today rss twitter

Bonkers Blog June 2018

Index: 200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020

30 June (Part 2) - Google bug

GoogleI had another report of text overlaying images; Chrome again, so I decided to follow some web authoring discussion forums.

It would appear that the phenomenon is well known and has come and gone from Chrome over several years as versions change. It is said that it will occur only when a float and clear instruction occur on the same page which doesn’t quite fit the bill on Bonkers because every page includes at least one clear instruction and reports are that only some images are affected.

A number of solutions are suggested, all variants of the same thing, but that itself introduces a new problem which requires yet another dodge to circumvent. Until I experience the problem myself experimentation is not practical.

One professional web author says he specifically excludes working around Google Chrome bugs from maintenance contracts because they never stay the same which would make the contract prohibitively expensive. A helpful tips webpage acknowledges that Chrome is extremely popular but that it is by far the most bug ridden browser and goes on to list the worst Chrome bugs and how to overcome some of them. Overlaid text is not in the top ten bugs listed.

When the Chrome bug afflicts me it may be possible to tackle it but until then (or someone lends me an affected computer) it looks as though the only way around it is not to use Chrome.

Approximately 40% of Bonkers readers are using Chrome. If only four are experiencing the problem that is well under 1% of Chrome users. More than half of readers on mobile devices are using Safari on an Apple.


30 June (Part 1) - Even more on Cabinet

The final half hour of last week’s Cabinet meeting was the rubber stamping of the decision to charge 17 and 18 year old Special Educational Needs pupils £400 for their school transport. £400 is about 10% of the average cost per pupil. Councils have no statutory duty to pay for SEN transport beyond age 16 and Bexley would rather not. Currently about 133 students would be affected.

The new policy will not apply until September next year and will not apply to pupils who are already enrolled in a particular course. In most circumstances therefore the new arrangements will not apply to existing students.

It was acknowledged by the Deputy Director of Children’s Services that parents will need to take the charges into account when considering college places to be booked by March 2019. Extended schooling will to some extent then be governed by the income of the parent.

CabinetCabinet Member Philip Read who is the driving force behind the latest imposition/economy measure justified it by saying Council Taxpayers would still be footing 90% of the bill and that Redbridge Council (Labour) was doing the same thing. He said that he had discussed the issue with nine SEN parents (Bexley Voice members) and they all thought the proposal was “fair and reasonable” as might well be the case for parents unaffected by it because of the delayed introduction date.

Parents who simply cannot find the money or to whom other exceptional circumstances applied may be able to apply to an Appeal Panel for deferred payments.

The balance between the needs of the general population and those with exceptional requirements is a difficult one.

As always this was another subject in which Councillor David Leaf considered himself an expert so he felt the need to repeat much of what Councillor Read had said. The proposal was “sensible, modest and prudent” and he blamed the need for it on “the mess made by the last Labour government”, an excuse which must surely be wearing a bit thin by now.

Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) struggling with the microphone deprivation imposed on Labour Members referred to “the stresses and strains and sacrifices, the pressure, the worry and lifestyle changes, the financial hardship” necessitated by the extra £8 a week. There was she said no reference to that in the Cabinet’s report.

She knew people who had given up their careers to support disabled children and “they are constantly in fighting mode” to get help. “Therapies and equipment cost thousands of pounds over and above what the state gives them. Sometimes houses have to be extended or modified. They worry about what will happen to their children once they get old.”

Bexley Council is saying “we know your life can be difficult but we are going to make it a little bit more difficult”. She urged the Cabinet to revisit their decision; the optimism of a new Councillor knows no bounds. When did Bexley’s Cabinet ever revisit a decision?

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said he was a member of Bexley Voice and he didn’t think that Councillor Read’s small sample was typical of members across the borough. Without a microphone his voice did not carry too well but one of his themes was that families who spent their disability allowances on a Motability vehicle might not be eligible for any other help with transport costs. i.e. No recourse to the Appeal Panel. (I hope this is more or less accurate, it was very difficult to hear what Councillor Francis was saying.)

Councillor Francis went on to talk about the injustices of the Disability Living Allowance. Both Daniel and I have disabled daughters so I too have seen and heard about how unfair the allowance assessments can be especially regarding Motability vehicles. Appeals against wrong assessments commonly take 18 months during which time no money is forthcoming at all and Bexley Council will be demanding its £400.

