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Bonkers Blog July 2017

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Sidcup Place

31 July - Can someone check if Philip Read needs help please?

Bexley is not the worst Council in London, its competence in most matters is well in advance of Conservative controlled Barnet and Kensington & Chelsea for example who must share pole-position for that accolade. However where it has no peers is in the field of vindictiveness, spite, lying and occasional criminal activity.

One doesn’t have to look far for examples; let’s use some you may have forgotten.

In 2010 a resident requested a dropped kerb at the end of his drive and was given the OK. Unfortunately he misunderstood and hired a contractor to do the job at his own expense. Councillor Peter Craske got even hotter under the collar than usual and made the resident pay for the pavement to be reinstated and then ripped it up again to install a Council approved dropped kerb. Thus the resident had to pay for his mistake three times over instead of twice.

However he was relatively lucky. Some residents who made similar requests but were turned down were rewarded with bollards instead.

When Rita Grootendorst successfully campaigned against the sale of allotments Bexley Council attacked her for the state of her own garden. After threatening her with prosecution over many months a judge ruled against Bexley Council.

In 2011 another judge ruled against Bexley Council after they unjustifiably pursued a resident for £1·25 million. He said their actions were “unconscionable” which is pretty strong stuff coming from a judge.

Again in 2011 a resident sneakily poked his camera phone through the open door of the Council Chamber and was set upon for his pains by Cabinet Member Linda Bailey with the immortal words “I can do what I like”. It’s still available on YouTube and he was promptly banned from Council property.

Not long afterwards that resident found himself in a police cell accused of encouraging “posting dog faeces through [a Councillor’s] letter box” and using the C word on Social Media. The profanity accusation was true but he had said nothing about dog poo or letter boxes but Councillors and police officers alike perjured themselves until on the ninth (from memory) Court appearance a judge eventually found the unfortunate resident innocent.

Bexley’s harassment complaints against me are perhaps better known but I was accused of writing something penned by someone else entirely. The Council’s friends in the Met told me I would be arrested if I continued to criticise Councillors personally - so today I may well get a late night knock on the door.

Enough of vindictiveness, what about cover ups? I can only suggest you read the Rhys Lawrie and Mrs. Baker stories. On the latter I have a detailed account of how Council Leader Teresa O’Neill and various managers went to enormous lengths to hush up Mrs. Baker’s death - eventually resorting to hush money.

If you have a great deal of time on your hands there is the cover up for Councillor Cheryl Bacon’s lies which Greenwich police (no one trusted Bexley police to behave honourably) considered to be so serious that they passed the file to the Crown Prosecution Service which then spent a year wondering how the hell they could wriggle out of that one!

You may notice that none of the foregoing examples are recent. Bexley Council appears to have learned some lessons since first having to face up to Social Media criticism and most Tory Councillors have stopped lying too - they now do it anonymously through their Conservative Associations.

I was asked recently why the Association’s lies are not often tackled on BiB. Well there is so much of it for a start and for the most part they use the same tired old trick.

Basically the Tories cut a budget and then restore part of it. They vote for the subterfuge and Labour vote against it because they want to see full restoration. I am not convinced it is the best strategy because it allows the dishonest Tories to claim that Labour is against spending more money on services when the truth is that Labour are against spending less than used to be the case.

It is a very effective propaganda tool ruthlessly exploited by the Tories and the Labour Group recently Twittered the same thing. Bexley’s unscrupulous Tories twisted that too. They Tweeted that Bexley Labour had praised Bexley Conservatives’ “effective” policies.

The leading lights among Bexley’s Tories are crooked to the core but none is more dishonest than Cabinet Member Philip Read. Here’s a small selection of his outpourings from the past few days.
Tweeys
Is Councillor Read terminally deluded, in need of psychiatric care, or what? By his own admission his propaganda is losing him Twitter followers.

Labour Councillors and bloggers alike have heaped praise on Belvedere Beach from the outset. I walked a mile up the hill to be there for the opening and earlier described it as “magnificent”.

The first anyone knew of Bexley Council’s plan for a Splash Park replacement was in February 2016 when they issued a Press Release.

It was not mentioned in public again until the plans were unveiled at a Cabinet meeting last November and were welcomed by one and all.

BiB has reported before that Labour Councillors immediately welcomed those plans but Cabinet Member Read has continued to spew out his bile, so maybe the following audio clips will remind him of the truth.

Joe Ferreira congratulated the design team and “really really hoped it would be a success”.

Cllr. Joe Ferriera (Labour): Particularly welcome, I really really do hope it will be a success.
15th November 2016.

Cllr. Daniel Francis (Labour): I clearly welcome what is coming forward.
15th November 2016.

Nevertheless Poisonous Phil had this to say…

Cllr. Philip Read (Conservative): Resolutely opposed by the opposition. Dragged screaming and kicking into reluctant acceptance and that acceptance has been lukewarm to put it mildly.
11th July 2017.

Why is he intent on dragging Bexley Council into the gutter with his constant fabrications?

Over the past month BiB has criticised Bexley Council very little…


• Its persistent neglect of drainage problems.
• My exclusion from the Belvedere Beach opening.
• The poorly designed barriers on the Ridgeway.
• The lame excuse dished out by Cabinet Member Bailey for for not scheduling a regeneration consultation in Slade Green. (Labour didn’t ask for one.)
• Narrowing roads are resulting in more accidents.


All pretty trivial stuff compared to what was covered only a couple of years ago.

So thank you Philip Read for being the one remaining reliable source of Bexley Council stupidity.

I don't usually put much effort into the last day of the month blogs because they tend to get lost within 24 hours, so this one will appear tomorrow as well. For good measure it will appear on the main Index page too until the next major lie from Bexley Council shows up.

Note: Councillor Francis’ words are edited to remove his lengthy description of what his disabled daughter likes most about playgrounds and what features help him most as a parent of a disabled child.

 

30 July - The monthly update - Crossrail and Lesnes Abbey

Trains were running through Abbey Wood this weekend (and Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green) which would not be news except for the letter Network Rail hand delivered to my home two weeks ago. (Extract below.)
Railway possessions
It clearly says that their would be a ‘Possession’ (their jargon for taking over the track) this weekend and throughout the next four weekends. 41 hours each.

Until a few days ago no written information was available at Abbey Wood station but then a contradictory notice appeared (Photo 1). Apologies if you were led astray by the previous blog on this subject. I have no idea what Network Rail was playing at, probably they don’t either.

Network Rail Abbey Wood stationOver the past week a start has been made on cladding the concrete station structure with Brindle facing bricks. My initial impression is that I don’t much like it and hope that some relief will be given, perhaps with bricks of a different colour inset. The planned trees will no doubt help soften the image.

This morning the station was inaccessible to travellers coming from the north and east because the road was flooded higher than the kerb stones and into residents’s gardens. Bexley Council has neglected to attend to it for at least the past 30 years. One must hope that the Gayton Road refurbishment due in January will fix it. I had to go home the long way round.

The last month’s work around Abbey Wood station is now available illustrated by 145 photos. The overhead electric wires are now in place.

Getting on for three years after work began there was yet another advance at Lesnes Abbey Park this week. The Viewing Gallery is very nearly completed. Whoever decided to start laying the coping stones from both ends and create a difficult shape to fill in the middle probably regrets it now.

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey
After very heavy rain Abbey Road can become muddy and a little stony as water rushes down from the hills. Once again Bexley Council has little interest in drainage. It’s drain gullies are looking more than a little neglected.London view

From the Viewing Gallery. The City is favoured over gloomy Bexley.

 

29 July - The Coach and Horses have bolted

This report should have appeared yesterday but Councillor Philip Read got in the way. The Coach and Horses on the edge of Bexley village, but within the Conservation Area, has been in difficulties and anyone harbouring hopes of a new beginning can kiss that idea goodbye.

Coach and HorsesOn Thursday evening Bexley Council gave the pub owner permission to extend and convert it into flats. I had hoped to get to the meeting but by the time I got back from Newham it was too late, I decided to watch the webcast instead.

External modifications will be minimal, chimneys will be retained and there will be seven parking spaces for six flats.

The only public speaker said the pub had been up for sale for eight years because it is not a viable business. Unlike The Charlotte in Crayford is has not been accredited as ‘a Community Asset’. The ‘drinkers’ rights’ organisation CAMRA agreed that the pub could not survive.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) thought it was sad to see the pub go but there was no real alternative to a change of use. She had some concerns about bin storage and the retention of the character of the building. She reminded the Committee of how Bexley Council made a pig’s ear of retaining the features of the Black Horse in Sidcup. She backed the application given the conditions imposed.

Councillor Gill MacDonald (Labour, Belvedere) was not quite as happy with the plan as Mrs. Slaughter. She said it was not the same sort of pub as those in the centre of the village, it employed a Cordon Bleu chef who could make more than just burgers.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) was curious about CAMRA’s report. What were their criteria? No one was sure, but on balance Councillor Leaf thought the applicant had done a good job. “We would be mad to refuse it”.


Val Clark Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) recommended that as no officer had seen the viability report the application should be deferred. Councillor Danny Hackett shared his view.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) was concerned, as was Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s), about a history of  flooding following extreme rainfall but even more so about the absence of any information on CAMRA’s report. “Can we rely on an independent report being accurate?”

Councillor Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) indicated that “the informative” is advisory and cannot be legally enforced. It was not clear to me whether he was referring to flooding issues or not.

Councillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) queried the provision of only one electric car charging point. A Planning Officer said the current standard was 20% of parking bays should be so equipped. One charging point falls short of that.

The application was approved. The webcast gives no precise indication of the degree of any dissent but it would appear to have been small. Chairman Val Clark was, as you can see, very keen to encourage a Yes vote.

 

28 July (Part 2) - What’s his motive? What does he hope to achieve from a constant stream of nonsense?

I’m referring to Bexley Councillor Philip Read, mendaciously attracting ridicule to himself and the whole of Bexley Council.

On the day The Belvedere Beach was announced Labour Councillor Joe Ferreira welcomed the plans and asked that the design team be complimented.

Two weeks ago Councillor Philip Read said about the Labour opposition “they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming to a reluctant acceptance of it and their acceptance has been lukewarm to put it mildly”. 100% big whopping lie.

Philip Read’s been having a go at me too. Read has been obsessed with me ever since he wasted his money on web domain bexley-is-bonkers.com. What Councillor in his right mind would do that?
Tweet Tweet
Apparently good news does not fit BiB’s agenda. Perhaps I should remind Read that the agenda is to report Bexley Council activities good and bad. If Councillors lie they are very likely to be found out. It is probably why they do it a lot less often than they used to.

Other than quotations from various Councillors at meetings The Belvedere Beach was reported on 16th November 2016, 9th April 2017, 24th April and yesterday. Among the adjectives used is ‘magnificent’. Not once was The Beach criticised.

Not only have all BiB’s reports about The Belvedere Beach been positive, I have ‘Liked’ Twitter posts by both Councillor John Davey and Peter Craske more than once each.

Despite that the despicable Councillor Read continues to inhabit the cesspit of politics.


ReadAnother of today’s claims is that those who label Bexley Councillors liars are the biggest liars of all. I suppose if Bexley Conservatives find that comforting one must not deny them their simple pleasures, but they have never been able to find a lie on BiB.

Theirs run the full gamut of trivial to extreme. Yesterday Bexley Councillors said that no Labour member was spotted at the Beach opening. Presumably they were going around with their eyes shut. Photos prove them wrong.

At the other extreme, who was it who lied to Bexley police to such an extent that a Bexley blogger was arrested and kept in the cells for more than 24 hours before a judge uncovered the truth? You’ve got it in one. It was that man again.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Cabinet Member Philip Read has to be an imbecile. Without him Bexley Council would for the most part come across as not too bad, at least over the past few months.

 

28 July (Part 1) - Shameless Councils design road traps and rake in their ill-gotten gains

Web statistics indicate that there is nothing BiB readers like more than stories about Councils ripping off motorists and here’s another one. I was in East Ham yesterday installing a second CCTV camera in the old lady’s house but work came to a halt when I discovered I’d left the network cable crimping tool at home. As a result I left a few minutes after five. My aunt had already told me it was almost bedtime so it was time to go anyway.

She lives near the border with Barking so the easiest way out of town is via the North Circular and from there down to Beckton. From Beckton I can see home but as you know, thanks to Teresa O’Neill putting her ward before the rest of the borough… but let’s not go into that again.

A406The route on to the North Circular is dreadful at the best of times. Newham’s drivers appear to have learned their skill from watching too many Bollywood movies. No one indicates the direction they plan on heading for. Lane discipline. What’s that?

Yesterday I found myself on the outside lane in the bottom left quadrant of the associated Google Earth image and indicating right. (Click for a much larger view.) A bus was occupying the adjacent lane to my left.

The yellow box ahead was full of stationary and slow moving vehicles facing almost every conceivable angle. As they slowly managed to get on to the northbound North Circular (top left exit on picture) more came in from Barking (lower right quadrant) to take their place. No one made any attempt to observe the yellow box rules. I simply sat there waiting while being honked vigorously from behind.

There was not only no clear exit from the yellow box there was not even a clear entry into it.

SawyerEventually there was a short lived clear path to the other side and I went for it. So did the bus driver who wasn't very interested in remaining in the Barking lane (to the east) and squeezed me in my southbound lane. In my very small car I just managed to keep moving with an inch or so clear of his right flank.

That roundabout is a nightmare for drivers but not perhaps for Newham Council.

NewhamIn the edition of their fortnightly magazine (how do they get away with that and have the lowest Council Tax rate in Outer London) that hit doormats in the first week of June a page was devoted to Yellow Box Junctions.

It revealed that since January this year they had issued 8,995 penalty charge notices for Yellow Box Junctions. (Click image for the whole article.)

Bearing in mind press dates etc. that must be in less than five months and probably only four.

2,250 PCNs a month. That’s 27,000 a year or £3,510,000 at the pre-discount rate.

Sooner or later there will be a rebellion in this country caused wholly by bad governance and corrupt politicians.

 

27 July (Part 2) - This should have been a wholly positive report but…

Belvedere’s new playground opened today and from the moment the plans for a Belvedere Beach were first unveiled at a Council meeting last November everybody saw them as brilliant and imaginative. Within minutes of that announcement Labour Councillor Joe Ferreira welcomed it and praised the design team. Nothing negative about The Beach has appeared on Bonkers either, why should it? Given that the former Splash Park had become unviable on environmental and cost grounds The Belvedere Beach looked to be a worthy successor.

