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Bonkers Blog July 2018

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31 July - Parking in Abbey Wood

Parking ParkingParking in Abbey Wood is not easy; two public car parks closed and the Elizabeth line opens in only four months time. There is a CPZ (permits £100 a year) that extends in all directions for about five minutes walk from the station on the Bexley side of the borough boundary and I live a further minute away.

As a result I am frequently blocked in by bad parking and I am far from being alone. Occasionally the whole road is inaccessible by large vehicles. Similar problems may be found on both sides of the borough boundary; something will have to be done about it.

Bexley Council has said nothing publicly about it except for hinting two years ago that they were inclined to play a wait and see game. I am informed that Greenwich Council might take more immediate action. More residents will then have to pay their current fee of £57 a year.

Obviously some won’t like that and the situation probably warrants some sort of opinion survey.

Locally there is a Facebook Group called What’s New in SE2 and while it frequently provides useful information I will never forgive Eoin Golden, the Administrator, for the time my post in support of a Wilton Road business was deleted. He had allowed a critical discussion thread to degenerate on the basis of no evidence at all and I put awkward facts in the way. The power to do as one pleases is always likely to be abused. I see that in his Smart Alec responses to anyone who dares to be a critic.

One of the regular posters on Eoin’s Facebook Group is a lady called Paula Vasile. She is in the nicest sense a busy body always coming up with bright ideas aimed at, to her mind at least, improving the area.

Unfortunately - and inevitably - she comes in for a great deal of criticism because there is no evidence she is a local resident but instead runs a business in Westminster. Her motives must be questioned, someone who is not really what she superficially claims to be will always create suspicions. I have some too but that is not to say I believe her to be fundamentally evil.

Paula recently, and not for the first time, set up a Survey Monkey questionnaire entitled Parking in Abbey Wood. Somebody needed to do it and not unreasonably she wanted people to know about it. Paula gave it a plug on What’s New in SE2 where she has created a few enemies over the past year, among them the Administrator and his like minded Assistant, Rebecca Erol. It was not a good idea to have once put both of them on her Block List.

Paula Vasile has blocked me too, once because I refused to give her the minutes of the Wilton Road Traders’ Association in which I play a minor role. I think I am blocked again now. I cannot see any of her posts so I assume so.

Eoin and Rebecca struck back, they removed all reference to Paula’s Survey Monkey consultations and introduced another of their petty rules (†) banning everyone from referring to Survey Monkey.

Their reasons were both ludicrous and childlike. They said that to link to Survey Monkey risked personal details being collected. Well yes, that’s true but before anyone can complete a survey they have to agree to Survey Monkey’s conditions. (††) It is all perfectly legal and GDPR compliant. Bexley Council uses the survey site regularly and has no concerns, Why is it not secure enough for What’s New in SE2? It is simply pathetic and gives the perfect indication of why Facebook Groups like Eoin’s can be dangerous subversions of democracy.

Paula says she will set up a Residents’ Association with its own Facebook Group and all power to her elbow. Unfortunately her propensity for blocking users left, right and centre for no obvious reason and failure to come clean on why a Westminster business woman is interested in Abbey Wood does not augur well at all.

† Like restricting references to local events to just one, thereby potentially harming the community. The forthcoming Wilton Road Craft Market being a case in point.
†† If you have not previously agreed to the conditions.


30 July (Part 1) - Fake News

Two days ago the News Shopper published the result of a survey into which London borough was the happiest in London. It said that Richmond, Bromley and Sutton took the first three places with Greenwich sixth and Tower Hamlets twelfth.

Where was Bexley?

HappyIt depends on who you ask. On the same day as the News Shopper survey went on line, Bexley Conservatives claimed that Bexley was top of the happy league table. The News Shopper report said differently. 14th.

It’s probably a stupid thing to waste time on anyway, does any resident really care? Residents might care more that they have elected a Council which simply cannot stop lying; about both trivia and things more worthwhile.

It’s the same pretty much ever year, Bexley comes nowhere but nevertheless the Tories pump bilge from its propaganda machine.

But let’s try to be optimistic, in 2015 Bexley was close to being the least happy place in the entire country, so there may be an improving trend.

According to the Office of National Statistics’ 2017 report, only three boroughs in South East England were less happy than Bexley. Bexley Conservatives Tweeted about being in the top spot that year too.

I will now be accused of running Bexley down but we are unbeatable in at least one respect. We have a Council comprised of world class liars.


29 July (Part 3) - Clowns and Circuses

Trinity PlaceI was told the other day that I shouldn’t refer to the Trinity Place idiocy as a Magic Roundabout - so named by a reader, not me - and it was more of a Circus as in Oxford and Ludgate. Who am I to argue?

As readers who have been paying attention will know, my son is well into road and vehicle safety and has worked with all the major vehicle manufacturers on crash testing and has been a regular visitor to the Department of Transport.

At one time he was on the receiving end of all the UK’s heavy vehicle accident reports and I learned the gory details of some which I would rather not have known about.

Obviously he is my first port of call for an expert response when Bexley Council does something apparently stupid and road related. He once looked at my photos and suggested that the road designer was either incompetent or malicious. In another case he couldn’t believe that Bexley would design a roundabout that a bus couldn’t negotiate. (Wickham Lane.)

When Bexley first started to go crazy for Shared Space I was hoping for similar condemnation but I was disappointed. My son said that he was personally sceptical about the theory behind them but it was too early to come to a definitive judgment, more data was required.

Five years on and the data is becoming available. The Times reported last week that Shared Space is “too dangerous for large numbers of pedestrians”. The Department of Transport has called for the roll out to be suspended.


29 July (Part 2) - Professionals versus Cowboys

Leather BottleAll these pictures have one thing in common, the demolition of pubs in Belvedere, albeit one very much on the border.

Both Ye Olde Leather Bottle and the Harrow Inn were listed buildings knocked down by rogue owners.

The man behind the demolition of Ye Olde Leather Bottle is Mr. Kulvinder Singh whose name is associated with a string of demolished pubs. The Woodman, Nordenfelt, Fanny on the Hill, White Hart, and the Drayman have all gone and subject to planning applications.

His demolition crew were not above threatening anyone who took an interest in what they were up to and were eventually investigated by the Health and Safety Executive - result unknown.


The demolition of the Harrow Inn on the border with Abbey Wood was equally controversial but it didn’t fall into the grip of Mr. Singh, Peabody Housing bought the site, fenced it properly and over the past week (Photos 3 and 4 below) has safely demolished the only building left at 500 Abbey Road in a professional manner.
Leather Bottle Leather Bottle Harrow Inn Harrow Inn

Peabody plans to build a car park free (thanks Sadiq) tower block on the site. What else did you expect?

Note: Today’s visit to the site of the Leather Bottle was prompted by a reader’s email which I seem to have misfiled and therefore lost. Unfortunately answering email is currently well behind target schedules.


29 July (Part 1) - The Hard Left in Bexley

SallyAt last we have rain - not a lot so far - and presumably dogs will now be able to walk on pavements without burning their paws or expire from lack of water.

I saw the suggestion to put out water for passing dogs (and postmen) in one of the newspapers - or somewhere - but I didn’t myself for a couple of reasons. One, I am at the end of a cul-de-sac and have never seen a dog being walked by and, two, there are four permanent watering holes in my front garden which are regularly used by foxes, squirrels, birds and marauding cats.

Someone who did put out water was Sally Hinkley who lives three quarters of a mile down the road from me. I first met Sally at a Belvedere Splash Park street meeting in 2015. We have kept in occasional electronic touch since then and I used to see her once in a while at Council meetings.

I cannot claim to know Sally very well, I know her daughter’s name and I know what her husband likes to do in his spare time, and that’s about it.

Her act of doggy generosity was mentioned on Social Media and it was picked up by the News Shopper which in these cash-strapped times picks up half its news items from Twitter etc.

One of their reporters knocked up a filler page about it.

In my opinion the News Shopper’s website has two major flaws. It is almost impossible to navigate without being repeatedly taken to an unwanted advert by a stray mouse movement and its unmoderated comments section the content of which is frequently outrageous.

There is always someone ready to spout anonymous rubbish. Step forward Lewis234 who knows absolutely nothing about Sally Hinkley.

Lewis234Sally Hinkley, Councillor Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) since May 2018, has always engaged in charitable acts, not just since May but ever since I have known her and probably before.

She does so without a thought of self promotion, she does so anonymously springing surprises on her unsuspecting beneficiaries.

I know that for a fact, Lewis234 is a loud mouthed idiot who, as Council Leader Teresa O’Neill might say, shouldn’t be given access to a computer.

She also represents a group which the utterly disreputable and ruthless Teresa O’Neill labelled Hard Left in her election manifesto. Lewis234 is not the only person to spout rubbish.


28 July - Council Audit. Is it worth the paper it is written on?

InvitationI didn’t take up the Conservative’s invitation to attend the Audit (now combined with General Purposes) Committee, partly because it was too hot but I know from past experience that Bexley’s auditors will praise them to the Heavens whether the Council’s performance has been good or mediocre. However my occasional meeting companion John Watson did go. I bet he wore a tie and his best solicitor’s suit too.

John was intrigued by the fact that the Gill Steward barrier was absent and he took a picture to prove it. I have seen no barrier before and believe there is a correlation between it and the Chairman’s IQ number. (†)

What is the barrier for anyway? No resident has ever attacked a Councillor although the reverse is not completely unknown.

All it can do is impede democracy by keeping Councillors remote from voters. The introduction of barriers was either the Chief Executive’s own decision or the Leader issued her instructions. Neither is noted for their good judgment.

John’s meeting report is not a lot of use, the sound system was faulty and had to be switched off and his ears are even older than mine.

I’ll tell you why my opinion of Bexley’s auditors is rock bottom instead.

CommitteeBack in 2014 when more time and outside help was available for Bonkers I poked my nose quite deeply into Bexley’s accounts, their parking revenue in particular.

