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Bonkers Blog January 2017

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Sidcup Place

31 January (Part 3) - Old Farm Park - Planning proposals

Surely you cannot have forgotten how Bexley Council ignored thousands of objections to selling one of their larger recreation and wild life spaces?
Old Farm Park
An outline planning application has been prepared by Bexley Council pre-sale and there is to be an exhibitionin Sidcup Manor House on 9th February.

Council Press Release.

 

31 January (Part 2) - Police update

BiB is not a blog about police corruption, if it wasn’t for Bexley Council pressurising the local police force into offering protection from the consequences of their various wrong doings I doubt the police would ever get a mention here. But unfortunately the police and Council act as one when either of them is caught out. Usually it is Bexley Council which is caught out.

My default position on the police is that every single one of them is corrupt which probably sounds over the top but as Jeff Boothe, the recently departed Borough Commander, said at his last appearance in the Council Chamber, his is a disciplined service and he goes where he is told to and he follows every instruction he is given.

Former Bexley police Inspector Mick Barnbrook has related quite enough anecdotes of how an honest police officer has no alternative but to obey the instructions of a bent senior officer if he wishes to avoid transfer to some far flung outpost of the Met. Police, has aspirations of promotion or even of retaining his job.

In 2011 Bexley Council asked the police to have me arrested for “criticising Councillors on a personal level” and Bexley police immediately jumped at their command. Police documents released subsequently suggest that the request was made by Tyrant O’Neill.

When, a month later, someone abused Councillor Craske’s internet connection the police said they could not investigate it because there was no evidence. We now know there was plenty of evidence - the IPCC intervened.

Only last week the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) wrote to tell me they were following up yet another new lead, though a bit of me suspects that a succession of new leads is a delaying tactic. They really don’t want to find two senior officers guilty of perverting the course of justice.

In the Bacon/Tuckley case two police constables stand accused of making false statements at the request of Bexley Council a year after the event. Statements which contradicted what was said originally. Although there were eight signed witness statements relating to that event the DPS decided not to look at them and assumed instead that the belated police reports were all the evidence required.

The IPCC disagreed and ordered a proper investigation. Almost incredibly the current DPS position is to refuse the instruction. There is still no advice from the Crown Prosecution Service on whether or not Councillor Cheryl Bacon and Will Tuckley will be charged, although it is fairly obvious they won’t be. But the CPS is apparently still unable to confirm it and we must rely on leaked information.

MasseyIn May last year I was again threatened with arrest at the request of Bexley Council or to be more precise, by Councillor Don Massey who alleged harassment by my blog of 4th May 2016.

Professional advice was that what I wrote got nowhere near to being harassment but the police left me in limbo for seven months while they came to the same conclusion.

I asked Bexley police five weeks ago if sending officers to my door was the result of incompetence or political pressure. Councillor Massey was allowed access to Sidcup police station which is no longer open to the public, not at the time he attended anyway.

Bexley police has no answer to my question so Commissioner Bernard-Howe now has another formal allegation of Gross Misconduct on his desk.

I feel sorry for the police officers who were put under pressure by Councillor Massey but they have to be made to understand that if they do Bexley Council favours which stray outside the letter of the law and impinge unfairly on residents there will always be consequences.

Note: It is exactly 1,700 days since a complaint went to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe about the failure of Bexley police to properly investigate the Craske case. No answers yet.

 

31 January (Part 1) - Bexley Council is dipping your pocket again, and ever deeper

This is the time of the year when Bexley Council slips in its revised list of fees and charges, usually well above inflation and as often as not all the most regular charges up by more than they claim.

Two years ago when inflation was running at 1% it was claimed that charges would go up by 3%, most went up by 10% and a few, notably car parking season tickets rose by 50%.

Last year it was admitted that charges would rise by 10% but this year I have not so far been able to find a claimed average figure. A perusal of the proposed tariffs suggest that 10% is again the norm but with wide variations. Some have risen by close to 30% while one has actually gone down.

There was of course a public consultation on charging policy. Did you notice it? It was hidden in the current issue of the Bexley Magazine under the heading "Challenges and opportunities".

ConsultationI missed it on a first read through (it is on page eight) and I was not alone. Only 74 people responded from which no clear conclusion could be drawn but there was a tendency to disapprove of exclusively on-line services and sympathy for spending on those in need of social care. You will therefore not be surprised to know that social care fees suffer the largest price increases of all. Home Care visits up 10% and the Brokerage Fee - whatever that may be - up 28%.

Library charges are all up at around the 10% mark and sports activity charges increase by anything from around 10% to 25% - mostly the former but a few as little as 2%. After imposing massively increased charges for funeral services in recent years, there are no increases in 2017/18.

A permit for wedding photography in parks rises from £33 to £40 and skip licenses go up by 25% to £45.

Under the Conservatives, Bexley has always had the most expensive car parking around despite what Cabinet Member Craske has claimed in the past and the 2014 election bribe of a cheap short stay fee appears to have been abandoned. It rises by another ten pence this year. (70 pence for half an hour.) Most fees go up by ten, twenty or thirty pence, well above the current rate of inflation.

Annual parking ֹ‘season tickets’ are extortionate and this year the discount for those who come into the borough to work has been removed.

The Bin Tax is unchanged although the introductory rate has of course gone. It represents a large increase in Council Tax but remains one of the lowest bin tax rates to be found anywhere.

My sister pays £68 a year for hers and was charged £29 for the bin. Her Council Tax Rate (same Band and both Tory controlled) is very slightly more expensive than mine. On the other hand, her nearest town car parks are free.

 

30 January - Council and police compete in the corruption stakes

I used to be optimistic that exposing Bexley Council’s worst excesses and the lies required to conceal them might eventually lead to it cleaning up its act. I am inclined to think it has to some extent, or maybe they have become more expert at covering their tracks. The new Chief Executive has certainly gone out of her way to stop staff and Councillors making contact, but despite the literal barriers erected, conversations have not been choked off entirely.

What we haven’t had recently is a major scandal, last year only the Masseys behaved like total idiots. It’s a long time since anyone died because of Bexley Council’s mismanagement.

They privatised the Link Line to a company which presumably will not staff their emergency switchboard with just one trainee and hope for the best. In Bexley a lady died alone because of Bexley’s incomprehensible staffing decision.

Cabinet Member Philip Read claims to have transformed Children’s Services since he took over from Katie Perrior, now working in Downing Street.

I have no inside knowledge of Children’s Services except that I too often hear of kiddy snatching but the initiatives and figures coming out of Philip Read’s department suggest that is unlikely to again neglect children to the point of death and the Deputy Director who made so many poor decisions no longer works in Bexley.

Rhys LawrieLong term readers may recall three year old Rhys Lawrie who suffered 38 serious injuries to his tiny body which were said to have been caused by a fall from a sofa.

His mother moved to Erith in October 2007 following a career in the Army which had sectioned her because of mental instabilities. In Erith she reported herself to medical staff because of urges to harm her baby. The medics made a report to Bexley Council which ignored it.

From 2007 to 2010 Rhys was in and out of hospital constantly with injuries that were blamed on epilepsy. His mother banned his grandparents from seeing him. When he attended pre-school covered in bruises the teachers reported the situation to Bexley Council and again it took no action.

By January 2011 Rhys was dead and a mentally challenged 16 year old was convicted of his manslaughter.

Rhys’s grandfather unearthed a great deal of evidence that suggested it was a wrongful conviction. By studying end of school times and bus times he concluded that the 16 year old boy could not have been present when Rhys died. He was convinced the mother was implicated.

The first ambulance men on the scene confirmed that the boy was not there but the mother was. Inexplicably they were not called as witnesses for the defence.

The case bore remarkable similarities to Haringey’s Baby P. case which was still in the news at the time.

The theory was that Bexley Council was so concerned that their failure to protect Rhys or help his mother had been a major factor in the death that they prevailed upon the police to find another killer. A mentally retarded 16 year old who was a regular visitor to the house was a Godsend.