Building it in a tenth of the time that Bexley Council has taken not to finish work at Lesnes Abbey is another great achievement.

The only slightly negative comment I have heard comes from a friend who lives not 100 metres from The Beach. He says the genteel folk from Bexley and Blackfen (i.e. Councillor Craske) have insufficient idea of the level of mindless vandalism too often seen in the far flung north.

The universal praise heaped on Councillor Craske’s scheme has upset some of the idiotic fringe on the Conservative benches, they have nothing to justifiably moan about. Not that that has stopped them.

At the last Cabinet meeting Councillor Philip Read spent several minutes relating a cock and bull story about Labour Councillors “resolutely opposing the concept”. Philip Read is always intent on spreading falsehoods. Without his, along with one or two colleagues, contribution to political debate in Bexley this month’s blogs would have been almost entirely positive about Bexley Council. Why is he too stupid to recognise that?

I was looking forward to getting some pictures of the new Mayor cutting the ribbon or whatever. The last time I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony Mayor Pallen ducked out at the sight of my camera and literally scarpered, too scared to attend the hospitality event because I was there. I was confident that Mayor Reader was made of sterner stuff and I had no wish to do anything other than record one of Bexley Council’s biggest days, one of which they have every right to be proud.

Jobsworth Jobsworth However after a good 25 minutes walk from Abbey Wood station, up the steep incline of Heron Hill, I met a jobsworth. But for her the foregoing paragraphs would not have been written.

I would not be allowed in with a (big?) camera because there were children present didn’t I know. I’ve had a camera draped around my neck most days for the past 60 years but perhaps I had no idea that taking pictures of identifiable children is not usually a good idea.

I asked if an old man who had trudged a mile and a bit up a steep hill might sit quietly on a seat in the corner; the answer was no. When I thanked her for providing ‘an angle’ for today’s blog the jobsworth rapidly spun around - but not quickly enough.

Not being allowed in was not all bad news, another parcel was due, I had yet another appointment in East Ham and there were going to be pictures plastered everywhere of today’s grand opening. Who needs mine?

The Belvedere Beach looks like being a big hit.

Belvedere Beach
Belvedere Beach
Belvedere Beach
Belvedere Beach
Bearing in mind I would not have been going for close-ups the over the fence pictures are probably just as good as would have been obtained by going inside - and you are spared pictures of Councillors Craske and Read.

 

27 July (Part 1) - It was Sainsbury’s choice

I should probably get myself a personal Twitter account because yesterday I used the Bonkers account to send a complaint to Sainsbury’s - confusing many of you I suspect.

Sainsbury'sWalls ice-cream comes in nice plastic tubs which make very useful tool boxes. I have dozens carefully labelled and stuffed with screws, rawlplugs, curtain fittings, small tools and network plugs - which I seem to go through in hundreds. While out a couple of weeks ago I saw a family using theirs as lunch boxes.

They are £2 in Asda but I pass Sainsbury’s much more often so pay the extra 20 pence.

A month ago they were down to £1·50 so I bought two. It soon became clear why the price was reduced. Someone had allowed them to partially melt and then refrozen them. You probably know that what passes for ice-cream in this country is pumped full of air so when it melts it collapses to a much smaller size. If it has been melted and refrozen the gap around the edge and the tub not being full to the top is an obvious give away.

I bought another tub in Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s yesterday and it was back to £2·20 so I assumed they had flogged off all of their bad batch. Not a bit of it. I drove it home and within three or four minutes it was in my freezer. The picture shows how much it had shrunk.

I sent a Twitter complaint to Sainsbury’s thinking they might ask the management in Abbey Wood what they were playing at. Instead they said they would issue a refund and a bonus to my Nectar card.

When I told them that I had used my aunt’s Nectar card they did not like that at all. Their attitude changed completely. Apparently I shouldn’t shove my cash into their self-service machine and scan someone else’s Nectar card. Against the rules and because I had broken the rules I couldn’t have a refund.

If I sent them my address they would send a voucher but for a miserable couple of quid why should I? If I wanted Sainsbury’s to have my address on file I’d probably have my own Nectar card.

And I haven’t really lost anything. It’s no longer a two litre tub of ice-cream but it will still weigh the same.

I told Sainsbury’s it was a choice of refund to my aunt’s Nectar card or ‘go public’. They made their choice.

For good measure a Sainsbury’s advert has been placed alongside the site banner to serve as a longer lasting reminder. (Not in mobile viewing mode.)

 

26 July - The Wednesday waffle

The UPS problem is finally sorted out but why can’t they issue one hour delivery time slots like DPD and UKMail? They should have known that Belvedere is not in Essex too . A lot of time has been wasted which has reduced BiB to reporting relative trivia again. As Bexley Council goes into its three month recess that is likely to be the case more often.

Abbey Wood station
It was always likely that the acres of grey Crossrail concrete would be clad in something more attractive. I had rather hoped that it would be something attractive like the yellow wall that used to grace the back end of Platform 2. The same brick was used at Woolwich Arsenal for the DLR extension, but no, we get a dingy and drab brindle. Maybe there will be some decorative relief higher up.
Brimdle

The Ridgeway
A week or so ago Bexley Council was bragging about re-opening their section of the Ridgeway (Crossness to Plumstead station). It looked to me that their efforts to block access by motorcycles had blocked wheelchairs and perambulators. Does anyone still use them?

Ridgeway Ridgeway RidgewayI went to have a look and narrowly avoided being knocked down by a motorcyclist. He very politely apologised!

It was disappointing to note that the path had not yet fully re-opened and the fancy barrier is already showing signs of abuse. The damage is not easily photographed. I should learn to carry a polarising filter.

The Ridgeway User Group doesn’t seem to know a lot about the present situation either.


The Wilton Road dump
There may be more to the heap of rubbish that appeared by the chip shop last Monday morning. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t there on Sunday when I picked up a newspaper in McColls opposite but when I went into the shop at 7:05 the following morning there was a big skip lorry parked under the rubbish heap. It was only then that I noticed the rubbish for the first time.

I assumed the skip lorry was there to take it away but in the minute it took to buy the newspaper it had gone away.

This morning the rubbish heap was removed, far too quickly for any bureaucracy to be involved. It is beginning to look as though Monday’s skip lorry had put it there and the take-away owner was the innocent victim. Maybe I’ll find out something at next week’s Traders’ Association meeting.

By the way, the heap wasn’t quite as big as it looked, there is a lean to building with a flat roof the other side of the wall as may be seen in the photograph below.

Welcome

The cops have dropped a brick
WindscreenWhen a car windscreen was vandalised in Wilton Road last Monday afternoon the victim phoned 101.

He was told to retrieve the brick without touching it and keep it in a polythene bag. More than 48 hours later it is still awaiting collection.

Two witnesses left their contact details and the vandal was captured on CCTV. He is known in the Mini-Cab office.

Maybe it is because he will be so easy to catch is the reason for the police being in no hurry but it doesn’t inspire confidence does it?

 

25 July (Part 2) - Railway freight yard hits the buffers

Bexley Council’s planners were not wildly enthusiastic about approving the construction of a rail freight yard to the North of Slade Green but believed that refusal would only result in a cost to taxpayers when they lost at appeal.

Dartford Council was made of sterner stuff despite their interest in it being relatively minimal, they rejected the application.

It would appear that Bexley’s pessimism and failure to protect the borough’s green belt was a misjudgment because the Mayor of London has vetoed the idea.
Green belt
He has directed Bexley Council to reverse their decision “under the powers conferred on me by Article 6 of the Order”.

“The proposal is inappropriate development in the Green Belt and very special circumstances have not been demonstrated which would clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm.”

Wildlife groups will be happy, though maybe not for long given Bexley Council’s regeneration plans for Slade Green.

In similar vein the Bexley’s wildlife group has found rare bees on a site given outline planning permission for industrial building last year.

 

25 July (Part 1) - More on last week’s Council meeting

Council
There have been two reports on last Wednesday’s Council meeting so far but the end is now in sight. The invariably interesting Leader’s report was rather longer than usual and not just because she was keen to tell everyone that it had been her birthday the day before.

oneillShe also took up more time to thank the election team “for the right result in two constituencies”.

There had been “a lot of good stuff said [about the Growth Strategy] on both sides of the Chamber this evening and I went to one of the first Road Shows with Councillor Bailey and while we were standing there we had some really good conversations with residents who were really well informed. It was refreshing. I know there have been some issues in Slade Green, Erith and parts of Crayford caused by scaremongering and I would like to say to the Members for Slade Green, well done on your letter. I understand you got some hostile reception last night”.

The Leader referred to the cross party support against the proposal that trains no longer use the full range of London terminals and achieving an extension of the consultation period. “Councillor Sawyer has asked the four contenders for the franchise to come down and have a conversation with Bexley of what Bexley residents need from that service going forward.” (Why do people use that silly expression?)

“You will know the Elizabeth Line, really you can feel it in Abbey Wood now, it is going to happen and it is really exciting but, as we have said, the job has got to be continued. It needs to join up with Ebbsfleet. There was a letter only last month from the North Kent MPs supporting our bid. Chris Grayling [Transport Secretary] will be coming down in August to see for himself what the plans are.”

CrossrailIf the plan is to run a second Crossrail track through Abbey Wood station maybe Mr. Grayling will have some idea on how the massive concrete wall shown here can be removed without the new station falling down.

“The other key thing is jobs and to grab hold of the opportunities our residents need the right skills. We have been creative in some of the things we have done and I am delighted that our children’s social workers are now 85% permanent staff.”

“The ‘Making Institute’ in Thamesmead is a good idea, people are saying, where do I sign?’

“Lesnes Abbey, I have not been there yet, but I understand it is fantastic. The boys went to the beach at Belvedere with their sun hats on and the Lighthouse Project is coming to Erith. We have a fantastic borough with great people. The only way is up.”

CamseyCouncillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) raised SEN (Special Educational Needs) again and said “in her day children were shut away or institutionalised so she was delighted to see the pleasure when they were given awards at the Supported Students’ award ceremony”.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) referred to the Grenfell Tower but could not be heard because of the echo (delay from distant loudspeaker conflicts with nearby voices) mentioned a day or two ago but the reply from Council Leader O’Neill assured him that fire inspections will extend from housing associations etc. to private developments.

Councillor Cafer Munur’s (Conservative, East Wickham) contribution to the meeting was “to congratulate Oxleas on their recent re-inspection and commend all the Oxleas staff for their hard work and commitment that has made this improvement possible”. Councillor Munur is a governor of the NHS Trust.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) asked for more details on railway terminal developments. Councillor Sawyer repeated for those with short attention spans that he had invited the four potential franchisees to Bexley to discuss the issue and in a letter the Secretary of State had said he was not proposing to reduce or change specific services” but TfL was sitting on the fence over the terminal issue.

Councillor Leaf also asked the Cabinet Member for his opinion on Labour members allegedly referring to the freshly painted Belvedere Beach as “tacky” but even Cabinet Member Craske could not be bothered with such trivialities. There was no comment whatsoever.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) asked why Slade Green had been omitted from the schedule of Regeneration Roadshows. The biggest redevelopment area and the only one missing from the list. Areas with very little planned regeneration had two each.
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BaileyShe was rewarded with the silliest answer of the evening. Cabinet Member Linda Bailey said that Councillor Langstead was talking “nonsense” and there was no Road Show in Slade Green because Labour hadn’t asked for one. “You should have picked that up.” No, surely that is the Cabinet Member’s reposnsibility? Hers.

For the record, Thamesmead’s only Road Show was scheduled three days before the consultation was due to close, not much time to get the comments in.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) spoke about the LED lighting “which has improved the safety of our residents while walking and driving and would the Leader agree that this is an excellent example of how this Conservative Council improves services for residents and yet at the same time produce savings for our rate payers, in this instance of just about £330,000 a year which will rise to £680,000 in years to come.”

You will not be surprised to learn that the Leader “totally agreed” with him “and it is one of the very few changes where residents have told me, this is fantastic, I really like the new lights”.

My Inbox suggests that that is not a universally held view and the Leader failed to mention that the scheme was £200,000 over budget, a deficit that Bexley proposes to cut by more aggressive moving traffic enforcement penalties.

And with that final piece of back-slapping, the Mayor drew the session to an end though not yet the meeting. There were a few votes on procedural matters of no special interest. It was the usual rigmarole of Labour members saying there was something misreported at a Scrutiny meeting, the Chairman denying it and the Conservative majority voting for the disputed minutes.

 

24 July (Part 4) - It isn’t called Scabby Wood for nothing

Today will end the way it began, with pictures taken in my nearest shopping street. It wasn’t supposed to be that way but UPS screwed up the whole of today - with repercussions into tomorrow and beyond - by not delivering a parcel. Long story so let’s move on.

Boris Johnson pumped £150,000 into the so called Abbey Wood Village, Greenwich and Bexley Councils chipped in another £75,000 each. Then Greenwich Council generously refurbished all the public realm using their HILLS budget.

The traders dipped into their pockets too and Network Rail/Crossrail will spend around £6 million on tarting up the area nearest the station. I sometimes think it will prove to be a bit of a disaster for the local community.

Traffic problems at peak times are horrendous and can only get worse and putting the main station entrance on the flyover looks like a massive mistake to me - but that is maybe a blog for another time, when I think about it a bit more.

This evening BiB will stick to present day Abbey Wood. It’s the pits. The place is as often as not near deserted and the shops get few customers. Commuters come from the station rushing to the bus stops or the only remaining car park, keen to get home after a long day at the office and spend nothing. They don’t even pop into the pub adjacent to the station exit.

In the middle of the day the main centre of activity is outside the betting shops, smoking, drinking and loudly swearing. It is little wonder that one no longer sees young mums with young children in Wilton Road. Police patrols simply don’t exist. Never seen one in 30 years.

WindscreenA few weeks ago a shop window was smashed by a brick, today it was a car windscreen.

Someone who may have already blotted his copybook in the Mini Cab office was refused service. There was a confrontation, he left, crossed the road, found a brick and smashed it through a cab window - except it wasn’t a cab at all.

