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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.
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 Robbie Cooke at Swanley had taken the decision to prosecute 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.
" 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.

Click image for source document.


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?

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.
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.


18 January - Harassment. A brief as possible summary of the situation

Recent Twitter activity has provoked extra visits to the Bonkers website so for the benefit of new readers here’s a short(ish) summary of the Maxine Fothergill situation.
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Part of Councillor Fothergill’s harassment complaint is that she has been featured here far too often, although not nearly as often as other Councillors who have become involved with the police.

There are several reasons for this…

• Found guilty by Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct Committee for using her position to obtain financial advantages. She allegedly negotiated the purchase of a house for a friend from an elderly elector she met while canvassing. The vulnerable lady was chauffeured around the borough in the Mayor’s car.

• Two business associates arrested by Kent police on fraud charges were told by them that their accuser was Maxine Fothergill. The police found no evidence of fraud.

• Reported a Conservative election candidate to the police alleging theft.

• Extended her home a second time without further planning permission and was ordered to remove the additional extension.

• Twice applied for planning permissions in Bexley and signed a declaration to the planning office that she was not a Bexley Councillor thereby evading scrutiny by the Planning Committee as required by Bexley Council’s rules.

• Accused an employee of fraud. The employee was under arrest by Kent Police for eleven months before being released without charge, no evidence of fraud having been found.

• Accused a business associate of an intention to poach her business.

The reports relating to the Code of Conduct Committee were discussed at a face to face meeting with Councillor Fothergill in 2016 and an agreement before witnesses was reached on how they should be presented. Despite that they now form part of her harassment accusation.

The employee accused of fraud (Hayley Warnes) and the business associate (Ray Robson) took libel action against Councillor Fothergill because she had distributed her accusations widely.

Councillor Fothergill lost that libel action because, as the solicitor Mark Lewis has publicly confirmed, she lied.

The High Court action was first mentioned on Bexley is Bonkers on 13th November 2017. The mention consisted only of a screen shot of the Court listing.

Councillor Fothergill phoned and emailed the same day requesting removal of every reference to her libel case from this blog and Twitter.

On 16th November the first documentary evidence from the libel case was placed on line. On 19th November the last piece went on line.

At no time was Councillor Fothergill referred to in a derogatory manner, the technique was to let the facts speak for themselves.

On 19th November I emailed Councillor Fothergill to tell her that I regarded the story as finished.

She replied the same day to say that was not good enough. All references to her must be removed from the web as while they were there “all the world” could read what she had done. With the near collapse of political reporting by the local press, Bonkers is the only source of such news in Bexley.

I did not reply. Councillor Fothergill had been told in an earlier email that news was news and I was not prepared to indulge in selective censorship.

Councillor Fothergill went to see her solicitor. He wrote to me on 7th December but did not ask me to do anything apart from not link to the UKIP Bexley website which carried the same story in rather more graphic detail.

Having failed to secure the support of her solicitor Councillor Fothergill went to the police and I was interviewed under caution on 18th December. I was told that a senior officer would make a decision regarding the next step.

On 5th January 2018 Kent Police called at my door (in London!) to tell me that a Sergeant Cooke at Swanley Police station had decided that reporting so much bad news about Councillor Fothergill was criminal harassment and I should expect a letter in the post with the date for my appearance at Sevenoaks Magistrates Court.

No such letter has been received.

If you should wonder why a Bexley (Greater London) Councillor should go to Kent Police, it is because Councillor Fothergill does not live in Bexley, neither is her business address in Bexley as would be required to legitimately stand as a Councillor in Bexley.


17 January (Part 2) - 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.


17 January (Part 1) - Family networking

My journalist daughter and her partner Alastair have between them 88,000 Twitter followers which makes my 900 look rather puny so I asked if they could Tweet about my Kent Police/Maxine Fothergill predicament. They number among their followers many influential people, show business personalities, politicians and loads within media circles and the law. Maybe they could awaken someone notable who would spread the message that no journalist is now safe.

After just a few hours things are going pretty well. Mark Lewis has seen the danger - and who is Mark Lewis you might ask.

Mark Lewis is the celebrated solicitor who successfully pursued the Fake Sheik, Milly Dowler and Katie Hopkins libel cases.

Perhaps more important is that he was the solicitor in the Maxine Fothergill libel case the reporting of which has landed me with the harassment charge. (Letter promised twelve days ago but still waiting.)
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Mark Lewis knows the Fothergill case inside out and has not found fault with my reporting of it. He is perfectly happy to publicly call Councillor Maxine Fothergill a liar, something I was reluctant to do myself.

TweetMaybe I am an optimist but I see Mark Lewis as a very important ally. I took the utmost care to report the case accurately, I wrote to Councillor Fothergill four days after the first documentation went on line to say I was done with it but she would settle for nothing less than the complete suppression of all news.

As my daughter said, news reporting does not work like that. Bonkers would have no credibility if it became known that it was not even handed and would fold under a little pressure.

If Councillor Fothergill had accepted that on 19th November her situation would be almost forgotten by now but instead she has done everything to ensure she remains a talking point. Mark Lewis has 44,000 Twitter followers.

How silly is that?

Related blogs.