It transpired that Bexley Council kept a parking contract for public consumption and another under lock and key; a real but rather more dubious one only a few people knew about. It was illegal in various respects and the auditors were persuaded to take a good look at it.

An auditor's report which I still have but never published said many times over that Bexley Council was guilty of maladministration. Not to beat about the bush the whole thing looked like fraud, indeed a few residents who had sussed out the same for themselves were paid off but the vast majority of people who were out of pocket got nothing.

The auditors became aware of exactly what was going on but were unwilling to bring anyone at Bexley Council to book, although they would be happy if I took them to Court at my expense. I still have that letter too.

Bexley’s accounts were late being approved that year but they were still given a clean bill of health, just as they were last Thursday.

I hope you will now understand why I couldn’t be bothered to keep John Watson company. I have heard all that “effective and efficient” tripe before. Those words can cover a multitude of sins.

Note: To the best of my knowledge Bexley’s parking department cleaned up its act after the Auditor was pushed into exposing what they were up to.
† The Audit Committee Chairman is Nick O’Hare but he appears to be absent from John’s picture.


27 July - Council Leader continues to overuse the F word and sets about proving herself to be something of a technophobe

This is the third consecutive afternoon when I have sat down in a stupidly hot computer room to report on what Council Leader Teresa O’Neill said last week and quickly decided I’d rather be doing something else. Does anyone want to read it anyway? Anyone really interested will have read the Council Meeting Agenda two weeks ago.

But the Agenda is always dry and misses the occasional joke, insult and proof of stupidity, so before the information becomes completely stale…

O'NeillThe Leader’s top priority is bragging about the 2018 election result so that came first. “Firstly I want to make reference to the election result, over 75% of the seats on the Council, fantastic [that word again] result”.

Anyone who thinks the Leader’s report is primarily intended to inform residents of what is going on in the borough should think again. Its primary purpose is to inflate the Leader’s fat ego further.

The short lived Chief Executive, who should have been on the top table but wasn’t was given a brief thank you for putting up with Bexley for two whole years and it was confirmed that Paul Moore (Director of Communities) will take over temporarily at least.

The Crossrail extension came next. The Leader said that it has been part of Bexley’s Growth Agenda since 2004 which rather begs the question, why was Bexley Council uninterested in Crossrail back then leaving what little local lobbying there was to the MP for Erith & Thamesmead, Teresa Pearce.

She was on firmer ground while regretting the “pure wanton vandalism” at the Lesnes Abbey playground which we now know will cost around £14,000 to repair.

Her final point reintroduced #doitforbexley “which is about applauding those who make a big difference to our borough and encouraging others to get involved”.

The first Councillor to speak was Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) who asked if anything was known about the Green Flag application for Hall Place and Lesnes Abbey.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske said news of the Green Flag application was embargoed until the following day and then proceeded to drop every hint imaginable that both awards were safely in the bag.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) complained that a Peer Review into scrutiny procedures had “not included all Members in the Review process” and although the results were available three months ago “they had not been shared with all Members”.

Intriguingly he asked if the report “had anything to say about the relationship between the Chief Executive and the Leader”.

Teresa O’Neill said that all her failures to consult, share, be reasonable etc. were due to the intervening election which presumably she did not see coming. However the Review will go before Cabinet eventually.

Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked for an update on the proposal that under 25 year old care leavers should be exempt from Council Tax. Cabinet Member Philip Read said “we are aware of the recommendations of The Children’s Society” and the subject would be “brought to the Public Cabinet meeting in October”.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was concerned for street trees in the current drought. She urged residents to keep new street trees watered. This gave Peter Craske, the man who in 2014 stopped the planting of all street trees, the opportunity to chastise the opposition for voting against his recent enthusiasm for them.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) drew attention to an email from the Leader, copied to every Councillor, which made disparaging and insulting remarks about a member of the public who had dared to criticise her. She found the content of the Leader’s email “astonishing and horrifying”.

Which Bexley residents she asked, “should not be allowed access to computers”. (Besides me presumably.)

The Mayor was not happy with the questions but the Leader provided a typically stupid answer. “We [in 2018] are providing better digital facilities in libraries than Labour ever did [between 2002 and 2006]. Our libraries are fantastic places”.

Unfortunately no further details were forthcoming from the Leader except that she gets far too many emails to be expected to read or answer all of them and must have missed Councillor Ogundayo’s complaint.

Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) didn’t have a question but she did ask the Leader to congratulate “Senior Officers” for doing an NHS related job well. Everyone involved was duly congratulated.

The theme continued; Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, ) asked for those who suggested an open air cinema show in Danson Park to be similarly congratulated. The credits rolled.

Councillor Lucia-Hennis (Conservative, Crayford) wished to thank the Leader herself for “successfully making Openreach available to the two largest developments in Crayford”. I think we can assume from that statement that Councillor Lucia-Hennis has not the slightest clue about how telecoms is organised and operates in this country.

The Leader modestly said that some of the success was due to staff “who are fantastic” and due to their efforts Bexley will be the first London borough to see “BT’s super dooper broadband. It will be fantastic because films don’t buffer but I am completely lost at that stage”.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer ended questions with some witty remarks that one must hope his wife did not hear and the Leader ended the session by congratulating Cabinet Member Craske on coining the phrase, ‘the doom and gloomy crew’ to describe the opposition party.


24 July (Part 2) - The Bexley No Deal

Dirty Dirty Dirty Publicity shot

There were about 17 very large rain spots on my patio ten minutes ago and they lasted all of 50 seconds before being boiled off.

It must be a month since there was last any rain and the footpaths around bus stops, benches and litter bins are filthy. Bexley Council is presumably waiting for volunteers with buckets and metered water to do their bit (The Bexley Deal) but in Abbey Wood some people have been getting quite hot under the collar about it.

Photo 1 was taken on the Bexley side of Wilton Road last Friday. The Greenwich side was worse, much blacker and more widespread.

The usual Facebook suspects were uninterested in conserving water and complained to Greenwich Council. The Council had rather asked for it as their then Leader, Denise Hyland, recently posed for publicity photos with her new street cleaner (Photo 4) at the very spot that has never been scrubbed since and thanks to the weather and some very messy people had become as black as the Ace of Spades.

With commendable speed Greenwich Council sent out their street washing team. They were there yesterday and they were there again today. (Photos 3 and 4.)

Bexley Council has meanwhile sat on their backsides despite Greenwich’s claim that they had tried to get a coordinated response from Bexley.

As you may have gathered, I am somewhat ambivalent about the situation. Yes it did look pretty disgusting but then so do many other places that are not routinely washed by Councillor Craske’s street scrubber - and the weather and water shortage is rather exceptional.

One might guess that street cleaning of this nature is the sort of thing that Bexley has in mind for #doitforbexley, its latest wheeze designed to absolve Bexley Council of every possible responsibility.

I spoke to a Wilton Road (Belvedere ward) Councillor today about the fact that Bexley’s efforts are being contrasted badly with Greenwich’s response. She was unaware and emailed back to say “the yukky pavement has been flagged up”.

Maybe Bexley Council should appoint a Cabinet Member for Rain. It worked in 1976.


24 July (Part 1) - Right first time. Not Bexley Council

Trees TreesTime flies doesn’t it? It is five years since Bexley Council planted trees along the Broadway and around Arnsberg Way.

They didn’t bother about watering them so a couple of months later the trees were replaced with new ones.

A year later Arnsberg Way began to collapse where buses turned and a year after that the footpaths somehow migrated or cracked and some were replaced by asphalt.

Now the trees at the ASDA corner are going, the excuse is that Bexley Council has belatedly discovered they are a hazard.

Whether their roots are being blamed for footpath cracks or absent minded mobile phone users are walking into them no one knows. Maybe the Council Leader is going to install a wood burning stove.

Both photos taken today.


23 July - Even when Councillors agree there is conflict

It is well known that Leader Teresa O’Neill doesn’t like scrutiny of her Council. The Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen are all Tories, the call in arrangements are more restrictive than in other boroughs and occasionally Cabinet decisions get to Full Council without going through the Scrutiny process at all. Within a few months of BiB’s first report on a Council meeting I was reported to the police for “criticising Councillors” and there have been three more similar brushes with the law since then and Bexley Council continues to make reporting as inconvenient as it can.

Teresa O’Neill really hates scrutiny.

Perfect OgundayoNew Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) is understandably irritated by decisions that somehow bypass the Scrutiny process and provided an example at the last Children’s and Adults’ Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Last week at Full Council she was at it again, objecting to the lack of scrutiny of the £400 a year imposition on travel for disabled children. The policy was decided by Cabinet on 26 June but the Children’s Committee held on the 20th and Communities on 9th July didn’t mention the subject at all.

Councillor Perfect asked for “the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee be requested to review the decision to introduce a contribution to post-16 travel assistance for students with Special Educational Needs and/or Disability. We need to make sure that the process of contributing to their transport costs to and from their place of education is as easy as possible and any issues are addressed before we go live on this policy.”

“The Communities Scrutiny Committee has a keen role in scrutinising the implementation of the policy change. We would therefore like the Communities Committee to look at the current wording of the transport policy where it states the Council will expect parents, carers and pupils who receive the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance to use that funding for enabling the students to travel to and from their place of learning unless exceptional circumstances apply”. (The foregoing is slightly abbreviated.)

The new policy will adversely affect parents who are already using their allowances to fund a motability vehicle and as such “the policy needs to be more appropriately worded.” Councillor Perfect provided several more examples where the policy would likely break down and she again asked for the Communities Scrutiny Committee to review the decision.

The request was accepted by the Mayor as a Motion and Councillor Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) seconded it with similar comments to her colleague.

The Mayor then invited the Chairman of the Communities Scrutiny Committee to respond.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) said that the subject would be scrutinised at her Committee and she said that no opposition Councillor had mentioned the subject at her recent meeting (which is true) but she had promised that the £400 transport levy would be discussed by a sub-Group. (I can find no evidence of that on the recording of the meeting but it is two and a half hours long and my attention may have wandered.)