Bexley’s Appeal system will be no good at all during that period of what Daniel called limbo. As the father of twins in a few years time he might well be sending his able bodied child to one school without charge and the other less fortunate one will cost him £400, if the fee has not gone up by then. As he reminded us, Bexley Council tends to introduce a charge when none existed before and then increase it rapidly. The poor went from not paying Council Tax, to 15% and then 20% all within a couple of years.

Once again, due to clever scheduling of Scrutiny Committee meetings, this was another decision that Bexley’s Cabinet was steamrollering through with little fear of democracy getting in their way.

Cabinet Member Philip Read said that no Labour critic had suggested where the money might otherwise come from and Councillor Leaf said that Newham Council means tested SEN transport costs.

There was a unanimous Cabinet vote in favour of hammering the least fortunate members of society, unfortunately they are the people making the greatest demands on resources so the budgetary pressures get ever greater.


29 June (Part 2) - Dirty pictures, corrupted images and a useless front

There has been an unusually large number of emails over the past week or two and they haven't all been answered. Sorry about that, too much time spent waiting for trains that do not arrive!

Some messages have been mischievous; a toned down version of one might be “will Craske’s Arthouse cinema proposed for Sidcup be showing risqué stuff?” Not such a silly question perhaps, there is lots of evidence that suggests Cabinet Member Peter Craske knows quite a lot about that sort of stuff. When the Prime Minister’s name was confused with Miss Busty of Beckenham, Councillor Craske knew all about that particular lady.

It was pleasing to note that everyone who commented on the image display problem mentioned on Wednesday said they were not seeing it. All was well. One of the three who alerted me to a possible problem said that some days it was not there and when it was different images were affected.

As already reported the code to achieve the correct result is so simple that it’s near impossible to enter incorrectly and if it was the effect would not be text over image. It is possible to stack the priority of formatting instructions, I can’t see how it would make any difference but I will make the relevant instruction highest priority. Belt and braces.

One correspondent asks the question I asked myself six weeks ago although the colourful language is entirely his…

Any ideas why the Fat Controller has ditched her best buddy from her Cabinet? Could it be because even she has now realised that all the Officers did the hard work and Linda was just a useless front person who offered nothing else of substance?

Councillor Linda Bailey was not a star performer at Cabinet meetings, all she usually did was repeat the words of her colleagues but there can be little doubt that her Growth and Regeneration Department did a good job winning the support of both political parties if not universal praise from the population at large.

I had assumed Councilor Bailey was simply not much of a public speaker but worked effectively behind the scenes. Perhaps I am far too generous. We must all hope that her Cabinet successor Louis French and the able Assistant Chief Executive together do an even better job. Maybe if Teresa O’Neill has “ditched her best buddy” perhaps she would consider ditching the ineffective Chief Executive in favour of her much superior deputy.


29 June (Part 1) - More on Cabinet

Mr. Whitehouse’s illustrated report to the Resources Scrutiny Committee includes clear indicators of what will set the direction of Bexley Council over the coming four years. His slide No. 5 showed projected expenditure racing away from income if nothing is done about either. There are many unknowns but the official best guess is that it will lead to a deficit of £37 million deficit over the coming four years. In reality it is unlikely to come to fruition because Bexley Council is gearing up to screw every last penny out of residents and Council taxpayers.

Last year Bexley ended up with a £900,000 overspend which came about largely because of the pre-election spending spree, without it there would have been a £1,300,000 underspend. While the cost of buying an election was being announced to Cabinet, no Tory even so much as blushed.

Among the first to pay the price will be families which include children with special educational needs (SEN) and those in need of adult social care.

The Council will also sell off more and more of its land assets.

OppositionCouncillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) exposed Bexley Council’s dishonest abuse of the English language. Leader Teresa O’Neill said during the run up to the election at Council meetings and more publicly that the Council would not be selling land while knowing full well, as anyone who studied the facts could see, that it was going to transfer the land to the Council owned BexleyCo who would do the Council’s dirty work for them.

What’s the difference? Either way residents no longer have use of the facilities and Bexley Council fills its coffers. Even those who may believe that such a future is inevitable can see through Teresa O’Neill’s weasel words and likely conclude she was plotting to deceive a largely gullible electorate - which of course she did.

Leader O’Neill sought to deceive us again last Tuesday evening, she asked Assistant Chief Executive Mrs. Richardson “to reaffirm that we are transferring the sites to BexleyCo, not selling”.

