigarette butts and expected more crisp packets and chewing gum etc. “94% is not proportionate and I would not want this scheme to be only going for the easy hits.”

Mr. Bryce-Smith said wardens looked for other forms of littering and have even issued FPNs for spitting and the scheme might be extended to minors who are not currently fined.

Councillor Borella said some residents are shocked by the level of the fine and asked why there was no early payment discount or independent adjudication system. Mr. Bryce-Smith said the law did not allow for a discount or an appeal except through the Courts. Unlike parking offences (civil) littering is a criminal offence. “There are about 20 prosecutions [for non-payment] in play at the moment and the number will be rising significantly.” The payment rate has been 71%. (†)

RichardsonAt last the Chairman moved on to Jane Richardson’s report on Regeneration and Growth.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) wanted to talk about the Lower Thames Crossing which had been announced for east of Gravesend only a few hours earlier, why, no one was sure.

On behalf of Danny Hackett who had been called away, Seán Newman referred to the new paving in Wilton Road, the levels of which are undulating, cause problems with the newly installed shop shutters and in places dug up only a few days after being laid. “The traders down there are worried about the damage being done.”

Ms. Richardson said she “would get the details to understand what was going on”.


TandyCouncillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) who is the only Conservative in Bexley who understands railways indicated his disappointment that no one appears to be pushing for an Overground extension from Barking.

The electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking line is well advanced as is its extension to Barking Riverside. It should be further extended under the river to “sit under Abbey Wood station which would become a hub to the north as well and it is something this Council should be putting its weight behind. It will be great for job opportunities and once it gets to Abbey Wood, in the fullness of time, it can be extended to under here [Bexleyheath] which would solve our north south connectivity problems. It would take about two minutes [to get across the borough] and maybe an interim station way in the future. It is disappointing that it is not mentioned. It would be a fantastic asset to our regeneration opportunities”.

Ms. Richardson said the Council was lobbying on the scheme and there would be an update in her next report.

Councillor June Slaughter asked for news on the future of Sidcup Manor House. She had heard it might become a hotel. Ms. Richardson said there had been interest “from developers of varying quality but also from hotel providers and something that is 100% residential isn’t really something what we would want”.


No bridge “We are now undertaking a technical study to look at the works that would actually be required to enable the building to operate as a hotel. We have commissioned a specialist consultancy.”

Councillor Borella (Labour, North End) said he agreed with Councillor Tandy on his “very sensible” Overground ambitions and he had seen “a TfL map with a little line on it suggesting it could be extended to Abbey Wood and Belvedere”.

Future generations are not going to recognise the old place and look back on the flat earthers incredulously.

† This would appear to be another of Bexley Council’s lies. Discounts are permitted by the legislation. With thanks to lbbspending.blogspot for the information

 

16 April (Part 2) - Two tribes go to war - on one!

It’s only two or three months since Councillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked me if I had considered becoming a Councillor. “Yes, for all of two milliseconds.” I definitely don’t have the required mindset and I don’t think it is an easy job to do properly.

Maybe Lynn hasn’t the right mindset either. I suspect she didn’t expect to win Blackfen in 2014 based on what she said to Mick Barnbrook who was standing there as an Independent at the same time.

Not having the right mindset to be a Councillor should be considered a compliment given the nature of politics in Bexley.

Yesterday Lynn Smith Tweeted two very simple questions about the Growth Strategy.
Tweet1Tweet2
She went on to say she thought each proposed development should be considered on its merits and UKIP did not believe in “blind tribalism”. Isn’t she absolutely right? Councillor Read’s ambition to open up six miles of riverfront appears to be laudable enough but I would think it must be done sensitively.

Lynn’s innocent remarks landed her in hot water with the other two parties. Councillor Daniel Francis led for Labour, John Davey for the Conservatives.

Tweet3UKIP Councillor Colin McGannon had been very supportive of the Growth Strategy, forecasting the occasional difficulty but promising support wherever possible. I am not aware that any of his colleagues have ever contradicted him as Councillor Francis stated in his Tweet. Certainly not Lynn Smith who merely posed a question.


Tweet4Councillor Lynn Smith responded in the same way I would have done. She follows her conscience, not the party whip.

Councillor Francis continued with his theme threatening to tell constituents that UKIP will actively both oppose and support the Growth Strategy. Where the hell did that come from?

It might help the Labour cause and I can see that their rejection of tribalism must make writing UKIP manifestos difficult, but I prefer the honourable approach not something worthy of a Bexley Conservative website. The tribalism and group speak is not for me and confirms that my “two millisecond” response to Lynn was the right one.

I was beginning to think that Councillor Francis had made an uncharacteristic bad call and things were becoming a bit silly, but then, fortunately for him, Councillor John Davey threw in his twopennyworth.

If you want inane silliness no one does things better than a Crayford Tory.

Tweet5Tweet6

 

16 April (Part 1) - Councillors comment on Bexley’s long term growth strategy. They all like it but can the promises be kept?

Following Mrs. Jane Richardson’s presentation to Cabinet on Bexley Council’s proposal to dramatically change its Growth Strategy, Councillors were keen to show their support for it.

BaileyCabinet Member for Regeneration, Linda Bailey, was first in the queue and it was very much business as usual from her. When one sits down as I am now to pick out something worth reporting one can only draw the conclusion she adds nothing of any note, although to be fair, her comments are sometimes enlivened by serious errors of fact.