The culprit was captured on CCTV, the cab office is festooned with cameras, and the incident has been reported to the police. No one is optimistic that they will do anything about it. I’ll let you know.

The café and some of the shops in Wilton Road are really rather good but two betting shops (10% of total shop premises) drag the place down. When I go to Wilton Road, unless I am there with the intention of buying something, I no longer take any money, I’m fed up with the beggars.

In other news, the brothel may have been closed down, but it has not gone far. Romanians are a resourceful lot!

Click image for a wider view.

 

24 July (Part 3) - When is a pub not a pub? When it is a refurbished bar

CharlotteAbout three weeks ago a tip off said that there had been another planning application submitted for the Charlotte public house in Crayford and it proposed reopening it as licensed premises.

The news was greeted with a certain amount of scepticism - from people who had not dug deeply enough into the documents presumably - because not only was it there in black and white, the rejection notice on the previous plan lamented the loss of a Community Asset.

However the doubters persisted and one asked Bexley Council for a clear statement and here it is.

Statement

Letter dated 19th July 2017.

The bar is confirmed.

Click image for PDF of complete letter.

 

24 July (Part 2) - The one time Bexley Council listened to residents - and the result won it an award

When people say that Bexley Council never takes any notice of what residents say, so why bother with consultations and petitions and deputations, I usually point out the one exception over the past eight years.

In 2013 the then Cabinet Member for Leisure and wotnot, Councillor Don Massey, planned to move Bexley’s historical archive across to Bromley to save £41,000. You can read all about it here.

Those without cars or prepared to pay the bus fare could take a jump.

Penny Duggan, Secretary of Bexley Historical Society, was having none of that. She put together a 3,251 signature petition and worked out how the £41,000 could be saved and still keep the archive accessible to Bexley residents.

Councillor Philip Read put money before people and was keen to persist with the transfer to Bromley but the Labour leader, Chris Ball, posed an awkward question. “Had an Equalities Impact Assessment been done?”

Councillor Massey said that the £41k. saving was mostly from staff costs and the Equalities Assessment was all done. Chris Ball asked to see it. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill said he couldn’t. Why not? Because it had not been done! It was enough to see the decision deferred until January.

Bexley TimesThree months later, Penny Duggan triumphed. Bexley Council couldn’t fault her plan and threw in the towel. Bexley’s archives stayed in the Central Library.

Four years later and they are award winning. Cabinet Member Peter Craske is claiming the credit.

For his next trick he is going to open a museum in the Library. Maybe Bexley Council should listen to its residents more often.

 

24 July (Part 1) - The rats will develop a taste for fish and chips

Tip
Tip
The Blossom Garden has a Hygiene Rating of 3.

 

23 July (Part 2) - A vision for the future?

After Councillors’ questions comes Motions and there were ten of them to deal with. Thirty minutes was allocated to their discussion so eight Councillors were disappointed, especially Councillor David Leaf who had submitted two motions. If you guessed that both were designed to slag off Labour and the Unions, go to the top of the class.

Seán Newman had drawn the lucky straw.
Motion
NewmanNote: Councillor Newman spoke with his back to the public gallery and his voice was afflicted by the echo that comes to those sitting closely behind speakers in the presence of a slight delay from the distant loudspeakers. What follows should therefore be regarded as a close approximation of a small selection from his address to Council. Quotation marks are therefore used more sparingly than usual.

Councillor Newman (Labour, Erith) said we must accept change and the proposed 31,500 homes are very necessary. “We all need to explain why we need growth”.

Communities have been neglected, the housing is poor and there are complaints of damp and over-crowding. Sub-letting by absent landlords has led to houses being no longer fit for purpose. People do not spend time and money because of the threat of summary eviction forever hanging over them. “Our growth agenda consigns that to the past and delivers the promise of a better and more secure future.”

“We should bring residents with us and make them vocal champions for change and damp and over-crowded tenement flats are replaced with affordable, clean and spacious apartments no longer subject to Anti-Social Behaviour and crime.”

“A new High Street that offers something other than betting machines presenting opportunities for stable jobs. Better transport to reduce reliance on cars. It is a hopeful vision.”

“The ‘Making Institute’ in Thamesmead is bold and ambitious. This Council can lead an integrated network between employers and schools. If Greenwich can have a university Bexley can.”

“That is the vision we have and we are committed. We have said so publicly and confirmed it privately. The Motion sends a clear message to those who we need to lobby and those we still need to convince.”

FrenchThe Motion was seconded by Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling).

He wanted the London Mayor and the government to look beyond Zone 1 and looked to Labour Members to lobby Sadiq Khan. He hoped that they would remind the Mayor where Bexley is. “Bexley has been short-changed by City Hall.”

“The Conservative Group has been clear for many years that we support better infrastructure in the right places at the right time and at the right price. It must not be to the detriment of our environment, or businesses or residents. We want Bexley to retain its features and cultural heritage. But nostalgia is not what commuters feel when travelling to London in rush hour. Investment in transport infrastructure is key to improving travel times. We need better road links and river crossings and Crossrail to Belvedere and Slade Green.”

“We must continue to highlight what this investment in our infrastructure will yield in Bexley and the wider Thames Gateway Region. Early investment on transport is crucial. We cannot remain stationary.”


LeafCouncillor David Leaf could not resist letting an opportunity for a dig at Labour to go by; he thought Seán Newman might be “purged by Comrade Jeremy” if his performance was seen on the webcast.

Councillor Leaf reminded Members that there had been no real change to Bexley’s railway infrastructure for more than 100 years … river crossings are key.”

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) also spoke in favour of “the vision of planned growth not the piecemeal development we have seen in the past”. He said “it was important how the Council spreads that message” and that he had already been involved in “heated debate with residents in Slade Green” (a reference to his meeting with residents 24 hours earlier) but it was “for the benefit of the community and they must be brought along”.

Transport is key and “and we must look at cross borough links. There are opportunities to get services from Abbey Wood and the Sidcup line right down to Bromley North. There is a spur there doing absolutely nothing”.

Dentist, doctors, open spaces and schools also got a mention but most important was “desperately needed affordable housing”.

DaveyCouncillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) came in with a similar message. “Bexley’s residents were the happiest in London but there is more we can do to make it even better.” He wanted faster broadband, better healthcare and parks.

The poor transport links had resulted in Bexley having the highest car ownership in London giving “problems with parking and driving round and it is getting worse, especially north south”. He wanted to see “modest river crossings” in more than one place to spread the load.

Like his colleagues he thought Sadiq Khan was a Zone 1 Mayor.

Councillor Val Clark made similar points to her colleagues emphasising the need for a Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet and a river crossing at Belvedere.

The time for debate was over and Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer was asked to sum up. He said the planned growth would “outlive us and many generations. A legacy for generations to come. There is no limit to our ambition”.

Naturally he fully endorsed the need to “take communities with us”.

Next was the vote and we were treated to unprecedented scenes.
All hands
Every hand in the chamber was raised in agreement.

Labour party statement on growth in Slade Green.
Residents consultation response to Bexley Council.
Extended
Have your say until 28th July. Never mind the spelling!

 

23 July (Part 1) - No longer Faceless on Facebook

FacebookI know it is just me but I find Facebook far from easy to use and the navigation to old posts near impossible but I also know that it is very good at bringing visitors to Bexley-is-Bonkers. For such reasons the BiB Facebook page has been operated by someone who knows their way around the system.

Unfortunately for me my Facebook Guardian has gone and got herself a proper job and no longer has the time for FB. I will miss her witty one liners but presumably the new job pays more than I can afford - nothing.

So from today I have to take responsibility for what appears on the BiB Facebook page. I have deluged followers (is that what one calls a Facebook contact?) with new topics this morning as there had not been anything new since 6th July.

Probably I won’t always have time to join in discussions but as it will be me posting stuff there I shall be looking in more often. Just don’t expect responses to Friends Requests and the like, I haven’t a clue what that is all about.

 

22 July - What’s the point of questions to Council? (Showing off and bad jokes)

I’ve never quite seen the point of public question time at Bexley Council meetings - why wait three months instead of sending an email?

Rarely is there a straight answer and there is the risk of being treated to personal insults by Councillor Peter Craske, be denied the opportunity by a filibuster from Leader Teresa O’Neill or Councillor Philip Read might refuse to answer a question asked by someone who isn’t a member of the right political party.

Maybe that is why there were no public questions at last week’s Council meeting.

O'NeillQuestions are supposed to be listed in the order of their receipt so Councillors keen to ask a question don’t hang about and the last Question Time was three months ago. Strange then that the first question was about the Grenfell Tower fire (14th June) but it gave the Council Leader the opportunity to read out a prepared statement which she wouldn’t want to be wasted through being timed out as most questions are. Only four out of 47 were answered at Wednesday’s meeting.

The Leader did not say much that had not been heard by those who attended the Scrutiny meetings a week earlier but these are the main points of the Leader’s ten minute speech.

Fire fighters from Barnehurst attended but there was so much congestion in the area they had to park a mile away and walk with their kit on their backs which they took as far as the eleventh floor.

Once the fire was extinguished “the silent emergency services, the local councils came in behind. I don’t think any Council would be able to cope on their own which is why the London Resilience Team comes in.”

Fire procedures are such that the Team “did not kick in straight away, that is something the borough leaders are looking at. We would expect them to come in straight away”.

Bexley was one of the first boroughs to offer assistance. Every London borough was involved.

Bexley Council has set up a Fire Safety Task Force which includes the Fire Service and the three local housing associations. None of their 36 towers are clad with materials similar to those at Grenfell Tower.

Schools, care homes and tall private property is being similarly checked. The Task Force is giving attention to roads where parking might hinder emergency vehicles.

ClarkThe next question was from Councillor Val Clark on her favourite subject, School Crossing Patrols. “Would the Cabinet Member agree that Bexley is lucky to have them?” (I think she already had a good idea of what the answer would be.)

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said they were “fantastic” and he “wholeheartedly endorsed what Councillor Clark said”.

Councillor Clark said she believed the Mayor of London had reduced the funding. “Will this negative act jeopardise the safety of children in any way?” Councillor Sawyer said he would do everything possible to ensure that Crossing Patrols continue. “It is number on in my inbox.” (When Cabinet Member Peter Craske was in charge of roads, he proposed getting rid of School Crossing Patrols.)

Councillor Sawyer thought it was “astonishing that a scheme can just be cut without anyone at City Hall contacting this borough. It suggests that the Mayor simply doesn’t particular care about Outer London.”

Labour Councillor John Husband, very much aware that the pre-election restoration of the old street cleaning schedule is funded from last year’s underspend - or from reserves if you prefer the “smart arse’s” explanation - asked Councillor Craske if the schedule would be cut in 2018/19. Cabinet Member Craske gave the one word answer, “No”.

Craske“Did Councillor Craske now admit that the previous cuts “had gone too far”? Councillor Craske managed only to waffle about how clever he was to have found the money to improve things using the underspend.

Councillor Louie French somehow managed to slip in an extra question. When was the new street cleaning machine going to be available? Councillor Craske referred to the bureaucracy that delays the ordering of such a machine but is is being manufactured “right now”.

FullerCouncillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) asked how the proposed cut to the schools budget would affect Special Needs provision.

Cabinet Member John Fuller referred to Councillor Borello’s (sic) similar question at the Scrutiny meeting and made a totally unnecessary joke about him being unknown outside North End.

CamseyI thought he was above that sort of thing but obviously no Cabinet Member is immune from it. After the laughter at Councillor Borella’s expense had died down Councillor Fuller said that the government had allocated an extra £1·3 billion to Bexley’s schools. There would be “a minimum of 3% for schools with additional needs over the next two years.” He has “no concerns about SEN”.

Councillor Langstead pointed out that the £1·3 billion is not new money, it comes from shuffling other budgets.

Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) asked Cabinet Member Fuller if “this Council remains committed to quality SEN provision”. What an idiotic question; the Cabinet member for Education is hardly going to say No is he? Brampton ward electors must be so proud to have elected such an intellectual.

And that was the end of questions until 8th November.

Councillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen and Lamorbey) was not happy to see her question (which was fifth on the list) being tossed aside. She wanted to know if Bexley Council and its housing providers were on top of the subletting problem. Probably not.

 

21 July - Trains are cancelled regularly and their managers follow suit at meetings

It was announced at the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting last night that we were to be treated to “an experiment”. The desks were placed in a horseshoe shape - better - and the microphones were not going to be used. It worked quite well. Bexley Council’s sound system is a long way from being good and causes an echo when listeners are close to the the speaker - that’s the human speaker, not the wall mounted loudspeaker!

Whether someone depending on the hearing loop would be happy is another matter.

ChairmanThe Transport meeting is a good one - in theory anyway - because it deals with things that interest us all and Councillor Clark conducts it in a relaxed and easy going manner, far removed from her Mayoral days.

Roads, both maintenance and accident statistics, trains, buses and cycling are all up for discussion but yesterday the Safer Transport Team cops did not show up and neither did the Network Rail and Southeastern bods. The meeting was reduced to little more than buses and bikes. The Youth Council representatives did not show up either, well what would you expect on the last day of term?

The TfL presentation on new and revised bus routes (click to see slides photographed from the screen) was the same as the one delivered to the Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting a month ago so I didn’t learn an awful lot that was new.

We were reminded that the government had reduced TfL’s grant by £700 million which will have a big impact and new services “must stack up”. Passenger numbers have fallen by 5% over the past year which also impacts the budget.

The proposed 301 from Woolwich Arsenal Crossrail station to Bexleyheath via Abbey Wood’s Crossrail terminus which is currently down to be a large single decker every 15 minutes is just a tentative proposal and could be a double decker or the frequency might change. It was felt that some minor works might be required at the top of Knee Hill and anyone who has been forced into the kerb by the driver of a descending vehicle who ignores the white line will no doubt agree. There will be trial runs.

All the current proposals will commence service “a few days before” the Elizabeth Line opens, so that’s somewhere around the middle of December 2018.

The 180 will be extended to Erith Quarry via Erith town centre. At the other end it will be diverted to North Greenwich as Lewisham would be too long a route and become unreliable. There will be greater demand around North Greenwich too. (I’d be showing my age if I recall how the 15 passed my office every few minutes on its way from East Ham White Horse to Ladbroke Grove not many years ago.)