Councillor Newton was accordingly “not entirely sure why this item is in front of us for debate this evening”.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked for the situation to be clarified but was rewarded mainly with aggression from the Mayor. “There can be no debate” he said.

Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller said he “had already agreed this and we are taking it to Overview and Scrutiny”. This he suggested could be an amendment to Councillor Perfect’s Motion.

CMayorouncillor Francis said it wasn’t really an amendment because the end result would be the same.

Just as agreement was about to break out on all sides Madam Bossy Boots objected. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill said “you can’t request that something goes back that is already going back”. Technically she may have a point but if one’s priority is always to prove Labour Councillors wrong, hair splitting becomes an essential skill.

After Councillor Francis carefully explained the situation to the Mayor he decided on the obvious compromise. The word back would be removed from the Motion.

While the whole chamber voted in favour of the compromise, Leader O’Neill could still be heard muttering “I thought we had already agreed”.

It was all a bit of a storm in a tea cup and it is not absolutely clear where the misunderstanding arose. Councillor Newton said promises were made at the Communities Committee meeting (Councillor Perfect is not one of its a Members) but the recording suggests otherwise.

Who knows? But Councillors are not happy unless they are squabbling.


22 July - New policy, no Scrutiny, no need because “we’ve got the mandate”

The Labour Group put forward a re-worded version of the Conservative’s self-serving Motion. It obviously stood no chance of adoption because it told too many truths, but full marks to them for trying.

Tory Motion amended by Labour. Click for a plain copy.

Unfortunately it did nothing but provide the Nasty Party with the opportunity for more arrogance and boasting and rubbing Labour’s nose into their election defeat in May.

FrancisLabour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) began proceedings by complaining that Councillors had not been pre-briefed on what The Bexley Deal was.

“This Conservative administration is starting in the same arrogant way it always has, ignoring residents who voted for alternative candidates and refusing to allow the opposition to be briefed on new policy or be involved in the process. Tonight is an attempt to bounce all Members into a position where you can say for the next four years, Well you voted for it.”

“Labour Members will not be bounced into something where the detail is vague and a briefing is not forthcoming. It disrespects all our residents. Both the 37% who voted for Labour candidates and those who voted Conservative on a Manifesto which does not feature the words Bexley Deal let alone what it might mean. Our best guess is that it is an attempt to deliver a party corporate plan which will change the face of local government in this borough.”

“Does it mean that in areas where residents have little spare time to volunteer because of work commitments, the Council will allow that part of the borough to decline?” (Paraphrased severely.)

“How much of the current service and investment delivered by the Council are we being asked to put to the voluntary sector? Again we have no details. Voluntary groups already say we are working to capacity as it is.”

“Ultimately [speaking of carers etc.] the work will go back to the family. Your government is making you wage war on those who need our help the most.”

Councillor Francis asked for The Bexley Deal to be referred to Scrutiny so that the detail could be explored.

The amended Motion was seconded by Councillor Stefano Borella (Slade Green & Northend) who catalogued various budget cuts which the Conservatives had portrayed as service improvements and he too requested The Bexley Deal be referred to a Scrutiny Committee. “What happened to the recent review to encourage better Scrutiny? It has been torn up.” The question went unanswered.

Stefano ended by saying “It is a very poorly thought out policy”.

CraskeCabinet Member Peter Craske quickly rose to his feet because apart from blogging he enjoys nothing more than sticking his knife into Councillor Francis.

He had “run an election campaign running down our borough and without a positive vision”. His own party, by contrast had “won a fourth landslide election victory with a 55% vote share. We delivered in full and will [again] over the next four years”.

Labour tells voters “this is an awful place to live when it is one of the best places in the country. Labour are miseries”.

No one else wished to speak and the revised Motion was thrown out. Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill didn’t think that Councillor Craske had rubbed quite enough salt into Labour’s wounds so vigorously shook the cellar again.

First she said that her two little creeps, Councillors Wildman and Diment were “fantastic” and she was proud of them. Petty minded to the nth degree, she corrected Councillor Wildman’s calculation that the Conservatives had won 75% of seats, “it was a tad more”. (75·5%.)

It had nothing to do with the matter in hand but she said the election campaign “was an absolute delight and it was fantastic. The opposition? Well they spun it didn’t they? Scare stories all over the place which were absolute rubbish.”

Councillor Borella objected to the Leader’s claim that his party leafleted about building on Danson Park but the Mayor rejected his point of order.

Cabinet Member Philip Read said it was “another pointless point of order on their part”.

The Leader continued with her limited lexicon. “We believe that Bexley is a fantastic place to work, live and play. It is a bit rich for the opposition to be talking about cuts when we invested in our borough and they voted against it.”

The election result “shows our residents trust us, it showed our residents got it. We’ve got the mandate and that is fantastic.” Councillor Francis’s prediction that Teresa the Abuser would say “well you voted for it” took just 16 minutes and 40 seconds to come to fruition.

“The opposition thought they would win 22 seats instead of the eleven they got” and with that she produced two yellow rubber ducks “to represent them for the next four years”.

The vague and woolly Motion was carried with, needless to say, votes dividing precisely upon party lines.
The vote


21 July (Part 2) - Time runs out for the Harrow Inn Car Wash

Car WashEver since the Harrow Inn was demolished in 2009 the site has been an eyesore and bone of contention for Abbey Wood residents. Peabody Housing bought the site four or five years ago and since then the southern corner has been occupied by a car wash. Earlier this week it closed.

Chatterers on Facebook often claimed that the car wash was illegal but I have been present at meetings where Peabody managers said they were collecting rent from the car wash owner. In early 2016 the car wash used to send a representative named Nick to the local traders’ association meetings, on one occasion both he and a Peabody director attended the same meeting; it was reasonable to assume that the Knee Hill car wash was an entirely legitimate enterprise.

However it would appear that those who claimed the business occupied the site illegally were not entirely wrong. Peabody’s lease ran for one year only from 5th June 2015 and Mr. Gkonis, the leaseholder, was not immediately offered renewal and not unnaturally he never paid any rent after July 2016.

It was early 2017 before agreement to renew was reached and only in July last year was Mr. Gkonis asked to sign it. The lease stipulated a rent of £17,000 per annum and precluded subletting. Mr. Gkonis never got around to signing the lease and appears to have disappeared from the scene shortly afterwards. Some reports say he became unwell and went abroad. However the car wash continued to operate.

When challenged at the beginning of this year the new principals (trading as Danson Prestige Carwash Limited) at the car wash claimed to have a lease despite nobody at Peabody admitting to entering a signed agreement. Difficulties were placed in the way of getting a copy of the claimed lease to Peabody and when they were overcome it proved to be unsigned. Some reports said that it showed signs of being a forgery, at least in part.

There is no doubt whatever that Peabody owns the site and it was leased to the car wash owner, Mr. Gkonis until July 2016. The car wash has definitely been operating without permission for the past two years but not everything is quite as certain. It is not impossible that the recent owner was deceived by the original lessee but he would have to have been very naive to have believed that the lease he possessed was legitimate.

The whole thing came to a head in Dartford County Court last week when the recent occupiers were accused of trespass and inevitably thrown out.

Peabody Housing proposes to build on the site and is currently working on new plans after their original drawings were not well received locally. Further demolition and site redevelopment is making slow progress.


21 July (Part 1) - Unfortunately it is all true

Over the years quite a large number of messages have been received which, to summarise, say “I have been reading your blogs for a long time and always assumed you exaggerate how bad some Bexley Councillors can be but I went to a Council meeting (or watched the webcast) and discovered for myself that your reports are true”.

There was another this week…

I’ve read your blog for a number of years and always read your reports of bullying with the same ‘pinch of salt’ as I read any opinion piece. Seeing it for myself has really opened my eyes, and I have already been actively encouraging people to do the same.

PlonkerI’m never sure whether I should be pleased or disappointed by such comments. Why would I make things up? If I did how long would it be before I was found out and discredited?

The blogs are written with the intention of them being factual news reports that can be used subsequently as authentic points of reference. Audio recordings of every reported meeting are kept so that any disputes can be resolved. So far that has not been necessary.

There will often be opinion too and everyone is free to agree or disagree with it, but the facts on which they are based will always be accurate to the best of my ability. There is no need to take the proverbial pinch of salt.

To be labelled a Labour troll by Conservative Councillors, as happens quite often, has always puzzled me. The nearest there has been to an adverse comment on Council policy this month (30th June actually) was to correctly report that the £400 a year levy on disabled children’s transport was not mentioned in the Conservative’s May 2018 election manifesto.

Blog readers might take a negative overall view of Bexley Council but that will be because, like me, they don’t like arrogance, bullying and lying however ‘clever’ the perpetrators might be.


20 July - The Bexley Deal. It’s a DIY solution, the Council has no money

MayorTwo rival take-aways on the high street both poking flyers through letter boxes extolling their virtues but one claims that you will get food poisoning if you buy from the other. Not content with that they rake up the distant past by reporting that back in 2006 the other outfit was closed down having breached every hygiene regulation imaginable but the flyers fail to mention that it is now under new management.

The adverse publicity falsely claims to have the lowest prices and its rival goes out of business. There are immediate price rises and increased delivery charges.

Gloating over the success of their shady tactics the surviving business sets up a new Facebook page and gets family members to post some glowing reviews, the sort of unethical practice that honest business would disown.

Ok, so it’s not much of an analogy but Bexley Conservatives have successfully pulled off a similar stunt.

Last Wednesday they got to the family members on Facebook stage. Councillor Adam Wildman moved a Motion for Council approval.

“This Council welcomes the trust Bexley residents placed in them in electing a Conservative administration for the fourth consecutive term in May 2018.”

“This Council further welcomes the administration’s investment in local services, welcomes the focus on improving outcomes; and welcomes the administration’s plans to establish ‘The Bexley Deal’ to reinforce and enhance partnership working between the Council, residents, businesses, charities and local communities in the borough.”