However despite the pathologist’s report the police initially decided the death was an accident and failed to secure what should have been declared a crime scene. Rhys’s mother spent the night of his death, not grieving or being comforted by friends but scrubbing the house clean of all forensic evidence.

Whether Bexley Council really did a deal with the police is uncertain but they made sure that the author of the Serious Case Review was a former Bexley Director, so not exactly impartial, and Philip Read refused to answer a question about the case. The lack of transparency raises suspicions.

Rhys’s grandfather continues to study the evidence relating to what he believes was a miscarriage of justice and recently discovered something new.

A [named] Detective Inspector made a secret pact with Rhys’s mother that if she kept quiet about her being able to wipe a Crime Scene clean she in return would be offered immunity from prosecution.

The pact was approved by a [named] Detective Superintendent after which no one was prepared to rescind it.

Despite Rhys’s mother being innocent of his killing under the law Bexley Council took another of her children into care and to this day she is only allowed infrequent supervised visits. The grandfather is convinced that Bexley Council knows who killed Rhys but admitting it at the time would have landed them in far too much trouble.

 

29 January - Crossrail cares, maybe too much

I sometimes think that Crossrail’s number one mission is to frustrate those of us who are trying to make a photographic record of what is the most exciting thing to hit Abbey Wood since Thamesmead was built in the sixties.

Two weeks ago Network Rail erected fencing on the flyover which goes far beyond that needed to protect their works. It extends towards Knee Hill and past the northbound temporary bus stop for no obvious reason. The flyover’s balustrade is not especially high but no one has fallen over it or been intent on self-destruction in the 30 years I have lived nearby.

There is no extra fencing on the opposite side of the bridge (Photo 3 below) nor is it continuous on the west side, there is a gap where the flyover crosses Gayton Road.

I can imagine that Crossrail may feel that they have compelled all pedestrians to use the flyover when few did so before their arrival and therefore must bear the responsibility for the safety issues that Bexley Council has been happy to abdicate, but they fall between two or more stools - and they are potentially dangerous.

An old friend of Bexley-is-Bonkers and not all that long ago one of its most important contributors ended up in an ambulance a week ago after tripping over one of Crossrail’s fence supports.

This is his abbreviated story…


While approaching the temporary bus stop on Harrow Manor Way flyover, I tripped over the concrete footings which are propping up a temporary fence. I was severely injured and rendered unconscious.

The footing should never have been there in the first place.

The fencing should have been fitted on the outer edge of its concrete base, not the inner, and then braced to the bridge railings.

What is the fence for? The flyover has always had its rail and no one has disappeared over it.

When I came round I was helped into a van (thanks to a Good Samaritan called Richard) who stemmed the blood gushing from my forehead and sat me down until the ambulance arrived. He went to meet it and promptly tripped over the same fence footing. Fortunately he was able to save himself using both hands. I, as you know, have only one arm.

I am not against change but Abbey Wood station is built only for the fittest. The overbridge between platforms is high enough for one train to piggyback on another.

Three modified shower cubicles masquerade as lifts which require a trained operative.

The unfit, the elderly and the disabled have the daunting prospect of labouring to the top with no centre rail to grab and the way down is ever scarier. The descent is steep and 2" angle Iron edges the stairs. It would do a lot of damage to anyone who lost their footing and tumbled down (†). Angle Iron is made for structural works not to protect stairs from chipping or breaking.

They should have taken lessons from the Victorian era and their reassuringly safe stairs.

Abbey Wood station is a no go zone for all but the fittest among us and the new flyover fence serves no useful purpose and is a hazard to children who cannot resist a hop skip and jump over the footings. My grandson does it and while passing on a bus I saw a parent try to restrain their own offspring.

I won’t be having another accident at Abbey Wood because it is safer use Woolwich Arsenal and a 180 bus. Abbey Wood has become far too dangerous.


Harrow Manorway Flyover Harrow Manorway Flyover Harrow Manorway Flyover Harrow Manorway Flyover

Photo 1: Fence supports intrude into the footpath area. Result: Elderly one armed man has a ride in an ambulance.

I feel obliged to write a small defence of Crossrail. They are far more safety conscious than Bexley Council which was content to leave the flyover unlit for months and the flyover’s only remaining staircase unlit for 30 years. It was Crossrail’s contractors who put that right and lit Gayton Road after it was left in the dark for months.

Wilton RoadThe station footbridge is high because it has to clear the 32,000 volt overhead power cables. In only nine months time the footbridge will be equipped with escalators. There is no centre hand rail on the stairs because the Health & Safety experts ruled against it.

Additionally one should never underestimate the stupidity of some local youths. One of my Crossrail contacts says that when suitably inebriated they are not averse to hopping over the railings to the footpath beneath to save a few seconds walk.

However the writer’s suggestion that the fence should have been placed in the outer of the three holes in the base supports would appear to be a valid one which would have prevented the accident that befell him while going for a bus.

They are easily tripped over as I have discovered for myself many times while taking too close an interest in the Wilton Road works which employ similar bases for the barriers. The remaining footpath is very narrow and I keep looking for one of Greenwich council’s HILLS apprentices. I have never before seen so many 40 year old beginners.

† It already has.

 

27 January - No more Capital Punishment in Bexley, not in an election year anyway

The recent Cabinet meeting reports were of the Budget Review; another big part of the meeting is the Capital Review. Once again, Finance Director Alison Griffin opened the batting order.

She said there was a need to generate alternative revenue streams and to avoid or slow down costs, £83 million is to be invested in the borough in the coming year, very nearly half of it going on Temporary Accommodation.
Capital
Alison Griffin described it as “an exciting programme”.

Massey BaileyLord Massey of Rochester said the Investment Programme would be subject to revolving reviews as they extend over several years. He “commended” the planned investment.

Cabinet Member Linda Bailey “welcomed the programme”. She specially welcomed Councillor Craske’s announcement “and I thank him very much. It is quite pleasant to read a report which is giving out stuff. We have got ourselves into a position where we can spend a bit of money now and it is quite right and proper that it is spent on Public Realm. It is good to see something positive”. (For a change?)

Councillor Craske came back with “two points”. The Capital Programme will fund the new town centre cleaning vehicle and the “brand new Belvedere Beach”.


Sawyer StewardThe Cabinet Member for Yellow Money Boxes Alex Sawyer referred to the regeneration around Abbey Wood Station to ready it for Crossrail and in Albion Road. “Not without their problems” he said. However improvements would be made “borough wide”.

The LED street lighting programme is being accelerated and will result in a reduced electricity bill and safer streets. The programme demonstrates how the Council is “on the side of hard working residents and better days lie ahead”.

No other Cabinet Member or Councillor wished to speak so the vote on the Capital Programme was taken. Unanimous approval of course.

 

26 January - Just a quick nodding exercise

I looked at the Agenda for last night’s General Purposes Committee meeting on line and it gave only one incentive to attend, it looked as though it should be all over and done with inside half an hour. And I was right, 22 minutes including the Chairman’s welcome to the two members of the public present.

Councillor Cafer Munir always makes visitors feel welcome and chairs most meetings in a friendly and relaxed manner, I just wish he wasn’t so keen on being Teresa O’Neill’s lickspittle at Council meetings.
GP
There were only four items up for discussion and only one not of a ‘technical’ nature. That was the stopping up - this is closure to you and me - of Lensbury Way in Abbey Wood.
Lensbury Way
It is required as part of Peabody’s redevelopment plans for the area which are already agreed by the Planning Committee. It was not known if Peabody had consulted affected residents but Bexley Council planned to put a Legal Notice in the News Shopper.

The ward Councillor Danny Hackett pointed out that that was not a lot of use because the News shopper does not circulate in that area but a solution was readily obvious. The law has not yet caught up with the demise of local newspapers but the Council is obliged only to put a notice in its pages to fulfill its obligations.