Travellers needing to get to a Crossrail station will want to do so quickly hence the more direct routing and the increased use of main roads. (I assume the TfL man has never seen the queue in Long Lane in the morning rush hour.) TfL thought that Welling residents would take the bus to Woolwich Arsenal. Bexley Councillors familiar with the congestion in Plumstead thought they wouldn’t. Councillor Stefano Borella advocated a direct Welling to Abbey Wood bus, “it’s not very far”. He is not wrong.

Councillor John Davey who lives by the top end of New Road (it runs parallel to Knee Hill) was critical of the meandering B11 bus route and “it takes too long to get to Bexleyheath”. He is right of course but at the moment it is the quickest way to get to Bexleyheath from Abbey Wood station. He was also right when he said there would be a massive movement to the 301 with its promise of a quicker connection. He advocated a double deck 301; right again.

Naturally this prompted the naysayers about the use of Knee Hill. Well straighten the kink at the top then! (The TfL bus consultation is open until 17th September.)

From new bus routes the meeting moved on to old ones. As must be fairly well known by now the 96 bus to Blue Water (running nonstop from Dartford) will divert to Darent Valley Hospital. The agreement with Kent is not actually signed yet but it is anticipated that the service will start in September.

The 89 and B15 have become unreliable and it is due to road works in far away Kidbrook Park Road and the knock on effects in Eltham and Shooters Hill.

When the cyclists took over the agenda all they seemed to want was more and more parking stands and the continuation of the single narrow temporary lane at the northern end of Harrow Manorway which is speed restricted to 20 m.p.h while the Crossrail related regeneration is underway. Bexley taxpayers have just provided an extra 38 cycle parking bays across the borough. More are on the way.

With no railway industry presence, Councillors were reduced to talking trains among themselves. Councillor Davey reminded everyone that there will be no trains to any of the regular terminals while London Bridge station goes through a critical phase. No one could remember the dates. (It’s Saturday 26th August to Saturday 2nd September.)

CalendarCouncillor Borella took the opportunity to ridicule the lack of twelve car trains long after they were promised. He was also unhappy - aren’t we all? - about Bexley residents paying more for Southeastern journeys which end in TfL territory than any other rail travellers.

Bexley Council is concerned about the loss of North Kent line services to Blackheath and Lewisham especially with the loss of the 180 bus too.

Cabinet Member for Transport Alex Sawyer has invited all the potential rail franchisees to come to Bexley as he doesn’t want Bexley residents to be “screwed over” again.

Chairman Clark asked the relevant Council officer to ask Network Rail to invite the Committee for a look around the new station at Abbey Wood, like the one I was offered in May.

On road accidents it wasn’t all good news although the relatively small number of casualties mean that the percentage change can look on the large side.

The number of vehicle collisions is up and the number of seriously injured casualties with it but the numbers are less than they were between 2005 and 2009.

There are some good points hidden among the figures; child injuries are down but one must suspect that the reversal of the previous decade’s improving trend is due to Bexley’s obsession with narrowing roads and poorly designed roundabouts that force dangerous lane changes.

The Chairman is particularly keen on road safety and praised the Lollypop ladies (Stop means Stop) now under threat from Sadiq Khan’s proposed cut to Bexley’s grant. She has also been campaigning in schools and elsewhere for child seats not to be sold second hand. There is no way one can tell if they have been internally damaged in crashes. However charity shops were not cooperating.

I shall ask my son - when he gets back from a road safety conference in Germany - who has been professionally involved in car crash tests for many years what the official position is with second hand seats. Personally I wouldn’t risk any child in a seat with an unknown history whatever the official line.

Stop means Stop. It is the law that drivers must stop when directed to do so by a School Crossing Patrol. It is not optional and there have been prosecutions.

 

20 July - “Serial liars”

Last night’s Council meeting was a good one, the new Mayor did a good job, any political insults thrown were pretty minor ones and it managed to be an upbeat affair with a lot of cross party agreement.

When it will get reported here goodness only knows. My ‘carer’ duties have expanded to new horizons and now occupy three or more afternoons each week and somehow or other I find myself doing DIY jobs for three family members, soft touch that I am. Reluctantly I’ve had to ignore the requests to create two new websites!

Whether or not you believe any of that is of course up to you. Bexley Conservatives’ Twitter account (@bexleynews) labelled me a “Serial Liar” this morning. I felt quite elated about being recognised although the sense of irony was overwhelming.

Serial LiarThere is still a page on Bexley Conservatives’ website which says that Labour Councillors were misbehaving in the Council chamber while their supporters in the public gallery were cheering them on. The only member of the public present was me and except for Danny Hackett in 2014 I have never voted Labour in my life. My opinion of the London Mayor is unprintable!

The Council’s webcast proved that I was alone in the public gallery and sat there doing nothing. My report is still on BiB's front page. Bexley Conservatives know their report of the 2nd November 2016 meeting is one long lie but it hasn’t been removed.

There are dozens of such examples. Greenwich police were so appalled by Bexley Council’s lying both locally and on national TV on another occasion that they sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service suggesting a Councillor and three Council officers be charged with Misconduct in Public Office.

Why does Bexley Council have to lie so much? It's not as though they are the worst Council in London. Stop the lying and start listening and it would look OK in parts.

If I am a serial liar why haven’t they pulled me up on something during the past eight years? Maybe it is because everything written is based on written or recorded evidence. It may not always be absolutely perfect all the time but nothing is made up. Can you imagine what a muddle the site would be if it was built on lies? Nothing would hang together properly and references back to old stories would have to be constantly checked out for inconsistencies.

There was one occasion when a Conservative Councillor phoned me on my land line to say he didn’t think I had got what he said quite right and did so within 20 minutes of publication. I was more than a little impressed and made a small revision to the blog. Councillor Slaughter usually gets the blame for any contact with me but it definitely wasn’t her, it was someone who is in a much more well known position.

The Serial Liar comment was only on line for a few minutes and I wasn’t on my PC when I spotted it, hence the lack of a screen grab. To be honest - can I use that expression in this blog? - I don’t care what they call me, people will judge for themselves. However it is perhaps absolutely crazy that Bexley Council has never looked for a solution to being featured here daily by someone who is basically on their side. Reporting me to the police every so often only makes matters worse.

The Council Leader and the Chief Executive can’t be as bright as they think they are.

 

19 July - Magic money found by “Smart arses”

Councillor Philip Read’s lying may have been the highlight of last week’s Cabinet meeting but it wasn’t the end of it.

Councillor John Fuller, Cabinet Member for Education, was next to speak and he is by comparison boringly professional. He’s absolutely useless when it comes to lying, exaggeration or slagging off the opposition parties. Why Council Leader O’Neill tolerates his quiet efficiency I have no idea.

He told us that he is ready for a baby boom which is about to hit secondary schools. Classrooms that had been closed have been reopened and 85% of pupils have been given their first choice of school.

Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils are a priority and there are more each year, “more than any other local borough” and a new school “will expand on what we already have”. Using abbreviations and jargon which only an educationalist would understand, Councillor Fuller said he was selling Bexley’s schools expertise to other boroughs.

Informative and concise; could Cabinet Member for Adult Services Brad Smith compete?

BaileyNot really, he read from a long script and even he seemed to be bored by it so let’s move on to Regeneration and Cabinet Member Linda Bailey.

She said that she thought “the medium term financial strategy looks a lot better than I envisaged a few years ago” and it was due “to our prudent management”.

Referring to the consultation on growth and “the many roadshows” she said “it has cross party support and will bring many benefits” but she “was saddened about a community group that had now gone out into the community with pretty nasty stuff and frightening residents. I know of a person I heard of at the weekend who is absolutely petrified and was told the house would be taken from them in a couple of months time. This has got to be stamped on because it is just ridiculous. I know Chinese whispers but we really have got to do something about that. The growth will be happening over many years, not straight away and it won’t happen without the proper infrastructure, transport, health provision, consultation and the proper planning procedure”.

“The New Homes Bonus [provides for] the possibility the government will be withholding payments to Councils if they are not planning effectively with planning applications for delivering growth. If this comes into being we will have to be very careful the way forward we go on this.” (That appears to be the government holding a pistol the the Planning Committee’s head.)

Councillor Bailey wanted to be sure that planning applications were of high quality so that there was no reason to reject them.

Council Leader Teresa O’Neill thanked Councillor Bailey for “bringing to attention the scaremongering that is happening in Slade Green” and offered her “proven track record” as reassurance that she’d deliver “the right results because the alternative is more scary”.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked Councillor Craske for more details of “his pre-election wish list” and Councillor Fuller about the £796,000 overspend on SEN transport and complained that schools had no idea of what their future funding might be. There was more, his questions took five and a half minutes to pose and the Council Leader decided to answer the school’s questions herself. “Councillor Fuller is on top of all of those issues.” Everyone had forgotten the question to Councillor Craske, not a word was said about it by anyone.

Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour, North End) welcomed the partial restoration of previous service cuts but said that residents on their doorsteps believed that the brown bin tax was “blackmail” because with gardens to maintain and maybe no car to go to the dump, they had no option but to stump up the money.

TweetCouncillors Craske and Don Massey giggled their contempt and Massey dismissed the residents’ views as “rubbish”. Councillor Deadman briefly complained about the late provision of a growth road show in Slade Green.

Once again Teresa O’Neill chose to answer the questions herself. “The take up for garden waste is the best in London and people had voted with their feet” which was no answer at all. The Leader said that “additional roadshows were always expected”. Does that sound likely?

CamseyCouncillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) said she was pleased that SEN children were no longer being “taken outside the borough at high cost” and providing for them locally was “one of the best things we ever did”. She is “delighted” and there will be a new SEN secondary school. She thought “we should be commended for what we have done with SEN”. There’s nothing quite like blowing your own trumpet.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford for the time being) said “the opposition should be saying what a wonderful job we are doing in keeping control of the finances instead of nit-picking” and he “was concerned somewhat about the fake information circulating in Slade Green but like it or not we have got to get growth. People who come up with ridiculous things do our residents a great disservice”.

Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) had noticed the failure to answer questions directed at Councillor Craske. He wanted to know how the wish list would be funded. The Leader jumped in again, it was “funded by last year’s underspend”. (Yeah, so you keep saying.)

Whilst praising the various initiatives to make the borough better Councillor Francis also wanted to speak of “the realities”. SEN children “are being told there is no school for you because you have SEN and that is causing real real problems. My child is one of those children who have been told there is no place for you. They are being told to stay in nursery a year.”

“What we have seen locally and nationally, what we have seen over the past seven years, is failing and what we have seen tonight is a number of budget cuts being reversed, not permanently, by an underspend. It’s amazing because four working days ago the Cabinet Member for Finance when asked what was going to happen to that underspend said he had no plans for it but somehow in four days he has magicked up Councillor Craske’s plans. We have allowed the house to get into disrepair but we are going to have a last minute clean up ten months before the Council elections. Can you imagine a Labour Council admitting we have still got to find £5·1 million for the budget and then announcing a list of expenditure? I have no problem with that but if we had done that you can imagine the accusations of financial mismanagement. Your policies have failed the people of this borough.”

The Leader, mistress of the non-answer, said ”if that was the case we wouldn’t be writing back budget lines, it’s a result of the work we have put in that has put us into this place.”

Cabinet Member Massey at his most condescending said that “Councillor Francis, I know you are not financially illiterate so I put that down to politicking and getting election fever”. He said he “joined the Council from finance in 2006 and felt there was a lot of things the public sector could learn, OK? Bexley Council’s finances were in a mess, no doubt about it and we had to restore. You do it by transformation. You can make your glib comments about cutting but it is not about that.”

Excusing his comments four days earlier he said he planned to put the underspend into the transformational reserve and he would. It was the transformational reserve that Councillor Craske was going to spend, not the underspend itself.

Wafting across from the UKIP benches came the unmistakable words, “Smart arse” and as Councillor Massey droned on in similar vein (“our accounting is excellent”) one could not but wholeheartedly agree.

Councillor Leaf said that “Labour would fail residents and fail to adapt”. He said that nationally and locally the Conservatives had delivered “seven years of success”. What the opposition say “has no substance and no credibility”. The Leader was very pleased with her little protégé and said “Well done Councillor Leaf”.

Councillor Massey moved adoption of the financial plans, Councillor Craske seconded and up went every greasy palm.

 

18 July - Coptefield car conflagration

I had pretty much given up on doing a blog today, it would have meant trawling through the Cabinet meeting tape looking for anything not too boring and there was simply not enough time.

From seven this morning until midday I was occupied by the installation of a new piece of IT kit and a big reconfiguration of the remainder of the network. If you think your router with four inputs causes a tangle of cable you should see mine. 120 ports, all but a few populated and with a wide variety of different functions.

Fire Fire FireThis afternoon I went visiting at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and on my way back remembered that the Linux computer had been left running. I briefly cursed my forgetfulness and imagined a fault which had burned the house down.

I was almost right, a few doors along two cars had been burned out. just after 2 p.m. assuming the image EXIF data is correct.

The neighbour who supplied the pictures had no idea how the fires started but confirmed that the only damage was to the cars and the fence. The same fence that Network Rail did their best to destroy and simply walked away.

 

17 July (Part 2) - Sunny Slade Green. Community under attack by Bexley Council

Slade GreenAway for the weekend I returned late last night and checked the emails; all the important ones were about Slade Green. Building 8,000 houses there and the threat of compulsory purchase looks like being the new Old Farm Park for the immediate future and the long term. Bexley Council’s condemnation of the area as low quality housing ripe for demolition has galvanized those residents who have heard the news.

I think I have only been to Slade Green twice, both times when I decided to take the scenic route home from Bexleyheath on a 99 bus. The second time it was such a frustrating experience that I jumped off at Slade Green station and got on a train.

Slade Green is one of those places you don’t have to go to unless you live there or work in the train depot for which it is well known to all southeastern commuters. It is not only where the broken down trains are taken but is is also the junction for the Bexleyheath line (pictured) and half a mile into the distance, the Sidcup line.

If the battle for Slade Green is to become a big story i thought I should take a good look around and become more familiar with it.

This afternoon’s tour did not start well. The station was unmanned and three teenage boy cyclists were taking the opportunity to do wheelies along the platform edge while one of them was thumping the side of the train.