“All Members of the Council commit to working to deliver ‘The Bexley Deal’ and a borough we can continue to be proud of.”

Do normal well adjusted people turn to their spouse, partner, friend etc. to ask if they are the best friend etc. they have ever had and insist they put it in a signed legal document?

What is the point of a Council wasting time and putting on the official record the fact that they believe themselves to be God’s gift to democracy? And what is this Bexley Deal anyway? It has never been mentioned by Bexley Council before.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) objected to “a policy he had never heard of being introduced on the hoof” but none of the Tories were in the slightest bit interested in offering an explanation. They all voted to shut Stefano up. How can sane people be expected to vote on something without knowing what it is or having time to think about it?

WildmanPresumably sane people are in short supply on Bexley Council and as if to prove the point one of their newest loons rose to his feet. Councillor Adam Wildman (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) is very keen to the polish the Leader’s inflated ego.

He said that the 2014 election gave the Conservatives 71% of seats and now they had 75% which he claimed was “a significant endorsement” and down to the borough having a successful Council

Foremost among the successes was housing, “perhaps the most important issue for Londoners”. Bexley has put “£55 million into housing over the past four years. The worst period for housing in Bexley was in 2003/4 and 2005/6 [the Labour period] when on average 178 homes were started per year and in the last ten years it has averaged 200.”

“Last year the figure was only 164 affordable homes which is more than built by Hammersmith & Fulham, Brent and Camden.”

The Council has “completed a £4·2 million investment in Lesnes Abbey {with money that came from English Heritage] and won the London Borough Tree and Woodland Award”.

“The Council has prioritised investment in our children and provided £1 million to improving children’s playgrounds which includes Belvedere Beach [using Cory Environmental’s money]”.

A Council initiative at Queen Elizabeth Hospital succeeded in getting the elderly out of hospital as early as possible and the scheme has been rolled out to all the other hospitals serving Bexley. Because of such schemes “Bexley was ranked fourth in a quality of life survey of London boroughs”.

“The Council has saved around £109 million since 2010” which was attributed to “efficiencies”. (Like more efficiently fining motorists for minor traffic infringements and increasing every charge, fee and tax that exists.)

More efficiencies are needed and Councillor Wildman indicated where the money will come from.

The Growth Strategy, the Place and Making Institute, the extension of Crossrail to Ebbsfleet and a new Twitter hashtag. #doitforbexley. Simply genius!

#doitforbexley, otherwise known as ‘The Bexley Deal’ will encourage street parties, litter picking and volunteering.

Councillor Wildman was given a prolonged round of applause by the assembled Conservatives.

DimentCouncillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) had his seconder’s speech well prepared. it went like this…

“The election result on May 3rd was decisive. The people made it clear they wanted the Conservative party to be leading this borough for the next four years and it was not by accident”.

“People looked at what had been achieved and looked at what was planned and they like what they saw.”

He praised Children’s Services and “£680,000 has been saved by a reduction in care days”. Bexley was said by a leading government adviser “to have the best care services in the whole country”.

The borough has been similarly praised for its dementia care services.

Councillor Diment was also given a round of applause by the assembled sycophants.

Well at least we know what The Bexley Deal is now, it is getting taxpaying residents to do some of the work they have already paid the Council to do.

PallenCouncillor Eileen Pallen wished to add her two pennyworth.

She said that Bexley residents are “good people” and “The Bexley Deal is already happening because it [helping] is a natural thing to do. We have the most amazing volunteers.”

Councillor Pallen then launched into a number of Football World Cup Gareth Southgate analogies which were every bit as bad as the one with which I began this piece. I shall spare her blushes and move on.

More applause.

Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) also praised Bexley residents for electing him and supporting “our great track record. The Motion sets out to do so {create trust] between our residents businesses and partners through The Bexley Deal”. He looked forward to “bringing the Big Society to Bexley”. (© Steve Hilton/David Cameron.)


Right, so now we know that Bexley Council is launching a new policy called The Bexley Deal. It is aimed at getting residents to do more things for themselves using unpaid volunteers. Fair enough, maybe we should help more when times are tough. There has been a fiery debate on my local Face Group pages arguing both for and against traders clearing the absolutely filthy pavements outside their shops. Not just litter but drink stains allegedly augmented with pee.

But why does a new policy have to be revealed by and wrapped up in a Motion aimed at getting praise for Bexley Council on to the public record? Once again it is not the policy that is suspect but our Council’s arrogance, self aggrandisement and dishonest ethics which lets it down.

Did Labour have anything to say about it? You bet they did. They may have had no forewarning of what The Bexley Deal was but they had prepared their amended Motion anyway. Their leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) introduced it which is probably a big enough subject for another day. However it won’t be any surprise to you that the Conservatives were having none of it. Nothing can be allowed to get in the way of a Tory back slapping frenzy.


19 July - Full Council. A taste of things to come?

EntranceThe first proper Full Council meeting of Bexley’s municipal year was held yesterday evening; ‘proper’ in the sense that there were questions and motions and a Leader’s report instead of the back slapping and boozing that characterises the Mayor selection ceremony held in May. But there was quite a lot of backslapping nevertheless, verging on the cringeworthy at times.

A crystal ball was not needed to forecast that Leader O’Neill would go into full-on boasting mode following her electoral success in May and claim it to be a mandate to do whatever she pleases. She would have us believe that people voted Conservative because of the improvements the Conservatives have inflicted on the borough while it is just as likely that her electoral lies about the hard left taking over the local Labour Party coupled with the Corbyn factor nationally took its toll on doorsteps across the borough.

Given the difficult economic circumstances and ignoring the lies, deceptions and financial trickery of the past couple of years Bexley Council could be said to have done a passable sort of job and if the answers to last night’s questions are to be believed every problem is either the fault of the Labour Party in government or things were far worse between 2002 and 2006 when the Labour Party was last in power in Bexley.

Whilst acknowledging that Bexley Conservatives have in various ways made a better job of running Bexley than some other Councils in London last night’s meeting convinced me that the top brass in Bexley are simply very nasty people indeed.

After Cabinet Member Peter Craske coined the phrase ‘The Doom and Gloomy Party’ to try to rile the Labour Group, Leader Teresa O’Neill in her summary of the evening’s events said that Craske’s jibe was the highlight of her evening.

Making a joke that went right over my head, the Leader produced two rubber ducks with which to taunt the opposition. It’s the politics of the kindergarten.

The Motion from Councillors Adam Wildman (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) and Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) which we were forced to endure was arse licking of the highest order. This pair of twerps proved their worth back in April and are obviously determined to continue in the same vein.

That should become clearer in following reports but meanwhile, what of the questions?

HinkleyThe first was from Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere). What is Councillor Craske doing to solve the waste collection problems?

He said that Serco has had action taken against them on four occasions and been ‘fined’ £7,000.

Councillor Hinkley asked Councillor Craske to inform residents via the Bexley Magazine the reasons for the service disruption and what he was doing about it. Councillor Craske said the number of missed bins was declining but made no effort to respond to the suggestion. He later said that there were only 3,000 missed bins in June and 2,000,000 collected.

Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) asked the Cabinet Member for Growth how many affordable and social homes had been built in Bexley over the past twelve months.

Councillor Louie French said that according to the GLA counting regime the number was 136 affordables and 51% were for rent and the remainder to buy.

Councillor Putson said that 2,000 displaced Bexley people were being housed in 1,261 emergency homes. “How many decades will it take to meet their housing needs?” Councillor French said that the question did not fall within his portfolio but the Growth Strategy would deliver 31,500 new homes over a 30 year period. Having realised the inadequacy of his answer he reminded Councillors that the worst house building figures came “under Labour in 2003 to 2006” and he was “disappointed” that the Labour Group voted against “investment in affordable homes, regeneration, highways, school places, all in support of the Growth Strategy”. Do you believe that? Labour voted against affordable homes? Me neither.

Councillor French said that Bexley is in 15th place out of the 32 London boroughs in affordable home construction. Additionally London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s claim to be building 12,500 affordable homes (against his election pledge of 80,000 a year) was only achieved by double counting those started under Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson.

JacksonThe first question of the creepy variety came from new Member Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst). He wanted to hear Deputy Leader Louie French congratulate the winners of the Bexley Business Awards. Councillor French duly obliged. Councillor Jackson also wanted to hear the Deputy Leader confirm that the awards cost next to nothing because of sponsorship. Councillor French responded and Councillor Jackson sat down a happy man.

The fourth of the new Conservatives and the only one yet to blot her BiB copybook is Councillor Sue Gower MBE and long may it continue. She represents Bexleyheath and asked for a progress report on the Growth Strategy as it affects her ward.

Deputy Leader Louie French was having a busy night, he said there was a Master Plan bringing together town centre partners, land owners and developers and there will be a draft document early in the 2019. “It is a challenging time for retailers and we are working hard to support them.”

Councillor Gower was also concerned about the London Mayor’s draft plan; what did the Deputy Leader think about it? “His one size fits all model does not work for Outer London and certainly not here in Bexley with its challenges of poor transport infrastructure and high car ownership”.

TaylorCouncillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) wanted to know how many Bexley residents would be caught up with Universal Credit. Cabinet Member for Resources David Leaf said it was complicated because Bexley residents are served by DWP offices in Greenwich and Dartford as well as Bexley and the introductory dates vary. On top of that the government has “introduced a package of new measures” which Councillor Leaf said were not supported by Labour nationally. He did not quote the required figure.

When asked how Bexley Council might address the problem of food banks he said “the last Labour government did nothing to help food banks but I think everyone should work together to alleviate the causes of poverty.”

“Under Labour it was a choice between heating and eating.”

Councillor Leaf continued with his account of Labour Party failures for a total of six minutes thereby neatly kicking 20 more questions into the long grass. The allowed 30 minutes had expired.

Chief Executive Gill Steward supposedly working out her notice was missing from the top table - but not missed. The only useful thing she ever did there was decide the microphones needed to be replaced. The audio quality is now hugely improved.