She thanked the Council Officers for “the huge amount of work and keeping me briefed. If the proposal is approved tonight there will be a comprehensive six week consultation and I do hope that residents will take part fully”.

“They [the Council Officers] produced a direction of travel document jointly with the GLA which sets out delivery objectives. This is very important as we have always been clear from the start that we wanted to manage growth not developments being built piecemeal.”

“We have also been very clear that Bexley can deliver many homes and jobs but only if we can get the traffic infrastructure needed. I am pleased that the Growth Strategy is supported by all Members of the Council. This will be the largest amount of building since the 1930s. we will have to explain [to residents] that it will be over a long period but it will be well worth it.”

Did she add anything to Jane Richardson’s nicely delivered presentation? Probably not but the additional £13,197 a year for being a Cabinet Member has to be justified somehow.

When foregoing political insults, Cabinet Member Philip Read can usually be relied upon to put on a better show. “This Growth Strategy is exciting. It is Bexley’s but it has not been produced in isolation and has involved partners and residents which ensures the Strategy has the strength of a joint vision.”

“I welcome the intention to bring about a renaissance in the north of the borough. It can throw off its outdated and obsolete industrial past. Those industries served us well but times have inevitably changed and modern technology requires different, smaller and cleaner premises.”

“The use of former industrial land opens up the chance of overall progress across a broad front including more and better quality housing catering for all markets and the opportunity to open up improved access to nearly six miles of river front.”

“Many things need to happen if the Strategy is to be successful; the extension of Crossrail and improved river crossings of the right type being just two but the chances of them being achieved are improved by the well argued document before us tonight. Bexley will be a vibrant and exciting place in which to live work and play.”

CraskePhilip Read can be quite statesmanlike when he tries; could Peter Craske do the same? Not on this occasion it would seem.

He thanked the team that produced the Strategy which was “tremendous” and “we have a clear vision of the transport needs of this borough.”

“We need more houses and if you have seen the price of houses now and you worry about how young people are going to get on to the property ladder and by increasing housing capacity in the right place and in the right way some of the people who want to stay here, it is tremendously important.” (I think we get the meaning Peter even if the syntax is a little challenging.)

“All of these things together are a strategic long term vision for the future of our borough. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

After that Councillor Bailey may have felt less inadequate than she might have done when Councillor Read sat down.

SawyerCabinet Member Alex Sawyer emphasised the point “that transport infrastructure underpins and drives our Strategy and the aim of an additional three Crossrail stations is achievable bringing benefits long after most of us are long gone.” (Alex has probably got the timescale absolutely right.)

“It is incredibly frustrating that if you go to the north of the borough by the river you can see the other side but you just can’t get to it.”

Massey HackettCabinet Member Don Massey also thought the Strategy was “tremendously exciting. There is enormous untapped potential and perhaps in the past for whatever reason we haven’t had an opportunity to deliver as we have now.”

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) thanked the Council Officers “for the brilliant job they have done. It has been a long time coming.” He was pleased to see that many suggestions made by his party “in 2014 made it into the end product”.

On housing he said that “we need affordable homes and a mixture of homes that residents can afford. We need river crossings and Crossrail to be extended through the borough. The infrastructure needs to come before the housing development” and he went on to suggest efficiency improvements, with examples drawn from other boroughs, in the way planning applications could be handled.

O'NeillCouncillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) endorsed Councillor Read’s statement about housing catering for all markets but was concerned about the provision of health services which are currently “struggling to cope”. There are two large new housing developments in Slade Green with no additional health services. The educational situation was much the same. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill said they “were very valid points”.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said that lessons should be learned from Thamesmead where infrastructure projects such as the Fleet Line (Underground) were promised in the 1960s but never arrived and it was nine years since he had taken Mrs. Richardson around parts of his ward “saying for goodness sake let’s get this redeveloped”.

“It has been a long journey and consultation is the key but in Erith ward only 65% of people are registered to vote and they are not going to be on our email database”.

Councillor Colin McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) said the Strategy was “a very very visionary and forward looking project and you can be sure that we will cooperate with every last bit of it that we are able to. There are bound to be odd things that are difficult but it is the best thing that I’ve heard for the borough and we support it whole heartedly”.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) said the Strategy “was a first class document. It sets out Bexley as the first port of call for businesses to come to. It is ambitious but also realistic”. He also wanted to see fibre broadband to homes and not just to the street cabinets.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford today - gone tomorrow) said he agreed with what everyone had already said but was specially interested in transport infrastructure. Schools and health centres can be built relatively quickly but transport infrastructure cannot. Transport infrastructure is “fundamental”.

The proposals were then approved unanimously by the Cabinet.

 

15 April (Part 2) - Water woes

SeymourThames Water was invited to Councillor Seymour’s Places Scrutiny Committee last week, the third time I have seen them there and I think it is fair to say that they do not enjoy the best reputation with either Councillors or the responsible Officers and as a customer of theirs since 1984 I would like to say I fully endorse their opinions.

The water company’s presentation to Council took the form of a slide show but unlike the Assistant Chief Executive’s show on the previous evening it was not particularly well done. For rather too much of the time the TW speaker merely read out the words on the screen as if he was a teacher at a kindergarten. I was slightly amused by the predictability of it but it wasn’t really very sensible.

