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Bonkers Blog January 2018

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Old Farm

31 January - Six little ones

The Loop Line
Old map Old mapThose of us a little worried by the prospect of no loop line train services (Abbey Wood to Barnehurst and Abbey Wood to Crayford) under the new railway franchise arrangements might be a little reassured by the appearance this week of a new map at Abbey Wood station.

The old and the new are pictured here. Both Bexleyheath and Sidcup services are back.


Bexley’s digital future
FibreThere was a brief reference at the Cabinet meeting on Monday to Bexley Council seeking money for their plans to improve the borough’s digital infrastructure. This is good obviously even though it will not directly serve residents. Today the Council has issued a Press Release on the subject.

Fibre broadband is thus added to the list of recent direction changes by Bexley Council. Late in the day they have recognised that broadband services are very important, along with Thames Crossings and
better rail services, both things they turned their back on in the past.

Without those things their Growth Strategy will not succeed. There is a new Press Release on that subject too.


Wilton Road, Abbey Wood
WindowI was sacked from my position as Secretary of the Abbey Wood Trader’s Association a week or so ago. It is slightly galling that the only time the two Councils took any notice of the problems in Wilton Road was when I said something about it here. I know I shouldn’t and it is what led eventually to my sacking but without that blog and the associated Tweets the Councils would probably still be doing nothing. I am however on balance pleased not to be closely associated with the AWTA any more, I will be able to speak more freely than before.

Last Sunday another shop window was broken and coincidentally the problems are being highlighted on Facebook again.

In my opinion nothing will change, the shops will gradually wither and die while the demographic changes. When Abbey Wood becomes totally gentrified and its character has totally gone Wilton Road may fill up with posh coffee shops and restaurants. Until then it is probably doomed.


The Nuxley Navigator
ChariotThere was a consultation on running on-demand mini-buses in London only a couple of months ago and already TfL have given the idea approval.

The Ford Motor Company subsidiary Chariot will run rush hour shuttle services from Carlton Road in Erith to Abbey Wood station using converted Transit vans. Apparently it can be pre-booked using a mobile app and the fare is likely to be £2·40. If you can park your car for free somewhere along its route that will save a pound over the cost of parking at Abbey Wood station. Is it worth the aggravation?

Some reports suggest the service started on 29th January.


Contingency plans?
The word Capita did not pass any Cabinet Member’s lips last Monday; perhaps it should have done.

Bexley shifted all its Council Tax collection duties over to Capita in 1996. My contact with them has been minimal, they wrote to me once asking for some details of something or other and I ignored them on the grounds I had no contract with Capita and they had no business getting in contact with me. Somewhat to my surprise I won that argument. Few things would give greater pleasure than seeing the much despised Capita go belly up. Shares down 40% today, where Carillion goes one day Capita can go the next.

Will Bexley Council issue another of their Press Releases to assure us the matter is in hand?

 

30 January - Tax increases create resentment. © Cllr. Read

I had hoped that Councillor Peter Craske might explain what he had in mind when he Tweeted about good news yesterday but he said nothing in the ‘stand out’ category and very little we haven’t heard before at last night’s Cabinet meeting.

TweetCabinet Meetings are inevitably quite civilised affairs these days, it is after all just seven people (only six last night) spouting about plans they have all agreed beforehand and none of them will mention those areas on which Bexley Council has been failing, affordable housing and transport infrastructure for example.

Additionally the webcasts and the likelihood of a report on BiB has all but eradicated the personal and political insults which used to be a regular feature. Cabinet Member Philip Read’s little dig at the Labour opposition was quite mild by comparison.


Leader and Table SnatcherLeader Teresa O’Neill said at the outset that Bexley Council fully intended to “live very much within our means” and in what has become pretty much the standard format a Finance Officer formally reported on the current situation. There will be a balanced budget.

Cabinet Member Don Massey (Finance) said the future remained challenging but claimed as successes increased financial reserves, improved care services, Belvedere Beach, good schools and the move to the new Civic Offices in 2014. The Council “has not been cutting, it has been improving”.

The increase to the Council Tax base is “more than expected and a pleasant surprise” which should benefit Council Tax payers.

Bexley’s pay bill is £64 million, a figure which excludes education, and a minimum 2% increase is likely in the coming year, the average being 2·7%.

CabinetCabinet Member Peter Craske’s (Leisure etc.) report was a little more exciting. Among the highlights were that the tree planting budget is to double - 300 over recent months - and a far cry from his decision to charge individual residents directly for street trees only a handful of years ago.

The new street cleaning machine has been more active in town centres than anticipated, more than once a week in Bexleyheath and every fortnight in lesser centres.

The food safety team has been augmented and Which? now rates Bexley as the most improved borough in the UK, only of course because the Consumer Association rated it the worst when the scheme started. Bexley Council took issue with their original findings and explained why Which?’s poor rating was invalid but the contrast boosts their egos so they will now happily accept the statistical fluke.

The Community Safety budget has been increased by £135,000, domestic violence being a priority.

“Libraries are flourishing” and in Crayford the increase in footfall has been 87% in the past month. The co-siting of a Post Office which opened on 13th December will be responsible for that.

Another success story is Hall Place which the Council took over last April. In the final year of Heritage Trust control the house achieved 6,000 visitors but 5,500 followed them in the first nine months of Council control.

A number of initiatives, exhibitions etc. in the house and grounds have seen the total number of visitors reach 15,000. To improve competitiveness in the lucrative wedding market Hall Place hire charges have been reduced significantly. Nine hours’ hire drops from £4,300 to £3,550.

The priority for Adult Social Care (Cabinet Member Brad Smith) continues to be ‘prevention’ which is much cheaper than mopping up neglected problems later, and efficiency. Nevertheless the budget must be increased from £56·1m last year to £64·47 million this.

Cabinet Member Philip Read claimed that Children’s Service have come a long way in the past few years. “They must continue to evolve and modernise in a way our taxpayers can afford.” Tax increases “risk creating resentment and hardship and are counter-productive.”

Temporary staff in Children’s Services are down to 11% compared to 70% in 2013. It looks like he has done a pretty good job there.

Black HoleAfter bragging about commendable improvements since he took on the responsibility for Children’s Services Philip Read could not resist an unnecessary and not wholly truthful barb directed at the opposition party. He said that they had predicted a £50 million black hole by 2018. The figure may well have been mentioned but only if everyone sat around and fell into it. That was never likely to be allowed whichever party was in charge.

Cabinet Member Linda Bailey was sure residents would elect another Conservative Council in May but mainly set her sights on attacking Mayor Khan; and not without justification.

The Zone 1 Mayor’s “London Plan was not helpful [to our Growth Strategy]” and Councillor Bailey was “very very disappointed. It has been written for central London and it doesn’t work in Bexley and it is horrific”.

In particular it speaks of increasing the number of units to be built each year but “limited on former industrial sites” which "is integral to Bexley’s Growth Strategy”.

“Residents will be really angry about the proposals for high density housing in town centres and urban areas and to cap it all he wants no parking. It is absolutely ludicrous and residents will not like it at all.”

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer was also critical of the Mayor. Unlike Bexley Council “he does not think outside the box” but instead just passes government cuts down the line. “He cut the local corridor funding by £200,000” over what was agreed last May. Other cuts will have a serious impact on road repairs however after Councillor Sawyer protested the Mayor has restored the money required to continue with school crossing patrols.

I found it surprising that no Labour Councillor took up the invitation to comment.

The audience other than your reporter consisted of one Bexley staff member and a Labour Party activist and the meeting lasted just under one hour. Summarising it took far longer!

Council Press Release.

 

29 January - Marking time

Until this evening’s Cabinet meeting is out of the way there is not a great deal to report but it should provide a good indication of how far the Council will be wanting to push up Council Tax again. Probably not as much as they could given the election due in May and the Conservative’s oft repeated claim that Bexley is a low tax borough. (It hasn’t been at any time this millennium.)

Whilst the Agenda does not reveal the extent of the increase it does go into great detail about various fees and charges. Not all of them are increased but it isn’t difficult to find hikes of up to 17%. (Adult Social Care).

There was a time when Cabinet Member Peter Craske constantly pushed out the message that Bexley had the lowest car parking charges in South East London. Needless to say it was nothing like true. It certainly isn’t true now.

The cheapest you will find in Bexley’s minor car parks (Gayton Road for example) is 70 pence for half an hour. The equivalent in Bromley, Petts Wood for example, is 50 pence for a whole hour. Maybe another reason why the shops in Wilton Road are being sold off and those in Queensway appear to be thriving. However the good news is that they are not going up again in 2018.