If I might lighten the mood…

My daughter has met Mark Lewis, they both get invited to show business parties. A couple of months ago my daughter was at Hugh Grant’s birthday party and name dropped it at a family gathering. It was explained to my granddaughter (aged eight this weekend) that Hugh Grant had played the part of a bad man in the film Paddington 2 which she had recently seen.

Granddaughter was not impressed, if aunty is friends with such bad men she wasn’t sure she wanted to talk to her any more. I’m sure she will get over it.

Note: Alastair Morgan is the brother of Daniel murdered by a police officer or his associate in 1987 for his intention to go public with an investigation into police corruption. Alastair knows a thing or two about how corrupt police officers can be to protect their own kind.


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 (Part 2) - 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.


15 January (Part 1) - Help is at hand

TweetA journalist phoned me on Friday and I picked up some interesting information about Kent Police charging me with the harassment of Councillor Maxine Fothergill. The conversation went something like this…

I’ve been reading your blog and I cannot see what you are supposed to have done wrong.

Well I’ve reported on past misdemeanours [the Code of Conduct case, the house extension for which there was no permission and the reporting of at least two employees to the police] and most recently a High Court case. So many reports and returning to the subject over a handful of days makes it harassment according to Kent Police.

No it doesn’t.

Actually I was in touch with the Councillor while reporting her libel settlement but even before doing so she was emailing me to ask me to take everything off the web. She did that as soon as I referred to the Court listing and before the details were known. I was not unsympathetic, in fact I felt quite sorry for her and that is why I got the whole business over so quickly [16th to 19th November] and wrote to tell her so. She was still not happy, nothing less that complete removal of every reference to her was acceptable. She wrote to tell me so.

She has no right to do that. People do tend not to appreciate being in the headlines but that is the nature of news I am afraid. Did you know that there are absolute exemptions in law when reporting Court cases?

No, what is that all about?

Basically, unless the Judge directs otherwise, everything that is said in Court and the evidence presented may be reported without fear of retribution. It’s a bit like Parliamentary Privilege, you cannot be in trouble for saying things in Parliament nor can you be prosecuted for reporting it. If for example the discussion in Court might run foul of data protection laws no sanctions could arise from reporting that discussion. The police really have no case against you.

Does that all hold true for blogs like mine? Or is it only the established media that can claim the exemption?

Oh no, it covers you, there have been test cases to establish that.

So you don’t think the police will be able to make a successful case against me?

No chance. From what I can see there are a lot of journalists who would love to be in your position.

How come? I don’t like it one little bit.

Well they would probably be keen to, err….

Make monkeys of the police?

Something like that.

Where do you think I should go with this next?

Not sure. All my contacts are in national news and they won’t be very interested in local squabbles. I’ll have a think about it.

If Kent Police can get away with suppressing news reports you won’t know what trick may be pulled next.

Yes, that is potentially very worrying but I think they are just being very silly.

Full Disclosure. This is not a verbatim report, some bits are but it is mainly my best recollection.

The journalist is my daughter, she is qualified to degree level and has worked for a news organisation everyone has heard of for the past 20 years or more.

She counts among her closest friends a university lecturer in media law. He has advised me from time to time in the past when things have become a little tricky.


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 addresses. (Excludes Danny Hackett since he changed jobs two months ago!)
3 • Conservative Councillors who I could email without going through their addresses.
3 • UKIP Councillors who I could email without going through their 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.


12 January (Part 1) - Harassment charge rumbles on

There has been little time for blogging today, it has been a day for telephone calls and email.

One of the telephone calls came from Kent Police in response to the complaint I wrote when first emerging from the flu bug.

In nearly half an hour the Inspector made it clear that the intention was to put me before a Magistrate for criminal harassment of Councillor Maxine Fothergill who, as publication of her emails will have shown, was only interested in total suppression of the news of her High Court appearance.

How a Court appearance will help her suppress the news I am not quite sure. Maybe her real motivation is revenge.

The Inspector, whilst making it clear that prosecution was Sergeant Cooke’s decision and nothing much can stop it now, most certainly listened carefully to the full story and offered some useful suggestions.

He dropped into that conversation the fact that Kent Police had seen the support for my position and a letter from my MP. However none of that cuts any ice with them.

Behind the scenes press support continues with an assurance that they recognise the grave attack on news reporting and their intention is to publish in due course.

And the Crime Commissioner for Kent has been in touch again.

A bit of me wants to go to Court to expose the silliness of it all, but on balance I would rather not.


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.
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.
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.


8 January (Part 2) - The email trail, part three

Apologies for pushing another of these ‘defence stories’ on you so soon after the last one but there are reasons. One of them is that I am due to be interviewed by a newspaper reporter later today and I want to be able to refer him to as much relevant data as possible.

Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s state of mind was giving me cause for concern; her phone calls were not pleasant to hear and I found myself using the phrase “in a state of denial” because of her emails protesting her innocence of libel. Why on earth was she wanting to extend my news reporting by introducing new documents which she had either not shown the Court or which had failed to convince them?

Such was my concern that I sought out Councillor June Slaughter at a Council meeting; I forget which one but it was just after I had drawn the libel news reports to an end.

Councillor Slaughter had been Councillor Fothergill’s friend and adviser at the Code of Conduct hearing two years earlier and I told June that Councillor Fothergill was in dire need of a good friend. Was she being supported I asked because I feared she might do something silly. In my opinion her state of mind did not entirely rule out some sort of self harm and I asked Councillor Slaughter to look out for her.