The main issue with Bexley Council is that Thames Water too often breaks the terms of its licences to dig up roads although the number of occurrences (“for every ten jobs two weren’t done right”) has halved in recent months, something that Bexley’s Deputy Director was able to confirm.

Cast iron Cast ironThe Thames Water representative said that the meter installation programme was going well but Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Welling & Falconwood) begged to differ. His residents had reported an unacceptably low level of good installations. He had raised the issue of “the standard of work both during and after installation numerous times”.

The suggestion that contractors sweep up after a job is done “is complete fiction”. Where smart meters are installed “you will see mess everywhere”.

I suspect Councillor French is right. There was a problem fitting a meter at a house a few doors along from mine and Thames Water had to play around with a valve which is in my front garden. They left behind the two lumps of cast iron pictured here. The older and well rusted one is almost too heavy to lift. the TW contractor returned the following day but he said he had no instructions to remove old ironmongery.

Both pieces have blighted my garden since 23rd November last year. Currently one is proving useful as a fox deterrent. The fox is apparently intrigued by the smell of some compost under a rhubarb root and tries to dig it up, but on balance I would prefer that Thames Water’s old rubbish wasn’t there.

Louie French was told his comments would be taken “very seriously”, I suspect mine won’t be.

 

15 April (Part 1) - Has Bexley Council made the right parking choice?

RingGo RingGoYou cannot have missed the notices that went up alongside every one of Bexley’s parking ticket machines a month ago. They implore motorists to forget Bemrose Booth, the pay by phone contractor Bexley Council has used without any reported problems (other than pay by phone being impossible for many people) for the past five and a bit years, cancel any registrations you may have with them and start all over again with with RingGo who one might reasonably assume is a cheaper outfit.

Perhaps it’s a case of pay peanuts get monkeys because not even two weeks into the contract there has been a serious data breach.

Both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph are reporting RingGo problems today and not for the first time.

Some users have been logging into their RingGo accounts and they can see what cars other drivers are using and their credit card numbers.

Fortunately I have never yet paid to pay to park in Bexley, nor will I ever do so.

Some locations in Bexley no longer allow parking to those who have no mobile phone or, like me, haven’t a clue what an App is.

 

14 April - BexleyCo. Coming soon

Green PaperBexley Council has been plotting over several months to follow in the footsteps of more enterprising boroughs to set up a company wholly owned by the Council that will be able to do business in a way that the Council itself legally cannot. Principally “operating a property company on a commercial basis” was Finance Director Alison Griffin’s description and “operating both within and outside the borough”.

The law demands that a business case be approved by Cabinet before any such scheme can go ahead and the subject was debated last Tuesday evening.

The detail is not available to members of the public, it being secreted away in one of Bexley Council’s notorious Green Papers. Ms. Griffin said that it demonstrated how the company would be financially viable and will “shape the Growth Strategy”.

She recommended a Committee be established to act as shareholder.


MasseyCouncillor Don Massey said that getting to the present stage had “taken an enormous amount of hard work”. He valued the “professionalism of the team” that produced it and congratulated Ms. Griffin on her appointment as Chief Executive in Southend.

He said that one of the first things to be done was “to go out and get a Managing Director, which would not be a full time job to start with”.

Councillor Philip Read said that he “had previously voiced his concerns” about the proposal “for a Council owned development company”.

“History showed that governments national and local have decided they know better how to run a commercial operation than private enterprise. From the disasters of postwar nationalisation through to Tony Benn’s determination to subsidise Leyland Motors and beyond we can see the consequences of that misplaced optimism.”


O'Neill“Government intervention in markets leads to inefficiencies, a bloated bureaucracy and unjustly highly paid leadership and often notwithstanding any original philanthropic intent ends up with businesses being run by the staff for its staff and customers just an unfortunate irritant.”

“Unlike private enterprise, government owned businesses seldom have either the expertise necessary to achieve genuine commercial success or the crucial financial discipline that markets inevitably impose on privately funded businesses. No matter what the initial good intentions government run businesses often cease to be competitive and then instead of addressing their cost base they emulate Oliver Twist by going cap in hand to their owners, the tax payers of this country, demanding more money.”

“Unless you are a banker that is not an option generally open to private enterprise and thus places any Government owned business in a potentially dominant market position and that is certainly not good for the taxpayer. So I have those concerns about both the principle of any government national or local running any business.”


ReadYou might conclude that Councillor Read is well and truly against the idea but he performed an incredible somersault. The possibility of dissent leading to the loss of a £13,197 a year Cabinet allowance must weigh heavily and a device that allows a vote contrary to his natural inclinations becomes essential. £13k. is a lot of money.

The reason put forward by the inventive Councillor Read was that one day the company “could be sold, generating a profit for the taxpayer”.

He was also influenced by the fact “a Cabinet Committee comprised of the majority party [his] rather than the opposition [Labour] would be shareholder, gives me some degree of certainty that Bexley Council would not go down the road of continuous taxpayer subsidies”.

So the mandatory jibe at the Labour group was ingeniously worked in to what was a beautifully executed flip-flop. Philip Read is against the idea of government run companies in principle but if Labour can be kept away from the levers of power he is prepared to go along with it - and preserve his allowance.