Mrs. Richardson said that some or all of the sites would be “transferred [to BexleyCo] at an open market valuation. We will take a view on what that value is and have it independently valued as well”.

It’s all semantics. If the Council does not expect to get money for the land, why have it valued? Bexley’s logic is that if I buy petrol on my credit card, BP is not selling me the fuel they are only transferring ownership to me. The fact that I will not pay BP directly and have to reimburse the bank later puts the transaction on an entirely different footing to a straight sale. Yeah, whatever!

Mrs. Richardson says the Council will transfer the land to a Community Group instead of BexleyCo if one bids for it and finds the money. If that is not a sale I don’t know what is, however it would likely be a waste of effort as Bexley Council will itself make the decision on who to transfer the land to irrespective of amount of money on offer.

Councillor Perfect said she was surprised that BexleyCo was to be given £120 million to develop the land which enabled Councillor Leaf to make one of his characteristic cheap jibes. It was the first time he had heard “a socialist complain about the level of borrowing”. I try hard to see the good in Councillor Leaf, he is not in the Read or Craske class of disrepute but he can too often be an unpleasant oaf.

Councillor Leaf went on to suggest that Councillor Perfect could not have been paying attention at her Councillor induction course.

The decision to sell transfer land to BexleyCo was approved unanimously by the Cabinet. The discussion then moved on to charging disabled 17 and 18 year olds for their transport to SEN schools. Those with no such disadvantage in life will continue to travel free. Cabinet Member Philip Read assured everyone that it was fair, even the parents of such children thought so. More later.

The land assets that are being considered for sale are, Old Farm Park (Sidcup), West Street Park (Erith), Wilde Road East and West (Northumberland Heath), the Nags Head Lane Car Park (Welling), Walnut Tree Road depot (Erith), Felixstowe Road Car Park (Abbey Wood), Slade Green Community Centre and 221 to 237 Erith Road (Bexleyheath)


28 June - New Chairman, new Committee. New approach

DourmoushThe new Resources and Growth Overview and Scrutiny meeting chaired last night by Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) adopted the same format as the previous week’s Children’s and Adults’ Services meeting; a round table designed to exclude members of the public as much as possible.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) summed things up neatly when the Chairman told her to switch her microphone on after she failed to do so more than once beforehand. She said “I thought we were close enough to be able to hear each other”. No thought for the public or the webcast - if there was one. According to the Council’s webcast page none has been available since April.

Whilst generally inaudible I was able to make out that Councillor Bacon had been speaking about senior job vacancies for the previous four minutes.

The HR man Nick Hollier confirmed it was the case and a number of remedies had been applied including head hunting and offering higher pay. The close proximity of rival employers, other local authorities, made things very competitive.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands), Bexley’s Jack of All Trades who knows something about everything spoke on the same subject without adding anything new.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) spoke up for the less well off residents who are being squeezed ever harder by Bexley Council for money citing the ratcheting up of Council Tax as the level of relief has been whittled away in Bexley. He was concerned that the Council was spending more on bailiffs than the outstanding debts were worth given the small chance of extracting the money. Naturally he was given an assurance that all was well.

Most of the meeting which ran for only 56 minutes was taken up with a slide presentation, one by Mrs. Richardson who is in charge of Growth and Regeneration and another by Mr. Leigh Whitehouse who has looked after financial affairs since Alison Griffin was poached by Southend Council.
Councillor Dourmoush wanted Committee Members to take particular note of the following section of the Agenda so maybe we will see greater scrutiny of Cabinet decisions in future. The last Resources Scrutiny meeting was held last March, the next is not due until October and there was, understandably, precious little at this one. 
Does the Cabinet ever take any notice anyway?


27 June (Part 2) - Help please

This is how one reader’s web browser displayed yesterday’s blog. It is the third similar report within the past 48 hours so not easily dismissed. Naturally the new Bonkers’ site is blamed but the standard ‘postage stamp’ images have always been a feature of the website and the code that underlies them has not changed much since then.

It has always included the instruction (known as float) to flow text around the image, if it didn't the image would interrupt the text flow and it would sit above the text and not as shown here. To achieve that deliberately would require a lot of more complex code. The Bexley Council is Bonkers overlay of the banner image uses it, nothing else does.

