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London Borough of Culture

Bonkers Blog September 2017

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Sidcup Place

30 September (Part 3) - Lightbox is back

The Lightbox display has been slightly improved, the images now expand to only fill the screen rather than expand to their native (usually 800x533) pixel size.

It's only a bit better than before because the text is not word wrapping but one positive is that the system is backwards compatible with old pictures. The search for a better system will continue.

As usual new effects are not always visible until the browsing history clears.

 

30 September (Part 2) - ‘Councillor Philip Read is an idiot’. If that’s the best BiB can come up with, has it done its job?

Keeping Bonkers alive has proved quite difficult over the past several months. For one reason or another all the long term supporters have fallen by the wayside and Bexley Council appears to have at long last taken the advice Bonkers has been giving out for years; ease up on the non-stop lying.

BiB set out with the aim of exposing Bexley Council’s lies and criminal excesses and if they have cleaned up their act then maybe it is “job done”.

CretinIt’s more than a week since the pathetic Councillor for Northumberland Heath uttered one of his trademark outrageous lies and can now resort only to his secondary skill, unwarranted abuse.

I have no idea why he thinks he has upset me and probably it is just another of his vile imaginings. I have had no contact with any politician for more than a week except that Teresa Pearce asked a question relating to my link to the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association.

I doubt any Labour politician would ever speak to me again if they knew what I really thought of the thugs, anti-Semites, economic pariahs and loons of every variety who congregated in Brighton last week. (And the idiotic Councillor Read will continue to claim I am a Labour supporter.)

If all there is left to talk about in Bexley is the mental illness that afflicts the Northumberland Numpty then maybe the days of daily blogging are over.

BeggingNot so elsewhere it would appear.

Following in the footsteps of the 853 blog, the Murky Depths site is looking to go daily and asking for the money to do it.

There is no doubt that blogging daily is very time intensive if it is done properly and as you will have noticed, there is never enough time to get all around the borough and in my experience the direct costs are mainly in time.

When I was putting more effort into Bonkers than has been the case recently there was no time for domestic chores or sorting out things like the best energy deals or interest rates on savings.

That neglect has cost quite a lot of money but the direct costs of running Bonkers, domain registration, web hosting, software licences etc. don’t amount to much. But if you are having to give up regular employment to keep a blog afloat that is of course a different matter.

It is very obvious that a great deal of research time and effort goes into fromthemurkydepths and how the author finds the time while in full time employment is a blogging mystery. It would be a considerable loss to South East London if ‘murky’ was lost for financial reasons.

 

30 September (Part 1) - No more Lightbox

If Tablet computers are included a little over 50% of visits to BiB are made on mobile devices which is why the research into a more mobile friendly Bonkers continues.

BiB’s Lightbox (which allows images to expand when clicked)) makes no concessions to mobiles whatsoever and maybe expanding a picture to fit a device with a screen not much bigger than the original image is arguably a waste of effort. Nevertheless Lightboxes remain popular so something needs to be done.

Switching to a newer system is difficult because the trigger mechanism for the image expansion is different, retrospective application would involve tens of thousands of changes across the site.

Adopting the new system from ‘today’ only proved difficult too because the new system interfered with the old.

A compromise might be a variant on the old system, not perfect but better than what is in use now. While the changes are made there will be no Lightbox image expansion on BiB and maybe it will misbehave at times.

 

29 September - Canary Wharf in 11 minutes. Same as from Knee Hill to Sainsbury’s

In the early days of computing if you reported a bug in a program the complaint was too often brushed aside as being ‘a feature’.

Perhaps it doesn’t happen now that it would be next to impossible to get any sort of reply from a big software provider but for Transport for London it is still a neat way to excuse a problem.

The pedestrian controlled lights outside Sainsbury’s in Abbey Wood have been faulty on and off for the past ten months, the current failure has been ongoing for a month or more.

I came out of Sainsbury’s yesterday at 1:30 with a couple of bags of food destined for East Ham. I just missed the green man so stood by the roadside entirely alone for a minute at most with the button untouched. The green man returned unasked.

When I got home I found the message below in my Inbox. Apparently the constantly cycling lights are not a fault, it is an intended feature.

That has to be load of nonsense doesn’t it?

TfL
I had to be in Bromley today for what I thought might be a two hour job on an AV system and wi-fi that had stopped working.

I was on the road by 9 a.m. and six minutes later found myself gridlocked on the Knee Hill roundabout because of the long tailback from TfL’s wonderful new feature. The queue went fully half way up new Hill; so much for TfL’s plan to run a fast bus route (301) between the Crossrail station and Bexleyheath. It’s what is called Joined Up Thinking.

The job in Bromley took seven hours and not two - but at least it ended in success. By the time I got back home there was another message in the Inbox. It said the Sainsbury’s crossing was mended during the day and was working properly now.

But for how long?

I had three short blogs planned for today, now I can’t remember what they were going to be about.

 

28 September - The Royal Charlotte. Shut, given a life-line, now the rug is pulled again

CharlotteJust a month ago fans of the Royal Charlotte public house in Crayford were rejoicing at the news that it might be re-opening with some flats above. Local residents were probably less keen.

On 31st August planning permission was granted for the flats conditional on the bar re-opening too, but it could be all change again.

The owner has made an appeal against rejection of the original plan that did not include a bar.

Bah!

Planning

 

27 September - Albion Road and Wilton Road, audited

I should be driving to the Audit Meeting at the Civic Centre right now but on Monday evening I failed to unclick the Prime box while ordering from Amazon and because of that they promised to deliver today.

The box was too big for McColl’s Amazon Locker so I was stuck in from dawn until dusk. The package eventually showed up at a quarter to six and I had promised to speak to some of the traders in Wilton Road today. By the time I got there some had already left for home.

The issue was the suggestion that there might be a public meeting on Anti-Social Behaviour. Personally I can no longer see the point, Councillors have woken up, the police now know there is a problem, most of the traders can see the problem and the public have made their views very clear on both Twitter and Facebook.

What the answer is no one seems to know and a public meeting is unlikely to come up with one.

TweetSo I have left it too late to go to the Audit meeting which is no bad thing really. It’s going to be a public back slapping session. The auditors have found only a couple of minor issues which can be put right and Bexley Council’s own audit has found eleven people with blue badges and one with a single person’s Council Tax discount who didn’t qualify for them.

This year’s favourable report from the auditor may well be justified but they hand them out will-nilly anyway.

A couple of years ago they acknowledged - after someone else discovered - a variety of malpractices in the parking department about which Bexley Council itself said the Ombudsman was "likely to make a finding against the Council and publish the decision nationally. The likely finding of maladministration against the Council must be balanced against the payment to the complainant. Should the decision be made to make a payment, as recommended by the Ombudsman, it would be essential that the Council agree to review the practice of charging by bailiffs and introduce procedures to monitor the charges (as recommended)”.

Even though Bexley Council had put its hands up to “maladministration” the Auditor still refused to do anything about it and wrote to me, as one of the complainants, asking me to fund a prosecution as they were not prepared to do so.

All in it together!

For the record, and by the miserable standards of Councils generally, Bexley probably is quite effective and efficient. When Tory Councillors finally stop the daily lying and abandon the most outrageous spinning, there may not be a lot left to complain about.

Not going to the Audit Meeting means I will not see the tail end of the Albion Road rearrangements, like every other Bexley resident I cannot see them as an improvement.

There is a new Press Release but the map below gives a good idea how things will be from tomorrow.

Albion Road

 

26 September - Booze Bobbies

The whole day has been wasted on revising Lightbox code (the system that creates the large image that pops up when you click the small version) so that pictures scale to fit the viewing screen; at present they can be too big.

It was a struggle to get it working but too late I discovered it only works properly on phones held in portrait mode. When I checked the code author’s demo page it was the same there. That’ll teach me not to check only on the PC in future.

Wilton RoadWhat else has been going on? Nothing much but experience says that total silence provokes enquiries.

Councillor Hackett who promised a good deal for Wilton Road before his ideas were hi-jacked by Greenwich Council has Tweeted (see below) from Venezuela or wherever the Labour party conference has been held this year.

The plan first mooted included a public meeting sometime between 3rd and 10th October widely advertised including posters in every shop window. There has not been a word since.

The BMW which was parked in Wilton Road for three weeks or more disappeared on Sunday or maybe Monday morning, just in the nick of time. The car that took its place was given a parking ticket, on the Greenwich side too.


Tweet
It’s not just Greenwich’s CEOs who have been out and about in Wilton Road, the police have been on foot patrol too.

I have yet to see them which is strange because their Tweet (below) says they were there yesterday afternoon and so was I. From 2 p.m. until 5:30 inside a couple of the shops, but I did pop out from time to time. I saw no police but I did see drinking.

In both of today’s photos drinkers outnumber shoppers. The car with a PCN was photographed at 2:15.
Tweet

 

24 September - A landmark or a blot?

It’s that time of the month when Bonkers releases the latest crop of Crossrail photos, the station looks a lot different to what it did a month ago. The two mid-platform escalators are ready to be mothballed for a year, the lift shafts are glazed and ready for the installation stage and a lot of the bare concrete has disappeared behind brick and wood.

The observant who shop in Sainsbury’s will be disappointed to note the name Stannah on some workers’ backs, how long do the shop travelators go between breakdowns? Not long.