It is perhaps notable that both Cabinet Members who pontificated on this subject have run their own private business in the past. Into the ground.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Belvedere) made a brief comment on behalf of Labour members. He said that they supported the idea, not least because it was in their 2014 election manifesto.

The Cabinet decision to approve BexleyCo was unanimous as it always is.

 

13 April (Part 2) - An improving Council? (Or am I going soft?)

There were two more Council meetings this evening but I only went to one, the Constitution Review which held out the prospect of being short. Planning, the alternative, can go on past midnight.

That makes three Council meetings I’ve attended this week and all of them were conducted in an efficient and professional manner. John Watson tried to sit in at a different three meetings but was excluded from the Members’ Staffing Panel the only attraction of which, in my opinion, is that it is held in the Board Room which one would otherwise never see.

It was clearly advertised as a Public meeting and is still shown as such but they wouldn’t let John in. Definitely illegal.

I shall put it down to incompetence on someone’s part because more generally Bexley Council appears to be changing for the better. Five years ago today at the height of Bexley Council’s fight against public scrutiny they had another blogger in Court for allegedly making offensive comments to a Councillor. He used the C word and was found guilty under Section 127 of the Telecommunications Act 2003 of Tweeting a grossly offensive and menacing comment.

He did use the C word but not at anyone in particular. It did not identify Councillor Melvin Seymour but another Councillor told him it did and without checking he made an almost totally false statement to the police which they must have known was false, all the evidence was there, but they prosecuted the Tweeter anyway. Police officers can be crooks too and some were prepared to lie in Court.

There have been many cases right up to recent times of Bexley police doing Bexley Council favours and being prepared to lie big time about it. I am still hopeful that their Directorate of Professional Standards will show them the errors of their ways with their ongoing investigation. Without doubt the DPS now know that some of Bexley’s police officers have acted in a corrupt manner.

So John and I went to the meeting of the Constitution Panel meeting for no other reason than to keep them on their toes, it was never likely to be an interesting meeting. The Constitution requires an occasional update and simplification in line with a smaller and more efficient Council. That’s about all there is to it.
Committee
About half a dozen relatively insignificant changes were submitted to the 100 pages of the draft Part 2 - Part 1 has already been dealt with - and Chairman O’Neill did an excellent job of getting through the lot in 35 minutes.

There appears to be a move towards delegating decisions from Councillors to Officers and Council to Committees which is presumably aimed at faster response times and less expense. For example John Watson noticed that the Code of Conduct Committee which has until now recommended their favoured candidate for Independent Person to Full Council will now take the final decision themselves. The cynic might say it makes it easier to appoint a yes man.

There was no UKIP representative at this evening’s meeting and the same happened at the previous meeting of the Panel and there was an empty desk at last night’s Scrutiny Committee too.

Has UKIP given up on Bexley?

Note: The blogger was found guilty but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

 

13 April (Part 1) - Irony meets the iron road

Yesterday’s Places Scrutiny Committee meeting began by reminding me a little of being on a United Airlines flight.

The crew (Councillors) had forgotten to reserve their seats (take their copy of the Agenda to the meeting) so instead commandeered the seats (Agendas) that had been allocated to passengers (members of the public). None of the five copies printed for members of the public were available to them and no Councillor would relinquish his copy despite the best efforts of the Committee Officer.

It must be borderline illegal as the law says that Agendas must be available to the public. Are we supposed to print out the 56 pages for ourselves before attending?

When an Agenda is available I am able to read it at the meeting and begin to plan this meeting report. Perhaps more importantly one can judge if the later items are likely to be uninformative and safely missed. i.e. Get home early!

The first item on the Agenda was a Motion against the proposal to cease the 150 year old tradition of running trains across Bexley into Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Victoria and to encourage residents to participate in the consultation and add their names to a petition.

It struck me as supreme irony. In the eight years I have followed Bexley Council’s antics closely they have never once taken any notice of any petition and they stood idly by when Victoria services were withdrawn from the North Kent line (†). Now that Cabinet members living to the south are personally affected they must be seen to join the protest movement. Consultations have fared better only rarely.

It must of course be accepted that this latest service reduction by the train operating companies will have a far greater impact than losing the North Kent to Victoria service quite a number of years ago. However both the Motion and the debate failed to mention that there are plans for Slade Green, Erith, Belvedere and Abbey Wood to be deprived of direct services to Blackheath and Lewisham which has been a hub for many Southeastern services.

As Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) pointed out it is also deeply ironic that Network Rail has spent hundreds of millions on replacing a tangle of track east of London Bridge with fly-overs and fly-unders. An investment intended to to improve services is in practice being used to dramatically cut services.

Cabinet Member Philip Read would probably label that a success for the privatisation of British Rail. Apologies for a reference to a Philip Read speech not yet reported.

Here’s the Motion…
Motion
…and this is what Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer had to say about it.

SawyerHe was concerned about the loss of access to King’s College Hospital, something North Kent line users have had to put up with for years, however he was correct in saying that “we simply cannot get into central London or anywhere near it quickly by road”. He referred to the severe problems at Blackwall and there being no alternative: but whose fault is that?