Text flow around (float) is something that can be either switched on or switched off. Obviously it is switched on because it needs to be. There are no other options. There is no obvious way of coding things wrongly and in any case nothing has been changed.
Way back in 2009 the images of this type were defined as picture type 1 or p1 for short and the definition of p1 has changed only in one respect since then. Before May 2018 the images were displayed at a fixed 233x155 pixels and since then they are displayed at 24% of the browser window width. The latter allows them to grow or shrink as required.

There is only one instruction p1 which is applied right across the site. It must either work all the time or none of the time but three reports say otherwise.

All my computers and browsers display the images correctly as do those of family and friends, see below. I cannot change anything because the float command is obviously required, so what is going on?

It is not impossible that a browser or operating system upgrade has screwed something up but not likely.

One thing occurs to me. Before May 2018 p1 style images not only had a fixed 233x155 pixel size (scaled in Photoshop) but also a larger version which popped up when clicked. Since May only the large version exists and the browser scales it to fit the blog page. When it is clicked the same image is referenced and displayed at a larger size. The code that does the job is common open source, not mine. Maybe some browsers don’t like images that reference themselves. If that is the case, affected readers will not see the problem in old blogs, neither will they see the problem on newer blogs which do not reference a larger image.

There are not many of those but 5th May contains one and so does 24th June.

If anyone spots a pattern I would be pleased to hear about it. Is it only some browsers at some image sizes or only images that expand on click which are affected?


27 June (Part 1) - Sidcup Library moves. No consultation, no community engagement, no Councillor Scrutiny

Yesterday evening Bexley Council held its first Cabinet meeting following the election almost two months ago - they take their time. As well as the Leader and six Cabinet Members, six Labour Councillors and ten Conservatives put in an appearance. The Labour Councillors had been put at a disadvantage by a lack of microphones. Every Tory had access to a microphone while no Labour Councillor did. Their contribution went largely unheard by members of the public although the sound quality more generally is much improved since patience with the old system finally ran out only two months ago.
Moving Sidcup Bexley Library from its present site in the middle of town to a smaller one on the periphery was mentioned at a Scrutiny meeting last October but by February Cabinet Member Peter Craske was saying he had not even thought about moving the library to the old Blockbuster site on Elm Road.

Such is Councillor Craske’s reputation no one believes a word he says and a Library Action Group was formed gathering evidence and petition signatures. They were supported by Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) who sponsored their deputation in April, they had personally interviewed 300 library users and found there was widespread support for their concerns.

Councillor Craske poo-pooed every single idea and in that he was supported by Councillors David Leaf, Cafer Munur and Eileen Pallen, the latter coming up with the, superficially at least, silly idea that a new library can be open for longer than an old one.

I should perhaps declare that I have never been inside Sidcup Library or any branch of Blockbuster anywhere and fail to see why moving some books from one address to another five minutes walk away should be an issue. Councillor Craske said that even after the move Sidcup would be Bexley’s third biggest library. Maybe he is lying again.

Of far more concern is that once again Bexley Council ploughs on as if it is a dictatorship. It not only ignored the deputation and their supporters but failed to hold any sort of consultation or engage in any way with the public. In law it didn’t have to; the same disdain for the public that came to the fore when the obnoxious Chief Executive withdrew press facilities from public meetings.

Last night it agreed that the move should take place, the ruling party had carefully scheduled its Scrutiny meetings such that none took place between the April Council meeting and last night’s Cabinet to ensure that no spanners could be thrown into the works. Next time a Labour Councillor utters the words democratic and deficit in the same sentence the Conservatives will go onto tittering mode, it is what they do to acknowledge they have been caught out again.

Was there any specific comment beyond the “I’m in charge” attitude so beloved of Leader Teresa O’Neill. Just a bit.

O’Neill herself said the new library would be “exciting” and blamed the lack of debate on election purdah.

Deputy Director Toni Ainge said all the facilities of the old library would be re-provided at the new site and the smaller space (down from 690 square metres to 550) would be overcome through better design. Councillor Craske said his library initiatives elsewhere had been successful and the same would apply in Sidcup. No library had been closed in the past ten years.

He said the proposed cinema was not viable without moving the library.

The new Deputy Council Leader Louie French was wholly supportive of the move. He thought it would attract more business to Sidcup and spoke of the redevelopment of the old Library site which is of course Bexley Council’s main motivator.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) spoke for the Library Action Group rather than herself. She said it did not believe the Council had considered the issues they raised at the Council meeting - well no, they were all dismissed instantly at the time, did they expect to be taken seriously?