Peabody will be paying for the costs associated with the Stopping up Order. Obviously they are hoping no one will object to their plans, Bexley Council wil charge them extra for any excessive numbers of complaints.

The Committee appeared to be unsure of how long Lensbury Way would be closed for but the Agenda says that the existing route will never reopen. A new Lensbury Way will be constructed to give access to Harrow Manorway a little further to the north than the old one.

The closure was approved unanimously.

A statutory requirement is that Councils must calculate a Council Tax base. Essentially, how many dwellings are there in each Tax Band so that it will have some idea of how much money Council Tax will raise. For the record there are 4,480, 10,531, 29,297, 27,299, 19,340, 4,862, 1686, and 48 houses in Bands A to H respectively. 9,578 are eligible for discounts of various sorts.

The figures for Business Rates were not available.

Finally the Committee was asked to approve pay and pension policy.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) sought assurance that the pension manipulation perpetrated by a former Chief Executive who retired on health grounds could not be repeated. He received a reported £300,00 pay off and £50,000 a year pension and promptly got himself a similar job at another Council. Normally that would affect the pension that Bexley Council still pays out each year but in his case it didn’t because he managed to persuade the other Council that he should be remunerated as a self employed person.

There is still no way of preventing such manouvres apart from having a Council unprepared to work fiddles for their friends.

The Conservative bench remained largely mute throughout.

 

25 January (Part 2) - From the post bag

Recycling
I have been monitoring a long running correspondence between a resident and Bexley Council which asks why the refuse collector wheels his large bin along the street tossing all the recyclables carefully separated by residents into that one bin and in due course into his truck. Not just on one occasion, but every week.

Coaxing a response from Bexley Council is proving to be impossible. The resident blames his contact Lesley Moore for the poor response which may be unfair. The top man Steve Didsbury does not set a good example. They are all as clueless as each other.

Welling Corner
Road upReports are coming in of four way temporary traffic lights at Welling Corner.

This will likely be TfL moving their traffic light control box to where it should have been put when they messed around with that junction a couple of years ago.

The clowns put it right up against the memorial cannon. So well done to Bexley Council on getting them to move it. Bringing another part of town to a standstill will barely be noticed among all the other traffic disruptions going on.

Photo: The old gas pipe in Abbey Road which has caused widespread traffic chaos throughout most of January.


Train door delays
Train delaysSomeone suggested that the two second delay on train door opening might be due to a GPS controlled interlock that made sure a train had stopped before the doors became active.

It seems to be an unnecessarily complicated method to me and what happens at stations like Abbey Wood where the driver’s cab comes to a halt under two feet of concrete? But there may be something in the story because I once read that tube trains have to lock in very precisely to the prescribed stopping point before their doors can be opened.

On the other hand it doesn’t explain why the delay appears to be a recent phenomenon. A two second delay must be the least of train travellers’ problems over the past 36 hours.

Photo: Why there were no trains via Greenwich from Abbey Wood yesterday when the derailment is at Lewisham is something of a mystery.


Blue Badge abuse
Bexley Council continues to pursue Blue Badge abusers and a good job too. Two were heavily fined recently. It’s not just criminally inclined drivers who are involved in such activities. I knew of someone with a Blue Badge who is a member of a rambling club and went on long hikes most weeks. You need someone bent on the inside to be able to pull that trick. It doesn’t happen any more. Well not in that case. Don’t know about others.

Police issues
The Directorate of Professional Standards have issued another of their monthly progress reports on their investigation into why the local police failed to charge Councillor Craske when they first traced an obscene blog to his home telephone line way back in 2011. Apparently a couple of things they need are hidden away in the archives and they have decided they must get hold of them. They also need advice from their High Tech Crime Unit. What? Basic facts are still proving elusive after all this time? What about the Bexley police sergeant’s own admission that the case was “crippled by political interference” and the incriminating stuff already known to exist in the case file?

Craske, or whoever had his knowledge and access to his phone line, must have caused the police to spend as much money cleaning up the borough as he plans to spend on cleaning up the borough.

 

25 January (Part 1) - After Craske’s magic show, the support acts

Read The Cabinet Member chosen to follow Peter Craske was Brad Smith (Adults’ Services) but his four minute report on Adult Services was overshadowed by the aftermath of the showman’s revelations and the distribution of his document that proclaimed the details. He said that the Council was delivering “good quality care within the resources available” and “bugetary pressures were being met in innovative ways”. Councillor Smith is responsible for spending £53·9 million this year, the biggest departmental budget, but might benefit from a few lessons in sales technique from Peter Craske. No one asked him any questions.

Cabinet Member Philip Read may not be quite up to Craske levels of theatricality but like him he is well versed in the art of political catcalls.

He “reflected on the journey we have been on, a journey that has seen a huge reduction in financial support but we have demonstrably risen to that challenge. We have resisted the soft option of putting up compulsory taxes”. Well chosen words. My Council Tax is up by about 4% because of the voluntary Bin Tax alone and so far I have avoided paying the Yellow Money Box Tax.

He must have forgotten about the compulsory taxes imposed on the poorest families (they now pay Council Tax where previously they did not) but he had not forgotten the need to make fun of the opposition. This time he had Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) in his sights and suggested he might be already Tweeting his support for Cabinet Member Craske. Tory colleagues dutifully laughed.

Steward“The reception on the doorstep within our own wards, those who pay Council Tax appreciate and support our decision not to increase it over the period of the last Council and are fully behind our decision to hold it at a minimum level in the years up to 2018.” I think he meant maximum level without the authority of a referendum.

“It would be nice to think that members of the opposition within the Scrutiny process would come forward with some constructive and positive contributions instead of their normal and consistent demands to either make no particular saving or to increase expenditure. We shall see.”

“Children’s Services continues to improve the quality of our service at a time of reducing resources and increasing demand and cost inflation”. The aim to increase the proportion of permanent staff is succeeding which has brought down costs.

Five minutes, only two attacks on the opposition. Not bad by Philip Read’s standards.

LeitchCabinet Member for Education, Rob Leitch, is not one to wander into unnecessary baiting of the opposition. He quickly placed on the record that he was a strong supporter of Public Realm investment “impressions form reputations and I know local residents will be delighted [by Peter Craske’s announcement]” and welcomed the support for Friends’ Groups and the promised deep cleaning of high streets.

On education he said that “funding per head was at an historically low level” and “the funding formula is unhelpful”.

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) spoke in favour of the strategy of keeping Council Tax levels low into the future.

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) applauded “the balanced budget” which provides a platform for making the borough a better place to live. Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) said she was very pleased with what is happening within Children’s Services. Keeping SEN pupils in mainstream schools doesn’t just save money it is beneficial to those children.

No one else was interested in speaking so the Cabinet voted through the budget proposals unanimously.

 

24 January (Part 2) - Conjuror Craske

O'Neill GriffinThere was a massive turnout at last night’s Cabinet meeting. Very nearly a full house of Councillors and the usual four members of the public squeezed into the Council Chamber, Tories sitting cheek by jowl with Labour members, all to hear the new slimline Teresa O’Neill stage manage the budget proposals.

And stage managed it was, the script was a corker but the underlying story was closer to scam.

It began with Alison Griffin delivering her formal address.

The future is uncertain she said and public finances are under pressure however the Council has shown that it can cope. 95% of the savings programme for this year has already been delivered.

The Council signed up for the four year deal with Government and the settlement was largely as anticipated, however there has been a reduction in the New Homes Bonus and some rearrangements to the Social Care precept (the extra 2% on Council Tax). Houses built only after a successful planning appeal will not attract the New Homes Bonus. Do I detect a Government trying to influence planning decisions again?