Councillor Sawyer thought the Secretary of State was “grossly unfair and unacceptable” to accept that “stations such Gillingham, Dover and Tonbridge” should have better access to London termini than south east London.

It was also “totally unacceptable that our commuters should face a loss of service” after suffering years of disruption at London Bridge.

He found it “odd” that the petition website says that there is “no proposal to cut specific services” but the consultation is all about cutting services. Increased train reliability would be welcome but not at any cost and he had written to the Secretary of State and the Mayor of London to express his concerns.

Protest events would be organised at local railway stations where the Council’s A5 leaflet would be distributed. “It is appalling that a Conservative Secretary of State should have put forward such proposals.” He had also asked for railway "Road Shows" to be held in Bexley during commuter hours instead of at termini at lunchtime when no commuters are present.

As one might expect, Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) made a number of points about the increasing population, train lengths, the capacity of Victoria station and freight train paths through Lewisham all of which undermined Southeastern’s case.

Councillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) said he was a “daily victim” of Southeastern trains and was critical of the removal of seats when more 12 car trains is what is required. He called for all party opposition to the proposal by Councillors, GLA members and MPs.

Councillor Tandy said that some journeys, he cited Croydon, would become much more expensive when it was necessary to go via a London terminal rather than an intermediate station on a Victoria service.

The Motion was approved by a show of hands which was almost certainly unanimous.

† I was an Abbey Wood to London commuter from May 1987 until March 1992 and used the Victoria service if it looked like it might have an empty seat. I think it was almost certainly peak hours only and probably did not run throughout those five years.

 

12 April (Part 2) - Another stealth tax for Bexley

Charges upA message arrived a few days ago - I seem to have mislaid it - that said a lady went shopping in Bexleyheath but was unable to do so because one of the car parks no longer takes cash. Once again Bluewater was the beneficiary.

If I remember correctly the report said that the car park was almost empty.

I checked the cash and phone ticket machine in Abbey Road, Belvedere and it was still charging an extortionate £5.70 for two hours - No Change Given.

However today I noticed a man putting up a new notice alongside the ticket machine in the Gayton Road car park so I took a closer look.

It says the cash price is going up to £6 from next November.

We have already seen the phone fee go up by 20 pence this month due to a so called administration fee. Presumably, come next November, Bexley Council will start claiming a ten pence discount for paying by phone.

Remember when Bexley planned a very cheap fee to help shoppers who simply wanted to grab a newspaper or the like? The cheapest fee anywhere in the borough will now be 70 pence for half an hour. Is Councillor Craske still claiming that Bexley has the cheapest parking in South East London?

New schedule of charges.

 

12 April (Part 1) - Bexley Council has big plans. They are only ten years late

No bridgeEvery so often, well not that often, I go to a Bexley Council meeting and find everything just as it should be. Well presented plans, intelligently discussed, everyone in agreement, me included, and not a word of criticism by Tories against their opposition. Yesterday was such a meeting.

It is perhaps pedantic to mention that Councillor Philip Read strayed just a little into that territory by somehow managing to refer to the nationalisation of British Leyland, but by his standards he was very well behaved. It probably helped the maintenance of civility that both the News Shopper and the Bexley Times had sent a reporter. In all my six years of attending meetings that has never happened before.

Cabinet Members Linda Bailey and Don Massey along with PR man John Ferry were fawning all over them. Thanks to the table snatcher they had to balance their shorthand pads on their knees. It’s odd logic that Councillors should be so welcoming of the press - there was an announcement by Cabinet Member Bailey to that effect - in the hope of a favourable report when the reverse strategy is applied to bloggers. Neither Bailey, Massey or Ferry have ever said a word to me.

The two big subjects up for discussion were the new growth strategy and setting up of the Council’s new company to be known as BexleyCo.

The Growth Strategy was ably presented by Mrs. Jane Richardson. (Why is she only Assistant Chief Executive while the top job is occupied by a clown?)

Gone are the days of Bexley Council hankering after remaining a sleepy backwater with restricted access to the rest of London. Financial pressures have put paid to that.

Cabinet

RichardsonThe year old GLA plan to build 21,500 new homes is superseded in favour of 31,500. Ambitious for a borough with no maternity facilities, almost the lowest number of GPs per head of population in the country, no A&E, no Crown Post Office, no Underground, no Docklands Light Railway and Crossrail trains which won’t quite cross the borough boundary unless one breaks down. Ominous?

It was nevertheless an imaginative and exciting plan. There is to be a new shopping centre in Belvedere, a ‘production corridor’ (for theatre and video production) and facilities for modern tech based industries. Transport remains a problem. It is accepted that there needs to be much better north-south connections but maybe too much faith is being placed in a Crossrail extension to Gravesend. There are an awful lot of reasons for it never happening, so at best be prepared to wait a very long time.

Ms. Richardson always presents her reports clearly but this time she augmented it with a series of slides, the most interesting of which are shown below.


Slide 1 Slide 1 Slide 1 Slide 1She said the plan had taken three years to develop with the cooperation of the GLA and TfL and she believed “Bexley was in a unique position as a gateway location”.

“Unlike in other boroughs, Bexley’s housing zone (Thamesmead) is signed off and about to start construction.”

Jobs are needed and we must keep up with technological changes. Ocado which promised 3,000 jobs in Belvedere will in practice produce no more than 2,000 due to increasing automation.