Once outside and sitting in the small shopping precinct two separate mums with buggies and toddlers running ahead were hurling abuse at their respective broods. Just like Abbey Wood I initially thought until I remembered that young mums with children are no longer often found in and around Wilton Road, frightened away by the druggies, beggars and drunkards outside the betting shops. For young families, Sainsbury’s has become the Abbey Wood destination of choice.

Unlike Abbey Wood which is often noisy and where white faces are in a minority that mainly speaks in foreign tongues, Slade Green seemed to be uncannily quiet with not a black face to be seen except for a couple pumping loud music from their cars. (It was a very hot day and windows were wound down.)

Slade Green and Abbey Wood are probably both dismissed by an uncaring Bexley Council as ‘up north’ but my impression is that they are very different places and Slade Green might be the more pleasant place to live. Those residents I spoke to while on tour - sometimes one has to explain to suspicious householders why one is going around snapping pictures of their homes - had all heard of Bexley Council’s plans and none had a good word to say for it.

Their views were well put in one of the weekend emails…


I live in Slade Gardens. We were not given any information about the new growth strategy.

We do not get the News Shopper, our library was sold off do did not get a copy of the document outlining the plans.

We were not included in the roadshows held elsewhere. One group approached the council but was told there was not enough time to come to us.

Other areas had two visits where far fewer homes were proposed. The group offered to put on an information stand but Bexley Council did not provided any information.

After protests from residents a Slade Green meeting was finally held and it was very well attended.

We felt that the Council discriminated against us. It is claimed that some 1,000 homes will be transitioned to high rise. They are said to be sub-standard. This is their excuse. Now our properties are blighted by Bexley Council.

Properties in my road have been bought by two housing associations for their tenants. In recent years at least three houses have been given planning approval for a double rear extension. They were not condemned!

In the next two streets a lot has been spent on exterior cladding of the rental homes yet these are also to be transitioned. Mine is a perfectly habitable home built in 1936. [Photo supplied but not published. Can’t risk victimisation by Bexley Council.]

Bexley Council wants to create a new high street but we have one now with a post office and chemist etc. opposite the railway station.

This may be why they want to move stuff; so they can create an area of high rise where thestation and shops are now.


O'Neill Steward Bailey RichardsonIf you look at the photographs taken this afternoon you will see that the area might not be brand spanking new, the bulk of the homes may well have been council houses in more enlightened times or railwaymen’s cottages, but very nice and well cared for the bulk of them look.

I failed to find anything remotely like a slum, nor did I see evidence of fly-tipping.

There is one reason alone for Bexley Council wanting to demolish Slade Green and that is the financial failure by successive governments and Bexley Council failing to recognise the looming disaster until far too late. The pattern was set in 2006 when the newly elected Conservative administration campaigned for no Thames Crossings. Now they need your money or the borough goes broke. Bexley Council will be ruthless. Let battle commence.

 

17 July (Part 1) - It’s Confuserail

CrossrailIf you check the notices at Abbey Wood station you will read that there are no more line closures this year.

If you were lucky enough to be at the last Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting you will know that there are to be seven this side of Christmas with the next ones due on 3rd and 17th September - I took a photo of their presentation slide to be sure. However if you are one of the very fortunate few you will have received a further notice at the weekend which says that ten extra North Kent line closures are scheduled.

The notice says clearly enough that 5/6th, 12/13th, 19/20th and 26/27th August will be ”Weekend Possessions”.

Not so clear is that it says there will be a Weekend Possession on 29th and 31st July. (Your guess is as good as mine.)

Local residents who rejoiced at the prospect of only three more closures before the new station opens on October 22nd will be sorely disappointed, but not half so much as the shopkeepers who lose half of their business on rail closure days.

 

15 July - When stuck for something to say, lie about the opposition. It’s the Bexley way

SawyerAfter the Craske show it was time for the support acts, first up was Smart Alex, the Cabinet Member for roads and things. He said that Bexley Council “was in a position other Councils could only dream of”. (It’s the only one in London with no tube stations, no A&E hospital, no maternity facilities and no way to cross its longest border, the River Thames.)

He thanked residents for their help by participating in consultations and his department will now respond to criticism, he will spend more money on highways and footways. He asked for help in preparing the final list for attention.

Give Councillor Sawyer his due, he tried to be positive about the future and there was a welcome absence of bamboozlement.

ReadBy contrast, Cabinet Member Philip Read had nothing new to say so he resorted to the only trick in his book, slagging off the opposition.

His “vision of the future” was for “more homes and more job opportunities in marked contrast to those in the past with no vision, no idea and no new thinking other than to tax and spend more”. (He had just heard that Bexley Tories plan to raise taxes by 3·99% in each of the next four years.)

“This Conservative Council has demonstrated its ability to drive efficiencies and and ensure minimal increases in Council Tax in stark contrast to the Labour administration that preceded it.”

He welcomed “playground improvements” and in particular the about to be opened Belvedere Beach. “It will be an incredibly popular playground but let’s not forget that its concept was resolutely opposed by the opposition and their supporters from the start of the process”.

“Only as it has come close to fruition have they been dragged kicking and screaming to a reluctant acceptance of it and their acceptance has been lukewarm to put it mildly”. That is a lie from beginning to end. Plans for the Beach were first made public in November last year and at the very same Cabinet meeting, Labour Councillor Joe Ferreira, on behalf of all his colleagues ’welcomed the proposals and complemented those who had come up with the design’.

Bexley Tories may think they can lie with impunity when they time expire their webcasts but my audio recordings stick around for ever.

“The Council’s public realm improvements bring benefits to all our residents right across the borough … but let’s not forget the opposition has consistently opposed the decisions our reduced financial circumstances have demanded over the years. If we had accepted their continued demands to spend and spend and spend the borough’s Council Tax levels would be far higher than they are. Labour of course fails to make that clear to people who would pay the bills, the taxpayers of Bexley.

The Tories’ plan to raise their Council Tax income by 22% while cutting services is beginning to put Labour’s investment of 40% in new services in a more favourable light. With many salaries pegged to 1% neither is wanted.

 

14 July (Part 2) - Councillor Craske splashes the cash. Everybody’s going to party!

CabinetCouncillor Peter Craske spent last weekend and the beginning of this week Twitter trailing his plans to reveal all sorts of goodies at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, so he was probably disappointed that the only member of the pubic he managed to attract to his conjuring show was me.

Unfortunately I had seen a near identical performance only six months ago and Peter Craske’s repertoire of pranks relies too heavily on snatching bags of sweets from the kiddywinkies and throwing the odd one or two back after they have stopped crying. Smiles all around!

As protocol demands the meeting began with a formal statement of the Council’s current financial situation by whoever is in charge of the purse strings at the time. On Tuesday Taryn Eves, Strategy Manager, did the honours.

She said that this year £1·7 million had been put into reserves and the Council is working towards being financially self-sufficient by 2020.

Low interest rates had allowed temporary accommodation to be purchased for the homeless but every 1% rate rise would increase Council costs by about a million.

£5·1 million will have to be found to balance the budget next year and £8·9, £9·4 and £12·4 million in the following years. There is currently no plan to fall back on reserves although that cannot be entirely ruled out.

Growth and a 3·99% Council Tax increase each year will see Council Tax receipts rise by 22% over the next four years. Hold on to your wallets!


Massey CraskeRitual requires the Cabinet Member for Finance to share the financial limelight so Councillor Don Massey said a few words most of which are not worth repeating. However his reinforcement of Ms. Eves’s 22% Council Tax increase might be. Two thirds of Council income comes from Council Tax and that proportion is rising.

Growth must make its contribution and Councillor Massey referred to the need to concrete over as much of the borough as possible - or in his more carefully chosen words, we must build more homes. On parks, green spaces, SSIs (Sites of Scientific Interest); anywhere so long as the Council can make money.

Unlike Ms. Eves (and her Agenda report), Councillor Massey “Couldn’t see inflation creeping back in” and in another contradiction said that the unexpected reduction in bank rate from 0·5% to 0·25% last year had hurt the Council’s budget.

At last the ruddy showman took to the stage hoping against hope that no one would rumble his over-used cunning stunt. Everyone is grateful when thrown a sweet or two after having their own bag stolen.

The unpopular street cleaning schedule will be restored to its former frequency and Councillor Craske promised he is no longer considering a three weekly rubbish collection. It will remain at every two weeks.

30 roads which are not easy to clean because of all day on-street parking will be cleared over a two day period to allow the job to be done properly. Weed spraying will go back to four times a year too.

The grounds maintenance budget is also to be restored to its former glory and grass cutting which was cut to nine mows a year has been put back to twelve. If twelve can be justified whoever was it who thought nine was a reasonable number?

Popular parks will be provided with 140 litre waste bins to replace 200 of the existing 80 litre bins. 20,000 square metres of shrub beds will be covered with wood bark mulch. Danson Lake needs attention too.

Two more Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras will help to catch fly-tippers. Town centre waste bins will be replaced with better quality non-rusting bins and the recycling depots will be “given a brand new look”.

Community safety issues in Northumberland Heath will be addressed, literary festivals will be held in libraries and a permanent museum will be created in Bexleyheath’s Central Library.

Street parties are on the agenda too, they will be held across the borough starting in the autumn. There’s a £5·1 million black hole but there is an election to be won, it’s sweetie time folks!

It was really rather odd that less than a week earlier, at the Resources Scrutiny Meeting, the Cabinet Member for Finance had no plans for spending the £2·8 million. The Cabinet probably cobbled something together around a weekend BBQ. Burghers anyone?

 

14 July (Part 1) - Abbey Wood’s night time economy takes a knock

The Wilton Road brothel has gone and Western Union are going to miss the steady outflow of money to Romania.

TwitterIt opened in December 2015 and was so popular that the owner opened another one in Fendyke Road, both in Bexley borough. There has been a steady flow of females dressed in night attire between the two premises for months, some attractive and some most definitely not, but one man’s meat etc…

I first became aware of the one in Wilton Road in January 2016 when I was invited to the Traders Association’s four weekly meeting. The licensee of the Abbey Arms was not at all happy to have the red light flashing opposite her pub as she had been desperately trying to rid the place of undesirables since she took over nearly three years ago. The druggies have gone and you can now get reasonably priced meals there as well as coffee and cake while you wait for your delayed train at the station next door.

Brothel BrothelThe minutes of that meeting record that the police had been told about the knocking shop and Councillor Danny Hackett told them too. But as far as one can judge, nothing whatsoever was done about it.

At the Association’s June 2016 meeting the police (Lesnes Abbey officers) were guest speakers and they were most definitely made aware of the problem opposite and said they would make a visit if only to check that there were no minors in residence or people held against their will. Again nothing appeared to happen and at each successive meeting the pub licensee has voiced her dissatisfaction with the situation.

Then yesterday the police sprang into action; what kept them? The lame excuse is that they didn’t know whether Wilton Road was in Bexley or in Greenwich. In all my 30 years in Abbey Wood I have never yet seen a police officer on foot in Wilton Road, even Greenwich’s parking attendants are there more often. On average once every 15 years in my experience.

 

13 July - Slum Green?

I was in two minds about posting Tuesday’s blog but I couldn’t believe the widespread irrational responses to an MP’s slip of the tongue. If anyone believes Anne Marie Morris was deliberately making a racial slur then in my opinion they need their silly heads testing.

TwitterI expected the number of BiB’s Twitter followers might plummet like Philip Read’s but in the event, over the day, they went up. There were several messages from those who shared my view and none against. Probably this proves that the bulk of BiB readers were brought up with the same spelling primer as I was and that the politicians and pundits who worked themselves up into a fine old tizzy haven’t got a clue about what the average bloke on the 96 omnibus thinks. The gulf will lead to serious trouble one day.

There was rather greater interest in Bexley Council’s regeneration plans for Slade Green. Having sort of sided with Bexley Council it is probably only fair to present an amalgam of contrary views, some of which are enough to persuade me that Bexley Council may be just a little too greedy - not difficult!

Many people in Slade Green, in fact anyone anywhere who looked at what has gone on recently, think the consultation exercise has been very poor. Bexley Council showed its contempt for residents there by not even bothering to consult them until embarrassed into doing so. From elsewhere in the borough the overwhelming message to my Inbox and on Twitter has been that the staff who manned the Roadshows were poorly briefed and unable to answer questions. ‘Awkward’ residents found that they could get a different answer to the same question at different times.

It’s proposed that Slade Green will have 8,000 new homes, more than any other community and the centre of it is effectively condemned by the comment it is composed of suburban low density terraces and small semis and it’s an ideal spot for high density four to eight storey mansion blocks. It’s not an enormous step from such a comment to the assumption of Compulsory Purchase Orders.

The area around the station is slated for regeneration and a commercial area is on the cards.

The 16 page summary of the draft Growth Strategy filled with pictures and large print is a severely edited document. Vital facts and cross references in the full document have been omitted so that no one who sees it will be immediately aware of what is planned for where.

At Community Events, Council Officers seemed to be very keen to deflect criticism to Crossrail and the Housing Associations. The more honest ones agreed that Compulsory Purchase was likely, if not now, certainly within the next ten years.

Council Officers shown the leaflet produced by the protest movement said it wasn’t accurate but none could say in what way.

Residents object to Bexley Council describing houses in Slade Green as “low quality”. They like their houses and they have made them home.

Council Officers have been unwilling to identify even one area of Slade Green that is comprised of low quality housing but are presumably labelling it as such to justify unnecessary demolition. The truth is perhaps that low density housing does not provide as high a Council Tax base as would eight storey blocks.

Environmental groups also have grave misgivings about the regeneration plans but as has been seen repeatedly in the recent past, Bexley Council is not in the least bit bothered by that.

As usual I am pessimistic for the chances of success of any protest campaign. In the eight years I have been watching Bexley’s disreputable Council only one of their plans has been overturned. It was the particularly silly one to store the borough’s historical artifacts in Bromley and the Council agreed to abandon the idea only because the campaign organisers came up with another which saved more money.

That is hardly likely to be possible in Slade Green. It’s the fly in the ointment!

 

12 July (Part 3) - Selling up and moving on

EvesYesterday’s Cabinet meeting began in the time honoured way, Taryn Eves, substituting for Alison Griffin who now heads Southend Council gave the low down on Bexley’s parlous financial position, details of which will appear here when time permits. Meanwhile, suffice to say that next year’s planned savings are still £5,100,000 short of what is needed and successive years get progressively worse. 2021’s black hole is £12,400,000 deep.