Somehow I failed to look at The Thamesmead Grump last week and so it was only yesterday that I noted it had returned to the subject of my supposed harassment of Councillor Fothergill even though it was me who was trying to close down the subject while she was offering new documents that I was assured would prove that the law had been an ass.

In going back to the subject The Grump runs the risk of falling foul of Kent Police’s strange attitude to news reporting; more than one or two references and it’s criminal! The Grump has changed his banner heading so you may wish to a look at the revised version.
Grump
Maybe it is time for a little update on the situation.

The last official word on the subject is now more than three weeks old. On 5th January I was told by two visiting police officers that I would receive a letter commanding my appearance at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court. So far the letter has not arrived.

A little more off the record a Kent Police Inspector phoned me soon afterwards to say that he would ensure the full facts of the case were first considered by their Legal Department, Sergeant Cook at Swanley had taken the decision to prosecute largely on the basis of Councillor Fothergill’s complaint and unaware of the correspondence between ourselves. Nothing but a lawyer’s opinion can overturn that decision.

The Inspector did not disagree when I said that Kent Police might end up with “with egg on its face” if they went ahead with the prosecution without being in possession of all the facts. Naturally he did not want to see that and said so.

The impending prosecution continues to attract press interest. Everyone appears to be very aware of the implications of this case but despite a number of pretty firm promises nothing has appeared in print or on line.

I think the problem is that every journalist I have spoken to thinks the situation is so ridiculous that sooner or later common sense will prevail - and when it does the story will evaporate leaving only one embarrassed Councillor and one very silly police officer.

 

26 January - Generally dull

General PurposesBexley’s General Purposes Committee meetings do not often justify attendance and it is a whole year since I last spent time at one. The positives for last night were that the Chairman and Committee Officer are always welcoming and the Agenda suggested that it might be all done and dusted in half an hour. Not perhaps enough to tempt me but two Tree Preservation Orders were being challenged and nostalgia drew me in.

In 1976, when I lived in Hampshire, I challenged a preservation order placed on five enormous beech trees growing close to a house I had just bought. The sneaky gits on Hart District Council had placed a TPO on them after my solicitor had done his searches but before I moved in. I beat them on a legal technicality which they were unable to get around. They still argued when I removed the trees but there was nothing they could do about it.

The first order discussed yesterday evening was on a gigantic oak which overhung a neighbour’s garden. With a TPO in place the neighbour was no longer able to trim the branches that overshadowed his garden without Council permission. One can normally trim a tree in an adjacent garden that is overhanging one’s property.

The only support for the challenger came from Councillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) who admitted to carefully watching an oak growing in his own garden. He was considering removing it before it became “a real pain”. Such trees caused damage to property when branches fell, he said.

No one else spoke in favour of the TPO challenge so it remains in place.

Another TPO challenge concerned a number of trees in and around Knoll Road. They did not appear to be especially attractive specimens but their removal would undoubtedly impact the visual environment.

Once again only Councillor Bacon had any doubts about the wisdom of a TPO. He said he knew the area well and he had more than once seen the trees drop large branches which would have resulted in deaths had anyone been underneath at the time.

He alone was concerned about public safety but the Council Officer said that would be the householder’s responsibility, implying that Bexley Council has limited interest in public safety.

Once again the tree huggers won the day.
Committee
" The General Purposes Committee at this time of the year has to approve a basic Council Tax calculation. How many Band D equivalent properties are there in Bexley? The answer is 81,287. Probably no one on the Committee is qualified to question the Financial Strategy Manager’s calculations so the figure was nodded through in 75 seconds.

The equivalent Business Rate debate took 15 seconds longer.

Director of Children’s Services Jacky Tiotto was present to explain and gain approval for reorganising her department following the retirement of a senior staff member.

Good schools attract people to the borough so it is an essential part of the Growth Strategy. Ms. Tiotto proposes a Deputy Director for Achievement and Inclusion which will cost £139,000 a year however all but £9,000 will be offset by not replacing staff in other posts.

Councillor McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) asked some educational questions which were eventually ruled to be beyond the Committee’s remit but before reaching that stage we learned from Ms. Tiotto that if a child was excluded from an academy the Council must take responsibility within six days and that can result in an expenditure in the region of £100,000 per child if it has to be educated outside the borough.

Remember that when your Council tax goes up by another 4% in two months time.

 

25 January (Part 3) - It was roads and bikes too

It wasn’t just buses and trains that were discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, roads got an airing too.

The Agenda included some impressive graphs on how road casualty figures were on a steady downward path but closer examination showed that to be over the past 30 years and some have kicked up over the past year or two, notably for severe injuries to pedestrians and cyclists.

Slight injuries were up by 16% last year. As I understand it, the trend is widespread across the country and is not a phenomenon unique to Bexley. In 2017 1,299 Bexley children had received road safety training but “silly little people doing wheelies” continue to be a problem.

In 2017 1,686 cyclists had been trained.

No particular accident “hot-spots” have been identified in Bexley. The statistics identify some areas as being worse than others but those areas are quite large and the accidents are not occurring all in the same place.

The plan for cycling quiet ways has been all but abandoned. £17,000 will be spent on planning for the future during the coming year but no money is available to actually build any - TfL cuts being the cause following a £700m. reduction to the government grant. There will however be “a fairly standard cycle route over the Harrow Manorway flyover” and there will be a cycle hub built within a refurbished and soon to be redundant bus shelter opposite Abbey Wood station.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer took the further opportunity to say that the Mayor had “once again screwed South East London”. The London Cycling Commissioner came to Bexley last August, had the need for quiet ways explained to him, he’d promised a response but despite two reminders has made no further comment. “When we have another election the Mayor might remember where Bexley is once again.”

Councillor Borella suggested that Alex should speak to the Editor of the Evening Standard who made the budget cut. In a very sarcastic tone, Chairman Val Clark slapped him down with an unnecessarily curt “Thanks for the advice”.

Mr. Robert Heywood who represents cycling interests on the Committee had hoped that the Albion Road reconstruction would be a success and the stepped cycling track appears to be but he was critical of the design of Bexley’s roundabouts. They tend to force cyclists to the kerb rather than allowing them to hog their lane which is the recommended safe practice. The cycling track surface was “choppy” and his complaint met with some sympathy. The surface will be replaced when the temperature is more conducive to a good result.

The Harrow Manorway flyover works are not now expected to complete until June, in part as a consequence of the delay to station completion. Work will begin on Felixstowe and Gayton Roads in April or May and not the November 2017 January 2018 dates originally announced.
Plan

Click image for source document.

Delayed

From Tuesday’s agenda.

The Watling Street Gravel Hill junction currently being converted from traffic light control to a roundabout will suffer three weeks of night closures in the immediate future with the expectation of it being fully open again by the beginning of March. The newly constructed Gravel Hill Albion Road roundabout will suffer the same fate.

Note: Shortly after this blog was published Bexley Council issued their Press Release on the subject. It is a more detailed version of what was announced at the Transport Users’ meeting.

 

25 January (Part 2) - More trains (C2E)

One of the few Google alerts I have set is for Crossrail, there have been eight in the past five weeks and three of them refer to extending the line to Ebbsfleet.

Crossrail to Ebbsfleet Garden City a priority.
Elizabeth Line extension plans east of Abbey Wood.
Partnership to submit business case.

Bexley Council continues to push hard for an extension too and issued a comprehensive Press Release a few days ago.

Given enough time an extension to Ebbsfleet will come but the design of the as yet unfinished Abbey Wood station poses a big problem. If the Harrow Manorway flyover supports do not block a second track towards Belvedere, the station most certainly does.

Crossrail blockageWhen discussing the issue with various Network Rail managers the conversation usually comes around to “not in our lifetimes” and probably they are right. Current news reports speak of an extension by 2050. some earlier but mostly not.

It could have been so very different if only Bexley Council had not been so blinkered ten or more years ago. It can be argued that we only got the Abbey Wood branch because of Teresa Pearce’s efforts; she devoted her maiden speech in the Commons to a plea for its retention when it was under threat and Bexley Council gave no sign of giving a damn.

However all credit to the Conservatives on Bexley Council, they did at least manage to scupper the Thames Crossing which but for them would have been up and running three years ago.

 

25 January (Part 1) - Just trains

The report on the Transport Users’ Committee meeting provoked some comment. One could be summarised as "is that all that was discussed?". It was more or less, the railway debate went on for 25 minutes and having reviewed it again the only subjects left out of yesterday’s report was that there is no budget to replace deteriorating over-bridges and that Network Rail is experimenting with drones to search for trespassers. To answer a specific question, I don’t think the Bexley Committee has ever discussed the issue of fares being higher on Southeastern than equivalents elsewhere. They certainly didn’t support residents in that way this time.