Mrs. Slaughter told me that Councillor Fothergill had not told her anything about a libel case and she had not read the blog for a few days so was unaware of the situation. She said she would look into it and presumably step in to help if she could.

I think I may not be very good at this harassment lark.

I had a similar discussion with one of Councillor Fothergill’s business associates but found that his compassion pot had run completely dry. After seeing three associates arrested by Kent Police on false evidence he showed no sign of any sympathy whatever.

The last email I had received from Councillor Fothergill was in the early hours of 19th November when she was offering me more documents for publication so that her innocence could be established. They weren’t going to overturn the Court decision so what was the point? I had already decided that the story which had begun with the first documentary evidence on 16th November had run its course and wrote to Councillor Fothergill to tell her so.

12:38 19th November 2017


I made up my mind yesterday that I am not going any further with this one, at least for now.

I have up until now only used documents which are, in the widest sense perhaps, already in the public domain.

Letters that you sent to several people and documents that would be known of or available to anyone who attended the Court hearings.

I don’t believe I have strayed into suggesting dishonesty much beyond the libel where by definition you failed to convince a Court – and separately the police – that what you had said was accurate.

I have re-read what has been said on BiB and would ask you to do the same and I do not believe it goes beyond saying that you were accused of libel, you lost, and here’s the proof.

Other documents are available to me which you probably would not want to be made public and they would require some explanation if they were. My inclination at the moment is not to go there.

As you rightly pointed out on the phone I have a historic grudge against Teresa O’Neill and some of her closest friends for what they have attempted to do to me (have me arrested) but not you or your business interests.

T O’N always seems to escape from personal responsibilities because she has others available to do her dirty work and I would agree that that is sometimes unfair to individuals. Undermining the Council more generally is usually the only course available to me.

As my political inclinations are basically the same as hers T O’N has been stupid to encourage the present situation but that is a whole new subject.

The documents produced in Court represent Phase I on BiB and Phase II can be put on hold unless the newspapers go further than I have. The bundle sent to me has gone to several newspapers and if the story breaks there BiB may be the least of your troubles.

You said you have a document which proves that Hayley was guilty of fraud as you have asserted from the outset. You surely must have argued that case to the police and the Court and they have rejected it. If I see it and find fault in it will that not just make your situation worse?

I have come to the conclusion that it would be in your interests for us not to meet.

You wish to convince me of your innocence when you failed with the police and the Court and at this point in time BiB has not made a judgment on that one way or another, all it has done is report the findings of the Court.

If I was to protest your innocence contrary to the findings of the police and Court (as I did with the Code of Conduct business) I would consider it essential to use the documents that I have so far chosen not to for balance.

At the present time there is no need for balance because all that has been done is to refer to documents.

Do you really want to take that path when screenshots of some of your mobile phone comments which I have would do your case no good at all?

I really do think it is time to pause if not stop reporting. One of your emails to me was probably in itself libellous bearing in mind the Court ruling.

Best probably to draw a line don’t you think?

If you really want to meet someone maybe you could meet with John Watson again. We are not in close contact – I do not even have his phone number – but he may lend you a friendly ear.

Thank you for the attachment, it was included in the bundle sent to me and I excluded all but Page 1 because, well I am not sure, maybe its importance didn’t register with me in the way it should.

I will make the obvious correction.



So as you will see I argued that it was in everyone’s best interests if the news reports ceased. Extending them to cover a fight back by Councillor Fothergill would get far too messy and still not overturn the libel damages. There was simply no point. I had factually recorded the news and where Councillor Fothergill felt the report was inadequate I modified it for her.

My harassment skills are obviously severely limited. I wanted to drop the subject, Councillor Fothergill wanted to extend it. She was back the same evening with another email…

21:31 19th November 2017

Hello Malcolm

Thank you for your email but I’m afraid putting up these blogs without hearing and seeing the true facts has already had a massive impact to my business which I have only just found out about via an email received by one of my staff today where it very much sounds as if your blogs are likely to end up losing us a contact. (Just Google my name.)

I have read what you have put up on your site today and this does not help me as you have still left all the adverse and historical information on your site for all the world to see.

I stated previously I am happy to meet you to give the full facts and show you my proof and evidence to back up my claims, yes I did put out 2 letters without checking as I had to inform my clients we had discovered potential fraud as I had a mortal duty to do this and contrary to your believe, It is a proven fact fraud was found to have been committed and the only reason the police did not prosecute was due to the cost to the public purse which was likely to be over £100k

Re your comments on 17th November where you published the following blog:-
“When the police officer who arrested Hayley Warnes and kept her in suspense for eleven months heard that she had won her claim for damages against her former employer Councillor Maxine Fothergill he sent a brief email congratulating both her and surveyor Ray Robson on “a pretty good result” and said that except that it was frowned upon by Kent Police he would have “used a smiley face”.

Do you seriously believe a police officer would email your informants to say well done, good result! This shows the integrity of your informants!

My offer still stands to meet you on Tuesday and I’m sure if asked John Watson would happily join us. Johns phone number is 07973 xxxxxx.

Anyway regardless of your choice to meet up or not, I am now asking you nicely to please remove all blogs you have written about me since 2015 due to the damage you are causing me personally as well as to my business and my staff.