Better news, from an accountant’s point of view anyway, is that there was a £2,800,000 underspend last year. Not all straight forward cuts of course, efficiency improvements would have helped and a more aggressive attack on motorists most certainly did.

With £2·8 million sloshing around unexpectedly - or at least unbudgeted - and a £5·1 million black hole looming you may already be guessing where the prudent Tories would be placing the surplus, but your sensible thinking is probably not coloured by the forthcoming elections. The money is going to go on populist measures, a lot of it simply restoring earlier cuts but some of it on serious capital expenditure. like sacks of tree bark for mulch in parks.

£2·8 million won’t go far and how will the extra grass cutting be maintained in future years? Aah, I am beginning to forget that with the election safely in the bag, there will be scope for more cuts and the cycle can be repeated.

Like Ms. Eves’ report, Cabinet Member Peter Craske pulling yet another populist rabbit from his hat is also going to have to wait, There is a solid line of commitments lined up before me with no break before next Monday afternoon! Blogs will be short if not sweet!

However Councillor Craske’s rabbits were not the only interesting revelations last night; some flesh was put on the plans for site redevelopment across the borough and they are far easier to report.

West Street in Erith, Wilde Road East and West in Northumberland Heath and Old Farm Park are well known victims of Bexley’s austerity policy but they are no longer alone.

The Nag’s Head car park in Welling is for the chop and an asset of Community Value, the former Slade Green Community Centre and its car park are to be given over to more new homes. A site in Walnut Tree Road in Erith is to suffer the same fate.

Car ParkAs has been long suspected, Abbey Wood’s Felixstowe Road car park (currently commandeered by Network Rail) will not see the light of day again. Part of it is earmarked for a cycle hub and Peabody Housing Association has plans for the remainder.

Bexley Council will “start to explore the possible use of Compulsory Purchase powers” in relation to Erith’s Pier Road West because it believes that site “remains of strategic importance to the Council’s ambitions for Erith’s regeneration”.

Overall the Council is looking at a profit of £37 million on this tranche of family silver. What will they do for income when everything is sold off? Presumably they will live off the hugely increased Council tax base while residents wait two months for a doctor’s appointment.

 

12 July (Part 2) - Scary stuff best taken with a pinch of salt for the moment

Thanks to my friend Hugh who runs the Maggot Sandwich blog, I now have a copy of the leaflet that frightened the life out of my Crossrail railway friend.

Wow! It’s not often I sympathise with the Cabinet Member for Growth and Regeneration but you can see why she felt more than a little upset last night. The leaflet paints the very worst picture possible and in any case few think that Bexley’s regeneration plan will ever fully see the light of day; the transport infrastructure is just not there or likely to be any time soon.

I too have grave misgivings about what the North of the borough would be like with maybe another 100,000 residents to support but last night’s Cabinet meeting made it clear why Bexley wants to flood the place with bricks and mortar, it is bringing around a life-saving increase in Council Tax revenues.

Do you think I might get a thank you from Linda Bailey for BiB’s Public Service Announcement?

Arrogance

Click or scroll to view more.

Note: The Consultation has since been extended to 28th July 2017.
For technical reasons you may have to refresh this page for the image above to display correctly.

 

12 July (Part 1) - In the absence of adequate explanation the rumour mill will flourish

I’ve not been to any of Bexley Council’s regeneration roadshows, there didn’t seem to be any point. I know what they have planned so all I would likely get out of going is a picture of Council employees peddling Bexley’s chosen line.

Abbey WoodTheir booklet says that 27,000 new houses are on the way supported by a Crossrail extension to Dartford (when Abbey Wood’s new station very effectively stops another two tracks going further to the East), a DLR extension through to Belvedere, Erith and Crayford which cannot happen soon, two new river crossings when one of the idiot Khan’s first decisions was to put them on the back burner, an imagined express bus-way to Dartford and more frequent bus services elsewhere while TfL is busy moving in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t very clever of Bexley Council to initially miss Slade Green (8,000 new homes planned) off their roadshow schedule and to fill the gap a rumour mill started work. This week has seen a number of worried residents come to light with stories of imminent compulsory purchase of their homes.

One of my ‘railway friends’ (known to me because of the daily Crossrail photographic expeditions) who lives very close to Slade Green station was bemoaning the imminent loss of his house to make way for a new Crossrail station “which we know is total bollocks anyway”.

I asked Stefano Borella, one of the Slade Green Councillors, if there was any truth in the stories of Compulsory Purchases as it was all news to me. The answer could be summarised as “No”. There might be a handful at some time in the future but right now he knew of no specific plans.

At last night’s Cabinet meeting Linda Bailey, Cabinet Member for Growth, referred to a local pressure group that had sprung up and was spreading misinformation. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill said the same thing. Neither were at all happy about it.

One must therefore assume at the moment that the mass issue of Compulsory Purchase Orders is not planned and the report on the News Shopper’s website deserves the same description as that given by my railway friend to the likelihood of a Crossrail extension in my lifetime.

 

11 July (Part 3) - Lambeth Council bowls a googly. Bexley is definitely second XI

Bexley Council is definitely missing a trick. I gave myself an extra hour to get to The Oval on Sunday but I didn’t have to wait for the rail replacement bus and the train at Plumstead left within a minute of my arrival and even after walking over London Bridge from Cannon Street to kill time I still arrived in Kennington 50 minutes before the scheduled meet up with some mates.

I sat under a tree watching the traffic on the adjacent yellow box junction mesmerised by the nightmare being played out before me.

Yellow BoxEven at the discounted penalty rate - is that £65? - I would estimate that that one junction, if zealously enforced, was raking in in excess of £5,000 an hour. Taxis, cars, motorcycles and buses, they were all swallowed up in an unavoidable trap.

The yellow box was considerably more faded than captured by Google Earth, in fact I didn’t even notice the one to the ‘north’ of the picture (†), maybe that’s because the bulk of the traffic was heading ‘north to south’ and ‘east to west’ in the picture so only one of the two boxes shown was the Money Box.

What Bexley needs to do to up its income is to move its stop lines back from the junction by 40 or 50 feet.

Stop lines should come before a 20 foot space for cyclists, a further ten feet for a pedestrian crossing and another ten feet of no man’s land beyond (or before) that. Traffic held fifty feet back will probably not even notice a faded yellow box junction and probably just move off when the lights go to green. The other side of the junction is simply too far away to be sure if there is a space or not.

But that may not be quite enough to ensure a fine. What is needed is for each road exit to the junction to have two lanes but make sure the one opposite is narrowed (by a bus lane) but not so quickly as to be visible from across the junction. That way a driver may see a gap and go but the driver alongside him has the same idea. One collects a big bill.

The 30, 40 or 50 feet lead up to the junction has another great benefit. Motorists heading towards a green light at a modest speed may see it go red long after they have crossed the stop line. With any luck they will be caught in the junction and block the transverse traffic flow.

The choice then is to ignore the blasting horns and stay there, creep back into the no man’s land or cycle reservation or do the most obvious thing of trying to continue across the junction. But that moment’s hesitation will cost you dear. By then traffic coming from your left and turning left will have filled any remaining gaps and the adjacent pedestrian crossing will have gone red and kerching! It’s another £130 Penalty Notice from Lambeth’s thieving bastards.

The junction by the Oval cricket ground really is a shining example of the London road designer’s art. Andrew Bashford will be green with envy at the level of skill on display.

If everyone waited for their exit to become clear, on match days at least, no one would make any progress at all. Bexley Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer please note, your budget deficit demands action now!

Who pays the fines that the buses were regularly risking?

† A return trip confirmed that the northern yellow box has indeed been removed since the satellite image was taken.

 

11 July (Part 2) - Modesty Blaze

There was no way I could get to last week’s Resources Scrutiny meeting, another meeting was completely unavoidable, in any case, Steven Hall’s meeting is not the most entertaining way to spend an evening and there is always the webcast for a catch up. I lost the opportunity to get another bum picture but apart from that I have no real regrets.

BumThe Chairman invited Gill Steward the Council’s Chief Executive to update the Committee on the Council’s Emergency Plan, nothing to do with Grenfell Tower obviously. (Actually that is true, the timing was purely coincidental.)

She said that one of the first things she did after coming to Bexley was to review its Emergency Plan. She has created a rota of senior staff who would be called upon to take charge should the need ever arise. Those people should not drink on days when they head the rota.

There are systems in place to allow Councils to call on others for help and the CE thought that in Kensington “it was not activated as quickly as it should be and our collective experience is that you call for help [as soon as you can]”.

Bexley has supplied “mutual aid” to Kensington and Camden Councils.

“You should be really proud of our team, they absolutely know what they are doing. They are calm and measured at all times, any advice they give is absolutely bang on and I want to give you that assurance.”

Let’s hope that the immodest Mrs. Steward’s plans are never tested.

Councillor John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked where the money had come from to fund the expeditions into West and North London. “A contingency fund.”

 

11 July (Part 1) - The day I decided Mrs. May had to go

Bloody hell, this country gets to be more stupid by the day. A woman much the same age as me used an expression which would slip off every tongue thirty years ago, apologises and she won’t be doing it again but the Prime Minister no less decides it is a sackable offence. If that is the way Mrs. May reacts in a mini-crisis I no longer want her to lead the country. A total prat.

SpellingWhen it comes to nostalgia I am a bit of a hoarder, I still have my spelling primer from 1948. Sexist isn’t it?

Only mothers cook the dinner.

A was an aunt who knitted a sock and B was a boy who mended a lock.

There’s paedophilia; U was an uncle who patted his niece. There’s ‘fattism’ and smacking too.

That damned book turned every child into a raging racist. Not!

Who should replace Mrs. May? Eenie Meenie Miney Mo…

 

10 July (Part 3) - Taxing times, or taxidermy if you’d prefer it

Bexley Council has ways of making you pay. Robbing motorists daily with carefully designed traps is something almost every Council does but Bexley can be particularly inventive when it tries.

One of its new range of charges which, like the three weekly refuse collection cycle, didn’t make its way into the Budget Book, is the £50 charge for taking away dead animals.
Stealth tax
So next time an injured fox crawls into your front garden to die, or a squirrel falls out of a tree and kills itself - I saw that happen when I lived in rural Hampshire - or a pigeon breaks its neck on your bay window, then a thick black sack and a dustbin may be the answer.

Burial may not be a good idea. I dug a deep hole for a 27 pound carp that simply keeled over and died within a few seconds and the foxes still sniff around and scratch that area of my garden at least three years later.

 

10 July (Part 2) - Bexley Council resorts to lies and deceptions of every description

BudgetBexley Council came out with this weird statement today and maybe a full explanation will be forthcoming at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.

However the notice appears to confirm that the Conservative administration’s budget strategy is twofold.

1) Slip in a big service cut which only the two or three people who attend public meetings and the half dozen who watch the webcast will know about.
2) Use their web pages, social media and Press Releases to announce a partial reversal and claim that is a real positive step forward for the borough.

They take us for fools and most residents will let them get away with it.

That is how a a £230,000 cut in the park maintenance budget could be presented as a £90,000 investment. The same tactic was applied to street cleaning and a similar one was applied to tree planting. It was withdrawn one year and a token amount invested later was presented as something of which to be proud.

These things are almost certainly worked out well in advance; bad things immediately after an election and a step back from the brink just before the next one. However some of their crafty stunts probably only come to them a little too late in the cycle.

No one has formally announced any plan to reduce the refuse collection frequency from two to three weekly. I think if the Conservatives had made such an announcement I would have noticed - not having missed either a Cabinet nor Council meeting in several years - and the Labour Councillors would have milked the situation for all it is worth.

Presumably having omitted to announce the frequency reduction Bexley Council had to invent it.

It sounds good. We are so generous with residents that we are not going to worsen that particular service. I have it on good authority that Cabinet Member Peter Craske does not beat his wife either.

 

10 July (Part 1) - Andrew Bashford’s Abbey Road claims another victim

Bashford CrashWhen my son, who has investigated serious road accidents on three Continents and is contracted to the EU, first saw what Andrew Bashford had done to Belvedere’s Abbey Road he said it was a recipe for collisions. Councillor John Davey merely called it Bonkers and both were right.

I haven’t always been able to get photographs of the wrecks but the first Abbey Road accident report was made in September 2009, just a couple of weeks after the crazy scheme was implemented.

That accident took place at the same place as yesterday’s (Accident Photos 1 and 2). The very same length of fence has been demolished. There are two likely reasons for it.

Either someone approached from the west too fast and misjudged the kink in the road at that spot and the unfortunate driver of the silver car had to swerve out of the way - it is impacted on the driver’s side too - or perhaps someone ignored the Keep Left bollard. It happens quite often and again the silver car would be forced into the fence.

Back in 2009 when Andrew Bashford told me that his road design conformed with the Transport Research Laboratory’s reports 641 and 661 - I have those reports and it most certainly doesn’t - he also said there had been no history of accidents in Abbey Road to justify his madness. I still have his email.

There is an accident history now.

Crash Crash Crash Crash
Abbey Road report.

 

9 July (Part 2) - Bexley’s roads. Moronic!

Florence RoadYou don’t need BiB to tell you that everything to do with roads in Bexley is wrong, designed by idiots intent on causing as much chaos as possible. As Councillor John Davey memorably told me in 2009, road design in Bexley is absolutely bonkers, hence the name of this website.

Council traffic management appears to attract the lowest form of intellect. A friend is occasionally invited to a social function at which Greenwich’s Andrew Bashford equivalent is frequently present. I think he may have retired now. When my friend asked him what motivates his road designs he said it was “to pee off as many motorists as possible.

In Bexley they like to pee off bus drivers too.

I've reported this one before and it was last featured on BiB a year ago. Cars can legally park on a narrow right angle bend in Florence Road, Abbey Wood. If anything bigger than a tiny car is parked there, there is no way a bus can get past.

The driver of this one had resorted to locking the cab and knocking on nearby doors.

Bexley Council is fond of painting double yellow lines all across the borough, but where they are really needed they simply cannot be bothered. Am I allowed to say “arseholes“? No probably not.

Fortunately at 7 p.m. on a Sunday evening without any trains running to Abbey Wood there was very little traffic about.

The black BMW was trying to get by on the footpath. I don’t think he made it.