The observant who look at the giant pictures of the station that adorn various walls in the vicinity of the station will be disappointed to see that the wooden cladding omits the styling shown in those pictures making for a plain look which I have heard described as ugly.

No one who I have asked for their opinion likes the new station design. It is too big, it is not in keeping with the surroundings, having only one entry point is a mistake and it should not have been on the flyover. Basically the site was too narrow to do anything else at the eastern end so the options were few.

When I asked a construction worker for his opinion he too thought it was ugly, “but it’s a landmark”. There can be no argument with that.

CrossrailOthers who may be disappointed to see the latest set of photos are the optimists at Bexley Council who think the Crossrail tracks can be extended to Belvedere and beyond. The photograph shows where the next obstacle to an extension is going. (†)

Enquiries revealed it will be an access ramp for maintenance and other vehicles servicing the station and it is not an afterthought but on the original plans. Maybe Bexley Council hasn't noticed.

" The big question now is whether the station will open as scheduled. The last time I heard a date mentioned by senior Network Rail staff was on 7th September when it remained 22nd October with the official opening the following day. Later dates have been mentioned on social media but yesterday one of the top three bosses at Abbey Wood said to me “it’s going to be tough but it will open on time”.

It was only afterwards that I realised he had not actually mentioned a date.

It has been traditional to give an update on the Lesnes Abbey regeneration at the same time as the monthly Crossrail report but as the abbey gardens are pretty much completed now and the opening ceremony has been held in almost total secrecy a change of tack is required.

A reader who clearly knows more about the history of English architecture than I do is curious about the choice of artwork and in particular the viewing gallery.

The abbey is “obviously Norman” in style she says so “why are the look-out windows Early English?”

I haven’t a clue, prettier I suppose, certainly prettier than Abbey Wood’s new station.
Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey
† A single track extension to Belvedere would be a relatively simple solution as would sending the occasional Crossrail train down the North Kent track but passenger benefits would be minimal compared to changing trains at Abbey Wood. A consequence of Bexley Council’s failure to face up to the future when they first took office in 2006. Bexley could have had a bridge three years ago if it was not for Council Leader Teresa O’Neill. It’s Blackwall Tunnel again for me later today. Grrr!

 

23 September (Part 2) - Shoppers feel threatened but it is the traders who are

Wilton Road Wilton RoadThe past week has seen Greenwich street wardens out in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood most days, perhaps every day but Bexley Council has yet to show any interest. They have already admitted that their priority is raising money from fag-end droppers in Bexleyheath Broadway. That is where the money is to be made; when they came to Abbey Wood for a day they only picked up three offenders.

Both borough police forces have sent out officers, I’ve not seen any myself but reliable sources confirm they have broken with tradition and turned up on foot.

Probably the drinkers, drug dealers and beggars quickly disappear down the side alleys leaving the police to look for easy targets. One of the retailers licensed to sell alcohol had to produce his documents for Bexley police one day and for Greenwich police the next.

I’ve asked a decent number of people if they find Wilton Road (Photo 1 at mid-day, Photo 2 early evening) threatening and most do not, but it’s a self selecting sample. People who do find it threatening stay away.

The following composite of Facebook comments suggest there is a real problem for some people.

Facebook

Click or scroll to see more. (Screen refresh may be necessary.)

Like most local residents I have learned that the drinkers are not interested in anyone but themselves and their Special Brew but I wasn't silly enough to go down the alley with my camera when I saw a couple exchanging packets there on Wednesday afternoon.

Now that the details have leaked into the public domain via other channels I can confirm that the launderette is closed because of a major plumbing problem and may not re-open. The controlling interest has been transferred to another party.

Jennings the betting shop has been widely rumoured to be closing but I have yet to see any official confirmation of that. Maybe I should pop inside to look but that would break a life-time record of not entering one.

The ladies' hairdresser, the shop nearest to the station, is up for sale at £575,000. The lack of inexpensive parking facilities nearby were strangling trade and the owner has decided it is time to retire.

Who has the money to open the coffee shop that so many people seem to be clamouring for?

There has been no more information about the promised public meeting on the subject of Anti-Social Behaviour.

 

23 September (Part 1) - Bexley’s Cabinet makes three good decisions

Bexley Cabinet meetings are not the place to go if you are looking for anything exciting, disagreements are impossible because everything has been thrashed out beforehand and the best that you can hope for is that Councillor Peter Craske will pull another rabbit out of his hat; partial restoration of his previous budget cuts being a favourite trick.

Last Tuesday there wasn’t even much chance of crude political insults either because Councillor Philip Read had absented himself from the meeting and to top it all the subject matter was all good news so it was backed by the opposition too. The Tories will probably spin that differently but if they do they will be lying again.
Cabinet
Chairman Teresa O’Neill began the meeting promptly in her own unique way, unlike all other committee chairmen she never welcomes members of the public, presumably because she doesn’t.

The first 62 pages of the Agenda were entitled “Ending the Education Services Grant and the Future Role of Education Services” and Ms. Tiotto (Director of Children’s Services) was asked to explain what they meant in practice. This she managed to do in three minutes and thirty seconds.

The Government rehash of Educational Grants will result in a net loss to Bexley of £1 million a year and the Council does not want to deliver Education Services which only meet the statutory minimum requirements, it therefore plans to spend more than the legal minimum amount, about £550,000 more. The belief is that good Education Services is one of the essential prerequisites for the Growth Agenda.

Councillor John Fuller (Cabinet Member for Education) reminded the Committee that all schools, including Academies, “look to the Council for help, assistance and guidance”.

Councillor Don Massey (Cabinet Member for Finance) said much the same thing; “there are good Academies and not so good Academies and some can stand on their own two feet but we still have responsibilities”.

Councillor Linda Bailey (Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Growth) said she likes the idea that the Council “provides a comfort blanket”.

Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) said the proposals were “fantastic”.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) thought that Academies had “a detrimental effect” on education but “welcomed” the proposals because “they are vital” and doing nothing is not an option. He had some concerns about the funding arrangements which are settled for only two years.

UKIP Councillor Colin McGannon (Colyers) added his party’s support for the extra spending. “An incredible result.”

The next topic for discussion was Adoption. Bexley has shunned working alongside other London boroughs but opted instead to work with Medway and Kent County Councils. The partnership has been working successfully for the past twelve months and the decision was taken to extend the arrangements.

In terms of adoption numbers Bexley is the junior partner with 236 ‘looked after children’ (in March 2017) of which 31 were Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers (UASC). Kent 1,898 total and 483 UASC and Medway 390 and 3.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Thamesmead East) speaking for Labour wholeheartedly backed the partnership.

Councillor Peter Craske (Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure) wanted to plug library services, use of which he said, was on the up.

He was particularly proud of the proposal to follow many other London boroughs and introduce ‘workaries’ in libraries which will provide office space for entrepreneurs. The first one will be in Welling on a six month trial basis. A workary appears to be a small scale Thames Innovation Centre as introduced by the Labour administration twelve years ago and which the Conservatives didn’t like at all. (Well it did need one hell of a lot of financial bailouts to keep it afloat.)

Another initiative which appears to be going ahead is a Post Office in Crayford Library. Councillor Bailey said the Post Office move was “brilliant”and “there would be a big market for this [workaries]”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Erith) gave Labour’s backing to the proposals too.

Councillor Craske, showman and spin doctor that he is, couldn’t resist giving a little publicity to Bexley’s bid to be London Borough of Culture but to just four members of the public present plus one or two watching the webcast maybe Bonkers should give him some help.

There will be an all day event to celebrate the bid at Hall Place on 1st October.

Probably Bexley is quite well endowed with cultural icons, Crossness, Danson House, Hall Place, The Red House, several theatres and schools for the arts. What a pity that Councillor Craske destroyed the William Morris fountain in Broadway.

 

21 September - Bonkers is changing, very slowly

BiB was written before anyone expected to browse the web on a mobile phone and when the most commonly used web browser was Internet Explorer 6. When mobile browsing first became possible the site was modified to allow reconfiguration to a smaller screen. However it was done before web pages could communicate with viewing devices to establish the best display size and before I bought my own mobile to conduct tests.

Currently the site displays as intended when tested on a small window on a big screen, that is on my PC, but not always on a real mobile device.

Some regular mobile users tell me that BiB never displays correctly for them while my experience is that every page can be made to display correctly on my own phone. That may be because my phone just happens to suit BiB better than others but it will also be because BiB’s underlying code does not take full advantage of all the web facilities that have become available in recent years. Upgrading the site is a massive undertaking, basically the whole site other than content will have to be rewritten.

Meanwhile a few tips on how to get the best out of it on a mobile phone.

On a small device like my own, don’t bother with portrait mode viewing, turn it sideways, it will rarely look right in portrait mode.

If the display is far too wide try tapping on the central part of the grey bar underneath the banner heading or on the Mobile icon to the left. A screen refresh sometimes helps. Clear history cache in extreme cases.

If the display is too narrow and a red letter A is shown to the left of the menu, try tapping on that.

The code that runs the blog pages is very different to the original part, that is everything else and they can behave slightly differently.

Each has its own Configure facility listed under the Miscellany menu. Once there choose Mobile mode. There is no need for a Save or OK button and BiB then should go to the chosen format immediately.

It is possible when so configured for the screen to become very narrow indeed - I have no idea why - but a click on the red A should fix it.