There is “an infrastructure deficit” which must be addressed and “there is an expectation to extend Crossrail”.


Slide 5 Slide 6 Slide 7 Slide 8“People still shop outside the borough” but a new centre will be created in Belvedere. The production corridor would be based around Sidcup which already supports the arts through the Rose Bruford and other colleges. There is “serious support” for a new theatre.

A skills centre will be established and “a multi-faceted facility” is envisaged. (i.e. a variety of industries will be encouraged.)

Council Officer Seb Salom took over the Growth report to Cabinet.

“Transport infrastructure drives growth” and a Crossrail extension is the number one priority. “Very good progress had been made with the business case and lobbying activities. Crossrail will reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality”.

Bexley “has long recognised the need for more river crossings and the Council and the public recognises the need for an integrated package of crossings in East London which includes two new road based crossings. We are lobbying [the Mayor] hard for them to remain in his long term plans.”

It was again said that crossings would reduce congestion and improve air quality.

“A range of bus services must be improved and road junctions changed to improve convenience of use by all road users.” Queen’s Road Erith got a special mention.

The plans will go out for public consultation in early May which will last six weeks.

Councillors’ comments will be reported later but they mainly did no more than heap praise on the plans.

There is a complementary look at Bexley’s plans on the fromthemurkydepths blog.

 

10 April - Back to front planning

Wilton Road Wilton RoadHindsight is as we know a wonderful thing and it is easy to look back and say that the Wilton Road regeneration should have started with replacing the street lamps, then pave around them and finally install shop doors that line up with the new paving.

The work was actually done in the reverse of that sequence which is giving rise to a variety of problems some of which will never be fixed.

It was almost inevitable. Mayor Boris Johnson funded the shop refurbishment and said the money had to be spent by this time last year - an extension was given and the work was mostly completed by October 2016.

Greenwich Council came up with the money for improving the public realm and some of the men working on it are reported to have said that the lighting contractor let everyone down, possibly they went bust. So today we saw paving being ripped up that had been laid only last week because now that the Wilton Road paving is more or less done the street lamps on the Bexley side of the road are being belatedly changed.


TwitterThe main reason for returning to the subject of Wilton Road so soon is because yesterday’s report was picked up on Twitter by fromthemurkydepths and my later research proved that part of my blog must be inaccurate.

It said that a drain pipe had been covered last week but a review of old photos showed it in situ last October and its owner confirmed today that it has not been subsequently removed - at least not during shop hours.

However the fact remains that the shutter has been damaged and it is reported that a securing bolt has been severed. None of the photographs provide sufficient detail to confirm it.


But there is no doubt the shutter no longer meets the ground.
Shutter
With shop doors so close together and no one thinking in advance that the height of adjacent doorways should be the same, providing step free access can only mean a noticeable slope. As a result new shutters have been rendered vulnerable to crowbars and levers. Icy conditions could prove to be a hazard too.

If only the work had progressed in a more logical sequence.

 

9 April - Sidcup in the sun. Belvedere beached. Wilton Road wrecked

Pictures from around the borough have taken a bit of a back seat recently, as usual time is the enemy. In Bexley there is rarely anywhere to safely park and the buses are so damned slow I now rarely use them. Official statistics show I am not alone in that.

However here are some pictures taken, with one exception, over the past few days.

Sidcup Sidcup The Rob Leitch Memorial Garden in Sidcup was looking particularly fine late last Friday afternoon. These pictures fail to do it justice, it will be better still with a bit more colour.

A quick walk along the High Street failed to reveal any obvious reason for the constant traffic congestion past the hospital and along Elm Road.


Splashpark Splashpark Splashpark Splashpark
Bexley Council’s plan for the former Splashpark in Belvedere wrecks the 100 year old water tradition on the site in what otherwise appears to be magnificent fashion. The first report that work had started on what is to be known as Belvedere Beach came two months ago but the photo taken on a dull February day revealed no sign of it, however this week Cabinet Member Peter Craske, no less, said that work had started.

If you count a Heras fence and the presence of a rubbish skip as a start then Councillor Craske is absolutely correct. However work is so little advanced that even the old Splash Park notice is still standing proudly two years after the last toddler dipped his toe into the alleged Cryptosporidium solution.

Lesnes LesnesThe report last month that the Lesnes Abbey café had opened for business was probably fake news although the man who told me was obviously convinced he had seen it open, however it definitely is now and hasn’t it been lucky with the weather?

The park was pretty busy last week and the café had at least a few patrons. I have no idea if a bacon sandwich really does cost £3·50 but I did notice that a banana was fifty pence.

And the toilets are open.


The public realm works in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood which began on 9th January were supposed to have been completed in eight weeks but I would put money on it taking twice as long.

Wilton Road Wilton Road The Greenwich side is already suffering from the hard sand surface being kicked up in places and the narrowness of the Bexley side has created an uncomfortable walking surface.

To provide easy disabled access to shop doorways the paving has been raised about three inches overall but the kerb remains as it always was. The unusually steep slope to the kerb gives rise to a one leg shorter than the other sensation when walking the length of the footpath. Some doorways are higher still and been provided with a ramp. They create an uncomfortable undulating surface for walkers.

It would have been better to have made the new shop fronts fit the new footway although the availability of the separate funds prohibited reversing the installation sequence.