 

9 July (Part 1) - Red House, Red tape, Red face

CraskeIf you follow local Twitter accounts you couldn’t get away from Councillor Craske and his tour of Bexley on Friday. The Carnegie Building, Crossness, Lesnes Abbey, The Red House, Danson House, Hall Place, a couple of colleges and a golf course. Why he did it no one knows, some sort of electioneering stunt I expect, but as someone who found himself flagging in Friday’s heat I can only say “well done Peter”.

His pictures of Lesnes Abbey attracted my attention because it was adorned with red tape. That’s new, or should I say a step backwards. After two and a half years of work I had hoped we were done with that sort of thing.

It was still there this morning deterring no one from nothing in particular, but over the past week half a dozen new coping stones have made their way on to The Skyline Viewing Point. It might be finished one day.

Something that is close to being finished is Belvedere’s so called Beach. The official opening is scheduled for noon on Thursday 27th July. See you there Peter!

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey
That’s all from me, I'm off for a day at The Oval via a torturous route thanks to Network Rail. There are no trains at Abbey Wood again today and at seven o’clock this morning there was no obvious reason why.

 

8 June - Playing with fire

There were two unfamiliar guests at last week’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. Two Fire Commanders and there could only be one reason for that, the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington.

It was therefore more than a little odd that Chairman Melvin Seymour opened the meeting with the following words…

“I do need to stress that I will not be allowing questions on structural safety nor any other safety regards, it would be unfair for me to expect you [the fire officers] to answer questions in view of the fact the judicial review and public enquiry has yet to take place.”

Presumably the fire officers were not considered to be intelligent enough to judge where any boundaries might lie.

More reasonably the Chairman also said that “we are not here to discuss the reactions or response of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea or the decamp at Camden.”

Fire officersCouncillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) was the first to run foul of the Chairman’s curious ruling. He asked “have we informed residents of the nine tower blocks at Parkview that we have suspended cladding”. As already noted, he was stopped in his tracks and if the residents of Parkview are in ignorance of the decision, the Chairman’s preference was that they must remain so.

Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith updated the Committee on what Bexley Council did immediately after the fire (†). All the housing associations were asked for details of their high rise buildings and any cladding. Earlier fire assessments did not report on cladding.

Peabody had 25 high rise blocks, Orbit eleven and L&Q none above four storeys. None of the 36 have cladding similar to that at Grenfell but some accommodation in private hands needs “further investigation”. There is a total of 300 properties in the borough above four storeys and “a robust audit had identified issues with self close fire doors etc. but the issues found were minor as regards fire safety”.

Schools and care homes are also being looked at as is the Premier Inn in Sidcup which has aluminium cladding, as did Grenfell, but without the same internal insulation.

The fire officers later admitted “that the audit process does not take into account external cladding. In the light of what has happened that is something that will be looked at”.

Mr. Bryce-Smith, with what was perhaps an unfortunate turn of phrase, said that “in these flats there are ticking time bombs, residents with white goods that have not been checked to see if they are on recall for example” and he aims to publish a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions on fire safety.

The fire officers said that they had attended fires at high rise blocks in Bexley on 112 occasions since 2012, none involving fatalities. The recommendation to stay put in tower block fires remains in place and rely on “fire mitigation. If that is there people are safe”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) said he knew of fire doors that were missing which housing associations had been slow to replace and “what risk is there?”. Mr. Bryce-Smith said that the housing associations are required by law to produce fire risk assessments but “there are challenges still. There are fire doors which have been changed for new PVC doors. If a fire door is missing there will still be some compartmentalisation in place but it reduces that [safety] along the corridor where it is missing”.

The fire officer said he would expect fire safety to be assessed annually “or maybe every two years in a really well managed building. Missing fire doors is a serious issue”.

Bad parkingCouncillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) commented that a lot of new houses are planned for the borough and planning policy must seriously look at fire safety, sprinklers etc. The Chairman whole heartedly agreed while referring to a case in Crayford where a new development was approved without access for emergency vehicles.

No access for fire engines does of course occur daily due to inconsiderate parking.

Vice-Chairman Cheryl Bacon said she wanted the fire services to be “automatically” informed of high rise planning approvals. The fire officers said that already happened and had been the case since 2006. Identifying older properties remained a problem.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) enquired about the state of Bexley’s emergency plan. Mr. Bryce-Smith was able to give her reassurance but risking the wrath of the Chairman, said that Bexley would have invoked the London Wide Emergency Plan sooner than was the case in Kensington.

Councillor Hackett asked Mr. Bryce-Smith how he expected to get his fire safety messages out to the residents of Thamesmead. They don’t get the News Shopper, few visit the Council website and the next issue of the Bexley Magazine is not due out soon. Mr. Bryce-Smith said that Peabody was planning road shows and the Council would support them.

Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) also transgressed the Chairman’s curious ruling by asking about the testing process for Grenfell’s cladding but as you might expect the fire officers were not prepared to comment. It was in any case not their area of expertise.

DaveyIt should perhaps be noted that the Chairman allowed David Bryce-Smith and Councillor French to mention the dreaded G word without him commenting but poor old Danny Hackett was jumped upon for what even the Chairman accepted was “a reasonable question”. He merely referred to cladding in Thamesmead.

Finally, Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) offered his support to Councillor Newman and sprinklers but went on to refer to illegal sub-letting of premises - careful John! - and poorly maintained appliances. “Do we believe this is an issue in Bexley?”

It would be surprising if it was not but we were not about to be enlightened by Councillor Davey’s brave attempt to tackle a difficult subject; the Chairman said it was “not an issue for this Committee”.

The latest Council Press Release gives more details.

 

7 July - The Friday Foursome

The Charlotte
The news that a new planning application for the Crayford pub includes a refurbished bar provoked a 50% bump in visitors to BiB.

Someone disputed that any such plan existed but as Bexley’s planning portal said that the first application was rejected because the Council claimed there was no reason to lose the amenity - the pub - and the second proposed a refurbished bar, I have no idea where that theory came from.
Planning
Another theory was that Bexley Council had bought the pub but they denied that a year ago. An email offered possible proof of Bexley’s ownership. It said Bexley’s graffiti removal contractor dealt with unsightly spray painting daubed on The Charlotte but I think Bexley Council still offers a removal service, even on private property, if the graffiti is particularly offensive.

However thanks to some detective work by a BiB reader the new owner of The Charlotte has been identified by both name and company.

I don’t see any need to detail either here but assuming the research is correct the address is in North London with no obvious Bexley connections.

500 Abbey Road
The site of the demolished Harrow Inn has been an Abbey Wood eyesore for the past eight years but plans to build on it are now advancing. It is probably common knowledge that Peabody bought the site at the end of last year and I have three times heard them address interested bodies in private so I must be careful not to stray too far into that area. Fortunately a little of what I know came out at last Tuesday’s Places Scrutiny Meeting at the Civic Offices.

Painter Painter PainterPeabody has tried to acquire the adjacent wreck of a building, once a Thresher’s off-licence “but every time we go to sign the contract the price goes up”. Peabody’s plans for the site are still quite fluid and their plans are unlikely to be known in detail until the planning application is submitted at the end of the year, November at the earliest.

However it does not require a genius to work out that the proposal will be for a block of flats, that is after all the Peabody charity’s business but there is bound to be commercial premises at ground floor level as that is what helps to finance the residential accommodation.

Once they are developed a little more, Peabody will consider exhibiting their plans locally as they are aware of how the site will be a local landmark but must not totally overpower the village atmosphere or obscure the views into the woods.

Contrary to the assumptions of many, the mural which adorns the hoarding around the site was not commissioned by Peabody, they were as surprised to see it as everyone else and don’t know who was responsible. However they were not especially concerned about it and decided to let it stay.

Welcome
Maybe the photos above will help identify Peabody’s Phantom Painters.

Police update
It has been stated here before, based on information given out by the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards in February this year, that eight Bexley officers were to be ‘arrested’ and interviewed under caution for their role in the aborted criminal investigation involving Councillor Craske and the obscene blog. That remains the case, more or less but I assumed that had been done long ago.

I spoke to the DPS earlier this week and it was disappointing to note that so far they have interviewed just one police officer and the second is on hold because he has gone sick. It is five months since they said that eight were to be interviewed and indicated a result might be within sight by now.

I can understand them starting with the small fry and working their way up to the big fish but the complaint is more than five years old and it is 17 months since the third investigation team took over after the first two played silly games with it.

The number may not be eight any more because new names come into the frame while others are deemed to be on the periphery of the case and unlikely to have a lot to contribute.

I know the DPS have found serious wrong doing in Bexley in part because they were provided with documentary proof of it and also because they nodded assent when I asked them if they had come to share my views on the whole business, however I am beginning to suspect that the way is being paved for a huge dollop of whitewash to be thrown over the files.

The investigating officer assures me otherwise but so did the Greenwich officer investigating the former Bexley Chief Executive and Councillor Cheryl Bacon for Misconduct in Public Office.

My default position with the police is that one should never trust any of them, although to give him his due, the Greenwich officer was as straight as a die and was more shocked about the outcome of that case than I was.

Based on previous assurances I was pretty confident that the DPS would come up with a good result on the Craske case but now I am not so sure. It won’t be helping that one of the officers involved is the Met’s Head of Diversity. I was formally asked to withdraw my allegation against him last year but refused.

GP appointments
I’ve pretty much given up on the BBC. Radio 4 used to be on somewhere in the house all day long, but not any more. Early in the morning it now tends to be LBC and this morning they spent an hour discussing the generally lamentable GP services, which is the excuse for this short piece.

Fortunately I rarely have to see a doctor and if I do it is generally good enough to wander down to his surgery and book an appointment for the end of the week after next. However I have too many friends who need medical attention far more frequently.

One who has a life threatening condition sought medical help for a chest infection at the beginning of this year. She was told to go away, it would get better eventually.

It didn’t and she booked another appointment with a two week waiting time. Unable to breathe easily and fearing she was going to die (I thought it possible too) she went back to the doctor pleading to be seen. She was refused. A&E came to her rescue saying another 48 hours and she probably would have died.

This week she went to the surgery to book another appointment. “You can’t, we only take bookings on Mondays and Thursdays now, it’s to stop people failing to turn up.” Quite how was not explained.

“You can book by phone on other days.” The receptionist knows that my friend cannot use the telephone because she is stone deaf and gets by by lip reading. The response was little better than “Tough luck”.

There are far too many people in this country and we all know why.

Just to be clear, the surgery concerned is not in Bexley.

 

6 July (Part 2) - Buses diverted. Fly tipping problem recognised. Lollypop budget disappears

At its best Bexley Council can come across as quite a good one and that was how things were at Tuesday’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It must help that Cabinet Members Peter Craske and Philip Read are not members so there are no nasty egotistical tirades directed at the opposition or half truths. I quite recently asked a Councillor if he/she considered my criticism of that pair to be fair and whether I was right to portray Council Leader Teresa O’Neill as a controlling and vindictive individual. The emphatic reply was not one to persuade me to change course.

Not all Councillors are like that. On Tuesday I found myself in brief conversation with all the Labour Councillors present (Amaning, Ferreira, Hackett and Newman), ditto UKIP (Lynn Smith) and Conservatives, June Slaughter, Alex Sawyer and Gareth Bacon who was more friendly than I have any right to expect. I spoke to two Council officers too.

See how much nicer Bexley Council could be if we can get rid of the bad eggs?

Top tableThe main subject of the meeting was fire safety and to that end two Bexley Fire Officers were in attendance. As already noted, Chairman Melvin Seymour, presumably under instructions from above, would not allow any questions that could in any way be associated with the Grenfell Tower tragedy which made the discussions less useful than they might have been.

The intention today is to cover Agenda items that were not fire related, however it is probably worth repeating that the message from Bexley Council and all the experts at its disposal was adamant that none of Bexley’s residential blocks are clad in materials like those in Kensington or considered to be any sort of risk. There is a building in Sidcup that requires closer examination but it is a hotel, not social housing.

After the Peabody contingent had departed Vice-Chairman Cheryl Bacon asked for an explanation for the £253,000 overspend on the Community Safety, Environment and Leisure budget mentioned on Page 14 of the Agenda and the figure of £0·25 million quoted on Page 18. It looked like nit picking to me. (Most of it is due to the LED lighting programme.)

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) said he had noticed a reduction in charges at a car park he uses. Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer confirmed that charges at station car parks had gone down because reduced use had led to spare capacity and the prices were altered to become more competitive.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked about the rental income obtained from letting out sections of the Thames Road recycling depot. He was told that the target was £75,000 a year and the current revenue level was about 90% of that.

A considerable amount of time was spent discussing the skill levels of the local population. Bexley has the 4th best employment rate in London. 56% of the population have jobs rated in ‘Upper Middle’ and ‘High’ skill levels but a Council Officer warned about the impact of automation. Bexley has many warehouse and transport jobs and the effects of automation were likely to be very significant.

ClarkCouncillor Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling), until recently Chairman of the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee, was keen to mention the revision to the 96 bus route which she successfully pushed TfL towards at most of her Transport meetings. It will now serve Darent Valley Hospital.

She was less happy about the London Mayor’s cuts to various road and transport related schemes. The total is in the region of £3·3 million and follows a central government grant reduction. What will it mean for Bexley she asked Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer.

Alex Sawyer said Bexley already gets the sixth lowest allocation in London but has suffered the fifth largest reduction. The money had been used for school crossings and it won’t be there any more. “We face the risk there will be no manned school crossings from 2018/19. That is the cliff we are looking at.”

Councillor Sawyer went on to criticise the London Mayor’s transport policies. He did not want to see Bexley residents “screwed” by Mayor Sadiq Khan’s transport plans. “We deserve better transport links in this borough and [later] a car is almost essential in Bexley.”


BaconCouncillor and GLA Member Gareth Bacon is no more an enthusiast for the Mayor than I am. He said the threat to school crossing patrols might be attributed to “£650 million thrown out of the window on a partial fares freeze, an underestimation of the cost of the bus hopper and hiring hundreds of unnecessary staff to help with a strike that he himself caused. Just under a billion pounds”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira contrasted Sadiq Khan’s waste of a billion with the Prime Minister investing a similar amount in Northern Ireland. I wasn’t convinced it was a valid comparison.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked how many residents engaged with the Council at the Harrow Manorway presentation in Abbey Wood’s Sainsbury’s. It just managed to trip into three figures. He also commented on the fact that the Department for Communities and Local Government had ordered an enquiry into the Compulsory Purchase of property in South Thamesmead. Would it delay the project? The Assistant Chief Executive thought not.