It is near impossible to find the time to keep the blog content going and find time to redesign the site but it should be fun to try.

‘Permanently’ Reconfigure blog : http://www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/blogs/configure.php
‘Permanently’ Reconfigure other parts of BiB : http://www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/site/configure.php

 

20 September (Part 2) - An RBG takeover?

The Royal Borough wardens were out and about in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood again today and the photo below (taken from the @loveabbeywood Twitter feed) shows Greenwich police (note the RG shoulder flash) out and about too - on the wrong side of the borough border.

It’s beginning to look as though Bexley Council is not very interested in Wilton Road (what’s new) but Greenwich Council will be keen not to see a repeat of what happened under similar circumstances in Plumstead. Its residents established a a rival political party.

PoliceThere has been a persistent rumour over the past 36 hours that Wilton Road will be graced by a visit by the great and the good on Thursday. Whether it is true or not remains to be seen.

I contacted the MP and Councillor Hackett (Bexley Lesnes Abbey) to see if they were aware of the details but neither knew anything about it.

If the visit happens it will be further confirmation that the problems commonly seen in Wilton Road are being ‘owned’ by Greenwich Council but don’t forget who it was who decided things down there were getting out of hand and stirred the hornet’s next; it was Danny.

Maybe the Greenwich Councillors have one big advantage over Councillor Hackett when it comes to inspecting Wilton Road, no one will modify their behaviour because no one will know who they are.

 

20 September (Part 1) - Hypocrite or idiot or both?

The Bonkers postbag suggests that most people think that Bexley Council publishing the names AND the addresses of the litter louts they prosecute is the perfect illustration of Bexley Council’s usual vindictiveness, but it’s not illegal and some people think it is OK.

HypociteToday’s News Shopper suggests that some of those people are selfish hypocrites.

The writer applauds Bexley Council and the scurrilous rag for publishing the addresses but at the same time realises that putting his own name in the paper might place him at the same risk of retaliation as the litter louts.

He seems to have a poor opinion of all children too and specially asks the editor to hide his identity.

If he can think that far he can’t be a complete idiot but if he cannot see his own hypocrisy then perhaps he is.

Incidentally, I have used the same log-in to view the News Shopper since before Bonkers was created but today it refuses to recognise my email address. Its not stopped them spamming me with rubbish news though.

Had to install the scanner driver on the new computer instead of downloading the PDF.

 

19 September - Road wrecking in Bexleyheath and Abbey Wood - and a bit of a flood

This evening’s Cabinet meeting provided the opportunity to look at the wrecking operation in Albion Road. The town bypass is being reduced from two lanes in each direction to just one. How mad is that?

It remains to be seen whether replacing the traffic lights in Gravel Hill with two roundabouts is a success; I am cautiously optimistic. No one can say that the lights performed perfectly.
Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road
Abbey Wood, or more precisely, the part of it around Wilton Road has been a centre of interest for various agencies over the past week.

Wilton Road Wilton RoadUp to three police officers have been seen at the same time. Some shops have been visited by both Bexley and Greenwich officers. Maybe they are not as aware of the borough boundaries as one might expect.

Today two RBG wardens were on patrol while there was no sign of either the drinking gang or their betting counterparts. The wardens said they had been switched from their usual patch on Powis Street. Within seconds of taking their photo I encountered one of the street beggars.

Maybe Greenwich Council should have sent a traffic warden instead, the car first caught on camera on 8th September and reported to have been there two weeks earlier, was still occupying a prime position outside Hunters Estate Agency.

Meanwhile beggars and wardens alike can stand and wonder whether the new railway station can possibly open on time. The wooden cladding is not as attractive as that shown on the plans and water seems to be causing a few problems.

The men working in the deep hole near the temporary booking office (Photo 69 in the current Crossrail album) say they are dealing with a water leak and on the other side of the track a small reservoir has appeared. The photograph (Photo 112) is currently at the top of the pile of new pictures over in the Crossrail section of Bonkers. The wooden cladding is Photo 103. It looks too much like a pigeon loft to me.

Oh! And I finished the rewrite of the www.abbeywoodvillage.co.uk website and corrected dozens of mistakes. A trade directory with wrong addresses and a beauty parlour with both the address and the phone number missing is surely not a lot of use to anyone. And writing the code properly results in a website that loads a lot more quickly and is not a lot more than a tenth of the size.

Whether it ever sees the light of day I do not know though Google will probably index the temporary address in a day or two!

 

18 September - The Council sponsored website you’ve never heard of

I always suspected that agreeing to help the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association (AWTA) would lead to mission creep and it shows every sign of doing so.

Fortunately others are organising a public meeting on Anti-Social Behaviour and I need do nothing but it’s a little worrying that some people are saying there is no ASB in Wilton Road. Of course it must depend on how it is defined.

Those of us who pass through Wilton Road daily are entirely used to seeing groups of noisy drinkers hanging around at the end of one of the alleys but if they never actually harm passers by is that actually ASB? If only they wouldn’t throw their empties into an adjacent garden.

Overall it is very disappointing that after investing £300,000 in upgrading shop fronts and more on the pubic realm both Councils appear to be losing interest. Exposed drain pipes are falling apart, a tree has had to be removed and no one ever came back to fit the promised pavement studs that should mark where shop forecourts meet the public highway.

Bexley Council seemed to be so keen on the project when it began, they issued a Press Release, here’s part of it.
Press Release
Note the bit about setting up an on-line directory. I bet you haven’t ever seen it. Probably that’s because it was given no publicity. Why wasn’t there a link in the Press Release? www.yourabbeywood.co.uk which provided the formal Council stuff was mentioned but not www.abbeywoodvillage.co.uk which might have been more useful to anyone planning a shopping expedition.

It was mentioned on BiB but Googling anything about Abbey Wood draws a blank on ‘the village website’.

At the time I thought it was quite well done but it still talks about about the January sales, Valentine’s Day and special offers that expired months ago.

Traders’ names are spelled wrongly and in one case pictures of the shop owners are transposed to the wrong shop! Phone numbers are not consistently displayed and some directory pages put the text alongside the images while others with near identical content put it underneath. Obviously my first look at the site was far too superficial, look hard and it soon reveals itself as a mess.

It would be unfair to apportion blame but for whatever reason requests to update pages have failed.

Despite taxpayers’ money going to some web developer somewhere, under the bonnet it’s also a bit of a disaster. The image sizes are all over the place and at some screen magnifications the navigation bar disappears and then shows up in a different place; it had me fooled for a while.

It is quite possible that formal websites have had their day and are replaced to some extent by Twitter and Facebook but nevertheless the AWTA would like to have a website that can be advertised in every one of their shop windows. For that the site needs to be easily kept up to date, so basically as simple as possible. The Councils are sponsoring the current site only until the middle of next year when it will die if nothing is done.

Guess who has been given the job of saving it from oblivion?

As mentioned yesterday I have some new tricks to learn because in some ways Bonkers is technically at least a bit dated (and probably too big to modify).

Things are going quite well but there is lots still to be done and websites can always be improved. So that is why there will probably be no blogs for the next 48 hours.

With any luck BiB should be back after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.

 

17 September - Bureaucracy gone mad again

I have spent three solid days creating a new website after suffering months of arm twisting. It’s going quite well now and automatically adjusts for all screen sizes without user intervention. Bonkers was designed when websites were viewed on proper computers and web browsers had little or no support for tiny screens. BiB uses a clumsy bodge to minimise the problem but it is far from perfect, the new site takes advantage of facilities that weren’t around when Bonkers was conceived.

Changing Bonkers so that the Mobile icon at the top left can be banished will keep me quiet for quite a while!

Meanwhile Bonkers readers are the source of today’s mini-blog.

The image below shows how a resident bought a parking permit on 25th April and two days later was ticketed.

A simple case of a database not being updated you might think and maybe it is but Bexley Council refused to cancel the ticket. I’m assured the car was parked in the right CPZ!

Innumerable complaints and four months later Bexley Council has referred the matter to the courts. Idiots.
Summons
A constant complaint of drivers heading to and from Thamesmead is that the pedestrian controlled lights on the flyover have a mind of their own. It’s been going on since last November - or was it the November before

Someone who lives nearby has reported the failure many times and occasionally the lights appear to be fixed for a short while. Last Thursday Transport for London told him that after many weeks delay they had been fixed again.

If they were the repair didn’t last long, I drove over the flyover in the early hours of Friday morning, no one about, but the lights went red right in front of me again.
TfL

 

16 September - Locally at least the Conservatives really are the nasty party

At the beginning of this year the Royal Borough of Greenwich decided to abolish burial charges for under 18 year olds and as Eltham Crematorium is a joint enterprise with Bexley Council they had little option but to follow suit.

Labour’s Motion in March called for budget figures to be made available to them earlier to provide more opportunity for properly costed alternatives to be put forward. It went on to welcome the Greenwich initiative on funeral costs and Bexley’s support for abolishing charges.
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It seems clear enough that Labour Councillors were in favour of not charging for burying or cremating a deceased child, however the Conservatives voted their Motion down so officially it never happened.

A golden opportunity for Bexley Conservatives to use the body of a dead baby as a political football.

Is nothing beyond the pale for the bunch of reprobates you voted into office?
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Really horrible people aren’t they?