It may be a bit of a sport to you but it’s has had a long term detrimental effect on my life, my health, my family’s life, my business which I have run for over 15 years without any problems previously and on my staff (I had to make 5 staff redundant last year due to losing business from adverse publicity you published and now it seems history is likely to be repeating itself imminently), and don’t forgot what you put on your blog is out there on the WWW forever unless removed but still serves to cause troubles all the time it remains live as this information can be printed and kept! And please remember with the rise of social media, winning business is no longer about form filling as most companies look at who are they intending to do business with via the interview and google searches before interviews are even made!

I await your urgent reply


Maxine Fothergill

As you will see Councillor Fothergill was still arguing that a meeting would convince me that Hayley Warnes had indeed committed fraud. I was not prepared to extend the blogs by opening that can of worms. Reporting the libel damages and providing the necessary support documents was quite complicated enough for me but contrary to her current harassment allegation, Councillor Fothergill appeared to be goading me into publishing more. Her preferred solution of censoring the news totally was simply not acceptable.

You will also have noted that I stood accused of publishing a lie about a Kent Police officer. I replied as follows…

11:09 20th November 2017


I am disappointed that you think I would publish something that I am not absolutely sure of.

The comment from the police officer is an extract from his email timed at 08:26 on 16th November 2017.

I was in Ray Robson’s office shortly after it arrived on a visit I requested because I wanted to see for myself the documents to which he had been referring. Ray allowed me to see and take copies of everything that I felt to be relevant at that time. Reading the documents provoked further questions and Ray has since sent me more documents in response to those questions.

I do not expect to use them but it was essential that I fully understand what took place and be confident of being accurate. It has not been necessary to take sides, the Court documents revealed so far speak for themselves.

I shall avoid any grey areas that arise due to my lack of understanding of the property business. As I said, I currently do not see any need to go much further at all.

The police email was fresh on Ray’s computer and he showed it to me. I insisted on taking a printed copy.

I have always been cautious about accepting any assurance until I see it in black and white. Phil Pead as he signed himself (no rank prefix) appears to be on good terms with Ray.

You have clearly alleged that Ray told me porkies about the police email and it reflects badly on his integrity – and by inference mine for being suckered by him.

I think Ray may have been surprised by the email but it most certainly exists and if anyone’s integrity is being questioned it isn’t Ray Robson’s.


Councillor Fothergill sent me two more emails but I had decided that no more libel news should be published. I did not open either of the two emails as I was concerned that my patience might snap and be tempted into reopening the subject. Those two emails remain unopened to this day.

Meanwhile Ray Robson continues to send me right up to the early hours of this morning more and more documents that back his case. They are interesting but I am not going to publish them either.

You may not have noticed that at no time did I publish any photograph of Councillor Fothergill. BiB is usually well illustrated but in this case I made the decision to report the news and keep the subject as anonymous as possible in the circumstances.

How can it be harassment when it was always me who was looking to keep things strictly to the point and Councillor Fothergill who was encouraging extension into new areas?

Do her many attempts to persuade me that I should rewrite history in her favour and then the solicitor's letter and the criminal allegation constitute harassment by Councillor Maxine Fothergill?


8 January (Part 1) - The email trail, part two

While I was supposedly harassing Councillor Maxine Fothergill by reporting her unfortunate experience in the High Court we were keeping up a daily correspondence by both telephone and email.

My line was that I was simply reporting news, nothing more, nothing less, and her line was that if I did not wipe everything from the web her business would suffer. She also thought that she should be of no interest to BiB because what she had done was not done as a Councillor.

However Bexley Council has long maintained that a Councillor is a Councillor 24/7 and would it be reasonable to remain mute if a Councillor was found guilty of beating his wife? Or if Alex Sawyer was caught in his own yellow parking trap?

Councillor Fothergill sent this email…

21:37 13th November 2017

Dear Malcolm

It is for the reason Ie it is already in the public domain that I please ask if you will remove this for me. As you are aware It has nothing to do with my position as a ward councillor and the only person it is truly hurting is me!

I am not particularly well as the stress this has cause me again is not good.

I look forward to receiving the attachments from you as soon as you receive them (hopefully before tomorrow morning)

Kind regards


(Tomorrow morning was the date of the Court hearing.)

Councillor Fothergill then followed up with another phone call to ask me to meet her in the Hilton Hotel by the Dartford Crossing at 7 p.m. in two days time and bring Ray Robson’s emails with me. I still had not received them but I felt pressurised into meeting as suggested.

When I eventually received Ray’s Press Pack it included a lot of Court documents and emails to and from Councillor Fothergill’s business associates. I decided I had no right to do anything with Ray Robson’s file that he had not authorised. When Councillor Fothergill next phoned I told her I could not meet her.

She sent another email…

00:20 19th November 2017

Hello Malcolm

Bob has told me to send this to you asap. You published one page which I guess is all you were provided with but as you will see there is much more to this as per the attached. (Please do not publish it)

You are being provided with ½ a story which is not surprising considering where you are obtaining your information from!

I am very much looking forward to seeing you with my files as I have so much solid facts and proven evidence to disprove the majority of what you have published to date.

My main concern however is not about me but my staff, what you are doing without having the full facts is causing my business so much trouble and in turn potentially putting 12 members out staff out of a job! Is this what you are hoping to achieve?