Because the loss of the loop services (under the new franchise) raised by Councillor Stefano Borella came as a surprise to me I asked him if he could expand on his comments.

He said his assumption is that they will no longer run is based on the loss of Cannon Street services on the Sidcup line except during the rush hour and the loop hasn’t, traditionally, been used in peak hours. With no Cannon Street services from Sidcup there cannot be a Cannon Street to Cannon Street service via Abbey Wood, Slade Green, Crayford, Bexley and Sidcup. Seems logical to me although I suppose a Cannon Street to Charing Cross loop service could operate.

Where Stefano is certainly right is his assertion that no one can be sure of travel patterns until after Crossrail and Thameslink services have bedded in.

There was a debate in Parliament last night in this very subject and I am grateful to Teresa Pearce MP for providing the Hansard link.

It was led by Matthew Pennycook (Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich) who complained first about his own North Kent line services.

He was aided and abetted by Bob Neil (Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst) and our own Teresa Pearce who specifically mentions the lack of access to King’s Hospital being a problem. She also refers to the reduced services at Erith and Belvedere once Thameslink services are introduced on that line.

It was said in the Parliamentary debate that Lewisham is a fully accessible station which is not what was said in Bexley.

The MPs repeated what everyone now knows, the railways are run for the convenience of the operating companies, not the passengers. Clive Efford (Labour, Eltham) summed it up when he said the complexity of crossovers should not be used as an excuse.

The Hansard report makes for an interesting read. Thanks Teresa.

 

24 January - Buses and trains

Transport UsersThe Transport Users’ Committee meeting is nearly always interesting to me dealing as it does with our roads, buses and trains, one of which is bound to interest a BiB reader too. None of the Councillors on the Committee attend in order to score political points as happens at some meetings and the Chairman doesn’t need to do a lot. As a bonus everything is well organised by Council officer Mike Summerskill who always makes sure the public are well looked after, even though there was only three of us and one may have been a Tory election candidate.

Police from the South East Traffic Unit and the Bexley and Greenwich Safer Transport Team police are supposed to attend but last night both were caught up elsewhere. We learned from their brief written report that there were two fatalities on the roads of Crayford within the past three months although the most recent death, just a week ago, may prove to be from natural causes. We also learned that bus crime is down; 22% fewer incidents last year than in 2016.

Mr. Smith from Bexley Council reported on rail issues. On Crossrail he said nothing that would not be well known to Bonkers’ readers.

A new South Eastern franchise will become operational in April 2019 and is to run for eight years. The successful company must provide space for an additional 40,000 passengers, provide on-board wi-fi and improve customer service.

To provide the extra capacity the Bexleyheath line will lose its Victoria service and the Sidcup line will only serve Cannon Street in peak hours. The North Kent trains routing via Lewisham will no longer terminate at Charing Cross. After years of disruption for engineering work it is nothing but bad news for Bexley unless you need to go north of London via Thameslink. Such a service will run via Abbey Wood from next May.

Chairman Val Clark said there would no longer be a service to Denmark Hill for King’s Hospital and changing platforms at Lewisham was impossible for the disabled. The Network Rail representative had no answer.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) made it very clear that he objected to the planned seat reductions which will lead to 40 minutes of standing on a crowded train.

Guests Track mapCouncillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) was not happy about the arrangements proposed under the new franchise, specifically the issues arising from the loss of Victoria services and the inadequacies of Lewisham station. The Chairman had already made the same points but Stefano went further with comments about the loss of the loop services via Sidcup, Crayford, Erith and Abbey Wood which he described as “bizarre” bearing in mind the coming of Crossrail.

The track diagrams at Abbey Wood station suggest that the service withdrawal has already been anticipated.

Councillor Borella said that January had seen an abnormal number of signalling problems around London Bridge. The Network Rail man agreed there had been teething problems and they were working hard to fix them. There were no plans to improve Lewisham station in the immediate future.


CouncillorsCouncillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) wondered “where railway people get their ideas from”. His residents had made work/life decisions based on the local rail services and “sudden withdrawal for the convenience of transport engineers makes life considerably more difficult. People seem to think that Crossrail will be the great panacea but I just don’t think it will be. It will just mop up the growth in the north”.

Councillor Betts is absolutely right. Maybe if you are heading to Heathrow with a huge amount of luggage the Bexley and change at Abbey Wood route might be worthwhile but apart from that, forget it.

For reasons that no Councillor believed made sense, Network Rail is going to improve disabled access at Bexley station before Erith which has none, London bound.

Cabinet Member for Transport Alex Sawyer summed up rail issues. Despite what the franchise document specifies he is going to send a “very strongly worded letter” to the Secretary of State. His proposals for Victoria are “unacceptable and are particularly disappointing after he came to Bexley and had the problems explained to him”.

Moving to Network Rail Councillor Sawyer said it was “disgraceful” that disabled access to Bexley station was prioritised over Erith. “It is appalling to treat impaired people as second class citizens.”

He didn’t think it mattered who won the new South Eastern franchise the same old problems would continue.

Buses were the next subject for discussion despite no TfL representative being present.

If I may digress for a moment, who willingly uses buses any more? Up to a couple of years ago I would always use a bus but now it is the car and damn the expense. Early this afternoon I was caught at the end of Yarnton Way (Thamesmead) when the heavens opened. I sheltered at a bus stop from which I might expect ten buses an hour to take me home. I wasn’t wearing a wrist watch but the fact that four 180s went by (12 minute interval) in the time I was there, the date stamp on the last photo taken and the clock on the bus suggests I waited a minimum of 32 minutes for a 469 to show up and not a single 229 in sight.

I hope not to be on a bus again any time soon.

By the way, it was said at the meeting that the annoying ‘about to leave’ announcements are on a time delay from when the bus arrives at the stop so rarely go off at the right moment. Obviously they should be linked to the doors shutting. I knew this anyway because of my family links with a vehicle safety expert but it was the first time I had heard the news put into the public domain.

No one knew if the (loudly trumpeted by Bexley Conservatives) new 96 service to Darenth Hospital was being well used.

The 301 ‘Crossrail Express’ is due to commence service on 8th December. If Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood for Crossrail becomes a popular route - which I doubt - a tiny single decker every 15 minutes will be inadequate.

There were complaints that early morning buses from Erith towards Bexleyheath were grossly overcrowded and six or more would go by before one with spare capacity arrived.

The Chairman doubted that anything could be done about it but would pass the comments on to TfL.

Note: The man in uniform is a fireman, sorry, fire fighter.

 

23 January - Four little ones

The Eastside Quarter
If like me you went to look at the old Civic Offices site when Bellway held their exhibitions there you might have been deluged recently by emails requesting your support for their plans. (17/02745/FULM).

Bellway can’t be faulted for effort!

I personally don’t have any real issues with what they have in mind but you should remember that I don’t live there and I don’t go anywhere near Bexleyheath if it can be avoided.

It is a town centre housing development so it is blocks of flats with 44% parking spaces and space for up to nine shops; what else would one expect? Despite cars being discouraged Bellway’s sales blurb refers to the ease of access to major roads and the railway station being only ten minutes away by car.

If I have an objection it is the decision to close Highland Road which will cause long detours and force more vehicles on to the major roads which are no longer as free flowing as they used to be thanks to Bexley Council’s obsession with narrow roads. My postbag suggests I am not alone in being concerned about the loss of Highland Road and some objectors submitted alternative arrangements. However when I spoke to a Bellway man he said that the closure of Highland Road was a condition imposed by Bexley Council. Why doesn’t that surprise me?
Eastside

Highland Road appears to be open in this illustration.

Others are concerned about the loss of existing trees and the Bexley Wildlife conservation group has published a comprehensive critique of Bellway and Bexley Council.

As is nearly always the case with major developments like this, fromthemurkydepths has delved in more deeply than BiB would attempt. He points out that The Eastside quarter will provide Bexley Council with an immediate bonus payment of at least £7 million and boost Council Tax receipts by about £800,000.

I doubt the Planning Committee will want to delay that sort of income with petty nitpicking.

The news on the street
I am no longer Secretary of the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association. Recruited for my local knowledge and of Council personalities and structure but that is no longer seen as an asset.

Harassment News
Not a lot but two national news outlets were in contact with me yesterday. One by email and the other by email and telephone. A fair amount of correspondence has been sent in which I had better not publish right now, but hopefully one day…

Every cloud has a silver lining; 60 more Twitter followers in the past five weeks.