 

15 September - Smoke and Mirrors

I didn’t remember until this morning that Bexley-is-Bonkers is eight years old today. 4,265 blogs under the belt and a total of 5,318 pages.

It all started with a Bexley Council lie posted to the BiB Home page. I naively thought it was a one-off but big enough to deserve some publicity and then found myself deluged by Bexley residents keen to show me that Council lies were a commonplace. To this day the Home page remains a repository for the biggest of lies while the blog, which was tacked on as an afterthought, has largely taken over the site.

A small number of Bexley Tory Councillors are responsible for the majority of the lies but some come from the Council too, presumably on the direction of the governing party. In recent months Councillors have become much more careful and outright lies are now usually replaced by deceptions and omissions designed to fool the electorate. The amount of explanation required to expose them is usually too much for a blog on which readers will want to spend no more than a couple of minutes. A clever strategy by head spin doctor Peter Craske and coupled with the fact that Bexley Council can justifiably claim a number of successes it is probably enough to keep the Conservatives in power.

Councillor Philip Read posted the following to the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association website a few days ago, it’s quite hard to pull it apart.
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I have no idea how many people recommend Bexley to friends, probably no one knows. Accommodation is cheaper than neighbouring boroughs and I moved here from Greenwich and wouldn’t want to go back so let’s give Bexley the benefit of the doubt.

Are Bexley’s schools in the top five? Hard to say because there are so many different ways of measuring performance. The Daily Telegraph’s list of top Comprehensive Schools shows no Bexley School in the top 100 and Bexley’s highest rated in the Selective category is at No. 80. Unless Councillor Read is prepared to provide the source data for his claim it is no more valid than my assessment is, but it’s a nice soundbite.

The crime rates in Bexley have definitely been low. It has been in the top spot in five of the last six years and no worse than seventh this millennium. Presumably that is primarily a credit to the police and a law abiding population?

LieIt’s a pity that Bexley Tories have to lie and claim they have been in top spot for all of the past ten years. As well as being first five times they have been second once, third twice and fourth twice. All the figures are available on the gov.uk website. There was no need to lie but Bexley Tories just can’t help it.

Bexley has certainly done better than nearby boroughs in attracting inward investment; a shame perhaps that so much of it has been spent on wrecking roads.

Bexley has also shown itself to be better at the recycling game than other Councils, however they cannot claim all of the credit. It was the 2002-2006 Labour administration that introduced the recycling boxes and rocketed Bexley into the top recycling spot.

The Tories took things further when they swapped the black sack based weekly rubbish system for fortnightly green wheelie bins. It was a good scheme bearing in mind the EU inspired punitive landfill tax. Unfortunately the refuse collection service has become gradually worse. First the standard bin size was reduced, then we had the rules prohibiting raised lids and two years ago garden waste charges were introduced.

Despite everything Bexley’s refuse service remains among the very best and neither can one really argue with the claim it has a good collection of tourist attractions.

Happy lieThe claim that Bexley residents are the happiest in London is of course total nonsense. The Office of National Statistics goes around wasting your hard earned cash collecting that statistic and recently put Bexley in 21st place in London and virtually out of sight nationally. Maybe the figure 2 got lost somewhere - or maybe it is a big fat lie.

So Bexley Council is doing a generally first rate job is it? Well maybe not if you scratch the surface. Some of the cuts imposed are horrific.

Cuts to the Adult Social Care budget range from £860k. last year to £7.9 million in 2020! Presumably Bexley Tories are banking on there being little chance of vulnerable adults costing them votes.
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But there might be votes to be lost over street cleaning cuts so voters are having to be told the budget is being increased. Lying comes easy to Bexley Conservatives.

Quite how Bexley can become cleaner by spending less money than when they were elected remains to be seen. The cleaning budget is down £348k. this year, £418k. next year and £438k. in 2019.
Cleaning
The figures (and images) shown above are from a Labour Party summary of the situation circulated at the Council meeting of 1st March this year and certified by the Director of Finance as being wholly correct.

Despite the increasingly expert cover ups, Bexley Council is still lying to you.

 

14 September - Persona non grata. That’s me!

After innumerable distractions I shall make an attempt to get Bonkers back on the political road tomorrow but meanwhile a more literal road story.

FireThe van which came close to blocking my drive was yesterday moved for the first time since it arrived 13 days ago. My tiny car could just get through the gap but if I had had furniture due for delivery, was moving house or as Councillor Craske suggests, my house was on fire, I would have been well and truly stuffed.

The van arrived at 16:24 on Thursday 31st August at a time when my end of the road was miraculously empty of parked cars. The van could have parked anywhere but it was carefully shuffled into very nearly the worst possible position. Two men got out, extracted large bags or cases and wandered off as if to go to the station or something.

The van was ticketed four days later for obstructing a dropped kerb, a neighbour’s not mine.

Yesterday evening it was moved further up the road.

ParkingWhy it is that Bexley Council allows end on parking in my road I have no idea. Every flat and house has at least one reserved off street parking place and the cul-de-sac was designated a turning circle on the plans approved by Bexley Council 30 something years ago.

Any gaps the residents leave are rapidly filled by commuters and as Councillor Craske points out, it could be a fire hazard.

This morning while on my daily jaunt to take photos of the Crossrail station construction I was accosted and aggressively questioned about the van by someone who was a stranger to me.

The someone admitted to having been on holiday - he said for six weeks but that doesn’t make sense to me - and insisted that I should have put a note on his windscreen so he could move his van. As he had taken no notice of the PCN and was away I’m not sure how that would have helped.

Fortunately the commotion - in Wilton Road, where else? - attracted the attention of a shop keeper and I was rescued. Presumably he did not want to see another mugging in the village.

Van driverI had almost got home when I became aware of shouting and someone running after me. I just managed to get safely inside and lock the door but as I raised my camera the man dodged behind a fence, all I managed is this poor photo from far too far away.

He was repeatedly shouting “who is going to pay for my ticket?” The answer to that must be fairly obvious. With half of Bexley apparently aware of Bexley-is-Bonkers I can hardly deny it was me who sent for the CEO.

The man then got in his van and drove away.

Does anyone out there know if any law, by-law or traffic regulation restricts end on parking? If there is none let’s all do it everywhere until Councils take notice.

 

13 September - For the lack of a stake - or vandals? No, it’s dogs

Storm damage Storm damage Vandal?When these photographs were taken in Wilton Road just after 7 a.m. the wind was blowing strongly from the station direction. Not what one would expect from the direction the tree has fallen.

And wind doesn’t usually strip the bark does it?

Further examination reveals the obvious cause of the tree fall. The bark has been removed from ground level to about 18 inches above and the tender young trunk is heavily grooved and frayed just above ground level. It is where dog owners tie their animals while shopping, drinking and betting.

 

12 September (Part 4) - It’s all happening in Wilton Road

Last Thursday’s blog about Wilton Road, Abbey Wood and its follow up yesterday together with the support garnered on Twitter appears to have had the desired effect. There have been a lot of developments over the past 24 hours all stemming from Danny Hackettְ’s promise made immediately after being told just how serious the problems were in Wilton Road to get all the interested parties together.

Phone calls, emails and texts flying around suggest that the powers-that-be have got the message, well most of them anyway, a Danny Hackett idea may not be the best way to get Bexley Tories on board but I am sure they will not want to demonstrate that their current pro-North propaganda is nothing but a sham.

I trust that you will understand that it is not always appropriate to go into too much detail too early but what I have heard gives some confidence that Councils and Councillors really do mean business this time, there is after all an election due in little more than six months.

Meanwhile here’s a few pictures taken over ten minutes this afternoon while I waited for a shop to open. It’s owner was doing a delivery somewhere, being a one man band is not easy.

Cover off Another cover off Broken pipe Broken pipe Snapped pipe

Another cover off Peeing Peeing Parking Drain

Running the drainage above footpath level was not a good idea, the exposed end of the pipes get kicked and broken. Covers are pulled off exposing electricity cables and as you may see, the beer drinking leads to the road becoming a toilet. (I should have used a longer shutter speed to better capture the ‘stream’.)

Ongoing problems are the lack of parking enforcement on the Greenwich side of the road, the BMW is alleged to have been there for two weeks. Photos prove it has not moved since last Friday. Bexley Council continues to neglect the drainage system. Look hard and you can see the gully is only just above the water level on a day with no rain.

 

12 September (Part 3) - Which of us will have egg on his face?

At the recent Crossrail Liaison Panel Meeting one of the speakers announced that Abbey Wood would see its first Crossrail train (on test only) on 31st October. The latest information says that cannot happen, but do not despair, it could arrive as early as the following day.

CrossrailWhether the new station can possibly open on the 23rd October as planned is the subject of much local debate. It does not look very likely at the moment but one should never forget that Network Rail has passed all the previous major milestones on time.

Last Thursday I met a lady from Network Rail’s main Crossrail base in Paddington. I asked if anything she told me was confidential and she said no, so here goes…

She too was gearing up for the 23rd with a variety of public relations events but to my mind was not as confident of the date as one might have hoped. It was probably significant that no VIPs had been invited to the opening as of last Thursday evening.

Harrow ManorwayI confess I was looking forward to reporting that the station opening had been deferred because Bexley Council had not completed the flyover work on time but I think they are going to have the perfect excuse.

With the station work running perilously close to the wire and Network Rail commandeering the station forecourt because it provides the only practical access to the site, Bexley Council’s contractors are probably not going to be given the time to do what they need to do before 23rd October.