17 July - Councillor Craske is appealing. Yes, really!

Cabinet Member Peter Craske has taken time out from making inflammatory remarks to remarking on inflammatory criminality; the disgusting arson attack on the Lesnes Abbey playground. He made his comments in today’s Press Release.
Press Release

Click to see it all.

Arson Arson Arson Arson

FacebookIf Councillor Craske is looking for witnesses he could perhaps do worse than looking at local Facebook groups.

On Saturday Lisa Marie Smith said she saw around nine boys the previous evening (the night of the fire) armed with petrol cans by the Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s.

Just a three minute bike ride from Lesnes Abbey.

Whenever Councillor Craske calls for the full force of the law to be brought against criminals there is always someone with a long memory who reminds me that Peter Craske has not always been so keen on the law taking its natural course.

Interesting quote from our favourite ‘blogger’
“Those involved in this mindless anti-social activity should know that we will seek to ensure the full force of the law is brought to bear on those responsible for this crime, the penalty for which could be a substantial fine and a prison sentence.”
And a homophobic blog isn’t “mindless anti-social activity” when it comes from a Member’s IP address or is found on his phone/computer? The word hypocrite springs to mind.

Thanks to the police sitting on the evidence against him for eight months and then inviting the CPS to a meeting to see how “his situation could be resolved”, Councillor Craske was never charged with publishing the obscene blog traced to his IP address.


16 July - Bexley’s housing stats. They make depressing reading

The sixth of the series of slide presentations to Bexley’s Scrutiny Committee was by the Deputy Director for Public Protection, Housing and Public Realm. (Good news! There are no more slides.)

This being the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, David Bryce-Smith confined his report to Housing. It detailed an almost universally depressing view of the housing situation in Bexley - and to be fair pretty well every borough is in a bad way too.

Mr. Bryce-Smith did little more than read his slide show the main points of which were…

His remit covered three areas, “homelessness, housing allocation and private sector housing”. (Slide 1.)

The major factor in the first of these is the “decline in social housing stock” (Slide 2) and as for so called affordable housing “it has tended to be shared ownership”. (Slide 3.)

The number of people in temporary accommodation is far outstripping the number of homes available to rent (Slide 4) and 46% of the homeless are in employment. (Slide 5.)

The main cause of homelessness is “a big rise in evictions from the private rented sector followed by exclusion from home by parents and friends. Nearly three quarters of homelessness”. (Slide 6.)

Only about 5% of landlords are ‘professional’, that is making their living from it and most own only one property. (Slide 7). Housing Benefit is not high enough to pay the rents charged in Bexley. (Slide 8.) This in turn leads to evictions and the increase in homelessness.

From October all rented premises in Erith, Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and Lower Belvedere will have to be licenced in addition to HMOs right across the borough. (Slide 10.)

DowningA range of initiatives are being implemented to hopefully reduce the various problems; these include working with other boroughs, converting temporary accommodation into private rented accommodation and reviewing the Housing Allocations Policy. (Slide 11.) However Universal Credit is likely “to be a challenge”.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) enquired about that review; “is there a time limit, for when it has got to be done by?” The answer was that because of statutory changes the existing policy “is not fully compliant and we are looking to review it this year”.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) asked if there had been any consultation with the National Landlords’ Association over the HMO licensing. “It [liaison] has been close” replied Mr. Bryce-Smith.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked about the rules relating to shared ownership and was told that Bexley residents were prioritised for three months but if no buyer was found it would be more widely advertised, but recently most have gone to local residents.


14 July (Part 2) - Utter, utter scumbags

Blog title courtesy Councillor Peter Craske ©.
Arson Arson Arson Arson
Lesnes Abbey Park attacked by arsonists - again!


14 July (Part 1) - Educational questions; they’re academic

Are you fed up with these Scrutiny meeting slide shows yet? What is the point of them? Why can’t the information be included in the Agenda in the good old fashioned way?

I can think of only one reason, cynical perhaps, but the Agenda goes on the public record, a slide show doesn’t. The webcast of it is far too fuzzy for any detail to be seen.

RobertsMs. Kathy Roberts’ (Deputy Director of Education) presentation was mainly tightly packed text but from my point of view had one big advantage over the previous four presentations; numbered slides. A technical gremlin was causing slides to appear in almost random order so that those previously published here may not be in the intended sequence.

Thank goodness for a Deputy Director who can count to ten. Little of what was said stepped outside the slide show so all that is left is to relate Councillors’ questions.

Unfortunately there were none but Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller said he wanted to add a couple of comments.

The first was about the Council’s relationship with Academies. One of Bexley’s initiatives, the Educational Partnership, is being recommended for adoption by other boroughs and he asked Committee Members to remember that Special Educational Needs pupils aged 16-25 are wholly Bexley’s responsibility, no one else’s.

The meeting moved on to housing issues with Mr. Bryce-Smith but there are better things to do at the weekend than bore you with that. Monday perhapsֺ…


13 July (Part 2) - Bexley has among the highest levels of teenage smoking, bowel cancer and HIV

Following Stuart Rowbotham’s Adult Care report to the Communities Scrutiny Committee was Doctor Anjan Ghosh’s commendably brief Public Health report, condensed into a nine slide presentation crammed with statistics - and difficult challenges.

GhoshThe population, he said, is around 250,000 and obesity is a serious problem with about 130,000 Bexley adults overweight. The Adult Weight Management Service has a capacity of only 1,200 a year. Statistically it “has no impact whatsoever”.

Health quality varies enormously across the borough with a huge north south divide.

Dr. Ghosh has three main objectives; reducing health inequality, fulfilling the statutory duties and to embed health within all of Bexley Council’s business. (Slide 5.)

Another problem is dementia, there are around 2,600 cases in Bexley and rising at around 100 cases a year.

About 15,000 people live alone and loneliness is a problem and the proportion of elderly people is rising steeply. (Slide 7.)

The main causes of preventable death are cancer, heart disease and lung disease related to smoking. (Slide 7.)

Bexley is among the worst places in the country for overweight children, teenage smoking, lack of exercise, bowel cancer and late diagnosis of HIV. Thamesmead has the worst HIV figures in London and almost the worst in the country. Flu deaths are among the worst too. (Slide 8.)

Councillor Sue Gower (Conservative, Bexleyheath) asked when the currently developing obesity strategies will be operational. November is the hope and expectation.


13 July (Part 1) - Questionlime

Sorry, I never watch Questiontime and in any case last night I was out again, but it would seem that Anna Firth, my local Conservative GE candidate back in 2015, was supporting Theresa the Appeaser on BBC TV and once again keeping very questionable company.

Firth Firth Firth


12 July (Part 2) - Two and two make…

Fact 1
Hidden in the midst of Bexleyheath is a triangle of land which no one but those who live overlooking it is likely to know anything about. Hemmed in by Church Road, Belvedere Road and the Bexleyheath railway line is an unused and largely unseen plot of land known as Burr Farm.

Maintained in pristine order by Bexley Council but permanently locked, used only by the occasional dog walker who has hopped over their back fence.

When Bexley Council was intent on selling parks Burr Farm was not even listed, the official reason being that it is a school playing field but it was a lame excuse. The school moved to a different recreational facility more than a dozen years ago.

Why are taxpayers required to pay for its maintenance but be denied its use? Officially no one knows, but one can speculate.

Related blog.

Fact 2
A house with a perfect unblemished view over the park is 125 Church Road, the residence of one Teresa Ann Jude O’Neill, long time Leader of Bexley Council. Lucky isn’t she? A lot luckier than the residents of Old Farm Avenue, Sidcup who on O’Neill’s insistence will soon have their view of trees and grass exchanged for brick and asphalt.

Fact 3
Bexley has a severe problem with homelessness and to counter it has been buying up property left right and centre. More than 200 such houses at the last count.

Many query the wisdom of such practice claiming it merely forces up market prices and that it would make more sense to build more social housing but Bexley Council has chosen to do things its way. Certainly it makes no secret of its policy; until perhaps now.

Fact 4
DecisionJust across the park from the Council Leader’s house is No. 63 Belvedere Road. It’s for sale and Bexley Council has decided to buy it. They have also decided not to tell anyone the reason why. Most documents are labelled restricted.

One is left to speculate. For the benefit of the homeless? Doubtful.

Significant possibly is that No. 63 is right next door to the gated and padlocked park entrance, ideally situated for demolition and an access road. Could this be the end of Burr Farm? Bexley Council has a £37 million or more black hole to fill.

All that would be needed to confirm their intentions is for 125 Church Road to go up for sale before the news leaks out and house values drop.

I wonder how Bexley Council found out about No. 63 being for sale. Maybe it was a Councillor out canvassing who just happened to stumble on a vulnerable old lady. It’s been done before.


Strategic and by private treaty are the key words!


12 July (Part 1) - Health at a stroke

Mr. Rowbotham, Director of Adult Social Care, commented on his slide show as follows…

The NHS Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group is his principal health partner, co-located in the Council Offices and with some shared staff. (Slide 1.)

“There is no in-borough acute hospital provision which is peculiar factor for a borough of this size.” The hospitals “are highly challenged both financially and operationally. The Princess Royal Hospital is part of Kings’ which has an infamous overspend situation”. (Slide 2.)

“The winter just gone was one of the most difficult with significant breaches of A&E waiting times at almost all of the hospitals. The pressures flowed through to Social Care, in particular cost pressure.”

“Queen Mary’s is now a very successful site providing a wide range of crucial health services.”

“The services provided by Erith Hospital are valued by residents but badly in need of review. Radiology is provided from a World War II bunker and the hardware is badly in need of replacing and it is difficult to recruit and retain radiologists. It that goes you cannot run an urgent care centre. The hospital will likely need to be reconfigured”.

“The GP service is very much under pressure in London, there needs to be some clever thinking about how to make the best use of qualified general practitioners.”

Vice- Chairman Richard Diment described a recent visit to the stroke unit HQ which is in Maidstone. Their facilities cover an area extending from Bexley all the way down to East Sussex. Five sites have been identified as potential stroke units. Darenth Valley, Medway, Maidstone, Ashford and Tunbridge Wells. Clinically (based on numbers of patients) there should be two units but for geographical reasons there will have to be three. “No decisions have been made at this stage.”