Anyway as mentioned you have heard only one side of the story and I am happy to answer your questions and show you all the facts and evidence on Tuesday as discussed which will give you the truth behind the lies you have been fed with to date.

Kind regards


I did not publish the supplied attachment, I already had Ray Robson’s copy which was more extensive and came with a full explanation.

Hers purported to show that a claim made against her by four business associates in May 2015 had been dismissed in the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division by The Honourable Mr. Justice Dingemans. Ray’s document suggested to me that it had been dismissed only because the hearing had gone to the wrong Court. I decided that it was a legal complication best avoided but rightly or wrongly I did form the impression that Councillor Fothergill’s document in referring only to the dismissal may have been calculated to lead me astray.

I was also totally perplexed as to how Councillor Fothergill would be able to demonstrate to me that she was the innocent party when her legal team had failed to convince a Judge. Once again I decided that the only sensible thing to do was report the known facts and no more. Putting on a wig and trying to out-judge a Judge would be futile and unnecessarily lead to more and more blogs when I had already decided to write no more.

If I had been lied to as Councillor Fothergill was claiming it didn’t really matter, the agreement reached in Court was clear enough and that is all that was being reported.

I wrote what I thought was a conciliatory response twelve hours later which will appear here before too long but no one spends more than two or three minutes reading blogs so this one must end here. The same reason the libel case could not be reported in just one day. According to Kent Police the fact that I broke the news into more than one segment is why it is harassment. That’s an end to newspapers serialising stories then.

Twice I asked Kent Police how big they thought the news reports were and twice two hands were stacked about nine inches apart. It can only be because Councillor Fothergill has raked up the old Code of Conduct reports. When we met in September 2016 she was happy enough with my explanatory prefix but now it might add to her case against me, for good measure she has thrown in stuff she had previously agreed was OK.


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.

I am also most grateful to Hugh for highlighting the dangers to all bloggers - in reality every news outlet - represented by Kent Police’s decision to refer the report on Maxine Fothergill’s libel to the Crown Prosecution Service. As he points out it represents a grave threat to freedom of speech and in my opinion to journalism as we have known it.

Over the next day or two I will publish emails which show that whilst I was keen to close down the subject, Councillor Fothergill would accept nothing less than wiping every trace of the story from the web. A lot of people would welcome restraints on press freedom like that, most of them bad ones I would think.

More news outlets should be as alert to that danger as Hugh appears to be. Sadly that has not happened so far.


7 January (Part 1) - The email trail, part one

I couldn’t possibly claim to have daily contact with Councillors and MPs but it is very far from being unknown. Yesterday there were two - one of each - but they are generally not reported. Firstly they are not news and even if they were, tittle-tattling the contents here would probably ensure I didn’t get any more.

However I am going to make an exception for Councillor Fothergill. Now that the Kent Police has decided to send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for reporting her lost libel case I no longer consider that I owe her any favours.

Yesterday I quoted from an email I sent to her three days after the first libel document was posted on Bonkers to assure her that no more was planned. She found that to be unsatisfactory, nothing less than complete withdrawal would do.

I stuck to my original plan to do no more but resisted retrospective censoring of news; that I believe  is why Councillor Fothergill has retaliated. As you will see if you read on, nothing short of complete censorship will make her happy.

By revealing the Fothergill emails you - and the CPS? - may be able to judge who was harassing who.

Going back two years Councillor Fothergill pestered me into a meeting to allow her to explain how she was the innocent victim of Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee. She succeeded and BiB has reflected her innocence ever since.

I did not want to be drawn into such a dispute again, the only subject of current interest was the agreement made in the High Court following the lost libel case and the accurate reporting thereof. A rerun of the police’s investigation into Hayley Warne and the High Court libel case is well outside my level of competence. The Judge had done that.

The first official confirmation that Councillor Fothergill - or her legal representative - was due in Court was the listing which the Court published on line. It was reproduced here on the same day, 13th November 2017.

Within hours of it being placed on BiB Councillor Fothergill was on to me by phone to tell me that she had again been a victim of an injustice. She followed up with this email…

21:05 November 2017

Dear Malcolm,
Re our conversation, as you are aware the business with me formally employing Hayley Warnes and fraud we are aware she committed which the police in the end would not prosecute due to her being a pregnant single mother, has caused me nothing but pain with my health, recent diverticulitis due to stress and the loss of massive amounts of business.

As I discussed with you, the litigation case settlement was a commercial decision made by my PI insurers after 2 barristers reporting to my insurers that if the case went to full trial the cost would be in excess of £1.5m and for this reason it is very rare for litigation cases to ever go to full trial these days.

As you are aware the information passed to you has nothing to do with my position as a ward councillor. I therefore please ask if you can kindly remove your recent tweets and blog about me as I really can’t stand the stress anymore and am at my wits end of this.

Thank you in advance for you agreeing to send me the information you received from Hayley Warnes and Ray Robson on Saturday, as mentioned this information is very important as my solicitor and PI insurers need to be aware ASAP.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

As explained elsewhere I did not have an email from Ray Robson because it was part of an attachment which failed to transmit. It took a further three days to reach me.