I hate to be negative about a magnificent engineering feat but my money would be on Abbey Wood station opening a week or two late. On the other hand Peter and Raj (the Network Rail engineers in charge at Abbey Wood) have worked several miracles already so I will probably look like an idiot wide open for ridicule by Councillor Read and his mates.

 

12 September (Part 2) - They are Bexley Tories. What else would you expect?

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For a real barking mad conspiracy blog why not look at the one the police traced to Councillor Peter Craske's address?

 

12 September (Part 1) - Pots and Kettles

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11 September - Social media stirred officialdom when formality didn’t. So let’s do it again

Only a small fraction of BiB readers follow its Twitter posts so please forgive this one from last Friday being repeated here.

TweetIt was deliberately provocative and was a follow up to the blog dated 28th August which was by request of the Abbey Wood Tradersְ’ Association at their meeting on 9th August.

Earlier that day Twitter had exploded with adverse comment about Wilton Road. (For readers new to this subject, Wilton Road is currently the main access to Abbey Wood station and the new one is due to open in only six weeks time. The centre of the road is a boundary line between Bexley and Greenwich Councils.)

The traders were very concerned about the Twitter criticism but not especially surprised; they are not unaware of what goes on outside their shops.

They asked me to seek assistance from Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey ward) and Teresa Pearce MP. The AWTA Chairman separately contacted Bexley and Greenwich Councils neither of which replied. (†)

The cries for help fell on deaf ears but potential shoppers have continued to voice their support on Twitter for combatting the widespread Anti-Social Behaviour. Today the AWTA Chairman has authorised me to provide those supporters with more background information which might encourage them to further pressurise officialdom. Not to beat about the bush, officialdom has done absolutely nothing to help in more than a year.

The police claimed to have closed down the brothel a year after being told about it but the girls are still there and they wouldn’t be if there was no ‘work’.


BottlesI have been to every AWTA meeting since they began in 2015. The two Councils recommended it be set up when Mayor Boris Johnson offered the cash to do up the shop fronts. Not unnaturally the Councils wanted to liaise with just one person and not all 20 traders independently.

Abbey Wood Councillor Denise Hyland (Greenwich) was at the first meeting and maybe the second but has not been seen since.

Formal minutes were not taken until February 2016 when I was lumbered with the job. All the meetings have been audio recorded because my note taking skills are close to zero. The recordings allow accurate minutes to be written but there is no way any audio will ever be published, however its existence could prove, if necessary, that many Council guests have made promises and done nothing. Police too.

As recorded here a few days ago no one has covered themselves with glory. Fine words but no action beyond organising contractors to do the shop refurbishment and that finished a year ago.

With no support forthcoming from any official quarter attendance at AWTA meetings has dwindled. Except that Peabody and Network Rail have been good at keeping the traders abreast of their developments, the Chairman agrees with me that nothing has been achieved all this year. Even the Village website set up with much fanfare has been effectively abandoned. When I looked recently it was still looking forward to the January 2017 sale.

None of the traders are happy with the situation and at their most recent meeting on 7th September, while listening to some shocking tales of what has been going in Wilton Road recently, I furtively phoned Councillor Danny Hackett (Bexley Labour) and asked if his ears were burning. I told him what was going on and he offered there and then to organise a meeting of interested parties to see what action might be taken. He in turn contacted Teresa Pearce MP and she has already won the support of the two borough police forces. If the Wilton Road problem is ever solved Danny may legitimately claim much of the credit.

TweetSomeone who may not be able to is Abbey Wood Labour Councillor Denise Hyland. Responding to Twitter comment today she expressed concern with the Anti-Social Behaviour. If she knew nothing about it before then she should be ashamed of herself. It’s the centre (not geographically!) of her patch. I suppose a Council Leader has other priorities but does she never go to take a look?

A year ago both Councils warned the traders licenced to sell alcohol that they would have their licences “reviewed” if the street drinking continued. There had been complaints. (See Photo above to see where drinkers throw their empties.)

Isn’t that just typical of useless Councils that they pick off the easy target? Tackling the street drinkers might be difficult so attack the livelihoods of traders and those who might want to buy a bottle of wine while on their way home to their evening meal.

But nothing came of it anyway, just more hot air from Council bureaucrats.

Police have done nothing, senior Council officials have done nothing (but some have been promoted to a higher level of incompetence) and the very few politicians who have taken any interest - that’s basically Danny Hackett - have failed to deliver.

But right now their attention appears to have been grabbed and whilst eight years of Bonkers have proved that it is impossible to shame Bexley Council into action, it will not stop attempts to do so.


Drain Flood ParkingCouncil neglect of Wilton Road is evident in other ways too. The drain hole shown is blocked solid with rubbish and last Friday’s short shower caused the road to puddle.

Today’s heavier rain necessitated Network Rail’s gully sucker being put on standby so that it could clear the flood every ten minutes. Why has Bexley Council done nothing about the floods which have gone on for 30 years? I have photographic evidence of the long standing problem going back to 2009.

Greenwich Council is just as useless. The traders say the BMW shown here has been parked there for two weeks without attracting any interest from Civil Enforcement Officers.

I don’t know for certain that is absolutely true but the same vehicle can be seen in the same place in a photo I took last week.

Last week’s News Shopper reported that Lesnes Abbey ward - which includes Wilton Road - has the highest level of Anti-Social Behaviour in the borough of Bexley.

† Maybe coincidence but Bexley Council replied by telephone today. A whole month late.

 

10 September - What Councillors believe. What the public thinks

The output from my solar panels suggests that Bexley has enjoyed much better weather than I did in Wiltshire all weekend, so maybe Bexley was happier than Malmesbury for a day or two. (Office of National Statistics ratings : Bexley 7·24. Malmesbury 7·50.)

Three hours on the M4 and M25 are not conducive to very serious blogs and in any case Councillor Philip Read has been blogging sentiments that I may have made myself. The ‘sad idiot’ seems to have recognised that Councillors like him have ‘nil understanding of real life’…
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… because while he has Retweeted two references to a public meeting in Sidcup, residents who were there took a rather dim view of it.


A lot of angry people at public consultation regarding regeneration at 124 Station Road Sidcup.

Just what’s needed. 135 new homes and new supermarket with precious little parking.

Spokesman said GLA and TfL have said no one will need a car because they are so close to the station.


TfL and the GLA said the same thing about the Peabody developments a little to the North of Abbey Wood station and already approved in outline. Bexley Council didn’t like that idea and parking spaces will be provided for the first area to be rebuilt - but not later ones if I correctly remember what was said at the Planning meeting.

No parking would appear to be the future under the current Mayor. Who voted that twerp into office? (And Philip Read will still say I am a Labour supporting troll.)

The Sidcup Community Group had this to say about the Sidcup development…


If you have not been to the exhibition at Holy Trinity Hall may I suggest you go to voice your views.

This is an eight storey development stretching to within 20 metres of the nearest residential properties. As before there is very limited car parking for 35 cars. The whole site is to be built on with car parks being underground. The representative of the development company trotted out the usual comments that people living there would not need cars as they would be commuting to London. He actually said that an area that is becoming run down needs this kind of plan!

So far no tests have been made to ascertain the effects of wind as a consequence of the building.

A representative of the developer stated that if they did not plan for this degree of density permission would not be granted to redevelop. As to social housing he said that this could take several forms. He expected that he Council’s preferred option would be social housing as shared ownership.

As this Group has warned time and time before, the building of Bling Palace aka "The Fold" would set a precedent for Christopher House and now this. Has anyone tried to drive let alone park near Sidcup Station during peak hours? Worse still, social, medical and educational services are unlikely to be increased to cope with the proposed new housing but these issues are of no interest to the developer.

 

9 September - Accept it and move on. Bexley Council despises you

Lesnes Abbey Park is magnificent. Go and see it on a bright sunny day - yeah, I know - and soak up the views, the autumn colours, the gardens and features. Grab a coffee too.

There were times when the project began and old favourite landmarks were ripped up that regular visitors were seriously concerned about what was happening but gradually the vision shone through. There were setbacks along the way. No one could have foreseen that the landscaping contractor would go bust although those of us who live within earshot of the park should have guessed that the vandals would soon get busy.

Despite the delays the project is now very nearly complete and regular park visitors have been awaiting the grand opening. They waited in vain, Bexley Council was determined to ensure that the people who funded the project in one way or another should not be allowed to enjoy the celebration.

Twitter carried three clues to the planned formal opening. Councillor Craske said invitations were going out, then last week he said the great day would be this week and yesterday he gave a couple of hours notice. The intermediate Tweet prompted enquiries which suggested 4 p.m. Thursday was the likely time.

A reconnoitre in the morning suggested Thursday would indeed be the day. The Visitor Centre was barricaded and a notice said the coffee shop was closed. An ISIS contractor standing behind that notice as I photographed it asked what I was doing. I explained that the notice which he had not until then read indicated the official opening was imminent but he had not been told about it. He said it might explain why there were four ISIS trucks on site that morning.
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Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes
The security men turned up soon afterwards to be joined later by the dog handlers. Visitors then began to arrive driving all over the lawns.

A solitary daily dog walker from Federation Road passed by and asked what was going on. Puzzled by the lack of crowds she decided not to wait. Another lady did have an inkling of what was about to happen but said her friend, a volunteer litter picker, had not heard a word about it and was furious not to have been advised let alone invited.