Overall the Government support grant has been reduced by 30% this year. Extensive adjustments to an Excel spreadsheet led Ms. Griffin to her proposal that Bexley’s Council Tax rate should increase by the maximum allowable amount of 1·99% plus 2% Social Care precept for the second consecutive year. There will be no call on reserves.
Cabinet
MasseyLord Massey of Rochester, the Cabinet Member for Finance Don Massey said that local authorities generally - and he referred to Surrey County Council which has proposed a 15% tax increase - “are in a precarious place” but “Bexley remains in reasonable shape”. In a reference to the London Living Wage he said “well meaning but ultimately rash decisions in finance terms” should be avoided.

Bexley continues to be given “a relatively low amount from Government compared to other boroughs and we continue to lobby for a fairer allocation but in contrast to other authorities we will not need a massive increase in tax to balance our books next year. Keeping tax as low as possible is the right and proper thing to do”.

However you can be absolutely certain that that won’t stop Bexley tying for top place (worst) in London when setting Council Tax for next year.

The actual rate will be announced at the next Cabinet Meeting on 20th February.

Councilor Craske then adopted his best showman persona to announce the plans he had for his portfolio. It was a cross between a Petticoat Lane stall holder selling his wares at knock down prices and a Chancellor with pre-election money to give away, money previously stolen from a gullible public.

He said he was going to make the borough cleaner (didn’t he slash the street cleaning budget a couple of years ago?), greener (who was it who stopped all tree planting?) and safer (he stopped routine monitoring of the CCTV).

To address the safety issues he was going to spend an extra £135,000 on community safety. After a shaky start on Food Safety Bexley has got back on course and the Food Safety Team is going to get another £48,000 for an extra member of staff.

StewardThe Garden Waste Service has been a success and over 50% of residents now find themself forced to cough up the Bin Tax. The team running it will get an extra £26,000. (One part time post.)

Friends Groups, like the one running Sidcup’s Walled Garden, will collectively get another £40,000 in 2017/18.

The borough’s 18 car parks are cleaned twice a week at a cost of £40,000 a year but the multi-storeys are almost inevitably filthy by design. They will be taken out of the £40,000 budget, given a deep clean and redecorated. Another £83,000 this year and £43,000 thereafter.

The grass cutting budget which was slashed barely a year ago is to be raised by £50,000 Craske teasingly said, but no, make that £90,000.

The tree budget of £40,000 scrapped soon after the Tories came to power is to be reinstated. He couldn’t equal that Councillor Craske said, and reaching for a pair of fluffy ears deep inside his top hat, announced it would be raised to £70,000 by 2018/19. “It will transform our borough. it will be far greener and healthier” he said apparently unaware of the several sites of scientific interest which are succumbing to the bulldozers.

CraskeThe four main town centres are swept daily and this will be improved following the acquisition of a new street cleaning vehicle capable of deep cleaning. It will be able to thoroughly clean the main shopping centres “every single week” and the lesser ones at least once a month. He is looking for a name for it. Any ideas?

£243,000 has been allocated to the cleaning of residential streets.

He was “proud of these proposals” and in a characteristic wind up of the opposition members said he “couldn’t imagine any one of them being against these proposals".

And where do you think that money has suddenly come from? Well I think it was Cabinet Member Philip Read who gave the game away when he made a distinction (I will check the recording later) between compulsory taxes and voluntary taxes.

The latter will be a none too subtle reference to the additional stealth taxes imposed on residents in recent months. The few figures available at this early stage suggest that the litter wardens and the Welling Yellow Money Boxes are raising enough to cover all of Peter Craske’s prestidigitation.

He has pulled a cunning stunt which part of me admires in the same way that I sort of admire the criminal minds who got him off the blogging rap. But I think I would admire him more if he had pulled the stunt a few years ago and spent the money on vital services such as SEN children or making sure youths don’t riot in Northumberland Heath. But you don’t notice these things every day of the week, more trees and footpaths free of chewing gum may well be a vote winner and that is what it is all about.

 

24 January (Part 1) - Update on Albion Road

Parts of Sidcup have been at a standstill thanks to Bexley Council’s regeneration works and Thames Water, Abbey Wood has been at a standstill from the station approach all the way back to the roundabout at Oakhampton Crescent due to the Wilton Road regeneration works and British Gas and for good measure the traffic chaos around Albion Road in Bexleyheath has become even worse without the help of any utility company. All that is needed is Bexley Council and their contractor F.M. Conway.

Perhaps I should explain how the gas works in Abbey Road can be responsible for traffic queues a whole mile away. To avoid the three way traffic lights at the foot of Knee Hill (see Photo), northbound traffic is turning fight into Woolwich Road at the top of the hill and as anyone who has used that junction will tell you, only two or three vehicles at the most can turn right before the lights change and while waiting no one can go straight on. Hence the secondary peak hour queue back almost to Long Lane.
Wilton Road

Wilton Road regeneration with Knee Hill queue in background

Today’s report on Albion Road comes from the same source as last week’s. A resident of Townley Road.


I thought Councillors, Council employees and subcontractors were all forbidden to read your blog! (†) Well someone obviously has because the Having a Larf signs about NOT OVERTAKING non-existent CYCLISTS in Albion Road seem to have disappeared. Could be a coincidence of course but I do not much believe in coincidences just happening without some human intervention.

Bexley Council or their contractors. have come up with an even better wheeze today - dig a trench half across Townley Road just below the Albion Road roundabout, then place barriers and cones all around and set up temporary traffic lights on all approaches to the roundabout. Result from about 7 a.m. onwards; massive queues approaching the roundabout from all directions viz. Albion Road East, Albion Road West and Townley Road.

I had to stand in the road to hold up the traffic queue to create a gap so that my daughter could get her car out of the driveway and then venture further across to check for traffic coming the other way since her line of sight was completely blocked by the queue.

If this is going on for months perhaps I should invest in a Hi-vis jacket and a STOP sign on a pole like the school crossing people use.

Have sympathy for the 269 and B13 bus drivers as they have had to crawl all the way up Townley Road to reach the Library bus stop then circumnavigate the Premier Inn and rejoin yet another queue in Albion Road.

Oh Well!! Only another nine months or so to go.


Andrew Bashford told the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee that significant disruption would only occur towards the end of the works, not in week two!

P.S. Here’s another one…


Massive traffic jam today in Bexleyheath. 4-way lights at Townley Road junction! I’m sure many people will avoid the area, which will have a bad effect on local businesses.


† It’s read within Council offices on mobile phones. How cauld they ban that? Further proof if any was needed that the top people at Bexley Council are not very bright.

 

23 January (Part 2) - You’ve never had it so good

GriffinAt this evening’s Cabinet meeting, Finance Director Alison Griffin said that things were on course for a 3·99% Council Tax increase this year (subject to Full Council agreement of course) which is the most that the Council can get away with without calling a referendum, and there is no way Bexley Council will ever do that.

Putting up taxes by the highest amount possible does not sound good but at a time when central Government is being less than helpful, to do so without eating into reserves is a considerable achievement. It remains to be seen if Mayor Sadiq Khan can maintain Boris Johnson’s record of annual reductions in the GLA precept.

It was however the next speaker who produced the real rabbits from the hat, and he clearly relished doing so over and over again. Both opposition parties were struck dumb, not a single question.

After the massive spending cuts of recent years, Councillor Peter Craske plans a cleaner greener and safer borough. He had summoned up some £800,000 to spend on projects which will be widely welcomed. If the money is spent effectively, Bexley might not become a dirty tip after all.

Peter Craske really did sound rather impressive at a time when austerity is supposed to be the norm. There must be an election due again before long.

Full details may be seen here.

 

23 January (Part 1) - At last, a Bexley Council meeting to report!

Last Wednesday’s Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting was faced with a scheduling problem. The representatives of TfL Buses, Network Rail and the police South East Traffic Unit all failed to turn up and Southeastern Trains had sent a substitute.

Transport UsersThe first Agenda item was a presentation by pupils and staff of Beths Grammar School in Bexley. An idiotically narrow pavement at their nearest bus stop, no pedestrian crossing and school buses which arrive full because they start their journey in Wilmington, combine to give them a serious road safety problem.