Last year just over 200 Bexley residents went to Darenth Valley for stroke treatment so “to have Darenth Valley chosen as one of the centres is very important.” Bexley Council can only express an opinion, it can exercise no direct control but it could appeal to the Secretary of State.

Councillor Alan Downing emphasised that rehabilitation for stroke patients is vital and it needs to be near where they live.

Councillor James Hunt said that “there were lots of rumours about Erith Hospital following the withdrawal of out-patients services there so timelines around the future of Erith Hospital would be good to hear”.

He was told that the Council was having regular meetings with the health providers. “There is a threat but also very much an opportunity”, a statement which is unlikely to dispel the rumours.

Stuart Rowbotham - left. James Hunt - right.


11 July - Radical developments

Deputy Director Toni Ainge gave another of her slide presentations to a Scrutiny Committee on Monday this time concentrating on Community Safety.

She said there were four key areas; Serious Violence, Anti-Social Behaviour, High Risk Individuals and Domestic Abuse.

Committee Members watch Ms. Ainge’s slide show.

There is a multi-agency panel to deal with the first of those but only “the most serious violence that there is” has been eligible for consideration, however it will soon “encompass knife crime, gangs and organised crime.”

Another panel liaises with the Probation Service.

An anti-social behaviour prevention panel has one officer to deal with ASB in the north of the borough and another in the centre and south. “They are visible and out a lot trouble shooting so that it does not escalate.”

Warnings are issued before any court action.

High Risk Individuals include those who might be radicalised, “the numbers of which are low but they are there”. The Youth Service “is being remodelled”. It will involve the voluntary sector.

Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) asked how referrals for possible radicalisation are made and by whom. She was particularly concerned about the home educated being radicalised.

She was told that “any professional can refer to the panel, it could be a social worker, school teacher” etc. The subject of the referral must agree to the referral. “It has to be at their own will.” The home education problem “is being looked at nationally”.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) was concerned about the elderly and the lonely who were worried about their safety. He was told “there was a collaborative endeavour” between the agencies. The answer seemed to be a little sparse on detail.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) said that Bexley was now the borough with the 18th fastest rate of population change in the country and asked for more detail. That detail was said to be far too complicated to be easily summarised but clearly it was linked to immigration and ethnicity.

And with that Mr. Rowbotham was invited to launch his Health based slide show.


10 July (Part 2) - Bexit

Osborne stewardAnother one gone, following Monitoring Officer and solicitor Teri Osborne out of the door is Chief Executive Gill Steward. To lose one in a couple of months is unfortunate, but to lose two…

I have no reason to believe that Gill Steward was any use to man nor borough but the stories emanating from Watling Street are rather different.

The general gist of it is that working with a domineering Council Leader is just too difficult and that there are easier ways of earning a crust - even a very thick one coated with honey.

Teresa O’Neill tells a different story of course.

Gill Steward has decided to leave her role as Chief Executive of the London Borough of Bexley with effect from 31st August 2018.

Gill joined the London Borough of Bexley on 16th May 2016 as Chief Executive, quickly engaging staff and encouraging a more collaborative and positive approach to solving the challenges faced by the Council.

During her time in Bexley, Gill has led the co-design of a Corporate Plan which sets out an ambitious agenda and outcomes for the Council and the Borough, and developed a growth strategy setting out the Council’s ambition for 31,000 homes and 17,400 jobs. Gill took on the role of Director of Regeneration and Growth and led on the inward investment and promotion of the Borough with developers and builders.

Gill developed strong relationship with key partners, promoting the development of the integrated Health and Social Care service, Bexley Care, and plans for a Place and Making Institute bringing together training and development on place making skills from architecture and design to landscaping to construction.

Due to a change in her personal circumstances, Gill asked to step down from her role in Bexley. The Leader of the Council, having just won a significantly increased majority and with an ambitious manifesto to deliver agreed that it was in the best interests of all parties that new leadership arrangements be put in place.

Gill said:
“I’m very sad to be leaving Bexley but it is the right decision for me and for the new administration. I look forward to seeing the ambitious strategies and plans to which I have contributed improving the lives and opportunities of people in Bexley.”

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Teresa O’Neill, OBE, said:
“I thank Gill for the positive contribution and difference she has made to Bexley during her time as Chief Executive. She leaves Bexley in a strong place to deliver on our ambitious programme over the next 4 years.”

Paul Moore, Deputy Chief Executive, will act as Interim Chief Executive until permanent arrangements are put in place.

Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE
Leader, London Borough of Bexley
Civic Offices, 2 Watling Street, Bexleyheath DA6 7AT


10 July (Part 1) - Cops and Communities

En route to the Civic Offices and while deciding whether to press the button and create gridlock in Gravel Hill or wait for a gap in the traffic I pondered how many times the name Caroline Newton may have been mentioned on Bonkers. (Not many and for nothing significant was my guess. †)

Councillor Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) is the new Chairman of the renamed People Overview Scrutiny Committee, now called Communities. The previous Chairman Councillor James Hunt will be a hard act to follow but presumably his preference for transparency and honesty did not find favour with Teflon Tess.

I once came face to face with James on a rare shopping trip to Bexleyheath and was shaken warmly by the hand and he, along with Councillor Peter Reader, is the only Committee Chairman who has ever taken the trouble to greet me personally when attending a meeting. I have never understood why the others choose to encourage criticism.

It is pleasing to note that Councillor Newton joins James Hunt and Peter Reader in going out of her way to welcome members of the public to her meeting - and I was the only one there.

ChairmenIn return I am happy to report that the new Chairman made a confident and competent start in her new role. Her new Deputy is Councillor Richard Diment and whilst one might wonder about a wet behind the ears Councillor who is favoured by the aforesaid Teflon Terror so quickly, he too made a worthwhile contribution to the meeting.

The meeting took the now familiar format - Power Point presentations - five or six of them, I lost count.

The first one was by the Metropolitan Police, not from Bexleyheath as used to be the case but from Lewisham since the Mayor forced through the amalgamation of the three boroughs, the third being Greenwich. The three are collectively known as the Basic Command Unit (BCE). There are twelve across London.

Despite the obvious fears that a crime-ridden Lewisham might soak up most of the resources Acting Superintendent Andy Carter was able to put a much more positive spin on things.

The Superintendent said that far from Bexleyheath police station being the poor relation, half of all the officers would be based there and its custody suite is being reopened. Additionally a Safeguarding Hub would be established in Bexleyheath attending to Domestic Violence, Sexual Offences and and what appears to be the lazy policeman’s number one preoccupation, Hate Crime.

A Partnership Prevention Hub will deal with drug and alcohol problems and naughty words that might hurt on Social Media - like reporting on Councillors in trouble with the law presumably.

There are five such hubs or strands as the Superintendent also called them and details may be seen on Slide 3 of his Power Point presentation.

Officers have been issued with i-Pads and the aim is to assign one officer to those crimes which catch their attention and avoid the discontinuity that has been a feature of policing.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) asked about CCTV in Lewisham and Greenwich, Bexley’s lying derelict for most of the time as readers will know. The Superintendent acknowledged that Bexley alone presented “a challenge” and “the situation will have to be reviewed but there is a long way to go”.

Councillor Downing stuck his neck out further. He said “it would be quite easy [for the Bexley system] to bring in the other two boroughs. It is clearly superior”. Councillor Downing will be well aware that Siemens designed Bexley’s CCTV system to be multi-borough capable and hoped it might bring in revenue from elsewhere. It never did.

Superintendent Carter said that fact would be taken into account.

The Vice-Chairman said that since last May, Bexley’s wards are physically larger than most; will that be reflected in Neighbourhood Policing numbers? He was assured that it has been and the Superintendent would “keep an eye on it”.

AmaningCouncillor Amaning (Labour, Thamesmead East) said that her ward was the largest one of all and asked about recruitment and retention of staff but the figures were not available.

Councillor Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked what might happen to police property, Marlowe House etc. Superintendent Carter said that things had gone quiet on that front because the closure of police stations is being Judicially Reviewed but he “was not aware of buildings other than police stations being closed”.

Councillor Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) was concerned about knife crime and was told it would only be solved by community involvement. How that works when a police priority would appear to be alienating the public with their politically correct nonsense I have no idea.

Given that the police appear to be making very good use of Bexleyheath police station it seems likely that it was always an important part of their BCU planning and that Bexley Conservative’s pre-election foot stomping and banner waving was always the waste of time it appeared to be at the time.

† 18 times actually, far more than I would have guessed.


9 July (Part 2) - She’s gone. Rejoice

The badly kept secret that Chief Executive Gill Steward has resigned her post at Bexley Council is now circulated widely among Council staff so it is about time BiB readers shared it too.

What did she ever do for Bexley apart from withdraw Press facilities from public meetings in Bexley?


9 July (Part 1) - Another interesting Register error?

The trawl through Councillors’ Registers of Interest brought forth a small number of interesting oddities but the best of them were all proved to be the result of sloppy transcriptions of the original documents to the corresponding web page.

The slightly amusing claim by Labour Leader Daniel Francis to be a Director at his own home was yet another transcription error which leaves just one slightly puzzling Register.

TweetIn January Adam Wildman Tweeted - with indications that he might come from the Kensington area - that he was going to be a Tory candidate in Bexley. He did so long before his candidacy was confirmed by Bexley Conservatives in April 2018.

Mr. Wildman is a Tory through and through, the Deputy Chief of Staff at the GLA commanding more than 2,000 Twitter followers. Big time Tories are not known for their scruples and Mr. Wildman showed none when he participated in Teresa O’Neill’s planted question stunt in April.

Why did Mr. Wildman choose a safe seat in Bexley to become a Councillor? Is he a local man and if so why does his Twitter banner show an ugly concrete tower block that only Sadiq Khan might consider suitable for Bexley?