Fiction or non-fiction?
@bexleynews is at it again, trying to deceive you. @bexleynews is Bexley Conservative’s emulation of Joseph Goebbels on Twitter and should at best be taken with a pinch of salt.

A few days ago they were making out that they alone saved Bexleyheath Police Station from closure when they did little more than stamp their feet and wave banners like a bunch of student lefties.

This time they have libraries and Labour in their sights. They claim that libraries are flourishing in Bexley and maybe some are, Bexley Council doesn’t always make bad decisions but they do always lie about them.

The current deception is that only the Tories keep libraries open when in truth they have closed more than the preceding Labour administration, five if one includes the mobile libraries.

No mention of that here.
Propaganda Propaganda
It may not be true that the number of users has rocketed either. Real numbers are hard to get hold of but things were not looking too good this time last year. Attendance at three out of four libraries was down.
Library
As a student of Bexley Tories’ Twitter outpourings I think I detect the same phrases cropping up in @bexleynews and @PhilipRead1.

 

20 January - The Ministry of Misinformation

With my eye off the ball recently a lot of propaganda from the Conservative’s Ministry of Misinformation has gone unremarked however this lie is something of a corker.

LiesIf Bexley Tories want to denigrate Mayor Sadiq Khan that’s fine by me, the worst thing to hit London since the Luftwaffe in my opinion but I very much doubt he personally took the decision to close Bexleyheath police station nor would he have been directly responsible for the later decision to keep it open.

The police and his tame string pullers would have been at his elbow.

Even less likely is that a bunch of Tories wandering around with placards and organising petitions would have any effect; every affected borough did that and few police stations were saved.

The further suggestion that only the Tories can stand up to Sadiq Khan is total nonsense. Labour locally put up a more effective fight against the proposed closure than the Tories.

They wrote to the Home Secretary. Did the Tories?

They wrote to the Mayor’s Office for Policing. Did the Tories?

And they produced a statement on the situation.

Which was likely to be more effective? Tories stamping their feet in a rage against a “disastrous” Mayor or Labour writing well reasoned letters to those in a position to guide Sadiq Khan to the right decision?

 

19 January - A favour for Fendyke

Fendyke Road Fendyke RoadNetwork Rail dismantled their storage dump at the end of Fendyke Road (Belvedere) last Summer, tore down the fences and eventually sowed grass seed which is just beginning to germinate.

The storage area was there for about three years and the constant passage of large vehicles dictated double yellow lines on the approach but there is no need for them now.

While they remain residents cannot park outside their houses (to the left of Photo 2) for no obvious reason. Appeals to Bexley Council have so far fallen on deaf ears.

 

17 January - Wilton Road

I need to speak to one or two more people before saying much about what happened at last night's Wilton Road meeting but it would appear that apathy may have been the winner.

My meeting minutes are distributed to 20 traders and I have no idea how many people they employ but all of them were invited.

In theory the paper delivery boy from McColls was welcome while I was not.

All I will say at the moment is that my estimate of under 50% attendance was wildly optimistic. I should have gone for 25%.

Estimates vary but about a dozen Council and Police people were there from all sorts of departments in both Councils. Cleansing, Highways, Parking, Community Safety.

They seem to have put some effort into it but no one I spoke to was feeling any better today than they were when I last spoke to them.

 

16 January (Part 2) - Are Councils frightened of Bonkers?

At the very same moment this blog goes on line a meeting of ‘the great and the good’ will be starting in the Abbey Wood Community Centre on Knee Hill to tell the local traders what Bexley and Greenwich Councils have done for them over the past four months since the issues blighting Wilton Road were highlighted here last September.

Someone mischievously brought my Tweet on the subject to the attention of the Leader of Greenwich Council who is also the Abbey Wood ward Councillor and she orchestrated a flurry of activity. For a few weeks police and litter wardens could be seen every day. Police foot patrols and litter wardens were absolutely unknown previously.

In 2015, before the shop front replacement programme began, the Councils insisted on a Traders’ Association being formed, without one negotiations with shop owners would have been near impossible. The owner of the mini-cab company set up the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association (AWTA) and became its Chairman but he was very new to the area and didn’t know its history. For that reason he asked me to attend his meetings as a guest and adviser. By February 2016 I had been appointed his Secretary as he called it. In reality a glorified minute taker at meetings.

Because of that I have from time to time been able to tell you a little of what has been going on in Wilton Road although sometimes things had to remain confidential. I have retained audio recordings of all the meetings over very nearly two years. I have heard both Councils and the police make their many promises and almost none of them have been fulfilled.

The traders were promised that they would be sitting on little gold mines once the Crossrail station opened but nothing could be further from the truth. Rail passengers mainly exit on to the flyover and unless perhaps you live in Abbey Wood Road (from the Post Office Greenwich side) there is not really any reason to use Wilton Road.

The Launderette has gone, the ladies’ hairdressers has been put up for sale, so has the Indian restaurant and a fourth premises looks as though it is going the same way.

There are mixed views on what can be done to rescue Wilton Road as a shopping destination and a couple of months ago I heard a Greenwich Council officer pour cold water on every idea put to her. It was very depressing.

Invitation After a few false starts the Traders’ Association Chairman managed to secure a major meeting with the Councils and that is what is happening right now. There is a certain amount of apathy. My guess is that the trader turnout will be under 50%, they have heard it all before and they are as cynical about the meeting as can be.

A shop owner who does not intend to go has been saying that Council officials have been pressurising him by saying there might be a risk of terrorism in Wilton Road and it needs to be discussed. Sounds far fetched to me but that is what he said.

So what am I doing writing this blog and not preparing for the meeting and the minutes?

That’s an easy one to answer.

The Councils told the AWTA Chairman that he could not have his meeting if I was present. They were not prepared to have me writing the minutes, they must be under their control. Nor did they want to risk what they had to say leaking into the public domain.

Council officials seem to be incapable of working out the consequences of their actions and zero understanding of human psychology. Over the next few days every trader who attends that meeting will likely give me their opinion of it. Without an obligation to keep what I may have heard at the meeting confidential I will now be free to pass on anything I hear.

At the next regular meeting of the AWTA on 7th February I am currently inclined to tender my resignation. My guess is that I will be free to pass on more of what goes on in Wilton Road than I can while holding a minor position on the AWTA Committee.

 

16 January (Part 1) - It’s completely wild, man

Two weeks ago Bonkers explained that in the run up to an election Bexley Conservatives don’t introduce their candidates to the electorate, they announce Team Members instead. It’s in case one has to withdraw in embarrassing circumstances - it does happen. A Team Member can slip away unnoticed, a proper candidate, maybe not.

Maxine Fothergill has been quite good news for an increase in Bonkers’ Twitter followers. The numbers are not huge but they have gone up by nearly 40 over the past few weeks and I have found myself spending time exploring who follows who to check where the harassment news might be going. One account caught my eye.

TweetI don’t know anything about Adam Wildman except what can be read here. I assume he is a decent bloke and Bexley Conservatives could certainly do with a few more of those.

But why does he claim to be a Bexley Tory Candidate when no announcements have been made? A bit early to be the next General Election Candidate isn’t it? Maybe he knows something we don’t.

Even more mysteriously why the strap line ‘From the shadow of Grenfell’? It looks meaningless to me but maybe I am missing something.

Does he live in Kensington? Doesn’t seem likely if he plans to stand for election in Bexley.

On the other hand Bexley Tories have a proud tradition of accepting candidates with no links to the borough and they have been allowed to get away with it.

I think we have three Councillors who fall into that category at the moment.

 

15 January - As it turned out, it was rocket science

Have you noticed how many times my MP’s name has been mentioned this month?

Accompanying me to various meetings with the police over the Craske business and making her Portcullis House office available to me.

She quietly sent a letter of support to Kent Police, I only found out from them. She didn’t tell me she had done it and I don’t know what she said. And then she offered to do my shopping when the flu was at its worst.

Considering how far to the right I am of her politically I think that is all rather remarkable. Teresa says it is not.

And now I am going to tell you about something else Teresa Peace has done for me and quite likely everyone else in the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood area over the past few months. She modestly says she didn’t do anything that a good MP would not do and maybe so but she willingly did it and kept at it when things weren’t going as well as I had hoped.

It needs quite a lot of background explanation, sorry about that.

Thamesmead exchangeI used to spend every day inside telephone exchanges. It was a long time ago. The most modern of them could signal the caller’s number to the operator - remember them? Operators no longer needed to ask "Number please" and be subject to the inevitable cheating caller; there was no easy check.