This they have tackled themselves and their ideas were presented to the Committee via a slide show. As no paper copies were provided it is not practical to go into a lot of detail here but Councillors said they were impressed and offered help in getting the scheme more widely adopted.

After 30 minutes the Committee moved on to School Crossing Patrols. This subject was also given the slide show treatment and the gist of it was that there are fewer school crossing patrols now than ten years ago - some have been replaced by permanent crossings - and vacancies are sometimes prolonged because criminal records checks can take six months or more to complete. There is no budget available for any increase in the current level of patrols.

It is perhaps worth repeating that it is a legal requirement that drivers obey the instructions given by school crossing patrols.

After another 30 minutes (eight thirty on the clock) the Chairman, Councillor Val Clark said she was going to invite the substitute Southeastern man to present his report (Agenda item 9) because “he has to get away by nine”. The police (Agenda Item 8) objected because they said they had to get away by nine too, so the Agenda sequence was allowed to progress unaltered.

Usually a couple of officers from Bexley police deliver a report on behalf of their Safer Transport Team. This time they came from Greenwich because the two boroughs have combined Transport Safety forces with most of their staff based in Warspite Road, SE18. They argued that this improved the situation in Bexley because a larger number of officers was available should any trouble arise.

The school pupil problem in Broadway persists and barriers are being considered to regulate bus queuing and local police officers also patrol there because of the “issues”.

There was also a continuing problem with cyclists messing around in front of buses, wheelies and the like. A lot of CCTV recordings had to be trawled through to obtain clues about the perpetrators but generally only their backs were seen.

A spate of bus vandalism in Bexley last November came to an end when a window smasher was arrested.

A mobile phone action week had netted 6,045 traffic offenders of which 4,878 involved mobile phones. The old fixed penalty system has been abandoned in favour of reporting to the Criminal Justice Unit which will decide on prosecution or a training course.

The police officer twice said that the number of racial incidents had increased since last June which contradicts what the now departed Bexley Borough commander reported to the People Scrutiny Committee. Some incidents had been reported in Broadway but maybe there had been a big increase in Greenwich that caused a perceived spike. The incidents were of a minor verbal nature and not violent and over a whole month could still be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The Southeastern man didn’t get a look in until ten to nine. His brief report Included the facts that the lack of Boxing Day trains had been widely criticised, that their December performance (84·6% on time against a target of 85%) was better than November's. Recruitment of another 100 train drivers should further improve performance. On board wi-fi will make an appearance this year and completed during 2018 and will help better inform passengers.

DaveyTransport meetings tend to be dominated by Councillors Stefano Borella and John Davey who seem to be the only ones there with more than a superficial understanding of the subject, Councillor Davey had noticed that trains had not been stopping at every station on the Bexleyheath line. It is an unpopular practice but makes it look as though trains are running on time. He said it was “a fiddle”.

The SER man admitted that their Autumn timetable extended running times but that contrary to popular opinion the practice of skipping stations to make up time did not benefit their statistics because it was recorded as a cancellation. He also maintained that without 'skip stop', delays would accumulate to unacceptable levels by the time of the evening rush hour resulting in chaos.

Every train user must have noticed that there is an infuriating two to five seconds delay between a train coming to a standstill and the door opening buttons becoming active. Councillor Stefano Borella certainly had and asked what it was all about. The Southeastern rep. didn’t know anything about it. It was all news to him. Councillor Borella said he had encountered cases of ‘skip stop’ resulting in trains not terminating at the advertised station. Mr. SER accepted that that could happen.

Councillor Borella also referred to the two parallel and adjacent footbridges at Belvedere station where it had been reported that one was in a bad state of repair and the other wasn’t. However the SER man had been to have a look with Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour. Belvedere) and was able to tell Stefano that it was Bexley Council’s bridge that needed resurfacing while Network Rail’s was not perfect but acceptable.

With no one from TfL present we learned even less about buses. The proposals for rearranging routes in the North to accommodate Crossrail should become public quite soon and the Council's contribution to the cost of the Freedom Passes will reduce in the coming year. Usage has declined by 2·3% in the past twelve months. I think I can claim some of the credit for that.

I used to pride myself on going everywhere within the borough by bus but it takes up far too much time. For example, fewer than 15 minutes to Bexley by car and around an hour by bus. I simply cannot afford to waste 90 minutes on such a trip. The new hop on, hop off within an hour fare has also had an impact on the Freedom Pass cost reduction.

Another snippet of information was that the bus arrival indicators in Broadway are to be reintroduced imminently. Why were they ever removed?

On road safety it was reported that the percentage increases in accidents was steep but this was from extremely low figures, such as zero fatalities up to one. In two recent road accidents the fatalities were the result of the driver dying from natural causes.

The new London Mayor had not made clear his views on cycling in the borough so the plan to tarmac the gravel sections of the Thames path had not progressed.

Councillor Borella said the plan to install many bicycle stands around the borough appeared to have stalled. A Council officer agreed that it had due to personnel changes in the office but the programme is underway again.

The Traffic Engineering Manager tried to justify the madness about to be inflicted on Albion Road and admitted that his wonderful bit of road design at St. Augustine’s Road in Belvedere had resulted in a pedestrian refuge being hit and a child being injured in separate incidents. Well done that man!

SawyerThere had been many complaints about the traffic delays which occurred daily following the works carried out in North End Road. It was hoped they would reduce when the traffic lights from Thames Road to the Fish Roundabout were coordinated via a planned interconnection cable.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer made an interesting remark. He said he was looking for more sites where drivers might be offending against the rules of the road. Not that he is “looking for more junctions where safety might be improved” but places where there are “large numbers of failures to observe road signs”. It was pretty close to saying he was looking for junctions that would generate the most revenue.

Note: The next camera site was mentioned but I didn’t hear it at the time, neither did my recorder pick it up, but I think it was an allegedly unobserved No entry sign.

 

20 January - Bexley Council is ‘Having a Larf’

A correspondent notes that blog material has been in short supply recently and suggests it will be allowing time for me to do other things. There is a lot of truth in that but the emphasis should be reversed. I am giving priority to the other things which have been taking far too much time and there has been none left over for digging into what might be going unreported.

It’s amazing how many people think that retirement means loads of free time spent sitting around doing nothing. Obviously I am not good at refusals because I find myself an unpaid hospital visitor, carer, taxi driver, commercial photographer, personal shopper and IT consultant. I have unanswered email going back to New Year and the TV has only been on once in 2017. Maybe I am just a poor organiser.

Albion Road Albion RoadHelpfully the aforesaid correspondent has written a short blog for me and even supplied the title used above. He is not at all pleased about what Bexley Council is doing in Albion Road. (It’s a pity he doesn’t own a camera.)

A trip to Albion Road was on the agenda for this week as Bexley Council had announced that they would start to destroy it this week, but at Wednesday’s Transport Users’ Committee meeting they said the start had been deferred to next week, so I was glad of the excuse not to go there.

The following report suggests the Committee does not know what it is talking about.


Some expensive work has just commenced in Albion Road, Bexleyheath which is funded by Transport for London. It will result in the previous two traffic lanes in each direction being reduced to one lane each way but creating TWO cycle lanes for the virtually non–existent cyclists.

As a local resident I cannot recall the last time I actually saw anyone cycling along Albion Road.

I would guess this proposal must have been initially approved in Boris Johnson’s time and that it was probably a precondition to obtain TFL funding that any scheme must include cycle lanes even if no cyclists use the route.

Bexley Council Highways Department has been asked several times if any surveys of actual cycle usage along Albion Road have ever been undertaken but surprise surprise the question has been ignored. I wonder what a Freedom of Information request might reveal?

The first phase of the work is taking place between the roundabout at the Oaklands Road car park entrance and the Townley Road roundabout. The central wall between the carriageways is to be removed and to facilitate this work the traffic lane either side of the central barrier has been coned off. For the remaining lanes which can still be used Bexley Council have put up signs warning motorists of NARROW LANES but then adding the instruction DO NOT OVERTAKE(non-existent) CYCLISTS.