I asked Mr. Robson for comment on Councillor Fothergill’s email which said that Hayley Warnes had committed fraud and the police dropped the charges against her, not because she was innocent, but because she was pregnant.

Ray showed the email to his solicitor before the next day’s Court hearing and unsurprisingly Mark Lewis said that Councillor Fothergill was repeating the original libel. A libel that Fothergill had admitted in Court.

I was not unsympathetic to towards Councillor Fothergill as is implied by the use of first names and that we know each others home phone numbers and because of that sympathetic view there was no intention to overdo the Court reporting although the complexity of it might require it to be stretched over several days - three as it turned out.

I replied as follows.

21:25 13th November 2017

My further examination of the emails received from Ray Robson at the weekend suggest that they are corrupted in some way and must be incomplete.

I called Ray to voice my concerns or more accurately puzzlement.

He explained to me that he sent them from India and what I have is not what he intended me to have. Far from complete apparently. He is going to resend his emails now that he is back in the UK.

The Court listing is in the public domain and I do not see what advantage there is to removing it from one website when it is visible on another. As I understand it the press both local and national are aware of the listing. The Bexley interest will come from there being so many of your tenants within the borough.


There were three more emails over following days culminating in one in which Councillor Fothergill said she was not happy with my decision to not post any more information about her libel case, nothing short of total withdrawal of the news reports would be good enough.

I have read what you have put up on your site today and this does not help me as you have still left all the adverse and historical information on your site for all the world to see.

You cannot censor the news because a Councillor has been friendly in the past or because you have grown to like them. I once reported that I thought something Councillor Danny Hackett said in the Council chamber was among the silliest things I had ever heard there. It was a difficult decision to take but this is not a Labour Party blog and if/when they ever gain power in Bexley I suspect they will come in for regular criticism.

Danny still talks to me. He knows the meaning of democracy and supports electors who may not see eye to eye with him politically.


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


6 January (Part 1) - A simple harassment summary

Journalists like to be spoon fed, they don’t have the time to wade through reams of paper so this is a summary of the key points that led to Kent Police’s perverse decision to refer Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s harassment complaint to the Crown Prosecution Service. If you see the opportunity to direct influential people to it please link to

• I first became aware that Councillor Fothergill had agreed to pay libel damages to Hayley Warnes and Ray Robson on 21st October 2017. There was no documentary evidence so nothing could be reported on Bexley-is-Bonkers.

• The first hard evidence of a Court appearance came on 13th November when the case was listed in the Queen’s Bench Division.

Later that day Councillor Fothergill rang me on my home phone, one of the very few Councillors I had ever given the number. She asked that I meet up with her with a copy of an email she believed Mr. Robson had sent me. At 21:05 the same evening she emailed to ask that I delete that day’s blog which referred to the hearing due next day.

20 minutes later I replied that Mr. Robson’s email had been sent from Dehli and was totally corrupt on arrival. I also told her that since the Court listing was publicly available elsewhere there did not seem to be much point in removing it from Bonkers.

At 21:37 Councillor Fothergill emailed again requesting removal of the Court listing. There were no more emails until 19th November, six days later.

• Following the Court hearing on 14th November neither of the two litigants provided any information. Nothing was forthcoming apart from a comment by a third party who was in Court. BiB put out a holding blog to that effect.

• The 15th November also failed to bring forth any hard information. Without documentation to prove the case BiB will not publish anything. Instead it could only put out another apologetic holding message. It debated the pros and cons of publishing the news, the balance that must be struck between “troubling” Councillor Fothergill and “not making her situation worse and [at the same time] providing solid facts”.

• By late afternoon of 16th November the long awaited litigants’ Press Pack arrived; it was huge though for reasons unknown failed to include a copy of the principal libel. A blog was nevertheless prepared.

It began by saying that on balance BiB considered censoring the news was not acceptable but it was essential everything must be backed by documentary evidence. A letter from Councillor Fothergill alleging that “Hayley Warnes and Ray Robson had conspired to damage our [Councillor Fothergill’s] business” was published. It was an important part of the libel claim although perhaps not the biggest one.

• One of the most disturbing things about this case was that Kent Police were so very enthusiastic about prosecuting Hayley Warnes on the false evidence provided by Councillor Fothergill. When Ray Robson tried to warn Kent Police that they were making a big mistake and provided evidence to that effect they warned Ray that he might be charged with Perverting the Course of Justice. The blog dated 17th November was devoted to criticising Kent Police who it should be said eventually came to their senses. There was no criticism of Councillor Fothergill in that blog.

• On 18th November 2017 BiB provided details of the likely Court costs as estimated by the solicitor Mark Lewis.

• On 19th November 2017 I emailed Councillor Fothergill to tell her that I had concluded the previous day that I regarded the story as complete and it was time to move on.

I stated that I did not believe I had ever suggested she was dishonest, apart from the libel itself which she had agreed in Court was untruthful. “I really do think it is time to pause if not stop reporting. One of your emails to me was probably in itself libellous bearing in mind the Court ruling. Best probably to draw a line don’t you think?”

In a handful of days there had been three holding blogs which said almost nothing, one listing the estimated Court costs, another criticising Kent police and just two which addressed Councillor Fothergill’s libel directly - with supporting documentation where necessary.