Shutter ShutterA longstanding problem in Wilton Road (Bexley side only) has been that the roof rainwater is drained to the pavement and the steeper slope should solve the puddling problem. However last week someone decided that the down pipes would look better if boxed in.

This has barred access to the shutter securing bolts so that adjustments are no longer possible and adjustment is required because the undulating footpath means that the shutter no longer neatly meets the ground. It would be easy now to put a lever under a shutter and force it up.

And if that is not enough damage the Council’s contractor has bent a shutter and removed the enamel surface. I imagine an insurance claim will be going in to Greenwich Council first thing tomorrow morning.

 

8 April - Bexley Council’s lie machine goes to court

With nothing much going on I thought I would check with John Watson how his Judicial Review tussle with our lying Council was getting on.

You may recall that John took Bexley Council to task following their stitching up of Councillor Maxine Fothergill in revenge for her reporting a Conservative party official to the police for theft. As you would expect, he got absolutely nowhere because Councillors fear retribution from Leader O’Neill if they spill any of her secrets.

Gill StewardIt was perhaps in desperation that he wrote to Chief Executive Gill Steward to ask if she would kindly confirm that Bexley Council would always comply with the law of the land.

It was probably a bit of a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ style of question but you would think an honest Chief Executive could have sent a one sentence reply that said “always” even if it would be taken with a degree of scepticism by those who know better.

Ms. Steward refused a reply of any description and if she had done that to me I would have simply seized upon the confirmation that Gill Steward is an over-paid Chief Executive willing to break the law whenever circumstances demand it, and trumpeted that fact at every opportunity.

But John Watson thought that Steward should be embarrassed further than that and he asked for her refusal to confirm that Bexley Council is a law abiding organisation to be Judicially Reviewed.

This is his application which is clear and straight forward and probably stood a good chance of success if he could get it to court. Which court would agree that Councils obeying the law or not is optional?
Judicial Review
John should have known better. He knows as well as I do that Bexley Council has a track record of interfering with judicial processes whenever it has been caught out breaking the law. I’ve given him information about nobbling the CPS and pressurising the local police several times. John knows that the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards has uncovered a lot of information about both activities and given me reason to be optimistic about the outcome. Yet he went ahead with his Judicial Review anyway.

What stunt would Bexley Council pull to subvert justice this time?

LieWell according to John earlier this week they hired a QC and told him to intercede with the judge with a story that John wished to overturn the decision taken at the Code of Conduct Committee against Councillor Fothergill.

Bexley Council’s own meeting Agenda confirms their intention to lie. (See associated image.)

I suppose John might well have wanted to see Councillor Fothergill’s conviction overturned but that was not what he was asking the Judge to consider, that was the simple question displayed above. The Judge took the word of the QC against a nobody being abused by a corrupt Council and refused John Watson’s application. Didn’t even look at it according to him. If he had read as far as Section 3 he may have seen that he had been hoodwinked by Bexley Council.

The current situation is that Bexley Council’s solicitor, not their Head of Legal Akin Alabi who is not UK qualified, has written to John Watson giving him two weeks to cough up £1,400 (I have forgotten the precise figure).

And you might wonder why BiB so often says that Bexley is a Council built upon lies? And it is almost impossible to fight back when officialdom has a Common Purpose.

 

4 April - Bexley Conservative Councillors are lying - and proud to do so!

If you have been reading BiB for a little while you will probably have worked out that this is far from being a left leaning blog. For most of my life I have been a staunch Conservative and very often I find myself in agreement with what Bexley Council is doing in difficult circumstances but I don’t much like their methods and I absolutely hate their constant dishonesty.

It was dishonesty that brought this website about in the first place, I naively thought it might be a one off, but it is the norm. Some of Bexley’s Conservatives are totally incapable of understanding what the truth is. As you know, I can reel off a whole catalogue of their constant dishonesty so perhaps I should be used to it by now, but every so often I find myself incensed by the audacity of the deceit. None more so than when Bexley Conservatives attempt to fool the electorate because being in charge confers a personal advantage on themselves and that must always come before the truth.

The latest example is of course their claim that Labour Councillors were against the reduction in the number of Councillors which takes effect from May next year. It’s about as far from the truth as it is possible to get. Not only did Labour raise the issue before the Conservatives but they were looking for a more severe cut.

O'NeillBexley Conservative’s latest blog post gives entirely the wrong impression - deliberately of course - and with the three year old webcast conveniently deleted they probably feel safe from contradiction.

Fortunately I still have my own recording and I have listened to it carefully twice over the last few days. So that the truth will stick around for longer than a day or two my analysis of what took place has today become the new Bonkers Home page.

On it you can hear Council Leader Teresa O’Neill proclaim that reducing the number of Councillors is “not a party political thing”. The only thing separating all three parties was the process by which the goal should be achieved.

Almost certainly the most sensible way forward was the Conservative way but that is not good enough for the liars who run Bexley Council. They have decided to tell a very different story overall. One that does Labour Councillors the maximum damage. One aimed at convincing the electorate that Labour did not want to cut expenditure. One that helps to spread a lie.

If Teresa O’Neill had a shred of decency she would make sure their latest blog is corrected immediately. The Council’s obscene blog was taken down within an hour or two of the Leader becoming aware of it so why not their latest obscenity?