So I became an enthusiast for what we now call Caller Display. (CLID). The moment it became available to the public I was off down the BT Shop - remember them too? - to buy a new telephone and pay my £1.75 a month service charge.

I soon noticed it didn’t always work properly. I made careful notes and came to the conclusion that the failures were dependent on which route the originating call took. Off peak the CLID might work but at busy times it did not.

This was all 20 years ago when BT offered an accessible customer service so I was eventually able to pull a few strings and get to talk to an engineer who knew what I was talking about. Together we worked out that some of the incoming digital switches in the Thamesmead exchange had a bit set back to front. It reversed the effect of the 141 code which toggles the WITHHELD flag.

A number of incorrectly set switches were put right and the problem went away.

In October 2014 it came back again with a vengeance. Around 50% of my calls were showing WITHHELD when they shouldn’t. I reported it to BT.

They said they knew about it and it occurred when the call originated on a small rural exchange which had been recently upgraded for fibre broadband. Dependent on which manufacturer’s equipment had been installed there was a software conflict with CLID. Give them a few months they said and they would fix it.

Fair enough and as it happened all of my regular out of London callers were on such exchanges. About six months later BT remembered me and called to say they had fixed the problem.

Except that they hadn’t. The problem was as bad as it ever was.

I started to keep notes again. I came to the conclusion that calls from London and the other big cities never failed to display correctly. The same went for those in the Outer London area such Erith and Orpington and all mobile numbers. It was just most or all numbers that began 01 which corrupted the CLID data.

I told BT but they told me I was nuts and by 2015 my knowledge of telephony was hopelessly out of date. Worse was that BT had closed down all public access to people who knew their arse from their elbow. The best they offer now is someone reading from a script in a Call Centre.

Every few months I would write in again and always be ignored, even when to the Chairman’s Office. Nearly 50% of my incoming calls from 01 numbers gave bad CLID data. Naturally I had checked with a phone plugged into the master test socket, changed the phone and - don’t tell everyone - I have two landlines, and they were both affected.

Eventually it occurred to me that if my old theory about peak time alternative routing was correct then everyone served by the Thamesmead exchange would be affected so I explained my theory to Teresa Pearce on 12th August 2017.

She immediately saw the point I was making, BT might be sending bad CLID data to most of her constituents. She wrote to BT’s Chairman on my behalf.

A week or so later a lady called me from the Chairman’s Office to say I was talking rot. CLID was one of those things that either worked or did not and it was wholly dependent on the caller and their use of the 141 code. My friends and relations were all pranking me by using 141. Yes she actually said that!

Three years previously BT had told me that CLID was software and who knows of any complex software that is perfect?

The lady and I ‘had words’ but she told me I couldn’t complain further because she was the Chairman’s Office and there was nowhere else to go. I said there was always OFCOM and Teresa offered to help again.

Things then began to move forward. For the past three months or so I have had to log all my incoming calls by time and number and report to BT every two days which was a bit of a pain. However I was assured the data was being studied by a specialist team which was tinkering with the software.

We went through phases when things became far worse with London numbers and mobiles failing to display. Even BT’s own headquarters on one occasion but by mid December BT was suggesting they may have cracked the software problem and since then there have been no failures.

Today the Chairman’s Office lady called again somewhat contritely. She said that my theory about peak time routing was absolutely right and it became hugely complicated but the development team was very grateful for my persistence.

"Was the whole of the Thamesmead exchange affected" I asked. "Yes" the lady said. "The whole country?" "Not sure, it was all well beyond my comprehension."

But at least everyone connected to the Thamesmead exchange should now be able to rely on CLID although the BT lady was now at pains to point out that no software is 100% reliable. Not what she was saying back in August.

And you have Teresa Pearce to thank for that, I could not have done it without her.

 

14 January (Part 2) - Councillor statistics

When you are kept awake through the night by the flu or Kent Police one’s mind can stray into strange territories, one was the widespread assumption that Bonkers relies on a lot of leaks from mouthy Councillors.

I know of one Conservative Councillor who was hauled before Teresa O’Neill’s Kangaroo Court after she was seen talking to me in the Council Chamber and given a very rough time indeed for doing so. It was so severe that her husband told me about it presumably because he wanted me to very aware of the consequences of a friendly conversation. My own Councillor Danny Hackett was warned by a Bexley Council Director that he should not talk to me. Danny appears to have ignored him.

Things may have become more relaxed since then but I am still accused of gathering embarrassing information from talkative Councillors and it just isn’t true. I compiled a few statistics.


4 • Labour Councillors with whom I have never exchanged a single word on anything.
4 • Labour Councillors with whom the conversation has never gone beyond “hello, how are you”.
5 • Labour Councillors who I could email without going through their @bexley.gov.uk addresses. (Excludes Danny Hackett since he changed jobs two months ago!)
3 • Conservative Councillors who I could email without going through their @bexley.gov.uk addresses.
3 • UKIP Councillors who I could email without going through their @bexley.gov.uk addresses.
1 • Councillor other than current and past married couples whose spouses’s names are known to me. (Conservative.)
1 • Councillors whose car I might recognise - I know the make and type. (Conservative.)
1 • Councillors whose spouse’s car I might recognise - I know the make and type. (Conservative.)
0 • Councillors’ addresses known to me without looking them up. (Two I have an idea within half a dozen houses because I occasionally pass them by. One from each main party.)
2 • Councillors who I have bumped into in the street by chance and who have been happy to engage in friendly Council related conversation. One from each main party.
2 • Councillor mobile phone numbers on my mobile Contact list. One is Danny Hackett’s and the other was last used in April 2015.
1 • The number of home landline phone numbers (with name) registered on my landline telephone’s memory. (Conservative.)
1 • The number of work phone numbers (with name) registered on my landline telephone’s memory. (Conservative.)
1 • The number of mobile phone numbers (with name) registered on my landline telephone’s memory. (Conservative.)
4 • Councillors who have Direct Messaged me on Twitter. One UKIP, one Conservative, two Labour.
2 • The number of Councillors who have knocked on my door and been invited in. Twice in one case.
1 • The number of Councillors who I have met to discuss Council matters on neutral ground. (Conservative.)
1 • The number of anonymous brown envelopes that have been sent to my address. (Plus one which came via Michael Barnbrook’s address.)


Perhaps I should repeat that Danny Hackett is my own local Councillor.

I don’t know about you but the list does not look very impressive to me. I have been directly accused - in a friendly way - by a Cabinet Member of feeding off of Labour Councillors’ leaks but the buggers say almost nothing. As the statistics show, more than half of them might as well be mute as far as I am concerned.

I don’t think I have ever received a useful leak although some Councillors have tried to influence Bonkers editorially. Both Conservative and both made their case well in my opinion.

 

14 January (Part 1) - Saint Nick nicked?

It used to be the case that Bonkers would not report anything particularly serious at a weekend because the number of readers is much higher during the week. That is still the case, Saturdays and Sundays see only around 60% of weekday visitors. Despite that, over time the policy has been relaxed and news has gone out pretty much as it comes in with no regard for the calendar. Today things will revert to the old way, nothing too serious.

Christmas lights Christmas lights Christmas lightsIn my nearest shopping street, Wilton Road, the two Councils put up some modest but attractive Christmas lights. They are still there. Well maybe not quite.

One of the lights on the Greenwich side has mysteriously disappeared. Greenwich’s street lamps are on short posts which look much more attractive in a ‘village’ environment than the monsters Bexley thought were appropriate but the downside is that one bloke given a bunk up can easily reach them.


Tree Tree Tree BikeIn the same road the sapling that was wrecked by dog owners who tied their animals to the tree and let them go round and around it abrading all the bark has been replaced; this time with a protective guard.

Well done to Greenwich Council for fulfilling their promise to replace it.

And for something completely different, what sort of madness is this? Who in their right mind parks their moped across the entrance to Abbey Wood station, half blocking it? Presumably they care nothing for other people and nothing for their own property.

 

13 January (Part 3) - They are all as bad as each other

This story is not new but Darryl Chamberlain (the 853 blog) did well to get it covered in Private Eye.

GreenwichTheir comment is self explanatory, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is paying good money to ensure its propaganda message goes out unsullied by the truth and anything else they might not have sanctioned.

From further afield, Wandsworth, comes news that Councillors there are just as touchy about news reporting as they are in Bexley.

The following text came via a circuitous route yesterday, this is just the first paragraph but it tells you the basics.

I don’t know what Mr. CouncilWatch is supposed to have done but on the face of it it looks like his local coppers are short of things to do.