Mr. Wildman’s 2018 Nomination Papers claimed that he lived in Flat 8, 423 Blackfen Road, Sidcup and he backed two other Conservative candidates for which he would need to be a Bexley resident.

Now that Mr. Wildman has become Councillor Adam Wildman he has yet another address. 12 Embassy Court, London Road, DA14 4EW. Well that is what it says on his Register of Interests but according to maps and Bexley’s own list of addresses there is no London Road in DA14. Another transcription error?

The most innocent explanation of the published facts is that Blackfen Road was a temporary address of convenience - it appears to be up for let again - but for Embassy Court to be listed in the Register of Interests it must be owned by the Councillor.

If recently acquired it is probably too early for it to show up on the Land Registry. Time may tell but one is left to suspect another close shave with the eligibility rules.



8 July - It’s not cricket

You have to have your wits about you when going to watch the cricket at the Oval, too many people to avoid. John Major a couple of matches ago, then Philip Read.

However the West Heath mafia had more sense than the gang I was with, they sat in the shade while we roasted.
Oval Oval


7 July - Saturday Quiz. What’s your big bang theory?

Is the following noise…

1) The sound of a trap door opening below Theresa May’s twitching feet after being found guilty of treason and being the worst Prime Minister ever?
2) The sound of Sadiq Khan being taken outside and shot for being the worst Mayor of any city anywhere?
3) Me opening the champagne on hearing next Monday’s news?

No, you are all wrong, it is the sound of a heat stressed window exploding in the Civic Centre last Tuesday evening and it wouldn’t be a flute of champagne anyway, it would be a gill of something stronger.


6 July (Part 2) - The answer to all ills is narrow lanes, mini-roundabouts and speed humps

Linked inAndrew Bashford presented the Highway’s Services slide show to the Places Scrutiny Committee on behalf of Graham Ward who despite what he claims on his ‘Linked In’ profile is a Deputy Director at Bexley Council.

Mr. Bashford told the Committee that his department looked after 60 road bridges with the Harrow Manorway flyover being one of the biggest and 31 footbridges. The slide show gives a more complete list. Highways Services is also responsible for flood risk management.

The same department monitors road accidents to identify blackspots. There were 455 collisions resulting in injury last year, 560 casualties.

Highways Services looks after the A roads but currently Transport for London has put funding on hold for two years. It is hoped that minor maintenance jobs will be completed but nothing much beyond that. “Lots of roads are needing major repairs.”

“Major projects are reducing congestion, better facilities for cyclists and trying to green the environment up.”

The latter was mainly drainage improvement schemes and this will include “around 150 new trees for the Harrow Manorway corridor”.

The Gravel Hill regeneration is complete “bar a few signs and road markings”.

Bridge joints Bridge joints“We are currently working on the flyover outside Abbey Wood station, final adjustments are being made to the bridge joints prior to resurfacing of the route round about 23rd July.”

“Felixstowe Road and Gayton Road is a big element of the [Crossrail] work and has had issues about funding but we are planning on delivering in time for the Elizabeth line opening in December.”

“There will be more traffic calming measures such as mini-roundabouts and 20 m.p.h. zones and road humps; whatever is necessary to improve the general environment.“

“There are lots of requests for yellow lines especially for parking on corners and twice a year they are collated, considered, consulted and put to the Cabinet Member.”

Children are trained on road safety including selecting best routes and 32 schools have their own Junior Road Safety Officers to “deliver their road safety measures”.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) had an interest in the Abbey Wood CPZ post Crossrail. He urged that the situation be looked at. A long time ago the Highways Department suggested doing nothing until the end of 2019 so that they could react to observed practice rather than speculation. Whilst this may seem sensible local residents are already being hemmed in by thoughtless parking and do not relish the idea of the problem not being solved until 2020. Very often no large vehicle can access my own road because of the temporary chicanes installed by commuters most mornings.

Councillor Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was concerned about pot holes - aren’t we all?


6 July (Part 1) - A date for your diary



5 July (Part 2) - Mainly rubbish

Deputy Director Bryce-Smith’s presentation to the Places Scrutiny Committee dealt with recycling and waste, street cleaning and car parks which looks to be a small brief compared to what Ms. Ainge put in her slide show but his responsibilities have an impact on just about everyone. His commentary expanded considerably on his the ten slides.

The opening bombshell was “I will mainly talk about things we will focus on in the next year. In terms of our current collection arrangements with Serco we have weekly recycling collections at the moment and we want to review that and see if there is an alternative option. It could involve for example two-weekly collections, weekly for food, using wheelie bins rather than boxes”.

“Serco¹s day to day performance has deteriorated, they have struggled with drivers and some loaders and they have been issued with significant defaults. The Serco contract expires in April 2020 so we are looking at commissioning options.”

The recycling centre contract has been let to CountryStyle and they are already looking to increase their recycling rate to 70%. They are opening up people’s waste sacks to see what can be recycled. The rate is currently 63% and staff are incentivised to raise it further.

Within the next year all the contracts relating to recycled materials will be renegotiated.

There is EU funding for improving diets and flowing from that a reduction in food waste. Cory Environmental is being encouraged to provide an anaerobic digestion plant within the borough.

There are plans to increase the number of Community Litter Pickers and all residents are being encouraged to pick up one piece of litter each week.

Bexley is “taking a tough line on enforcement. We recently seized two vehicles for fly tipping and one of those has been cubed and the next one will be cubed shortly. 450 prosecutions for littering and that is making a real difference.” (Less litter and at the same time more people hating Bexley Council is a win-win situation!)

“Moving to highways we have a budget of £4·3 million to maintain 311 miles of roads and the Conway contract is coming up for renewal in 2020 so the options are being considered.”

Road maintenance will move to “a risk based assessment and we will look to piloting new technology fitted to vehicles to find defects in the road”. (For when a man with a clip board is not a sufficiently expensive solution?)

“There are nine years left on the parking contract but in the coming year we will review CEO deployment levels. We will also look for new income opportunities such as car wash facilities in car parks and Amazon Lockers.” The Council has made contact with a car wash provider and a potential income of £50,000 has been identified.

Councillor Lucia-Hennis (Conservative, Crayford) was concerned about soapy water going down car park drains and into rivers. She was told that was something that will be considered.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) asked for the litter pickers to be issued with hi-viz jackets and said that most of her litter picking was done just after the dustmen have been.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) raised the issue of fly tipping and said “it was a major headache and some of the businesses on the industrial estates are getting really fed up with it. They would like to get more involved” but if things don’t improve “some may move out of the borough”.

David Bryce-Smith said “there have been major operations down there” and the frequently intemperate Cabinet Member Peter Craske who once called Councillor Borella the fly tipper’s friend said that the worst of the fly tippers had taken to destroying the CCTV cameras before pursuing their dirty deeds.


5 July (Part 1) - Got it to a Tee

The Trinity Place roundabout - sorry, Tee junction continues to be controversial and claim the occasional victim. One of BiB’s regular correspondents came close to being that victim yesterday, but he was just a few seconds too late.

I was on the Bowling Alley roundabout when I heard the bang but not close enough to see exactly what happened, the damaged vehicles were however clear enough.

Magic RoundaboutIt was about 17:45 when the Magic Roundabout claimed its latest victim, this is the junction designed to look like a roundabout but which Bexley Council insists is a Tee junction.

Many motorists are totally bemused not knowing who has precedence or how they should navigate the junction safely whilst others just barge across and hope for the best. It’s not so long ago that a police vehicle was caught out here.

Tonight¹s collision (4th July) is just another example of the inevitable consequences of Bexley having a totally crass Highways Department. It looks more like a roundabout than anything else. How many more crashes and possible fatalities will it take before Bexley Council comes to its senses and installs a central island and appropriate signage so that all motorists know to treat it as a roundabout?

It is just a crazy junction with constant high blood pressure inducing stand offs between the brazen and the timid with numerous near misses due to misunderstandings as to priorities.

An additional complication is that ALL vehicles exiting Church Road are obliged to turn left towards the Magic Roundabout but if their destination is in the Welling direction they can frequently be seen to do a U turn in the middle of what the Council deems to be a Tee junction much to the consternation of other motorists. If not local how else would a driver know how to get towards Welling?

Bexley Council Highways Department has created two new roundabouts at the Gravel Hill end of Albion Road but left the abomination at the Broadway end. A great example of consistency. I trust we will not have to wait until whoever thought the design was a good idea retires (or is sacked) before common sense prevails.


4 July (Part 2) - The Royal Charlotte

Some Crayford residents may still be interested in Bexley Council’s favourite strip pub which has permission to be converted into five flats. Just a few days ago further documents were submitted which may interest the former pub’s immediate neighbours; relatively minor details such as construction materials and building times. Bexley’s Planning Portal does not allow direct access to the relevant page so you will have to get to it the hard way; and reference 17/00208.

The link is permanently available via BiB’s menu. (Links/Council/Planning.)


4 July (Part 1) - Going Places

Yesterday’s Places Scrutiny meeting was another where one might be tempted to think that Bexley Council is not doing too bad a job but detracting from that is their constant desire to keep the public at arms’ length. I was the only member of the public present and had to be kept well away from proceedings. No one is clearly visible because of the unfriendly table layout and I had forgotten to take my binoculars. As a Committee Member remarked just before the meeting began, it is a very exclusive gathering and exclusive is exactly what it is, in every sense of the word.

For that we have to thank the useless Chief Executive whose very first action following her appointment was to write to me to tell me that I was unwelcome at Council Meetings and she would wherever possible make reporting difficult.

As yet the promised webcast of the meeting is still unavailable, the last such recording is dated 18th April 2018.
The meeting took the same format as the two proceeding Scrutiny meetings, a format that Deputy Director Toni Ainge called Death by Powerpoint. There were three such presentations, By Ms. Ainge - Leisure related things, Mr. Bryce-Smith - rubbish, and Mr. Bashford - roads, and all three had interesting things to say. One might almost think that the Tories were running a decent Council, apologies, that’s twice I’ve said it, although while Teresa O’Neill remains in charge that can never actually happen, obviously.