As the heading says someone really is ‘Having a Larf’!!!!


BashfordAt the Transport Users’ meeting, the engineer in charge of this madcap scheme said that the later stages of construction will cause “significant disruption”. I suspect that the roundabouts proposed for Gravel Hill at both the Watling Street and Albion Road junctions might improve traffic flow although if they are as silly as those installed elsewhere in the borough, maybe not.

The idiocy imposed on Ruxley in 2010 by the same design team has been featured on a website which highlights all sorts of dubious decisions. £140,000 down the drain.

Who in their right mind halves the capacity of a town’s bypass?

Andrew Bashford is the man who told me back in 2009 that his road designs complied with the recommendations of the Transport Research Laboratory unaware that my son was their safety consultant at the time. I wish that all of Bexley Council’s lies were so easy to disprove.

No blog tomorrow. Granddaughter is seven already, party to go to. How did that happens so quickly? She wants a science book. Enid Blyton is for kids!

 

19 January - Escapee from the swamp

Lesnes Lesnes HeronHere’s something I wasn’t expecting to see on a trip around Lesnes Abbey Park. The pond viewing platform has emerged from the reeds.

The herons had been frightened away.

 

18 January - No one makes progress

Despite there never being any sign of activity in Wilton Road each time I make a visit, and I have only missed Sunday so far, someone must occasionally do a bit of work there. New block paving is beginning to appear.

What the traders in the area would like to see is a few shoppers. The almost total lack of parking spaces, the additional road works in Abbey Road and Harrow Manor Way, not to mention the defective traffic lights which have gone unfixed for two months, has not unnaturally driven them all away.
Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road
Wilton Road
Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road
The larger versions of the ohotographs are dated.

 

17 January - Shining a dim light into murky corners

I think I am just about in favour of Bexley’s switch over to LED street lighting. My initial reaction was that it is dim and it’s a fact that my back garden is no longer lit up by the spill from sodium lamps but the LEDs probably provide a more pleasant light, certainly my camera prefers it. If it is cheaper to run, I am marginally in favour.

However it would appear that not everyone is a bit of a fence sitter like me, many people do not like it at all. A story from the inside which may or may not be true is that the main reason for the new and inconvenient rule that prohibits written or telephone complaints about street lighting policy was hastily pushed in because the number of complaints was getting out of hand. The truth would be hard to come by but some things can be uncovered reasonably easily.

ConwayUnder the old system street lighting was a Highways responsibility - as you might guess would be logical - with Keir plc being the maintenance contractor.

The new lights were installed by FM Conway, the company largely responsible for traffic chaos across this borough and many others, which isn’t too strange but it would appear that they have taken over the maintenance contract too.

According to the disgruntled of Watling Street this was a take over by Bexley’s Deputy Director of Services and Programmes, Graham Ward under the nose of his Highways colleagues.

Well done FM Conway you might say for stealing a march on Keir but a bit of digging, not to mention prompting by the aforesaid disgruntled, suggests that this might be a not entirely wholesome takeover.


Linked InThe Lighting Director at FM Conway is a Mr. Graham Cartledge who had lighting experience at the eponymous Cartledge Street Lighting company, but that outfit became part of the Kier Group.

Within Watling Street the switch of maintenance contractor from Kier to Conway is said “to stink worse than Crossness on a bad day” and you have to agree that the coincidences do provoke suspicions that something untoward may have been going on.

My informant speaks of brown envelopes but that is easy to say; how would anyone get hard evidence of that?

 

16 January - Follow the Bazalgette sewer from Plumstead to Crossness

With Thames Water about to start redevelopment of the Bexley side of the Ridgeway this year, the long overlooked route between the Thames and Plumstead station should be more open to walkers and cyclists.

The RidgewayThe Ridgeway Users Group is very keen to make the Ridgeway welcoming to walkers and cyclists and will be holding a meeting for users and potential users on Saturday 28th January at 12 p.m. in the Dial Arch pub, Woolwich. The Dial Arch is in the new Arsenal development, close to the Crossrail station.

There you can hear what’s happening on the Ridgeway and a talk about the Group’s plans for 2017.

Their Facebook page provides full details of the event but if you can’t be there you can offer your views on yet another Facebook page.

And if that is not enough Social Media contact points there is always Twitter or their own webpage.

There is no excuse not to be there, though I have one. I have a ticket to the opera!

 

14 January - What’s new?

The biggest influence on Council Tax levels in Bexley probably comes from the Council’s Finance Director Alison Griffin. She has set out her view on what lies ahead in some obscure Local Government publication.

I don’t think reading it told me anything I didn’t know already so I would doubt the intended readership learned anything either. Maybe you can work out why she felt obliged to write such a piece. I hope she did so in her own time not ours.
Alison Griffin
Click image for source document.

 

13 January - The odd couple

An Odd pairAccording to Sadiq Khan’s Twitter feed he met the Leader of Bexley Council yesterday. Teresa O’Neill felt it necessary to wear her Council name badge whilst Sadiq assumed everyone would know who he was.

These two from opposite ends of the political spectrum have more in common than you might imagine. As soon as she was elected in 2006 O’Neill worked to ensure Bexley remained an isolated outpost of the metropolis and met with a notable success when it was announced two years later that there would be no local bridge across the Thames. Meanwhile residents who responded to a consultation thought she was misguided.

Khan has gone down a very similar route. Elected only seven months ago he has already decided that he doesn’t want to see a river crossing in Bexley either. Which of them should be despised the most? In terms of broken election promises it must be Khan by a mile.

 

12 January (Part 3) - Good news. The station (if perhaps not Southeastern trains) will be on time

Readers in an around Abbey Wood may be relieved to hear that its new railway station is still due to open in October this year - just for North Kent Line trains obviously.

Their brief announcement to the contrary was a mistake. Phew!
Crossrail
With thanks to Network Rail staff who have swiftly dealt with the website error.

 

12 January (Part 2) - Abbey Wood Village. Not open for business

Hasn’t anybody got any news from further South? Isn’t Sidcup being dug up again?
Banner
Wilton RoadWilton Road wasn't quite as disrupted yesterday as it was on Tuesday, there were fewer construction vehicles parked on the eastern side of the road. The photo was taken just after one o’clock when three men were on site. A local resident reported that they didn’t show up until after ten and before three they packed up and left.

I thought that Greenwich Council planned to employ apprentices on the Wilton Road job. None of the men seen so far look like apprentices.

Later today I shall be picking up someone from the station who is temporarily unable to walk far. Parking should be fun. That’s assuming I can get there, my own road has been close to blocked at times with commuters and others who cannot get any closer to the station. That’s in part due to the Abbey Road gas works. Removing an old main so the man said. Surely there must be more to it than that or they would simply leave it there?

 

12 January (Part 1) - An investigation approaching a full stop?

TweetI met Mick Barnbrook yesterday and he asked if I had read his various Tweets. I follow his @Sleazebuster account but said I had seen very few and finished up telling him about the full stop trick which will give him a wider distribution.

It seems to have worked, this is one of his first efforts. It’s not four years actually, it is one thousand, six hundred and eighty one days but he reckoned most people would not realise that was longer.

As each month goes by, the police (DPS) write to me to say they have discovered something else hidden in Bexleyheath police station and looking into it will cause a further delay. It’s a good ruse. I wonder how long they can keep it up for?

 

11 January - Lesnes Abbey slipped. Crossrail station slipping?

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes AbbeyAs has been said before, the £3,688,500 Lesnes Abbey enhancement project has the potential to make it look much better than before, but it has been beset by problems, among them of course, Bexley Council.

The Visitor Centre once expected to open in the summer of 2015 appears to be ready for use and the grounds around it are now freely accessible but I have yet to catch it open for business, neither has there been an official opening. Perhaps there won’t be one bearing in mind it is only a two minute walk from my home and the mayor is camera shy.