By about ten to four the superior set began to arrive and hurried inside the Visitor Centre well beyond the barriers making photography difficult. Not that I really cared, the story is in the contempt with which Bexley Council holds residents, not who was wearing what.
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes
Bexley Council is making out that the extravagant arrangements and over the top security was a thank you for the staff who made the regeneration possible which the groundsman and litter picker will find hard to believe.

I’m glad I went, if Councillor Philip Read claims that Labour Councillors showed no interest as he mischievously did when The Belvedere Beach opened I shall have the photographic evidence to prove him wrong.
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

Pond Dipping Platform under repair. Viewing Gallery. Lump of rusty iron. Vehicle entrance with incomplete lamp posts.

All photos taken 7th September 2017.

 

8 September - Bexley’s Wild West Frontier

The Official Opening of the £4·2 million Lesnes Abbey Park and Lodge took place in front of me and two Bonkers readers yesterday afternoon. Such was the quality of Bexley Council’s publicity machine, no one else turned up.

It was intriguing that residents are considered to be such a threat to the privileged few quaffing taxpayers’ champagne that there were at least five Ward Security vans dotted in and around the park together with two dog units, one decorated to look like a police car.

Just what gets into the heads of the morons who run Bexley Council that they think residents are ready to set upon them with pitchforks and flaming torches? I spoke to a couple of the security men and they agreed they had never seen anything quite as crazy before.
Lesnes Abbey

Far more security men and dogs than spectators.

There will probably be some more pictures posted here before long but they can take second place to another of my appointments yesterday.

Wilton RoadIt was the night of this month’s Abbey Wood Traders’ Association meeting. Normally that doesn’t get reported here but the situation with Anti-Social Behaviour in Wilton Road has become intolerable.

£300,000 has been spent on improving Wilton Road and if anything the situation has become worse. As was anticipated the benches attract men with cans of beer and not pensioners with shopping baskets.

Yesterday I was taken aback by the stench of cannabis being openly smoked. I followed the offender up the stairs to the flyover and off in the direction of Sainsbury’s still puffing away.

Later I spoke to a lady who had been accosted by five different beggars in one day alone.

There is a danger that highlighting the situation here will drive even more shoppers away but how else will the problem be recognised?

Over the past year or so the Association has welcomed guest speakers from both Councils. Heads of Economic Development, Highways Managers, Heads of Regeneration and police officers from both sides of the borough divide.

Some make promises but nothing ever happens. Most simply disappear from the scene and ignore further attempts to contact them. Councillors have been invited but only Danny Hackett (Bexley Labour, Lesnes Abbey) turns up. With no Conservative support he can do very little. Teresa Pearce MP has fared no better. I know she has passed comments on to Denise Hyland (Labour, Abbey Wood and Leader of Greenwich Council) but Denise has not been in contact with the Association for at least two years.

Local politicians, all of them, are regularly roundly condemned.

The police have been full of hot air too. Since the Traders’ last meeting shop owners have logged two muggings, an 80 year old man beaten up and an incident involving a gang clad in balaclavas and armed with knives trying to get into the Abbey Arms in the early hours. According to the licensee the police never showed up. (They never did anything about the windscreen brick either.)

TweetA month ago both Councils were emailed about the possibility of an Alcohol Free Zone. Neither replied. Danny Hackett was supportive and recognises the problems. He is going to try to organise a meeting with all the relevant agencies. Unless both Councils get their act together the opening of Crossrail will be some sort of disaster for the area around the station.

Some Councillors are much more interested in scoring points off opponents and drinking champagne than solving real world problems.

 

7 September (Part 2) - Bexley bunglers may rule but perseverence pays

Bexley Council first discussed switching from Sodium to LED street lights in February 2015. At the same Places Scrutiny meeting they said they had in mind switching off some street lights altogether between midnight and 5 a.m. Their webpage about it was linked from Bonkers at the time but the Council had to delete the page when the governing party decided to deny any such thing and tell residents it was a Labour idea - but you will have had enough Tory lies for one day, so let’s leave that one for now.

Welling was used as guinea pig for testing LED lights and I went to take a look. My first reaction was that everywhere was horribly gloomy and that was my initial reaction when my own road was switched to LED. Suddenly I found myself fumbling for the key hole in my own front door.

My camera said the light level was well down and under pressure from one resident the Council confirmed the Lumen rating was less than half what it was before.

Despite that, Bexley Council insists they provide a brighter and safer environment and in my opinion they do give out a much more pleasant light. I have no reason to disbelieve Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill when she says that people are keen to tell her how wonderful the new lights are.

But not everyone is happy with them. While I struggled to find my key hole after dark some people were kept awake all night by the searchlight streaming through their bedroom windows and disturbing their pets.

One kept me in the picture throughout and thanks to his dogged perseverance everything turned out well in the end even if it did reveal a level of amateurism at Bexley Council.

His first email to me about it was on 8th March 2017 when he said Bexley Council was refusing to talk about his lighting problem on the phone and he must write in, so he did. It was quickly acknowledged but following that - silence.

After some prompting he was told that the lighting designer was being consulted. Much more recent developments suggest that wasn’t true; a bit like when Andrew Bashford told me that the Transport Research Laboratory guidance had been followed over road narrowing. I knew that wasn’t true because my son was TRL’s head of transport safety at the time.

ShieldIt took a further three months for anything to happen but F.M. Conway came along in June and fitted a blacked out parking restriction notice at the top of the lamp column.

It’s the sort of thing you or I might fit with an element of finger crossing and it didn’t have any significant effect. Somehow or other it made another resident’s situation worse. (Note: The shield was not in the position shown at that time.)

The complainant asked for someone to come out after dark and assess the problem for themselves.

The request was refused because it was mid Summer and it wasn’t dark during office hours. Bexley Council preferred dreaming up Heath Robinson gadgets in the dark so to speak.

Instead Bexley Council fiddled with the position of the shield but to no effect other than to swell F.M. Conway’s coffers.

On the morning of the last day of June a man from Bexley came out to look at the shield and stared at it for five minutes before going away. What he learned is anyone’s guess.

Mid July brought another complaint and on the 20th Conway fiddled with the shield again.

August saw yet another complaint about the three abortive attempts to shield houses from the glare and this time Bexley Council agreed to look at the problem after dark.

LED lampProgress at last, Their own eye balls convinced Bexley Council that they should ask the real lighting designers, the manufacturers, for advice not their own back room boys. At the end of August they came and fitted two little accessory grids (Photo 2). Problem solved.

Why didn’t they do that six months ago; it would have saved a lot of money?

If you are troubled by an excess of stray light and your lamp looks like the one below, then there is a solution. Don’t just suffer, do something about it.

Both lamps shown are in Townley Road.

LED lamp

 

7 September (Part 1) - Bexley Tories. Shooting themselves in the foot

TweetThere are few things better than waking up in the morning to discover that BiB has got well up the noses of the clowns who Twitter under the name @bexleynews. I’ve never seen ‘The West Wing’ but hope whoever said it was right, for Bexley Conservatives shoot at me on a daily basis.

Nice to know I must be doing something right.

Yesterday the clowns lied that I was on the side of litter louts and regarded going after them as “vindictive”. It’s a familiar theme, not long ago Bexley Conservatives accused Labour Members during a Council meeting of being friends of fly tippers.

Listen to the Craske idiot for yourself.

I think the clowns were referring yesterday to the blog in which I suggested that publishing the names and addresses of offenders was vindictive. I went as far as saying that prosecuting offenders was “fair enough” but according to the liars in charge of Bexley Council I do not support the pursuit of litter louts.

Craske and his disreputable mates really are scum politicians but their tactics are not supported by all of their colleagues, one Direct Messaged me an apology.

TweetThe clowns were at it again this morning. Apparently a Labour supporter (that’s me who has only voted Labour (†) once since 1964) wishes there was more crime. You have to be slightly mental to even think such a thing let alone write it.

They are saying that because I challenged them again over the dubious claim that Bexley has had the lowest crime rate in London for all of the past ten years.

That is simply not true. It has always been among the lowest but it bobs around in the best four or five, usually towards the top of that range but it is not consistently top dog.

Councillors have heard police commanders say exactly that in the Council chamber.

The leading Bexley Conservatives are liars through and through. They won't answer my question but they may delete the original lie.

† Danny Hackett twisted my arm.

 

6 September (Part 3) - Bexley Conservatives, a bunch of financial incompetents

BellwayThe first tip off about the Bellway Homes development on Broadway reached me last Sunday and it seems likely that the advertisements were put up on Friday.

It seemed odd that I had heard nothing about such plans so I typed ‘Broadway’ into Bexley Council’s planning portal. It didn’t like it, too many possibilities, did I know the post code? No I didn’t.

I took the lazy way out and called my ward Councillor who is on the Planning Committee but I at first drew a blank there. Danny Hackett had no information either but had been called only a few minutes earlier by the Bexley Times looking for a quote. Danny did not discount the possibility that they may have found out about Bellway from yesterday’s blog but as a member of the Planning Committee he wasn’t going to fall into The Bexley Times’ unintentional trap. Planning Committee members are not permitted to offer an opinion on applications until it meets.

Danny told me he would be looking at planning applications to see if he had missed anything but an hour later he confirmed he hadn’t.