Ms. Ainge said she had tried to put a lot of information into the slides so hers was the least vocal of the three presentations. Take a look at them, they are crammed with statistics and things you may never have heard of. They illustrate the wide range of activities and attractions available within the borough. Three Leisure Centres, twelve libraries, many heritage sites, 106 parks, 33 playgrounds, 2,000 allotment sites and 270,000 trees.

Whilst Ms. Ainge restricted comment to her comprehensive set of slides and didn’t add a lot that was new, the other two speakers revealed snippets of information that their slide shows omitted.

TweetSince the election the Tories have been bragging about keeping their manifesto promises but as yet no one has seen any sign of it. What they are actually delivering is things that were not in their manifesto. Last week they agreed to charge the parents of disadvantaged teenagers £400 to get their children to school and last night it was revealed that another grand idea under consideration is making all recycling collections fortnightly.

You won’t find either in the manifesto.

Mr. Bashford provided a few target dates for completion of ongoing road works. A full report will appear here within the next 48 hours. Meanwhile there is another meeting to attend.


3 July - Opinions vary

I was speaking to a Councillor yesterday and my comment that things seemed to be very quiet in Bexley at the moment was met with full agreement, however there is a Scrutiny meeting this evening so maybe things will perk up soon.

If you have read the Agenda you may not think so, it’s deadly dull.

While waiting for something more interesting to turn up a comment or two on one of my pet hates; Facebook. How the hell does anyone navigate through such a mess?

My local community Facebook group, in my less than expertly informed opinion, is like some ancient B movie that has acquired cult status. So bad it is almost good. I read it every day or two for light entertainment. It is mainly lost cats, dog poo, vandalised cars and occasionally a bit of politics.

I’ve never liked the Admin policy since the day I commented in support of a local shopkeeper on a thread which was 100% anti. My comment was not welcome and it was very quickly deleted. There is a second moderator now but things are no better, worse if anything. Advertise a local event well in advance and then issue a reminder nearer the day and you are in big trouble.

Yesterday someone started a new thread dedicated to criticism of the moderator. I have no idea whether the complaint was justified or not and the responses were divided.

I used to contribute occasionally but not any more. One of the busybody ladies on there said she had spoken to the police about being criticised on line and claimed that her critics could be prosecuted for hate crime. At the time I was having quite enough of that sort of nonsense from Maxine Fothergill and resolved to steer clear of Facebook in future.

It looks as though my absence was noted because another of the local busybodies accused me of setting up a fake profile going by the name of Alex. I find it hard enough to operate a genuine profile let alone a manufactured one.

Apparently I am a local individual known locally to stir up trouble. Only for dishonest politicians I hope.

This Paula woman may herself be trouble. I was informed by an impeccable source that she doesn’t come from these parts and is not registered to vote anywhere locally but she is brimming full of ideas on how she can change Abbey Wood.

That may be no bad thing but I am not alone in thinking that the motives may not be entirely altruistic, they have included setting up a business in Wilton Road.

Maybe that is why I was asked to leak all the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association minutes to her. As if!

However it would appear that I do have at least one friend on Facebook. Thank you Rebecca - or is that another of my fake profiles?
Facebook Facebook


2 July (Part 3) - He says, they say…

It is more than a week since @Lee_Being accused Bexley Council via Twitter of helping to kill his Grandmother and I thought another Barbara Baker was about to be revealed. Mrs. Baker was an elderly lady who was alone and whose calls for help went unheard because the management at Bexley Council employed a man known to have alcohol problems. He was given the sole responsibility for the night shift and failed to answer the emergency call. He had fallen asleep. Mrs. Baker died.

A lot of effort and not a little money was expended on covering everything up. So appalled were some of Bexley’s staff at the behaviour of the Council Leader that certain documents were leaked. There can be little doubt about the depths to which Bexley Council was prepared to stoop. It is not possible to be so definite about the death of Daphne Palmer because a lot of the evidence was lost in what might be termed a digital accident.

The following has been gathered from Twitter comments and it might not be appearing here except that I, prematurely perhaps, promised that it would. Unlike every other Bonkers story this one is not based on hard facts but on what just one person was prepared to post on Twitter. I have no reason to doubt him and long term readers will know that Bexley Council is not renowned for its honesty, nevertheless you must keep in mind that this is necessarily a one-sided story.

Daphne PalmerMrs. Palmer was a hoarder, her house was not just a bit on the untidy side but more like something that would show up on Channel 4. Somewhere where visitors might need a shovel to get beyond the front door.

There was no family nearby and a house clearance was resisted by the old lady. It was a health hazard and Bexley Council knew it, however they refused help unless a Court ordered them to do do. The family obtained one (†) and Bexley Council did nothing. It took three Court Orders to spur them into action.

When they did take action they were not nice. The old lady was consulted on nothing and was in floods of tears as her possessions were unceremoniously dumped. She was verbally abused and told she was “a right one”. When a dead mouse was found in the kitchen it was thrown in her face. It missed and hit her in the chest.

The Council staff - or it could have been contractors - took a set of keys because it was at first estimated that the clearance might take four days. It actually took less than one day.

The old lady’s family agreed an equity release scheme with Bexley Council so that she could live in a care home while they retained ownership of the house.

While the house was vacant someone entered the house with a key. Outside the family only two people had a key and subsequently the old lady’s valuables were never seen again.

A neighbour had seen the someone entering and leaving the house carrying things and identified one of the house clearers. The loss was reported to Bexley police who said that the neighbour’s sighting was not evidence and refused to do anything.

Last year the old lady eventually died and I have not seen anything that proves or even strongly indicates that her death was accelerated by Bexley Council, however the complaint is that they were very quick to take more than their pound of flesh.

They were of course entitled to be reimbursed the care costs from the estate but without reference to the family they helped themselves to an extra £9,000 (††) which when pressed they said was the cost of four days of house clearance work. The family protested, four days work was just an estimate but the job took less than one. Bexley Council was not interested and when pressed for information again the allegation is that the family was declared vexatious and Bexley Council refused to answer more questions.

This is perhaps one aspect of the story that I feel can be accepted without evidence, it is Bexley Council’s standard method for extricating themselves from tight corners.

Daphne PalmerBecause of the flurry of Twitter activity Bexley Council offered to take a complaint on board presumably oblivious to the vexatious label and presumably the new complaint will be based on the foregoing.

There are things that are as yet not fully explained to my satisfaction and some bits of the story, not included here, are slightly contradictory.

The theft of the jewellery and the mouse throwing incident are never going to be resolved but it ought to be possible to explain how a day’s clearance cost £9,000. The allegation is that Bexley Council cannot do so.

The personalities involved in this case and blamed for it are the same as those who tried unsuccessfully to pursue Rita Grootendorst through the courts for an unorthodox but award winning garden.

Unless the formal complaint goes ahead there is unlikely to be a return to this subject, the lack of documentary evidence makes reporting difficult. However if anything new transpires this blog will provide the background information.

† Some reports say that Bexley Council made the application.
†† One report gives a lower figure.


2 July (Part 2) - Council cheats

Six years ago an elderly retired police officer proved that Bexley Council’s Parking Department never took any notice of PCN appeals. They always rejected the first complaint whatever the evidence. His story may be read here.

Bexley’s parking enforcement is under different management now so maybe things have improved since 2012 but Barnet Council appears to still operate on the same old rule book.

CheatsMr. Mustard spends his spare time pursuing doubtful PCNs, mainly in Barnet where he is based.

His recent Tweet more or less proves that Barnet Council doesn’t look at complaints at all. A Council vehicle was given a ticket and the department responsible had to take its appeal all the way to the Adjudicator before the parking department woke up.

Mr. Mustard’s blog is at


2 July (Part 1) - Google bug again

The Google bug has now begun to affect me and I can provoke it and get rid of it at will. Control F5 (Refresh on Windows) will provoke it if not already visible and F5 alone will get rid of it.

I have yet to notice any other pattern. Single pictures appear to be always affected and four in a row or a second line of pictures isn’t despite all being set to obey the same instruction. it will now be possible to experiment with alternative instructions but as the existing one is quite obviously correct it may well mess up browsers that correctly observe the standard.

Thanks to those who reminded me that I had only mentioned the F5 trick in email responses to affected readers and not on the blog.


1 July - Crossrail update

Another two months nearer to Elizabeth Line services commencing and so it is time to release the next batch of Abbey Wood Crossrail pictures. Well over 8,000 of them now.

Those two months have seen three Crossrail trains parked at Abbey Wood and over the past three weeks they have occasionally been trundling up and down the line in daylight hours; I saw one enter the tunnel portal at Plumstead.

Network Rail has vacated its Felixstowe Road headquarters and the buildings are gone. Remaining staff have to walk a mile to a Portacabin alongside the Eynsham Drive bridge. Why they went prematurely is unknown but Bexley Council is in the process of transferring ownership of the Felixstowe Road car park site to their in-house developer BexleyCo who will sell it for housing.

The 20 space station car park has been completed bar the entrance barriers and minor platform works are progressing. The central platform footbridge is still being fitted out and escalator adjustments occasionally take place.

The northern Felixstowe Road entrance is also nearly completed, there is now a gate and a ramp and internally it no longer looks too much like a building site.

Bexley Council has still not begun work on the surrounding public realm nor can it until the recent planned drainage works are complete on the Gayton Road side, however a good deal of surveying has been seen over the past week.

Work on the Gayton Road staircase indicates that it will be boxed in to prevent the local loons aiming missiles at passing trains.

The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission has lent its support to extending Crossrail out to Ebbsfleet - as if there was any chance it wouldn’t! Perhaps by 2050 someone will have invented a skyhook that can support the flyover without need of a central support column. By then it will be 80 years old so perhaps a new one wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic in each direction will be built. If the current flyover works actually include six lanes, two of them for bicycles, it will be a very tight squeeze indeed. Crossrail

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