The mosaique inset into the ground where five paths cross has appeared since Lesnes Abbey was last mentioned here is something else that looks very nice. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the pond viewing platform.

From 18 months late we go to just two - or is it a mistake?

All of us driven mad by the disruption to everyday life caused by Crossrail construction have long been looking forward to October 2017 when Network Rail has always said that the new station would open for Southheastern trains and they would up sticks and go away.

Not any more according to the latest version of their website. “The new station will open in December 2017” and “from December 2018 Elizabeth line trains will run”.

Shops
It wouldn’t be the first mistaken Crossrail announcement. Let’s hope it is another.

Note: It was later confirmed that the December station opening date was a mistake now corrected.

 

10 January (Part 2) - How not to save the half mile Crossrail detour

Local news reporting has changed a lot over the past year. It used to be a priority for me to log on to the News Shopper website on a Wednesday morning but since their move to Sutton it has not usually been worth the effort. I am not very interested in a Bexley edition front page which carries news from Dartford, Greenwich, Greenhithe, a crime that took place in Newham or a choir from Lewisham. You have to go back to mid-November before you find the front page of the local newspaper carrying a Bexley story. Sacrilege I know but sometimes my copy has gone into the bin within a minute of getting hold of a copy.

BiB has been struggling too since the new Chief Executive decided that her highest priority job was for the Council to blank Bonkers whenever it could.

She took away the Press Desk, put up barriers in the Council chamber, asked Councillors not to speak to me and, so a Councillor told me, threatened employees who extended a friendly hand.

They don’t have many meetings either. They cancelled the last Council meeting of any note on 13th December and there won’t be another until 23rd January. The last time you read a Council meeting report on Bonkers was 10th December so we will have gone more than six weeks with nothing much going on in public.

I was thinking that I might have to get into reporting the odd bit of non-Council related news on these pages when a story dropped straight into my lap.

On my way into Abbey Wood station at 12:30  for today’s Crossrail photo mission the police car and Network Rail’s Response Unit outside grabbed my attention.

On the platform I caught the tail end of some sort of emergency meeting and I asked what was going on. The story varied slightly between the naturally cautious Network Rail and Balfour Beatty staff and those who claimed to have witnessed the event.

What isn’t in dispute is that someone broke into the Crossrail site just after midday from Abbey Terrace (see Photo 3) and either climbed the fence or slipped past the guard, scrambled on to the platform and then jumped down in front of a Dartford bound train.

According to the witness he stood there waving his arms while the approaching train driver sounded his horn and presumably slammed on the brakes.

If it was a suicide attempt, the man lost his nerve but if it was an idiot scaring the life out of railway staff, he held it to the last few seconds because he then jumped into the Crossrail works site and scarpered into Mottisfont Road.

I was told that at least one of the railway company’s staff was shaking with the shock of seeing it. I am not surprised.

As I left the station I could see half a dozen officials in the office watching the CCTV footage.
Abbey Wood Abbey Wood Abbey Wood Abbey Wood

 

10 January (Part 1) - Two Councils combine forces in an effort to kill Abbey Wood Village

The long awaited regeneration of Wilton Road, the shopping area that forms the approach to Abbey Wood Station, has started.

The shops to the north of the railway went to the wall when Network Rail closed the station access route which passed them by and now Greenwich Council, aided and abetted by Bexley Council, appears to have a similar aim in mind by its inconsiderate and thoughtless public works programme.
Shops
Yesterday contractors to Greenwich Council set about ripping up Wilton Road’s west side pavement and erecting barriers, then promptly disappeared, probably because it started to rain.
Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road Abbey Arms

Photographed in the rain around 3 p.m. 9th January

Today they were back in force to create a lot more misery by taking over the Bexley side with diggers, lorries and Portaloos. The road is close to being blocked. (Photo 3 below.) There is no parking on the Greenwich side and apart from the two Disabled Bays there is almost nowhere to stop on the Bexley side either. When I passed the two disabled spaces were occupied by a car which managed to straddle both bays. A case of a disabled brain presumably.
Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road Abbey Road

Wilton Road photographed around 12:30 p.m. 10th January

This is not what Greenwich Council promised in their letter to traders. A section of the parking area is not the whole blooming lot!
Closed bays
The parking problem is so severe that the Abbey Arms has had to put a barrier on its customer car park. (Photo 4 of Row 1.) More expense for another hard pressed business. Council officials have no idea of the problems they cause and probably care less.

Bexley Council has joined the quest for chaos by licensing a hole in the road at the entrance to Wilton Road. Contractors to British Gas dug a hole in the ground a week ago and promptly went away leaving the area to the mercy of three way traffic lights.

The queues can be long but the real problem occurs during the rush hour. The one way loop from Abbey Road, via Wilton Road, Gayton Road, Florence Road and back to Abbey Road causes gridlock. No one can get out of Florence Road because of the queue in Abbey Road and that queue cannot move because no one can get into Wilton Road because of the circular queue. Far too complicated a situation for any Council traffic manager to understand, let alone find a solution.

Bus stand Bus standTransport for London has got in on the act too. Since the 244 bus stand was displaced two years ago from Gayton Road the new stand on Knee Hill has proved inadequate at times.

Why the timetable calls for two buses to frequently sit there, and occasionally three, I have no idea but evidently TfL has recognised the problem. Last week they created a new bus stand in Florence Road complete with bus stop and yellow paint on the road.

Another four parking spaces lost.

Bexley Council has been told umpteen times that Wilton Road businesses are crippled by its parking restrictions. Something like 20 spaces have been taken away within the past two years and that does not include those lost to the regeneration. No one at Bexley has taken the slightest interest in the problems they create and simply go on creating bigger ones.


Abbey Road Florence RoadJust a couple of minutes walk away, Bexley Council has taken yet more parking spaces out of use in both Fossington and Abbey Roads. No idea why but it all adds to the chaos.

Another minute further east my own road is being regularly clogged by commuters. They park all around blind corners. I met someone on the wrong side of the road on a corner only yesterday. Sooner or later it will cause an accident.

If you think things couldn’t get worse for Wilton Road, you’d be wrong. The Post Office announced today that it plans to close their SE2 Crown Office at the entrance to Wilton Road.

By the way, TfL has said that the pedestrian controlled lights outside Sainsbury's which have been going off by themselves every 90 seconds or so is not a serious enough problem to be worth a priority fix. They have been broken for at least six weeks bringing yet more traffic chaos to the area. It wouldn't be allowed in the south of the borough, but the north seems not to matter.

 

9 January - Only two years to wait!

On a day that the rail unions are attempting to bring the capital to a halt railway services can only get better. Probably.

One of my railway enthusiast correspondents who keeps his eye on the thousands of Crossrail photos indexed on Bonkers provides me with occasional insights into more general railway developments. A very recent one led me to a document buried deeply in TfL’s website which I had missed and a section of it may be of wider interest to readers.

The diagram below is largely self-explanatory. It shows that Abbey Wood is due to get four trains an hour to Paddington and four to Heathrow via Paddington all day long. During peak hours there will be a further two to West Drayton and another two to Paddington making up the promised twelve trains an hour. Occasional trains will go to Maidenhead and Reading.

I have always maintained that the route to Abbey Wood is the main line and the one to Shenfield is a branch. That view is partially confirmed by Shenfield apparently not gettinhg a Heathrow service.

Crossrail

 

8 January - More rubbish about Bexley

Fly-tipping
People don’t like fly tipping do they? Yesterday’s blog got a few people agitated. The craziest story I heard came from the St. Augustine’s Road area of Belvedere where there was one of those big street bins which didn’t get emptied often enough and consequently tended to have black sacks placed alongside it. If you have made a special journey to the bin, where else would you put them?