Today [Friday 12th January 2018] Mr. CouncilWatch received a ’phone call from Wandsworth Police (the “farce” that has given up investigating burglaries, car crime, vandalism and patrolling the streets - because of Tory cuts) informing him that he must attend an interview at the police station (is there one?) following complaints from a person or persons unnamed within the council that he has been “harassing” councillors and committing “racism” in his emails.

Mr. CouncilWatch was told that if he did not attend voluntarily he would be arrested.


I have not been able to track down a Wandsworth based Mr. CouncilWatch’s blog or whatever, if anyone can do better then please post the details somewhere.

 

13 January (Part 2) - Beware of chain saws

Next week traffic in Harrow Manorway will be occasionally disrupted as Bexley Council presses on with their plan to create some sort of boulevard approach to Abbey Wood’s new Crossrail station. The artist’s impressions make it all look quite good.

Yesterday’s Press Release provides details on next week’s works, 31 trees are due to come down to be replaced in due course with 100 new ones.

Here’s some photos of the most prominent of the trees that appear to be for the chop.
Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway
The overall plan is to provide a nice wide road for the future, space has even been left to cater from a tramway should such a plan come to fruition.

However don’t hold your breath, Bexley Council’s priority is narrow roads and you can see signs of things to come at both extremities of Harrow Manorway. (Photo 4.)

Some older photos of activities at the northern end of Harrow Manorway may be seen here. I don’t get down there as often as perhaps I should.

The early indications are that the Harrow Manorway improvements will kill off the businesses in Wilton Road. When the Manorway is all modern and new with shops, that is where people will go.

 

13 January (Part 1) - He’s not dead

I was relieved to see Mick Barnbrook’s mobile number pop up on the Caller Display at 09:09 this morning. The blog title is his idea so you might guess he is feeling reasonably well, in fact he says 100%.

He suffered a brief blackout just after midnight on Thursday morning and fell and gashed his head. He was taken to Ramsgate Hospital and subsequently moved to Ashford where he remains.

Enzyme tests reveal the effects of a mild heart attack but there is no suspicion that there might be another so it will be a diet of pills for the rest of his life and a hospital discharge in the very near future.

I passed on the various good wishes and I think he realises he had better slow down a bit.

 

12 January - Mick (@sleazebuster) again

I’m sure Mick Barnbrook would want to join me in thanking everyone for their good wishes and concern for him after he suffered a suspected heart attack in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The messages not only came from BiB readers who have valued his input in the past but also Labour Councillors and 100% of UKIP. Absolutely nothing from any Conservative, they truly are the nasty party.

Unfortunately I know no more about his condition than I did yesterday; text messages and phone calls have gone unanswered and mutual friends have similarly drawn a blank.

I hope he is not stuck in a flu ridden corridor somewhere.

 

11 January (Part 3) - My Labour Councillor

A Labour Councillor has resigned. Esther Amaning’s picture (Lesnes Abbey) no longer appears on the Council website.

Enquiries have been made but I think it would be best to await official responses before reporting further.

Five minutes later: Bexley Council announcement. (Complete with misspelt ward name. Lesney). Press Release.

 

11 January (Part 2) - Michael Barnbrook

Mick Barnbrook sent me an email at twelve minutes past midnight this morning. He was working on a complaint about a Councillor who made a planning application accompanied by a declaration that she was not a Councillor or Council employee. By so doing an application could be sneaked through without it having to go before the Planning Committee which would ensure that everything was fair and above board. That is Bexley Council’s rule and it makes sense that such applications are discussed in public so that any suggestion of impropriety is minimised.

A year after getting away with the subterfuge the same Councillor pulled the same trick again. Once might be a mistake but twice suggests otherwise. Mick doesn’t like dishonesty.

However shortly after sending me that email Mick collapsed and was taken to A&E - unconscious I think.

He has since recovered to some extent but the initial diagnosis is of a minor heart attack. Maybe he should adopt my approach to pursuing Councillors. No computering after 7 p.m. unless strictly necessary. In bed by ten and no more than one pint of beer every couple of months.

Most people will I hope, probably not all I suppose, join me in wishing Mick a speedy recovery.

 

11 January (Part 1) - Immoral fibre

Fibre broadband has come to Welling and nobody will begrudge Councillor Munur’s elation at his 74 Megabit connection. The six he had over copper was probably insufficient for a young chap who might be more into streaming video than I am.

TweetHowever it is a bit rich for him to thank Teresa O’Neill for continuing to push for superfast broadband when without her he may have had a faster connection long ago.

It is true that Bexley Council is now pushing hard for an excellent borough wide digital infrastructure but as with their policy on river crossings they have only very recently seen the light.

In the recent past Bexley Council has quite deliberately thrown spanners into BT’s works. As a result 25,000 Bexley homes had no access to fibre broadband as recently as three months ago.

Earlier still they had been allowing individual Nimbys to veto BT’s ambitions contrary to planning requirements. This website has been covering Bexley Council's feet dragging over fibre broadband on an off for more than two years but they simply weren't interested. Then, six weeks ago BT went public with this comment…


We have been in dispute with Bexley Council concerning permits to undertake streetworks and this was preventing us undertaking any work in the borough to deploy fibre broadband. I’m pleased to say that the dispute has now been resolved and we have resumed delivery work.


Given free rein at last, BT produced the goods in double quick time. However don’t let Bexley Council fool you into thinking that Welling broadband speeds have been dramatically improved due to their efforts, the reverse is closer to the truth.

 

10 January - Coincidence? Probably not

RepairsIt didn’t take long for someone to swing into action and tackle the sewage leak at the end of Gladeswood Road. These pictures came from a relieved neighbour early this afternoon.

You can never be sure if such prompt action is coincidence or not but whatever they are there have been an awful lot of them over the years.

One that definitely wasn’t coincidence was when a pothole opposite Kingswood Avenue (half way between Belvedere Asda and Lesnes Abbey) was pictured here last February.

I know it wasn’t coincidence because the man who fixed it the next day emailed me to thank me for the notification.

Whilst I was driving down to see the sewage leak yesterday I noticed that pothole was back bigger and better than ever.
Sewage
It is very welcome to have reports with accompanying photos. Without them it is sometimes near impossible to construct a useful story.

 

9 January (Part 3) - He’s even more grumpy now

If you think that you were going to go a whole 24 hours without an update on the proposed harassment charge then you might be disappointed. Just a brief update.

I did get the promised call from the newspaper reporter. He was impressively well informed on Kent Police’s recent actions and what led up to them and did not have to ask too many questions.

However he has his rules to follow and he said he would have to get busy cross checking everything with everyone involved and no doubt getting their in-house lawyer to look over everything.

I have learned not to be too optimistic about a Bonkers’ story hitting the press. It would not be unprecedented but it would be very rare.

Meanwhile there has been support by local bloggers. Hugh Neal of The Maggot Sandwich did his bit on Sunday, Darryl Chamberlain who writes the 853 blog did some sterling work behind the scenes and late yesterday The Thamesmead Grump chipped in with his own comment.

Normally The Grump takes a light-hearted, some might say jaundiced, view of modern life but this time he put on his serious hat.
Grump
He relates the harassment story you probably know all too well by now in his own unique style.

He takes a big risk too. (†) He has republished the blog attributed to Councillor Peter Craske - oh let’s not beat about the bush, the police traced it to his internet connection and then found it and a similar one on his laptop.

Nevertheless The Grump could be in trouble. When I published the obscene blog on Bonkers, Bexley Chief Executive Will Tuckley reported me to the police and recommended prosecution. It has since been hidden behind a password.

It’s a pity he was not so quick to go to the police when he was caught up in a £2 million pound bribe scandal not long ago. He hung around for six months before being forced to take action.

† My tongue is slightly in cheek here. Even Plod would not be silly to rake all that up again. Would they?

 

9 January (Part 2) - FM Conway goes back to work

Harrow Manorway Bexley must be the undisputed road closure capital of South East London. While Bexley Village is disrupted all week, a mile away more traffic problems are being created in Gravel Hill. From tomorrow the Watling Street traffic lights will be replaced by a temporary roundabout. With the usual disdain for pedestrians anyone wishing to cross Gravel Hill on foot will be made to cross Watling Street, Erith Road and Broadway instead.

Pedestrian safety is not a priority on Harrow Manorway either. Pedestrians using the crossing to access the railway station are denied a clear view of the road. They may be protected by the lights but anyone who steps out there without looking is a fool. Red lights and Abbey Wood drivers is not a safe combination.

Photo taken this afternoon.

 

9 January (Part 1) - Back to work

Right, let’s see if we can get this show back on the road. Not much of blog but I have been letting things slip.