Believe it or not I was sympathetic to Councillor Fothergill, she had probably been abused by the Tory leadership and Bonkers had supported her. I had respected her request that our meeting on 16th September 2016 be kept secret and the secondary request not to be seen with her in the Council offices.

All correspondence to and from Councillor Fothergill was very civilised.

Councillor Fothergill replied by email later the same day to again ask for all the blogs to be removed. She said if we met she would be able to tell me the truth of the matter.

She also suggested I had made something up. I provided the evidence that I had not.

I did not want to be further involved, the property business is complex and the only thing of interest was the accuracy of the Court reporting. Except that Councillor Fothergill’s Court agreed apology was distributed at the end of the month the Fothergill story was finished.

Councillor Fothergill wanted to extend the public discussion and defend herself with what she called the truth. I was determined that the news item was ended. Her ‘truth’ had not been accepted in Court. The case had been reported accurately and it was in no one’s interest to carry on.

• It was with considerable surprise that on 8th December I opened a letter from Councillor Fothergill’s solicitor which at first reading looked to be threatening. However more careful study showed that not to be the case. It merely asked for a link to UKIP Bexley’s website to be removed. In the solicitor’s opinion UKIP’s site was libellous, Bexley is Bonkers was not. The solicitor recognised that BiB had practiced simple news reporting, It would appear that Kent Police believes that to be criminal.

• Because Councillor Fothergill had reopened the subject of the dubious behaviour that had led to the libel claim Bexley is Bonkers posted another blog on 9th December, 10th December and 11th December. They were not entirely complimentary but nevertheless argued that contrary to UKIP’s assertions Councillor Fothergill had been foolish, not corrupt.

• On 12th December the subject was closed down for the second time despite a good deal of unflattering material remaining unpublished.

• Councillor Fothergill chose to go to the police. A month after rejecting BiB’s first offer to close the subject down.

• It is probable that Councillor Fothergill is attempting to include the reports of her guilty verdict by the Code of Conduct Committee in 2015. However each of the reports has long been prefixed by a notice that makes it clear that she was the unfortunate victim in that case.

The compromise arrangement instituted on BiB’s initiative in the late Summer of 2016 was formally agreed with Councillor Fothergill at a clandestine meeting - where I bought all the drinks! - on 16th September 2017.

With minor clarifications it (see below) has been there ever since without complaint. Suddenly it becomes harassment!

The blog below is one of several relating to Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill and Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct Committee. This note aims to make it clear that the events reported between December 2015 and the Summer of 2016 whilst accurate reflections of various events, disciplinary hearings and sanctions brought against Councillor Fothergill they are individually insufficient to explain the whole story.

Two members of the Bexley-is-Bonkers team met with Councillor Fothergill at a secret location on 16th September 2016 where she explained to us what had really happened. She was able to convince us that she was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

There were compelling reasons why Councillor Fothergill should be believed. It seemed likely that the Tory High Command in Bexley had taken revenge on her because Councillor Fothergill had reported one of their associates to the police for theft.

Councillor Fothergill requested that the explanatory note prefixed to relevant blogs (which first went on line a few days earlier) be further strengthened so that readers are fully aware that reported events, whilst accurate at the time, did not reflect her innocence and that Bexley Council’s charge of misconduct and “gaining a financial advantage for herself” was malicious.

This is a modified version of the note Councillor Fothergill asked to be placed here.


5 January - Press Release

I spent a good deal of today sending out a letter to press contacts about the danger everyone is in if it becomes a criminal offence to report news.

The open letter is now on the Home page.

Late this afternoon two police officers knocked on my door to say I will be charged with harassment of Councillor Fothergill for revealing the fact that she lost a libel case in the High Court and dribbled the information out over several days.

If you run a similar site to this one could I ask you to distribute the Home page message as far as possible as we are all in danger now.


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

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!


2 January - Fighting back

I am beginning to recover from the dreaded flu by making a few decisions; one is that when the opportunity arises BiB will carry more stories about our politicised and too often thoroughly corrupt police and will no longer consider a Bexley connection to be essential.

I know for a fact, but am unfortunately sworn to secrecy, that right to the very highest level the Metropolitan Police is institutionally corrupt and probably only one of its Commissioners over the past 30 years has not been complicit in that corruption - and he was the only one to be sacked.

It will not be a daily occurrence but when the police are more than normally stupid BiB will endeavour to spread the word.

I am beginning to get my head around the gravity of what the police did to me just over two weeks ago and this morning did something I should have done immediately. I posted a formal letter of complaint.

Perhaps irrationally I also find myself annoyed with every Labour politician in Bexley. Considering how much time I spend defending them against the Tories who do little but bend the truth, I am more than a little disappointed that not a single one of them enquired about my experience at the hands of the police in Swanley. I am politically inclined to the right and always have been and it has not always been easy to find subjects on which I can lend my support to Socialists. If Bexley was not run by Tory liars I might find it an impossible task.

Come next Spring with an election due my current feeling is that Bexley Labour should not expect any support from Bexley-is-Bonkers. Maybe the flu bug is still doing the talking but that is the way I see things right now.

Usually I spend days fine tuning a letter of complaint, the one now on its way to Maidstone was rather different, I wrote it over an hour or two and didn’t change a thing before it went into the postbox.

Maybe I will live to regret that but enough time has been wasted already.