However they are undeniably unsightly especially if the foxes get at them so the occasional request was made to the Council to pick them up. Bexley Council has come up with a unique solution to the problem of bins attracting sacks but it is not the obvious one of emptying the bins more often. Council logic is that if a full bin attracts black sacks then the problem would go away if the bin was removed, so that is what they have done. Presumably the black sacks will be more widely distributed in future.

Gayton Road in Abbey Wood and nearby Lensbury Way lost a total of at least eight street bins about a year ago. In the case of Gayton Road where the bins were, a spy camera has been installed to make sure no one drops a black bag there. Fly tippers are the primary cause of fly tipping, not the Council, as Cabinet Member Peter Craske is fond of telling his Labour party colleagues, but Bexley Council is a fly tipper’s primary motivator.

Crossrail
It’s four weeks since Crossrail was last mentioned here and pictorially speaking it has not been the most exciting month on record. They took ten days off over Christmas and New Year but outside that period the work was mainly prepare the ground, lay the cable conduits, fill the holes with concrete and drop the pre-cast platform sections into place. They will have to be going some to finish it by February when the track is due to be laid but things somehow seem to run to time. Click here for pictures.

There was some station roof work going on too but without a drone it is hard to see what.

Meanwhile, and not really a Crossrail problem, the lights at the pedestrian crossing outside Sainsbury’s continue to turn red all by themselves day and night. More than a month after both Bexley and Greenwich Councils were told about it.

 

7 January - Bexley hasn’t got a fly tipping problem. Well it is what the Council says

If you turn a blind eye to a problem it will go away appears to be the philosophy of Bexley Council.

Steve DidsburyIt's three months since I spoke to Bexley’s Head of Recycling about the constant fly-tipping close to my home - though thankfully out of sight - and he said all the right things. I sent him some photos by email and the video he requested was delivered to him later that very same day, 11th October.

And what did Mr. Steve Didsbury do about it? Absolutely nothing as far as I can tell. He seemed to be quite enthusiastic about getting clear photos of the culprit and his vehicle complete with registration number but never got back to me.

The dumper was one of two who make regular visits to the same spot to dump their rubbish. The huge heap shown below was dumped a week ago and photographed today.

Bexley Council denies there is a worsening fly-tipping problem and Steve Didsbury twiddles his thumbs while ignoring it.

I told him about someone who is blatantly abusing the waste service with two green bins and he said he would get someone on to it straight away. Did he hell! Didsbury knows all about waste, especially about being a primary waste of space.
Fly tip

The black lump on the right is a fridge! On the left is a bed and mattress.

 

6 January (Part 2) - Would I like to? No I wouldn’t

If you think that keeping BiB going - somewhat intermittently over recent weeks - is no way to spend one’s retirement then you may agree that beta testing facilities for the small ISP that provides the technology on which Bonkers runs is even sillier. (The upside is that BiB does not cost me anything.)

I was asked to check out their new mail server before the end of January and I planned to do it over Christmas when things were quiet but then realised I would have no one to call on if things went pear shaped, so didn’t start work on it until last Tuesday. The job involved moving about 200 email accounts spread over 19 domains and updating two dozen internet connected devices to work on an IMAP mail server instead of the old POP system.

The mistake I made was thinking I could maintain the old mail service while seamlessly migrating to the new server. It was simply impossible with too many ‘chicken and egg’ situations which made it a total non-starter. As some of you noticed, I eventually gave up and everything was switched off from late afternoon yesterday to around lunchtime today.

The main bonkers mail addresses are probably working again now although not without the odd glitch. A very few emails are not being collected from the server and some are arriving in duplicate.

However that is not the real reason for retelling this tale of woe. Internet connected devices are attacked constantly by robots and strong passwords are needed. I don’t often look at their log files but during the update procedure I did. A large number of the attempted break-ins were Bexley Council related. I know that someone at Bexley has tried to bring down the servers before but some of their guessed user name and passwords are a bit beyond the pale. The attempt to break in using ‘Wouldyouliketo****teresaoneill’ must have been an act of desperation but it is perhaps an indication of the depths to which some people will stoop to bring down BiB.

They should remember that I can call up the Technical Director at my ISP any time I like and ask for a trace. Last time I did that they found the Peter Craske connection within a few hours, the police took something like five months.

 

6 January (Part 1) - Regenerating Abbey Wood Village

Barriers Greenwich Council has sent a letter to all the residents and traders in Wilton Road to say that the public realm work will start on Monday 9th January.

The work is scheduled to take eight weeks (weather permitting) during which time sections of the footpath will be unusable and parking bays will be taken out of use. Later on in the year the road will be resurfaced.

Not everything will be as promised. Only the part of the footpath owned by the Council will be relaid, the sections which are in private hands on the Bexley side will not be improved at all. It will likely look a total mess as a result.

I know the official reason for this situation but only because of my involvement with the Traders’ Association so I am not at liberty to say what it is. However you would be wrong to assume that it is a Bexley Council cock-up.

I don’t yet know whether the same applies on the Greenwich side of the road, but if it is they have not said anything about it.

 

2 January (Part 2) - Bexley Council wouldn’t have the bottle for it

I’ve not been up Heron Hill recently but I think the site of Ye Olde Leather Bottle remains a scar on the landscape with as yet no sign of any redevelopment.

Leather Bottle WorkersAn anonymous communication - so be careful not to take this as Gospel - suggested that too many pub closures in Bexley link the same individuals both inside and outside Bexley Council. The writer did not beat around the bush, he said that the closure of Bexley pubs was being orchestrated from within Bexley Council and a developer of Indian extraction with links to the local Tory party was involved in a whole string of lucrative pub redevelopments.

Every time I went to Heron Hill with my camera in 2015 and 2016 I was abused - and once manhandled in a fairly minor way - by the man shown in the turban. He seemed to be very averse to any publicity.

I was able to establish some common links between a handful of local closed watering holes but for all I know the only people interested in developing old pubs are Tories. Not all coincidences are criminal and the promised written evidence that they were was not forthcoming, as is too often the case.

However there were references to poor demolition practices and my recollection was that Bexley Council was strangely reluctant to investigate in the case of the Leather Bottle. I have forgotten exactly why but I asked Mick Barnbrook if he could make a Freedom of Information request on anything Bexley Council might have relating to Health and Safety at the Heron Hill site.

Bexley Council was again very secretive but revealed that there was correspondence between it and the Health and Safety Executive. They didn’t want to release it, they never do, but maybe this time they have a valid excuse. This is what they said…


It is considered that there is a strong public interest in working to ensure the apprehension or prosecution of offenders. Consequently, the public interest favours withholding information that could impair the administration of justice if it were made public.


So it would appear that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone will be prosecuted for demolishing a building while the public had pretty much unrestricted access to it. Towards the end of the demolition the only thing stopping me giving an unsupported wall a good shove was a bushy beard.

If there was a court case some uncomfortable facts might emerge which would most likely embarrass Bexley Council. I can’t see Bexley being too keen on such a course of action, especially if it links back to the prominent Tory to which the anonymous correspondence led.

 

2 January (Part 1) - The long and the short of it

Wilton Road Wilton RoadAccording to what the lady from Greenwich said at a Traders’ meeting last October, today was when the regeneration of Wilton Road, Abbey Wood was due to start.

At lunchtime there was nothing to see but both Greenwich and Bexley Councils have recently installed new LED equipped lamp posts.

On the Greenwich side the columns look rather nice hanging over the footpath and are entirely in keeping with the village atmosphere they are trying to create.

Across the road in Bexley new columns more appropriate to the A2 than a village have been installed. They tower over every nearby building and will illuminate living accommodation on both sides of the road.

Once again, Bexley Council appears to be entirely clueless when it comes to road and public realm design.

 

1 January - A Happy New Year

This entry is here to stop certain automatic functions on BiB generating an error file when there are no 2017 entries.

BiB will resume when something interesting happens in Bexley apart from the usual confusion about where one might safely park during the holiday period. In line with Bexley’s need to extract ever more money from residents there were no parking concessions this year beyond what was necessary to give staff a couple of days off.

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