They were most upset about the total lack of prior consultation and felt that was “underhand”. “There should have been a public meeting to work up ideas” and they are of the opinion that “it was all about selling the Library site”.

They urged Cabinet Members to hold a meeting and engage with Library users failing which they would pursue matters in their own preferred manner.

Councillor Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) was also critical of the lack of consultation and urged that the Council should engage with the Community over the detail of internal design. Deputy Director Ainge promised that she would do so but had no idea when that might be.

Deputy Chief Executive Jane Richardson) said there was little to say at the moment, the design team does not yet exist and all she was able to say was that the cinema would be on an upper floor.


26 June - Electric Bexley

Bexley Council is asking residents to submit its ideas for an electric vehicle charging network. I’m not sure why any Council should be expected to provide fuelling points for BEV's (Battery Electric Vehicles) but in fact Bexley is a little behind the curve, several Councils already have a few in place, and in conjunction with private enterprise may even make a profit from it.

Presumably government thinks ‘green’ motoring should be encouraged, in Scotland most charging points are free.

I decided six months ago that when the seven year warranty on my car expires in the middle of next year I would go electric. Having studied the market very carefully I am no longer sure that I will.

Tesla ChargerMy interest was sparked by my son who is closely involved with the development of electric and autonomous vehicles and has been out in London in such a vehicle - something rather more advanced than an ordinary car. He has a Tesla on order for himself. (Photo 1.)

‘Autonomous’ is a currently a very long way from being driverless of course.

On financial grounds I don’t actually do enough motoring to justify a car at all which is why my present car is a cheap one bought new for under £10,000. Since then I have realised that if I do not spend my money the government will thieve it so I may as well waste it myself.

Even so I balk at the idea of spending well over £20,000, close to £30,000 probably, for a rather ordinary car that may not do much more than 100 miles on a full charge in the depths of winter. The batteries do not like extreme cold or extreme heat and the most popular car, the Nissan Leaf, has no battery temperature regulation. If you drive fast it not only drains the battery quickly it makes the battery hot and then it cannot be charged quickly for fear of damaging it.

You can imagine the cost of making an internal combustion engine with its hundreds of moving parts but an electric motor is just a magnet and some wires spinning around. No fuel injection, no gearbox. Simple, so why so expensive?

With any fast developing technology it is always jam tomorrow. Lots of new BEVs are on the horizon but a new Hyundai which will make an appearance in Europe any day now will cost more than twice what the petrol engined version does and the batteries are becoming relatively cheap. There will only be a few thousand of these new Hyundais for sale so orders might take a year to be fulfilled. No incentive to buy at all.

Add a few options and even a small BEV takes you through the £40,000 tax barrier and you say goodbye to the free Road Tax. The tiny and quirky BMW i3 (Photo 2) will set you back around £43,000.

To get a decent driving range from the cheaper BEVs you must trundle around at no more than a steady 50 m.p.h. on the motorway and slipstream a lorry. Even then a Leaf would not get to my son’s place in one hop so I would have to waste at least half an hour on the motorway services for a top up. A near three hour journey becomes unacceptably long.

And there is no guarantee that the top up would be available. The power connectors are not standardised and I know of four different ones. Someone might already be using the required charger or it may be blocked by e parked combustion engine car. Most likely it would be out of order. Up to half are apparently.

A BEV suits a high mileage driver who will save a fortune in fuel costs but for it to make sense the miles would have to be in and around town so as not to be too far from a charger and a back up charger. All electric cars can charge from a 13 amp socket so if you have your own drive and never go far from home an electric car is viable.

The problems disappear if you buy a Tesla because they can do about 300 miles on a charge and the Tesla charger network is fairly widespread and currently free. You won't get one under £85k. new and the Jaguar i-pace, once you have added a few options is not much cheaper.

Secondhand Teslas hold their value reasonably well but out of warranty will cost a fortune to repair - if you can get hold of the spare parts.

Rule me out.

I like the idea of instant torque, the more expensive electric cars will get from 0-62 m.p.h. in around four seconds, some more like two. The cheaper models are comparatively ordinary.

I hope Bexley Council can find a partner who will install some charging points that charge a reasonable price. Juice is 30 pence per Kilowatt Hour at my local Shell garage plus a connection charge and a £10 fine for charging too slowly. Not attractive at all.