For the past year or more Bexley Council has been pouring scorn on the Labour Group’s assertion that Bexley has a severe fly tipping problem. It may be at variance with what readers see all around them but Bexley has no fly tipping problem. It must be true because Cabinet Member Peter Craske repeatedly says so.

However it is suddenly all change.

The recorded figures have become so bad (“a marked increase”) over the past year that the Places Committee has decided to set up a Sub-Group to tackle the problem.

The senior Council Officer (a Deputy Director no less, on 90k. a year) who asserted at the last Places meeting that the fly tipping statistics were improving did not even blush.

 

6 July (Part 1) - Reader’s rant

There are so many jobs to be done at the moment - not all BiB related - I don’t really know where to start. Something that frequently gets neglected is replies to emails. Trying to file them away at intervals over the past few days reveals a frightening number that were never answered.

I can only apologise if yours was not acknowledged.

While I try to get a grip and produce a proper report on this week’s Council meetings I thought you might be amused by this two month old email which was one of too many that were not answered.


I’ve been catching up on your tales of corruption. From Councillors to Members of Parliament it serves only to confirm my reasons for moving out of Bexley.

I was born in Erith in 1951, both parents from Erith too and I used to be proud of the place. Now? I hope I never have to visit it ever again.

There was no actual tipping point although high on the list was Bexley’s traffic management and roads. Yes the cash cows, box junctions, roundabouts designed by Spirograph and road works! I’m so glad I'm away from it now.

Conway and the utilities. I reckon its a Taliban plot to drive everyone insane. Bexley’s aim to double the population without spending on infrastructure. Bexley schools for Bexley kids; how come Townley Grammar takes kids from Greenwich, Woolwich and Charlton?

Don’t get me started on lack of policing. Quote from a neighbourhood cop, “We have lost the battle and the bad guys know it”.

Do people know Bexley’s major routes are not controlled by the Council but by GLA as strategic routes? Unelected Dickheads. Anyway keep up the good work, you make me happy I’m out of it.


Bexley Council claims that their residents are the happiest in London. It’s twaddle. The survey was based on the use of the sad or happy emoji on social media posts. One could just as easily argue that Bexley residents are the least literate in London unable to find the right words to express themselves.

 

5 July (Part 3) - Peabody’s presentation to Bexley Council

Only a day or two ago I was struggling to find something to put on BiB, now there is quite a big selection but no time to process it.

There was a Places Scrutiny meeting last night at which I was the only member of the public present throughout. Someone else popped in half an hour after it started and disappeared half way through but that’s all.

There’s another Scrutiny meeting tonight but I won’t be there, it clashes with an opportunity to learn directly from Peabody Housing Association a little more of what they plan for the site of the Harrow Inn demolished in 2009.
Committee
The meeting was interesting throughout and a formal report will appear here eventually but the first 15 minutes can be tackled separately. It was an illustrated presentation by Peabody Housing about what they have in store for Thamesmead.

The results are a bit crude but I photographed their projected slideshow and it can be seen here.

This is most of what the Peabody people said…

Peabody is adopting a “town wide approach” ignoring the borough boundaries. “Residents want to see a single town.”

There are a series of projects at different stages, some are live now. A competition has gone out to architects around the world to seek the best designs for the new library building. It might be as much as twelve months late as a result of seeking “international designs”.

About ten million pounds has been allocated to Public Realm improvements “to make it a much more pleasant and livable space”.

Plans to clad nine Thamesmead towers in the near future have been suspended in view of the recent horrific events. Councillor Danny Hackett asked if the residents had been told as some had expressed concern to him for their safety.

Chairman Melvin Seymour ruled Danny’s question inadmissible. He said that Peabody’s response might be taken out of context.

Presumably Councillor Seymour had taken advice from the same lawyers who advised the hapless Nicholas Paget-Brown in Kensington. Advice that resulted in widespread ridicule and ultimately his enforced resignation. Why was Chairman Seymour so keen to keep the advice or maybe lack of it, a secret?

Does he believe his tin-pot Committee could possibly affect the public enquiry which was Paget-Brown’s excuse?  Whatever his reason it was an incredibly insensitive decision by Councillor Melvin Seymour; but at least those residents who read BiB will know they are safe even if Peabody has not yet told them.

Residents in Wolvercote Road have been advised of the long term plans for the demolition of their towers. It cannot be done until alternative accommodation is available in Thamesmead (Parkview).

The proposed DLR station in Thamesmead “will give an opportunity to fundamentally change and really create a new town centre”.

23 caretakers have been recruited to look after estates. “Named individuals who will know their residents.”

There are big plans for culture and the arts in Thamesmead and a festival to celebrate the creative talents which are found there will be held on 15th to 17th September. The Bird and Rose Bruford colleges are offering Peabody their support and expertise.

 

5 July (Part 2) - Council dimmo says new lights are brighter. They know they are not

Bexley Council has today issued a Press Release that I know will infuriate some BiB readers. It is headed LED STREETLIGHTS PROVE A HIT WITH BEXLEY RESIDENTS.

Personally I think that the switch from sodium lighting to Light Emitting Diodes had to be done on environmental and cost grounds but Bexley Council would appear to be spinning the change over for all its worth.

My objection is as always based on Bexley Council’s remarkable addiction to lying. I knew the new lights were dimmer the first time I took my camera out at night and found I had to ramp up its sensitivity more than ever before. Council officials have subsequently confirmed that they are less than half as bright as the old sodium lamps. It may be a more pleasant light but the claim it is brighter is simply a lie.

I also doubt that they are as popular as Bexley Council would like us to believe. An email from the relevant Council department - it wasn’t even anonymous - makes it very clear that the move to disallow telephoned complaints about the new lights was solely because the Council couldn’t cope with the number and that internal Council squabbles between departments was a factor.

To combat the deluge of complaints you can now only complain about lighting problems now via a web form; in theory at least.

Not that that has stopped some people making their displeasure known. If it were not so voluminous I might publish some of the correspondence put out by Bexley Council to complainers; maybe I will one day.

A persistent problem is that the new lamps have a different illumination pattern to their predecessors and in some case now shine directly into people's bedrooms or on to their TV sets.

From what I have heard Bexley Council has yet to take this problem as seriously as it should. The shades that have been fitted in some places have proved to be ineffective and it has been very difficult to get anyone to come out and see the problem for themselves because the poor dears only work 9-5.

The Press Release fails to mention that the LED lighting programme has gone £200,000 over budget.

Listening to you, working for you.

 

5 July (Part 1) - Beyond belief

Abbey Wood has always had a problem with vandalism. I don’t think it is as bad as it used to be. It’s a very long time since I last had a Molotov Cocktail thrown at my house but if you speak to the traders in Wilton Road you will be assured that there is still a problem. A shop window was smashed in the early hours of the morning quite recently.

I wonder at the sanity of the railway personnel who designed and the Council officers who subsequently approved the Crossrail station’s four lifts. They will be part of the Public Realm, open for cross railway pedestrian traffic 24 hours a day. I fear they will be vandalised before Christmas.

Last night I had a word with my Councillor Danny Hackett about the Lesnes Abbey regeneration project to see if he knew any more about it than I or my correspondent did. However he hasn’t been able to get a straight answer either and has no news of any formal opening day. What he did tell me was however deeply shocking.

PlatformHe said that the pond viewing platform had been vandalised.

I nipped down there (barely two minutes from home) at dawn this morning unprepared for what I saw. This isn’t just vandalism; it is systematic wrecking of the new amenity, reminiscent of the mindless arson attack two years ago.

How could anyone do such a thing?

I am informed that the attack took place last Sunday. Lesnes Abbey is frequently the source of teenage noise on summer evenings, the shrieking of young girls piercing the night air. The last such gathering only a couple of days ago went on for three hours until the police eventually dispersed them.

It is a commonplace which local residents have learned to ignore.

 

4 July - A pub destined to return from the dead?

Do you remember Crayford’s Royal Charlotte Public House? It was run by Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis and frequented by Councillor Sharon Massey?

It closed a year ago much to the relief of all its neighbours.

A planning application (17/00208/FUL) was submitted in January 2017 to convert it into five flats but I failed to notice that in April 2017 the application was refused.

It was refused on the grounds that the pub, “a Community Asset” according to Bexley Council, would be lost. Since when has Bexley Council been worried about losing pubs? They claimed it could “reasonably and realistically be brought back into use”.

After the years of complaints about the problems created around The Royal Charlotte, Bexley Council wants to see it continue!

Naturally enough the developer is attempting to comply with that strange ruling.
Application

New application 17/01464/FUL

The Charlotte was not especially popular, if it was it might not have gone out of business and any regulars it might have had will have long since found another watering hole.

Is Bexley Council incapable of making any sensible decisions?

As is only to be expected the plan has attracted some objections; no one wants to see a return to late night noise and drunken behaviour.

On top of that there are parking issues and neighbours will be overlooked from the extension.

 

2 July - Lesnes Abbey. A shameful lack of progress

Abbey Wood Rail closuresToday a reversion to the old Sunday tradition of comparing Bexley Council’s shameful tardiness in regenerating Lesnes Abbey Park and Network Rail’s Crossrail construction site at Abbey Wood.

The old Abbey Visitor Centre was demolished in December 2014 and the associated railway photograph was taken the same day. The old Abbey Wood station was still standing and so was the cross-railway ramp, though no longer in use.

Today the new station is not far from completion with the track and overhead power supply pretty much ready to go.

There will be another North Kent line closure next Sunday although you could be forgiven for not knowing that. There is absolutely no news about it on public display at the station.


Lesnes Abbey Lesnes AbbeyLesnes Abbey Park is still not finished although it is fully open for business.

At the beginning of last week an email asked if I knew when the viewing gallery (officially the Skyline Viewing Point) might be completed. The writer had spoken to Tom Smith who I believed was in charge of the project and he’d decided the questions must be passed on to his boss. An email address was provided for his reply but none was forthcoming.

Thinking I could do better I emailed my Councillor to see if he had any information about a completion date but I am still waiting too. Perhaps by coincidence there has been a little progress this week as these three pictures show. The granite coping stones are new.

Lesnes

The brochure includes an impression of the completed Skyline Viewing Point.

There will be a free music event in the Monk’s Garden on Sunday 16th July. Unfortunately that coincides with my annual visit to my oldest friend - we first met in 1949. Not sure whether missing the event will be a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps it is mainly good. I shall be out of earshot of the racket and Councillors will be free from being photographed, Brian Barnett permitting!

 

1 July - Hunt the hamster

HuntIf it wasn’t for Doctor Nikita Kanani’s hamster I wouldn’t have been at James Hunt’s People Scrutiny meeting last Wednesday because I had forgotten all about it. However Councillor Hunt sent the doctor a Tweet about her furry friend with a fleeting reference to seeing her at his meeting later. I briefly considered the webcast but grabbed a tie and ran instead. Maybe a mistake, there must be more interesting ways of passing three hours.

I like meetings with at least one controversial highlight and ‘People’ had none apart perhaps for the two or three hamster jokes which probably only James and I and the good doctor understood. The choice now is between reviewing the whole recording and cataloguing every snippet of information line by boring line or simply picking out the handful which struck me as being interesting at the time.

It’s Saturday, I feel lazy and there are far too many other things to do, so the short version is the winner.

Doctor Kanani MBE (Chief Clinical Officer, NHS Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group) mentioned that only 17% of Bexley’s population is “fit and well” due to an excess of smoking, drinking and eating. There is a wide discrepancy in life expectancy between the North and South of the borough.

The recently introduced out of hours GP services in both Erith and Sidcup were well attended in the evenings and on Saturdays but on Sunday there would typically be only two patients.

Councillor Alan Downing said he was seen almost three hours late in Sidcup’s eye clinic and he wasn’t alone in that. Dr. Kanani was obviously very concerned at his news and promised to look into the situation.

The Council’s senior staff pay bill will continue to be increased in September with the appointment of Dr. Anjan Ghosh as Director of Public Health.

Councillor Hunt is always keen to promote the arts in Bexley and usually manages to work in a reference to the Rose Bruford and Bird Colleges. This time among other things he said the arts in Bexley were “thriving”. The Youth Council members present were not so sure. They did not know about the activities which Councillor Hunt had been promoting and arts in their schools had been cut. “In the specialist arts academy we no longer have dance, and art and drama is seriously underfunded. All the music teachers have left. It’s a bit of a disaster.”

Whilst no one could seriously quibble with James Hunt’s good natured chairmanship I find the applause that follows reports by Youth Council members to be extremely condescending. It’s as though every Councillor cannot believe that a 16 year old can string two words together and deserves encouragement for doing so. Congratulate and thank them by all means but the prolonged clapping seems to be way over the top to me.

Councillor Philip Read was very anxious to dispel a rumour that the Welling Youth Centre was to close. “No truth in it whatsoever.”

In a reference to the fire tragedy in Kensington it was reported that there are 36 towers of six or more storeys in Bexley none of which have been cladded.

Bexley Council has so far purchased 74 properties for use as temporary accommodation with another 190 in the pipeline. Councillor Stefano Borella remarked that the Council appears to be buying back the houses it had previously sold off cheaply.

HMO licensing “is currently being developed“ with an ambition of “implementation of the scheme in the autumn”.

Councillor Read gave the usual update on the number of Social Workers in Bexley who are now permanent staff. It’s up to 86% which is about double what it was under his predecessor three years ago. So it sounds like good news, unless of course he is exaggerating. (Actually he is, the true figure is 85·58%.)

£884,000 was trimmed from the Adults’ Services budget last year but there was an overspend of £200,000 on housing and homelessness. This was more than compensated by a £1.3 million reduction in Children’s Social Care costs said to be the result of efficiency measures.

The ‘success’ of the garden waste service has caused employment costs to rise by £250,000 and the LED lighting programme has gone £200,000 over budget.

Fortunately for Bexley’s penny pinchers a more aggressive attack on motorists at the Yellow Money Boxes has pushed income another £200,000 over expectations. Stop doing it, be late for work. Starve the buggers out!
Committee

The inmates are kept safely behind Gill Steward’s barrier.

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