The Big Stink
An anonymous message said that across the road from Belvedere’s Asda raw sewage had been flowing across the road for more than a week and not for the first time.

It was alleged that Bexley Council had washed their hands of it - if you will excuse the unpleasant metaphor.

Thames Water’s response was similar when my correspondent called them last Saturday.

Sewage leak Sewage leakI rose from my sick bed - metaphorically again, but I have not been getting out much - and took a look; and a good sniff.

At first sight it looks like a water leak but closer examination showed there was a lot of sediment in the flow, not obvious sewage but not plain water, that is for sure. A deep breath confirmed the anonymous report.

This is a well used footpath, it is near a school and it is common to see children walk it on their way to the 401 bus stop. One trip and they would be in the shit literally.

Surely Bexley Council must recognise it for the public health hazard it is, but apparently not.


The SS
I had two encounters with Social Services yesterday. One was Bexley related and in the controversial child snatching arena. I don’t get as many reports of child snatching as used to be the case. Either people have realised that it is pretty much impossible to report them here or Cabinet Member Philip Read’s academy initiative is bearing fruit. If so perhaps he could sell his services to Newham.

There was a gratifying number of enquiries about the welfare of my 97 year old aunt over the past few weeks. She has been mentally damaged by her GP’s wrong prescription (confirmed by hospital discharge letter) for almost three years and it is not certain she will fully recover. She used to be forgetful, now she comes out with nonsense most days, but not as much as a month ago.

The hospital wanted to discharge her before Christmas, I can understand the reason why, but with Newham Council’s so called help they thought the old lady would be able to sit all day in her own home with a care worker dropping in occasionally.

That was a total nonsense, she couldn’t do anything for herself at the time. She didn’t know what a chair lift was let alone operate one. With a gas cooker and radiant electric fire she might even burn the house down.

My last encounter with Newham Social Services was three years ago when I made a complaint copied to my aunt’s MP (Stephen Timms) who in turn thought it was so serious he passed it on to Newham’s elected Mayor. The reply was to the effect that all the problems were of my own making and Newham’s branch of the SS was perfect. I had never asked them for anything in 30 years of ensuring my aunt wanted for nothing and the complaint was that the SS was refusing instructions to stop providing their useless and unnecessary services. Those instructions were backed by my aunt’s GP (not the useless one that replaced her) and I took exception to Newham’s idiotic response to the complaint.

I didn’t have the time to argue but when they wanted to muscle in on the situation again before Christmas I told them they would get no cooperation from me until they apologised for their three year old letter. “Would it be OK if I just said sorry?” said the hapless Social worker. “No”, I told her, “your untruthful criticism must be removed from the official record”.

To get my aunt into safe hands I organised a taxi and escort from Newham hospital and she was taken to stay with my sister in Hampshire where she is now well fed and is beginning a slow recovery.

Yesterday the Senior SS woman phoned me to ask where my aunt was. I said she is in Hampshire. “What is a hampshire?” came the reply. “It is a county and my sister lives in it.”

“Oh, can you spell it for me?” “H A M P S H I R E”, I said. I wish I had said Hants just to confuse the idiot further.

“Where is it” wonder woman asked. “A long way from here” I replied and with that Newham’s finest went away apparently satisfied.

I am prejudiced obviously but I rather suspect that that is typical of the intelligence of the average social worker.

Note: When I first lived in Hampshire in 1949 the road signs were emblazoned with the subtext, County of Southamptonshire. I wish I had taken some photos because no one believes me now.

The Cabinet reshuffle
Going more than usually off topic the recent non-event of a Government reshuffle captured my attention yesterday. I don’t know why but I found the news of James Brokenshire’s lung lesion to be quite upsetting. I was introduced to him once and found him pleasant enough but there is no way he is likely to remember the meeting.

He might remember Elwyn Bryant better as he refused him any help with the Craske obscene blog business. He said accompanying him to meetings with the police would be “inappropriate”. Fortunately Teresa Pearce MP is far more of an asset to constituents who find themselves in difficulty. She came with me to four police meetings at which Elwyn was present too.

I am sure everyone will join me in wishing James Brokenshire a quick and full recovery.

The second ‘reshuffle’ that grabbed my attention was James Cleverly’s Deputy Party Chairman appointment. James used to be Bexley’s man at the GLA and I rather like what he has had to say since becoming MP for Braintree.

I was introduced to him once as well and not so impressed as I am now. He said my blog was “well out of order”.

At the time Bexley’s incompetents in blue were circulating Press Releases which confused me with John Kerlen who ran an entirely different sort of blog. They went as far as notifying local politicians and the press with the news that I was to be prosecuted for using the C word on Twitter three years before I joined Twitter, so I give James Cleverly the benefit of the doubt and wish him success in his new job. The more of the Tory old guard that is thrown out the better. What an absolutely shambolic shower.

P.S. News of David Evennett’s removal from the Whip’s Office came too late for the original blog but I was introduced to him once too. He came across as a really nice man. One can well understand that someone with such a pleasant personality would not be wanted in Teresa May’s Whip’s Office - or the other lot’s.

The bloody flu
I can’t believe how this bug can be still hanging around more then three weeks after it first struck. Yesterday I was so exhausted by it I slept for 13 hours and feel a bit better for it today.

Once again, thank you for the kind messages. I have been told of four people who suffered similarly and were taken in to hospital with pneumonia - all now released fortunately.

If you have elderly neighbours especially if they live alone, please keep an eye on them. Not everyone will get an email from their MP, as I did, offering to do their shopping but they may need similar help.

In my opinion there are too many obnoxious females in politics but Teresa is most definitely not one of them. Paul is a fortunate man.

 

7 January (Part 2) - The Maggot Sandwich is on the right track

As someone who takes an interest in the local railway scene but falls far short of being a train nerd I found the video about the new London Bridge station that Hugh Neal posted on his Maggot Sandwich blog today fascinating. (Foot of his page.) I watched it for the whole 13 minutes.

When the flu bug, which has made a bit of a resurgence over the past 48 hours, finally goes away I shall go to look at London Bridge station for myself.

 

6 January (Part 2) - Too many Christmas presents?

My rubbish bin was emptied this morning. I managed to go through the whole Christmas fortnight and only accumulate enough rubbish to fill a tiny carrier bag that I had been given with the purchase of a box of Christmas cards, so not even a full size supermarket one.

Obviously I did not get as many presents as the fly tipper who dumped this lot yesterday.
Fly tip

 

4 January (Part 2) - Censored by Kent Police

There will probably not be a lot of dissent if it is suggested that the lack of affordable housing is among the most serious issues facing the nation. Even when a new development is said to include affordable housing - and there are not many of those in Bexley - the need to have a £100,000 income to buy in London is a very bad joke.

On average just over a third of my untaxed income has gone on supporting family mortgages and associated housing costs for each of the past five years and all there is to show for it is a 1950s council house. That sort of input goes a very long way towards driving the wolf from the door and results in a decent standard of living, but in principle it is all wrong. My father never gave me a bean but I owned four bedrooms, three reception rooms and two bathrooms on a Civil Service income by the time I was 32 with less than 50% of it mortgaged.

It is all so very wrong and politicians who fail to recognise it will one day pay the price. One can argue that it is all the fault of unfettered immigration if you like but that is not a solution. What is needed is more planning flexibility and probably lots of other things; I am a long way from being an authority on planning matters.

Back in the Summer I noticed one of those Planning Notices taped to a lamp post not all that far from home. It proposed that a four bedroom detached house be slightly extended and then divided into a three and a two bedroom semi with off road parking.

It looked like a possible win-win situation. Someone makes a bit of money and two families are housed instead of one.

At a bit of a loose end earlier today I checked Bexley’s planning portal to see what had happened to the idea. It had been initially rejected, appealed and then rejected again.

Without knowing the details one can only assume that there were valid reasons for the rejection but it looks like a missed a opportunity to me. I wondered how may people had similar ideas.

I found a few but all but one had been rejected. I tried to find out why and started to read the applications. One turned out to be more interesting than the others, the applicant was a Councillor, the name was clearly stated at the top of the application.

Above the signature was this declaration…
Planning application
Ordinarily I would be letting you know which Bexley Councillor made this elementary mistake but because of the perverse interpretation of the harassment laws by Kent Police I will have to cast doubt on the competence of every single one of them instead.

Sorry about that!

 

4 January (Part 1) - Your typical Bexley Tory Councillor

If you got half way through yesterday’s blog before giving up you should have seen a reference to Councillor John Davey’s Twitter activities (Conservative, Crayford for the time being). I considered providing some examples but they almost defied description. Is he really totally clueless about how he comes across to electors? Arrogant doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Your typical Bexley ToryUnknown to me at the time fromthemurkydepths had done the honours complete with sample screen shots.