Unfortunately history suggests Teresa O’Neill is more than happy to perpetuate political obscenities. It’s no good looking in her direction for decency.

Note: On a personal note I cannot see more than a spare hour or two at most between now and next Tuesday, the wallpapering will remain half done and it is more than likely that BiB will be silent for a week. Don’t all cheer at once!

 

1 April (Part 2) - Catching up

A few odds and ends have been overlooked in recent weeks as I make a half-hearted attempt to redecorate a bedroom. Wallpaper, paint, a couple of power sockets moved to more accessible places and an aerial socket and some network cables installed in case I am ever tempted to buy a second television. Not likely while BiB continues: no time!

Building on the Green Belt
The Bexley Wildlife website carried an interesting report on the planning meeting which approved the Strategic Railfreight Interchange. The reporting style is not unlike what may usually be read here. You may find it interesting, I know I did if only to see how someone else tackles the same job.

Sidcup High Street
Readers reported that as part of the latest phase of the regeneration of Sidcup High Street, some of the paving laid in 2014 has been dug up again. No pictures unfortunately. I should be able to get some by the end of next week. Council Press Release.

Council Tax
The London Councils League Table is now complete, the last Council having managed to get their 2017/18 rates on line. Several websites still link to last year’s figures but the new ones are included in their explanatory letter to residents, once you have found it!

Newham continues to amaze me. No increase in tax for nine years on the trot, services which cost £100 or more in Bexley, all free, and charges for services up only 2% this year.

They sent a letter by Royal Mail to tell my aunt that the charge for her Emergency Bell Service was going to go up by four pence a week which would have soaked up about a quarter of the price increase and then last week they sent her another letter to tell get the monthly direct debit was going up by eighteen pence or some similar figure.

Bexley charges more than twice as much as Newham for what they call the Emergency Link Line. I’d report a precise figure but thanks to their rather useless new website I cannot. Because so much of the useful stuff has been taken away, Google searches now go nowhere, or to be more precise, are redirected to the Council’s front page.

From there you can use the search facility but ‘Emergency Link Line’ produces no results. How much money has Bexley wasted on redesigning their website? Will it ever become useful?

Abandoned vehicles
A reader from Welling told me that a car has been parked in Ashmore Grove since at least last October and never been moved. Green algae has grown around its outline. He asked what could be done about it. "Nothing" I said, while it is taxed, insured and MOT’d, which it was.

However that is no longer the case. The gov.uk website says that the Council should deal with an abandoned vehicle, but as a regular BiB reader he was not surprised to be told they were not interested,

The reader asked what else might be done and I suggested contacting the police Safer Neighbourhoods Team in Welling and asking if the car was stolen.

That was done too but there was no reply.

I suspect it’s not the only abandoned vehicle littering our streets, I seem to remember a report from Blackfen not long ago but for the record, the details of this one are…


AbandonedRegistration number: EJ53JWA
Make & Model: Ford Fusion
Colour: Grey
MOT: expired
Taxed to: 1/6/2017
Insured: Yes
Location. Outside 19 Ashmore Grove, Welling


If it is yours, can you remove it please? It’s becoming a bit of a nuisance.

 

1 April (Part 1) - It may be April 1st but Bexley Tories are lying not joking

It’s been said before that the Twittering of some of Bexley’s Conservative Councillors is quite amusing but that doesn’t mean they have cleaned up their acts and stopped lying.

Tweet Yesterday Councillor Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) announced that cutting the number of Bexley Councillors to 45 had been approved in Parliament which was moderately interesting but what followed was far more so.

A flutter of Twitter activity from Councillors Philip Read (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) and John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) trod the all too familiar Tory path; they lied. They said that Labour was against the reduced numbers.

Labour Councillors Stefano Borella and Daniel Francis protested but Councillor Davey insisted they were wrong. In a rewriting of history he insisted that the Labour group was against cutting the number of Councillors from 63 to 45.


I suppose in a sense John Davey is correct, Labour’s preferred number was 42.

News ShopperThe first talk of reducing Councillor numbers came from Council Leader Teresa O’Neill in October 2010 in a newspaper interview, but it was all hot air. The subject was never mentioned again until Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) put forward a Motion in 2014.

His Motion was for the number of Councillors to be reduced by a third.

The Tories didn’t like it one bit and voted against it. Councillor Davey’s mumbled response included references to Stalin and Karl Marx.

Councillors Read and Craske summoned up rather more intelligent responses which would not be especially difficult.

Motion

Labour Motion rejected by Tories in 2014.

The Conservatives threw out the Labour Motion and substituted their own which avoided the mention of any specific number.


News ShopperIt doesn’t suit the Conservative’ 2017 propaganda but the News Shopper reported how the Tory Turkeys refused to vote for Christmas. The report is still on their website. (Click image.)

The message being put out by Bexley Councillors now, that Labour Councillors did not back the reduction in Councillor numbers, is basically a lie.


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Tory lies do not stop at claiming that the Labour group was against reducing Councillor numbers of course, they are very keen that you should think that the street cleaning budget has been raised. The truth is rather different, it is being slashed.

Any extra investment in the coming election year has come from under spending last year’s budget. They are giving back a little of what was ‘stolen’ last year and most residents will fall for it.

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