Note: There was supposed to be a very different sort of blog today but an old lady in East Ham managed to find the fuse box that supplies her kitchen with electricity, decided it was something new and unknown and turned it off. Then reported the fridge was broken!


25 June - Something to hide?

While checking Councillors’ Register of Interests to see who might be pulling a fast one with their contact details two oddities stood out which I completely forgot to mention last Saturday.

Councillors Philip Read (Conservative, West Heath) and Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) made no mention of any land interests within Bexley and they are both a bit too old to be still living with Mum and Dad.

It's not impossible that it’s another transcription error especially as Councillor Read has never made a secret of his address before. On the other hand he has annoyed so many people with his outrageous Tweeting that it is not impossible that he needs to go into hiding.

That is not as silly as it might sound, within the past few days one Bexley Councillor has suffered greatly at the hands of low life criminals who knew where he lived.

Val Clark’s omission from her Register of Interests is more difficult to understand, maybe she feels vulnerable after voting twice for The Eastside Quarter but she must have had land interests in Bexley or she wouldn’t be making Planning Applications. (12/00474).

The same address was used on her 2018 Election Nomination papers. Councillor Clark’s Register of Interests must be another mistake.


24 June - Death in Bexley

Most people will have forgotten the name Ndingeko Kunene; he was only five months old when he died of rickets in Erith in 2012. Bad parenting of course but where was Bexley Council? Nowhere. It didn’t take its responsibilities seriously.

The Serious Case Review is no longer on Bexley’s website but a summary of its findings is on a Bonkers’ blog. There was “no senior management oversight” and “the ethnicity, diversity and possibly professional status of the family distracted professionals from challenging them. Supporting the equality and diversity rights of the family appeared to take precedence over the voice of the child”.

Political correctness contributed to the loss of a young life. Bexley Council had apparently learned nothing from an even worse case a couple of years earlier.

RhysRhys Lawrie died just before his fourth birthday after a life of misery. His mother had been sectioned before moving to Bexley and had reported herself to doctors in Erith because of the admitted violent behaviour directed at the child. He was constantly in and out of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Naturally the situation was reported to Bexley Council but they did nothing. Nothing at all.

When taken out Rhys would have make up applied to hide his bruises. Within two days of his mother blaming an older brother for fracturing his skull she was leaving Rhys alone in his care again.

To cut a long story short the teachers at his nursery school eventually reported extensive bruising to Bexley Council, it’s all on the record, but again they failed to react.

A month later Rhys was dead. Dead with 39 separate injuries according to the autopsy, and how did he get them? From an accident. He fell off the sofa.

Would the police swallow that story? Yes every bit of it and his mother was allowed to go back home on the night of Rhys's death to scrub blood from her walls.

Was there a cover up? Almost certainly. This tragedy took place immediately after the infamous Baby P case in Haringey and it was not dissimilar.

Rhys’s grandfather, Trevor Lawrie, smelled a rat and campaigned for justice as a result of which the police were persuaded some nine months after the death that falling off a sofa was not likely to inflict 39 injuries or splash blood on the walls. Charging the mother with murder would make life awkward, to say the least, for Bexley Council who had ignored medical reports and did nothing about the school teachers’ concerns because it was the Christmas party season and they were too busy with that.

A decision was taken to charge the mother's ‘boyfriend’, a 16 year old with learning difficulties.

The mother's alibi was that she was not in the house at the critical time. She said she was collecting her elder son from school, however she made a 999 call from her home only seven minutes after the school bell rang and the bus journey alone takes 15 minutes. The paramedics reported that the 16 year old was not in the house when they arrived but they were not called as witnesses and the mother’s alibi was accepted. Trevor Lawrie is convinced that the death of his grandson provoked a classic Bexley Council cover-up and getting Bexley’s former Head of Children’s Services to write the Serious Case Review did nothing to persuade him otherwise.

No Bexley Council manager lost their job, the story being that the boss was on particularly good terms with the Council’s leadership.

For those interested there is an Index to the old Rhys Lawrie blogs.

You don’t have to be a toddler to die following Bexley Council neglect, Barbara Baker was an old lady living in sheltered housing who paid for Bexley Council’s emergency call out service.

Bexley Council was not willing to spend money on it and stupidly cut the overnight staffing level to one. No one in their right mind does that. Even more stupidly they employed a known drunkard to handle the incoming calls. Other staff reported his alcohol problem - I have visited two of them in their homes - but Bexley Council ignored them.