Everyone should take a look especially those who live in the old Lesnes Abbey (southernmost part) and Brampton wards who come May 3rd 2018 could find themselves saddled with such a lazy and uncaring Councillor.

Unfortunately West Heath residents could find themselves with two clowns. The Northumberland Numpty is looking for a new home too. Councillor Peter Reader, also standing in West Heath should not be tarred with the same brush; always perfectly civil in my experience.


Note: The Tweet displayed above is intended to illustrate the level to which Bexley Tories are prepared to sink in their pursuit of power. It first appeared on BiB on 11th December 2017.

It is not intended to suggest that Councillor John Davey has stooped to that level of debate only that some Bexley Tories are happy to do so.

A selection of Councillor Davey’s recent Tweets may be seen by taking the fromthemurkydepths link above or going directly to John Davey’s Twitter feed - if he hasn’t blocked you for being “a Labour Troll”.

 

3 January - Revenge and Retribution

Despair
I wonder sometimes if it is just me who is in despair about the state of this country; an incompetent Government, a Marxist waiting in the wings and corruption and injustice everywhere. How long before the situation explodes?

An email received yesterday summed up my own feelings pretty well.


I have no idea who if anyone I will vote for at the next general election, UKIP and Liberal Dems have all but faded away, and not to be rude but in my personal opinion I can’t vote for Labour with their current leader, but then Conservatives are just trying to explode themselves. Ha ha, and I thought the USA had a problem . I am very glad that I am the age I am because the thought of the future fills me with concerns.


The lady reveals that she is exactly the same age as I am. Another email received this morning carried a similar message.


The corruption in Bexley Council and the police which you have exposed is staggering. Having come across institutionalised corruption once before (once was enough for me) I can sympathise with any despair you may feel at the sinister power these institutions exert. The double whammy of the problems with the elderly relative from Newham and a dose of the flu would be enough to floor anyone. Your blog would be greatly missed and I hope you feel up to continuing the fight in 2018. Best wishes.


The 97 year old aunt is now with my sister in Hampshire. The hospital discharge letter makes it pretty clear that the rapid deterioration in her mental state was caused by her GP’s negligence and that will be another battle for the future, but meanwhile she is not doing too badly except that she is worried about who is looking after her mother (born 1892) while she is away from home.

Yes it is easy to despair about the institutionalised corruption and how totally useless individuals like Cressida Dick are in charge of law and order. I feel sure that the Prime Minister must know how unsuitable she is to hold the position of Commissioner but presumably doesn’t care.

In practice I doubt many people care which is why we have the sort of people running Bexley that we have. The insults coming from Councillor John Davey’s Twitter account this year are almost unbelievable. Is no one going to report him to the Code of Conduct Committee?

Someone who does care said this…


You seem to have that fire back in your belly to talk about and expose all of the wrong doing shenanigans going on not only within the borough of Bexley but the wider hierarchy. More power to your elbow Malcolm.


What fire there is at the moment is probably just the remnants of a fever but I am coming around to the view that my New Year's Resolution should be revenge. It’s not too late to make another is it?


Team Tory
A slightly more formal email came from a resident of Northumberland Heath who has received a propaganda sheet from his local Conservative Association.


John Fuller and Ray Sams describe themselves as the New Conservative Action Team, God Help Us!! Not sure what Christmas cheer they are full of, but to my mind, they are full of excrement.


Team ToryActually that seems a bit harsh to me. When the Tories choose candidates for a local election they are careful not to label them as such in case a skeleton crawls out of their cupboard and they have to withdraw the candidacy. It would be embarrassing to withdraw a candidate but a Team Member can slip away almost unnoticed.

In 2014 Teresa O'Neill was pictured with her three preferred candidates for East Wickham ward. The one on the right is ‘Team Member’ Daniel Taylor who was withdrawn at the very last moment.

When I met Councillor Fothergill in September 2016 she was very keen to tell me that she had reported him to the police for three monetary thefts and thereby incurred the wrath of Teresa O’Neill. She directly linked her actions to being unfairly accused of a Code of Conduct offence.

Both John Fuller and Ray Sams are already Councillors in Bexley. Councillors in Bexley fall into three main categories, Charlatans and ne’er do wells, more or less OK and voting fodder who do nothing but collect their allowances and dutifully raise their right hand when so commanded.

In John Fuller and Ray Sams you have one each of the latter two. You could do a lot worse. Where is the Northumberland Numpty Councillor Philip Read running to?

Cross party support
Yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that I may have acquired some fair weather friends as no Councillor had offered any support against the unwarranted attack on news reporting by Kent Police. Since then I have had two and the one that came from a Conservative Councillor was especially welcome. Some practical advice too!

 

1 January (Part 2) - New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t remember making a New Year’s Resolution since, well ever really. Not seen any good reason to make changes but this year I have made several. I daren’t say what they are for fear of arrest but at the very least I will soon have three serious complaints outstanding against the police. I still absolutely believe that there is no such thing as an honest copper. Show me one who will shop a bent senior colleague and I may change my mind. Maybe former Inspector Mick Barnbrook will let me publish some of his stories of how the Metropolitan Police deal with total honesty in their midst.

Someone who should think seriously about making a New Year’s Resolution is Councillor Philip Read (Conservative, Northumberland Heath). He lied his way through 2017 and last night went out with a bang.
Tweet 1 Tweet 2
It is possible that these are the last lying Tweets he will ever launch into cyberspace, I doubt it but one can hope.

After accusing Labour Councillors of spreading fake news, minutes later Councillor Read was spreading fake news.

His lie is that Labour Councillors are unrelenting in their opposition to Belvedere Beach.

The replacement for Belvedere’s much loved Splash Park was first announced on 15th November 2016 and was immediately seen as an imaginative project. Three minutes after Cabinet Member Peter Craske had had his moment of glory denigrating the alternative ideas put forward by the voluntary groups, all of which he rejected, Labour members were on their feet welcoming Craske’s surprise announcement.

Councillor Joe Ferreira, Labour, Erith, 15th November 2016
I share the Cabinet Member in thanking the officers for the design. Is there any scope for more water features? It is great to see a scheme come forward which will be positive and I really really do hope it is a success.

Surely not a bad response from a Councillor who had been given only a few seconds to think about Craske’s surprise announcement but according to Councillor Philip Read Joe Ferreira and his colleagues have been “unrelenting in their opposition”.

Hands up those who think Philip Read is a relentless liar who is not very good at it.

 

1 January (Part 1) - Cheers everyone - except for those planning a drink at the Charlotte

I never look forward to New Year’s Day, nothing to do with hang overs, it’s just that there are too many changes required on the BiB menus and indices; and I always forget something. You may have noticed earlier that the 2018 Index appeared not to be working. In fact it was but taking several minutes to appear; I had forgotten that it requires a folder for every month of the year, an empty one will do, and without one the code sits around waiting for a time out. Eleven times over because I had only made a January folder.

If I leave this note here perhaps it will remind me in twelve months time what not to do!

Meanwhile what can be said that will not attract the attention of Kent Police? Obviously nothing that can possibly embarrass a named individual. Can Queen Charlotte be safely mentioned?

Charlotte You may recall that the Charlotte public house in Crayford closed down more than two years ago, much to the delight of local residents. It had been managed by Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis (Conservative,Crayford) and had acquired a somewhat dubious reputation.

A planning application to divide the old boozer into five flats was to the surprise of most people turned down by Bexley Council on 31st August 2017, they wanted the bar to be retained. After a day out I just managed to catch the decision on the webcast.

The applicant dutifully submitted another application with bar included. Bexley Council had got their wish and two months later the new plan was approved.

However the applicant was not happy, he had appealed Bexley Council’s original perverse decision that the run down drinking den must be given a new lease of life.

Two weeks ago a Local Government Department Inspector decided that Bexley Council had been every bit as unreasonable as one has come to expect. The original five flat plan has been given the go-ahead; the Charlotte has gone forever and nearby residents need no longer live in fear of late night revelry.

The Inspector rejected any suggestion that the Charlotte was an Asset of Community Value and implied that Bexley Council had abused such a listing. An ACV does not prevent acceptable alternative use. The Inspector also noted what should have been obvious to Bexley Council, that “several alternatives existed within easy walking distance” and the Charlotte had “reputational issues”.

Bexley Council may have been pursuing its own dubious agenda or it is simply incompetent. Always hard to tell.

Floor plan.

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