With no formal planning application on the table Bellway Homes appears to have jumped the gun. More than likely there have been some under the counter negotiations going on and some unofficial encouragement from our incompetent Council.

Incompetent because when Bexley Council sold the land to Tesco for around £23 million they turned their back on Labour Party advice and did not insist on an overage clause. That might have allowed taxpayers to profit when Tesco sold to Sport Direct and when Sports Direct sold to Bellway Homes.

Bexley Council messed up big time and will be hoping that no one hears about it. Sorry chaps, they have now.

 

6 September (Part 2) - Councillor Craske - Vampire Man

Craske
Councillor Peter Craske gets a lot of stick and deservedly so for promoting the most addictive form of gambling (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) and The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has sponsored a page on the order-order.com political website to highlight his involvement.

You may read more on their own website.

With thanks to Brian Barnett for the tip off.

 

6 September (Part 1) - Crossrail news from yesterday’s Liaison Panel meeting

No infoLast night saw the last of the Abbey Wood Crossrail Liaison Panel meetings, or that was the plan anyway. There were so many unresolved issues that Chairman Councillor Steve Offord (Greenwich) insisted that another meeting was held soon after the station opens. It is still scheduled to accept its first passenger on 22nd October with its official opening the following day.

The Panel meetings have nearly always generated more heat than light. Some residents have been seriously affected by garden flooding, unnecessary South Eastern loudspeaker announcements (and worried Crossrail will double them), light pollution and construction noises and rather too often no progress has been discernible from one meeting to the next.

It is easy to criticise Network Rail for a degree of arrogance, a lack of consultation and total reliance on the Act that allows them to ride rough shod over residents in order to achieve that October 22nd date, but getting to where we are now has seen some magnificent engineering feats achieved on time. Four years ago the only sign of Crossrail was them setting up camp in Felixstowe Road.

Whilst Network Rail has not been beyond reproach I have frequently found the attitude of Panel Members to be unhelpful to say the least. Everything from silly questions to outright aggression. Last night we had both.

Why would a resident want to know the specifications of the glass that fronts the new lift shafts? Does he really believe that qualified engineers would fit glass intended for a garden greenhouse? We learned that it meets all the relevant safety regulations but it is not bullet proof. Now there’s a challenge for Abbey Wood’s low life.

There has undoubtedly been terrible flooding problems for those who live along the railway’s southern border. I am inclined to think that it should have been predictible that the deep piling and raised track bed might well disrupt ancient water courses but Network Rail’s remedial plan to sink 30 metre bore holes and a network of pipes has not been well received by everyone. Some residents are hanging out for an unspecified but altogether grander scheme.

The probability is that if the scheme on offer is not eagerly grabbed with both hands nothing will ever be done. In less than a year’s time Network Rail will be gone and half forgotten.

The flood protesters lost sight of reality when they insisted several times that Network Rail was entirely responsible for the flooding at the end of Wilton Road. It never happened until Network Rail dumped hardcore over a gully or two they said. It had not flooded since 1953 chipped in the Chairman.

Dumping hardcore over a drain could not have helped the situation but it was an engineering necessity. Having a gully sucker on standby was probably the most cost effective precautionary measure but claiming that the station entrance had never flooded before was the sheerest nonsense.

All of the photos below pre-date Crossrail and in 2009 Bexley Council sought my assistance to identify local areas subject to frequent flooding. These were among the photos I sent them. Needless to say Bexley Council did nothing.
Flood Flood Flood Flood
The noise protesters may have been on stronger ground. South Eastern quite obviously make unnecessary announcements and in my opinion Network Rail did themselves no favours at all when their presentation referred to dropping the volume of announcements by 35% after 7 p.m.

What does that mean? Decibels are an awkward logarithmic measure which is far from being intuitive. Unless the level is halved the difference is unlikely to be noticed.

Residents were critical of South Eastern and claimed that the company had never done any research into the effectiveness of announcements. If so that is a damning indictment of their competence.

Their suggestion that announcements be switched off for two months and South Eastern monitor the number of complaints had been rejected out of hand. TfL was said to be just as bad. “You are not part of the consultation process, go away.”

Network Rail’s arrogance also occasionally shone through. They necessarily destroyed one man’s garden shed and offered to replace it. The best quote he could find was £2,500 but Network Rail would pay only £1,000 on the grounds that his old shed was past its best. This is reminiscent of them removing the fences behind Coptefield Drive and refusing to replace them at all on the grounds that the fence was 30 years old and in need of replacement anyway. True but the underlying attitude is unacceptable. Residents are still in full view of trains passing 20 feet from their windows.

There was better news on the light pollution from the Bostall Manorway footbridge. The lamps had been dimmed but it would appear that no one had noticed. Not so good is that the ramps which were forecast to open in August will not now do so until January 2018 or possibly later and that the bridge, a well used school route, is, according to residents’ reports, to be closed for a whole month in term time. No reason for that was given.

The Crossrail Complaints Commissioner appeared to be less than happy with the situation in Abbey Wood. He said he had attended 155 such meetings across London and the Abbey Wood team had “fallen behind other areas and [the railway] could have been delivered with a lot more finessing”.

Despite the harranguing and accusations of “land grabbing” some useful facts emerged.

• The overhead power cables will go live on 1st October and the first Crossrail train is likely to pull into Abbey Wood on 31st October.
• Monday to Friday it will be stored overnight alongside the Abbey Wood platform.
• During the day it will be used for system testing and make its way through the tunnels towards Liverpool Street.
• The number of off-peak trains will be increased from eight to ten per hour and four more trains have been ordered to sustain that level of service. The peak hour service will remain at twelve, to Paddington only (28 minutes) for the first year of operation.
• The North Kent line will be closed on 17th September and 15th October in order to complete the station building. It will also be closed for the weekends of 25th/26th November and 2nd/3rd December to remove the redundant footbridge from the temporary station.

I would have liked to ask who it was who chose the horrible Brindle cladding bricks instead of something that might have brightened up the area but judged that there had been quite enough silly questions already.

 

5 September (Part 2) - Andrew Bashford continues his mission to make Bexleyheath a No-Go area

New homes New homesIt’s ages since I was last in Bexleyheath during shopping hours, there is simply no reason for me to go there and there is no quick way by public transport. However I was very much aware that I have very few pictures of the wrecking of Albion Road which I would be sure to regret at some point in the future. I also wanted to drop in on a long term Bonkers’ reader.

As a number of other readers have reported, there are signs of redevelopment on the old Civic Offices site in Broadway.

There wasn’t much traffic in Bexleyheath late this morning although the aforesaid Bonkers’ reader assured my it is often grid locked.

I don’t think there is much argument that reducing Albion Road from four lanes to two is an act of total madness, at least I have never heard any contrary comment from anyone either at first hand or on social media. Councillor John Davey would probably describe the scheme as “Bonkers” as he did a similar scheme back in 2009. However this time he cannot blame a Labour controlled TfL.

The pictures can probably be allowed to speak for themselves. Click for larger versions.
Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road
Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road
Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road
Albion Road Albion Road/Gravel Hill Albion Road/Gravel Hill Albion Road/Gravel Hill
Andrew Bashford is Bexley’s chief road planning engineer. He has successfully reversed the downward trend in road traffic accidents and injuries.

 

5 September (Part 1) - Bexley’s Tory liars become ever more devious

Are you missing Councillor Philip Read’s lies? Maybe he has turned over a new leaf because suddenly he is against abuse and intolerance.

TweetHowever Bexley Conservatives show no sign of dropping the lies altogether but maybe they are becoming more difficult to expose.

Their current favourite is tree planting, 200 of them across the borough in coming months (but please don’t ask how many will be ripped out of Old Farm Park).

The Tories are correct when they say that Labour voted against restoring the tree planting programme which was cancelled in 2014 but only because Labour members said they would prefer to protect the social care budget.

Tweet Tweet

I’d love to know where in Lesnes Abbey a Tory can be found. I’ve not seen one here.

Some tree planting is essential, Bexley Tories should never have been so stupid as to stop it in the first place but unless a tree is planted outside your front door you are unlikely to notice 200. I’ve asked how many are to be planted in my own ward (Lesnes Abbey) and the answer is two.

To uncover real Conservative lies some research is needed.

TweetSomething they have said quite a lot recently is that Bexley is the happiest borough in London. Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) has twice said so; in the Council Chamber last March and again in July.

Earlier that same month BiB described the claim as “twaddle”. That’s because the only survey that put Bexley at the top of the Happy Tree was based on counting smiling face symbols on social media posts.

For evidence the City AM newspaper was quoted but counting emoji is probably not the most reliable happiness indicator. Maybe the News Shopper was closer to the truth two years ago when it reported that Bexley was only eight boroughs above being the worst place to live in the whole country. Probably both surveys are total nonsense.

Perhaps Bexley Conservatives think so too because they are now claiming that ‘Bexley is happiest’ is a statistic supported by the Office of National Statistics. How many Bexley residents are going to check that out?

Probably the Tory liars are banking on it being none. BiB will save you the bother.

The ONS goes around (wasting taxpayers’ money?) asking people how happy they were yesterday and to score it on a scale of 0 to 10. Every borough in the country scores seven point something apart from Liverpool (6·96) and one in Scotland plus Orkney which both scrape above eight.