Chief Constable Alan Pughsley
Kent Police Headquarters
Sutton Road
M33 0BW

2nd January 2018

Dear Sir,

This letter is a formal complaint against Kent Police in general and PC Brooks (13546) based in Swanley in particular.

I publish a news website in Bexley, South East London, covering mainly but not exclusively Council based news which is no longer covered by the local press.

The most recent items are entirely typical…

• A pub closure.
• A new housing development in the town centre and the total lack of affordable homes in every recent high profile planning application.
• A rerouted bus.
• Two formal reports on Council meetings.
• Fly tipping.
• The failure of the Oyster ticket machines at the newly opened Abbey Wood station.

On 18th December 2017 PC Brooks phoned me at home to say I had been accused of harassment and must attend Swanley police station in the immediate future or face arrest. She refused to tell me which news item she considered to be harassment or who had made the allegation. I could only guess what the problem might be. I would appreciate advice on whether or not PC Brooks was following correct procedure in keeping me in ignorance and potentially unable to make suitable preparations.

On arrival in Swanley PC Brooks told me that I had been accused of harassment by Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill.

Councillor Fothergill is well known to Kent Police. To my knowledge she has caused four people to be arrested in Kent, three of them at least on totally false charges, I understand she has also made a complaint against a police officer who eventually came to realise he had been hoodwinked by Councillor Fothergill into keeping one of her employee victims under wrongful arrest for eleven months.

Councillor Fothergill widely circulated a libellous letter about her intended victim and her new employer. On 14th November 2017 she paid the price in the High Court. The settlement totalled £70,000.

I published news of the Councillor’s lost libel case on 14th November but without any detail because the promised Press Pack had not arrived and without documentary evidence a small news website cannot risk going too far.

The Press Pack had still not arrived by the following day and I published an apology to readers for keeping them in suspense. It drew attention to the need to keep the correct balance between causing difficulties for the subject, Councillor Fothergill, and reporting factual news.

On 16th November the Press Pack belatedly arrived which allowed publication of Court documents to prove the news was well founded. A national news outlet may be able to publish facts without any documentary back-up but a very minor one must provide the evidence if it is to be considered credible.

The accompanying commentary went no further than explaining the circumstances which led to the case going to the High Court. At no time was any personal judgment made on the perpetrator of the libel.

On 17th November I published some correspondence between Kent Police and one of the litigants which attempted to show that Kent Police was not interested in the truth and happy to provide false information to the Crown Prosecution Service.

On 19th November a copy of the libellous letter was made public but without comment. It was inexplicably missing from the original Press Pack.

And that was the end of the matter, over a period of four days an item of Council related news had made the headlines and gone away.

Nearly three weeks later I received a letter from Councillor Fothergill’s solicitor about my news reports. He asked only that I did not link to any other website that had covered the story. It was clear that Councillor Fothergill’s solicitor had no complaints about my reporting.

He drew my attention to a political website which commented on the news in a way I had not. It sought to portray Councillor Fothergill as corrupt whereas my own passed no judgment whatsoever.

I revisited the subject specifically saying that what Councillor Fothergill had done was unwise but not corrupt. Despite that it is me she accuses of harassment and there is no complaint against the political news site.

Bexley Councillors have a long track record of malicious attacks on my publishing activities. As a result I have been threatened with arrest for “criticising Councillors”. A complaint went to the IPCC who instructed the Metropolitan Police to withdraw their threat.

Blurred imageI was also accused by the Metropolitan Police of revealing the personal details of a minor by illustrating a factual story with a deliberately blurred copy of a photograph taken from a Bexley Councillor’s public Facebook page.

My text did not reveal who was in the photograph or its source or make any reference to the photograph at all yet I was under threat of arrest for seven months until the Metropolitan Police climbed down.

Their excuses for their error included a useful note of how the law of harassment might apply to news publications. Mine has not been anywhere near to transgressing those guidelines. PC Brooks has had a copy of it for more than two weeks.

She told me that I would be informed of the outcome of the interview under caution within a couple of days, by the following weekend at the latest but there has been no contact.

My complaint is that the harassment allegation is frivolous. PC Brooks’ definition of harassment being any news item that might cause discomfort to someone somewhere would bring the whole of the press to a standstill.

A moment’s research on her part would have revealed that I had published only documented facts with almost no comment at all.

It recognised a balance between news and the potential for distress must be maintained and for that reason the subject was allowed to fade away within four days. Facts without any opinion piece cannot reasonably be interpreted as harassment and is certainly well within Met. Police guidelines issued to me.

I understand from PC Brooks that there may be a secondary allegation relating to Bexley Council finding Councillor Fothergill guilty of using her elected position to obtain financial advantages for herself.

Bexley Council released that news only reluctantly and over a long period. Each release was factually reported but the emphasis of guilt gradually changed. By the end it seemed possible that the earliest reports that came from Bexley Council were not entirely truthful but that would not be clear to anyone reading only those initial reports.

At her request I met Councillor Fothergill and we agreed a compromise which was to prefix every report on the subject with a summary, favourable to her, of what happened later so that all readers would be fully informed of the final outcome.

This summary (or an improved version of it) has remained in place for well over a year and as agreed with Councillor Fothergill. She has made no complaint. She cannot reasonably allege harassment by something which she herself requested, agreed and has hitherto accepted.

Yours sincerely,


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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