So in truth there is very little difference anywhere, nevertheless Bexley Tories claim that Bexley is in top place. Is it true? Of course not.

In London alone 20 boroughs beat Bexley. Among the 74 boroughs in South East England only three are less happy than Bexley.

Maybe we would be happier if we had a Council that didn’t lie all the time.

Source data. See column G.

 

4 September - The Bexley Gazette

Too busy or maybe too lazy for anything today, have an idea for tomorrow, so maybe thenֺ…

If you are in need of a laugh a new Bexley Facebook page appears to have sprung up. At least I think it is new. Takes the mickey out of the borough. I wonder who would do that. I have my suspicions but definitely not me. Still haven’t a clue about what makes Facebook tick.

 

3 September (Part 4) - Lesnes Abbey - You pay for the private party

Lesnes AbbeyA reader whose house backs on to Lesnes Abbey and who is in closer touch with it than I am has reported that the park, or at least the Visitor Centre is to be officially opened next Thursday.

I asked the local Councillor if he could confirm the story but he was almost as much in the dark as I am. He believed it might be true but the celebration of the spending of £4·2 million (£3·7 from the Lottery Fund and the rest from Council Tax payers) is apparently to be a very private affair with only senior Councillors and officials invited.

What does Cabinet Member Craske and his mates have to hide?

 

3 September (Part 3) - Success. Definitely a sneaky git!

Coptefield Drive Inconsiderate parkingIt’s nearly eleven o’clock and more than 48 hours since I reported the obstruction of my driveway and the Civil Enforcement Officer has just gone away.

I’m still obstructed of course but maybe this driver won’t be so inconsiderate again.

It’s an awkward spot as the Google Earth image may show; there are three closely spaced dropped kerbs on three sides of the turning area. The 31 year old development plans show it as such, a street parking area is designated but 30 yards to the east.

I very much regret voting against the installation of yellow lines when Bexley Council offered them quite a long time ago. Fifteen years?

End on parking is constantly creating a problem but when such a long vehicle is parked so close it obstructs the drive to the north and my own to the west. Yesterday the refuse truck could not make its customary trip to the communal recycling bins.

 

3 September (Part 2) - More unaffordable houses

Remember this lot? It’s the gang which tore down Ye Olde Leather Bottle (Heron Hill, Belvedere) while ignoring Health & Safety Regulations and circumventing planning regulations. No wonder they were so aggressive towards anyone who took an interest in what they were doing. Leather Bottle
More than a year later a planning application has been made to build nine houses on the site. Five four bed, three three bed and one of two bedrooms.

It looks as though development will be entirely to the north of the public footpath.
Leather Bottle

 

3 September (Part 1) - Campaign for a Crossrail extension continues

Alex and Teresa CrossrailThe Secretary of State for Transport came to Bexley last Thursday to hear the Council’s case for improved transport infrastructure. Everything from buses to Crossrail and electric cars. Naturally a Press Release was issued.

Presumably Chris Grayling was not shown the huge chunks of concrete which preclude an easy extension of Crossrail to Belvedere and beyond. (Photo 2.)

A single track Crossrail extension is feasible as would train diversion on to the North Kent tracks but unless the new Abbey Wood station is demolished two track operation seems unlikely.

For the record, I made a third on-line request for parking enforcement this morning. All but the tiniest of cars have been unable to access my drive since last Thursday. As one has come to expect of Bexley Council, there has been no response.

 

2 September (Part 2) - Abbey Wood vandals strike again

No parking No parking ObstructionThere is something about this that is slightly amusing but it is not really. The Abbey Wood vandals have struck again. A parking ticket machine on New Road has disappeared. At £5.70 for two hours, if I remember correctly, it might well be worth nicking.

Unfortunately motorists are now compelled to pay by phone but that is something that they have had to get used to since 2011. Doesn’t time fly?

I wonder if the local police will take it more seriously than they did the brick through a windscreen?

I shall plead innocence despite provocation. My drive is still obstructed 36 hours after first reporting it to Bexleyְ’s parking enforcement service. The camper van is partially across the dropped kerb leading to the houses to the left too.

 

2 September (Part 1) - Erith Quarry. Not for your average Erith family

The first of the new houses at Erith Quarry go on sale today. Not cheap, definitely not affordable. Prices range from £400,000 up to £525,000. Clearly of no use whatsoever to the vast bulk of local families. You can buy a half share of the cheapest three bed semi for £220,000. Absolutely ridiculous. Buyers are having to subsidise the school that Bexley Council squeezed out of the developers as part of the planning consent.

Labour Councillor Danny Hackett is quoted in the Bexley Times this week.

Bexley TimesHe says that such prices are out of reach. He’s dead right isn’t he?

The only thing Danny may have got wrong is that he thinks Bexley Tories are not acknowledging the problem. It’s not just Bexley Tories, it’s all of them. I’m surprised the housing situation nationally has not yet provoked civil unrest. Even my own son who earns well above the national average wage has had to be given a financial helping hand to buy a 1950s council house way out in the Wiltshire sticks.

Bexley Cabinet Member Linda Bailey is deluded if she thinks the Quarry development “will benefit a great many local people and their families”. It will attract City workers with an eye on the improved journey times post Crossrail - and they are the sort of high spending residents that Bexley Council wants. All Councils actually.

A relative worked on development and growth in Newham until he retired recently. He said that “yuppifying” the area around Stratford and Forest Gate displaced huge numbers of people and the Council had no idea where they went to. The implication was they didn’t care.

It will be the same in Bexley. 30,000 new dwellings will change the character of the Borough. I am quite fearful of what I will see in Abbey Wood over the next couple of years. Traffic gridlock is more than likely.

Young local people setting out in life have every right to be aggrieved. Within three years of starting work with nothing I had saved enought money to buy my first house aged only 21. True I couldn’t afford to furnish it but it was a start.

In 1984 when I found myself penniless - long story - and moved from Hampshire to Plumstead I put down the deposit on a flat after wandering into a bank and raiding my Visa card for three grand.

The appalling housing situation that prevails in 2017 has been brought about by people like Linda Bailey vaguely “hoping” that things might get better while dismissing the protestations of Danny Hackett and countless others with similar social consciences.
Affordable homes

The source of this statement has been conveniently removed from Bexley Council’s website


There is no social housing available for rent at Erith Qiarry.

From 2015: Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Thamesmead East) put the case for affordable homes on behalf of the Labour Group of Bexley council. She was ignored as is to be expected. There will be no affordable homes in Erith Quarry because if the house prices are not kept high the developer would not be able to afford to build the school.

 

1 September (Part 2) - Not listening after all

Reporting parking over a dropped kerb doesn’t seem to work. More than ten hours after issuing me with reference AF58074477 Bexley Council has done absolutely nothing about my drive being obstructed. An ordinary car would not present much of a problem but a 20 foot van parked end on where the original planning permission specified no parking at all makes negotiating my drive tricky even in the smallest of cars.

Maybe a Freedom of Information Request will elicit the reason why Bexley decided to do nothing. Meanwhile I will make another report when the opportunity arises to see how common Bexley Council’s failures are. Very I expect.

Note: This morning, Saturday, 24 hours after first reporting the obstruction, Bexley’s refuse truck was unable to get access to the large communal bins. A second on-line report was made. AF58132866.

 

1 September (Part 1) - Officially a sneaky git

While in Cliffsend yesterday Mick Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant and I briefly discussed what Bonkers may have achieved and where it might go, if anywhere, in the future.

On the surface at least Bexley Council seems to have cleaned up its act considerably. No longer do we have members of staff sacked for alleged trouble making, that is reporting a paedophile manager working in a place to which children had access (subsequently convicted). It is a long time since we have seen a Bridleway closed without seeking the required permission of the Secretary of State, nor have I been reprimanded recently by a Council Director for revealing that a senior member of his staff had a pretty girlfriend who worked in Downing Street.

One might conclude that Bexley Council is not as Bonkers as it was. It may of course have simply got better at concealment and losing Nicholas Dowling to fatherhood, Mick Barnbrook to Ramsgate, John Kerlen to Harlow, Elwyn Bryant to one long round of old people’s touring holidays and Peter Gussman to mortality, has done nothing to assist daily blogging.

The last serious issue to come BiB’s way was when the pathetic Cabinet Member Don Massey reported me to the police for republishing things about him that were already easily available elsewhere on the web. My request to the police that they provide a lawful reason for jumping at his command is still unanswered more than eight months later.

If it wasn’t for the idiotic Cabinet Member Philip Read and his Tweets BiB would be very quiet indeed. There are far worse Councils than Bexley. Why does the Leadership not rein in the Northumberland Numpty and put BiB out of business?

BlockedWhen I got back from Cliffsend yesterday I found my way on to my own drive blocked by two inconsiderately (that is illegally) parked vehicles. My car is tiny and risking paintwork on brick I just managed to squeeze through the gap.

BiB has reported before that the facility for reporting bad parking by phone had been withdrawn but maybe that is another area where Bexley Council has been ‘Listening to you’ after all.

This morning I decided I had had enough of being blocked in and would grapple with Bexley’s on-line form.

I was pleasantly surprised that it was not a difficult procedure and the telephone facility has been unceremoniously slipped back in.

So I am now officially a sneaky git and I think I am going to do it again whenever necessary, which might be quite often, except that so far at least, after 90 minutes, there has been no follow up action.

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