The old lady had pressed her emergency button but no one answered. She died alone. When an employee produced the automated call logs which showed what must have happened Bexley Council sacked him. The other employee who witnessed the extent of the subsequent cover-up was made to leave and paid a tidy sum to keep quiet. Again no manager was sacked although none are at Bexley any more.

Once again there is a blog Index.

Is Bexley Council still a contributory factor to premature death? Some people think so.
Daphne Palmer

From Twitter.

I shall try to make contact with Daphne Palmer’s grandson to see if his accusations stack up.

How many more such cases has Bexley buried?


23 June - The Saturday selection

Carriageway improvements
Every Saturday morning I take a walk to the northern extremity of Harrow Manorway to see what progress has been made on widening it and turning it into the planned boulevard that will lead to the Crossrail terminus. it is progressing but at a painfully slow rate. More than 200 pictures may be seen here.

The most recent one shows the smoke from this morning’s devastating house fire in Thamesmead. (Photo No. 217.)

Drainage Removal CrossrailNearer the station progress has been even slower. The rejuvenation of Gayton Road was due to start last January and there is still no sign of it. The reason is not difficult to see, Network Rail engineers are still trying to solve the drainage problems which afflict the area.

On the other side of the railway line Network Rail has been kicked out of their Felixstowe Road depot.

The staff I have spoken to are not at all happy about having to walk a mile to get into work from their replacement depot.

Why have they moved out prematurely? It probably has something to do with Bexley Council’s decision to off load the Felixstowe Road Car Park to BexleyCo who will inevitably build another tower block.

For no particular reason except that opportunities are fast running out, here also is a picture of a Network Rail claim for their new station which has failed to attract any attention since it went up a couple or three years ago. So a London bus weighs around 70 tonnes does it? Fully laden about 14 tonnes would be around right, just Google it. Maybe Bexley’s obesity problem is even worse than Bexley Council says it is.

Secrecy and criminality
If you asked me five or six years ago if I thought Bexley Council was run by a bunch of crooks I would have happily agreed that that was the impression they went out of their way to cultivate. Before the advent of social media and the scrutiny it engendered they thought they could get away with murder - quite literally in at least one case.

Bexley Councillors went to the police when criticised and acted as if they were above the law and in effect they were. Bexley Police Officers were more than once guilty of rewriting history to support their crooked Council friends.

To distance themselves from public scrutiny eleven of the worst Councillor offenders claimed Section 32 Exemption. What is that? Well under the Localism Act any Councillor who believes that someone is really out to get them can exclude contact details from their Register of Interests.

In 2013 across the whole of London only 15 Councillors claimed that they were being stalked by bogeymen and bloggers. Eleven of them were in Bexley.

I like to kid myself that things are very much better now although the tone is still set by the unscrupulous and disreputable Teresa O’Neill and Peter Craske. Just after the recent election I asked a Councillor friend if there was any chance of O’Neill not being elected as Leader but the answer said it all. “I wish!”

We have a way to go before Bexley Council is really cleaned up but meanwhile all the best Councillor scandals seem to be in Greenwich right now.

One of the things I should have done before now is check the 45 updated Registers of Interest to see who might be hiding something. It may be of minor interest that several Councillors do not claim any land interest within the borough. As they are all from the younger element I am happy to assume they are renting or live with parents.

I rather liked Councillor Daniel Francis’ (Labour Leader, Belvedere) claim to be a Director at his home address - does Mrs. Francis know? Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) who I have always understood lives in Chislehurst appears to have done a Massey who rented a house in Larch Grove to cover his residency in Rochester. Councillor Dourmoush also lists an address in Larch Grove but before anyone jumps to the conclusion that he is up to no good let me tell you he runs his own business in Erith. He is not another Don Massey and unlike him is not the sort of snowflake who would run to the police when someone blogs about him.

So Bexley Councillors no longer shelter behind Section 32 exemptions to keep the public at arms length? Not quite I am afraid. New Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) is keeping her address hidden.

I don’t know Ms. Taylor except that she said hello as she passed by at the end of the recent Planning meeting so I thought challenging her directly might be a bit cheeky, but we do have a trustworthy mutual friend. I asked the obvious question, was there a good violence based reason for Nicola’s reticence?

There is. I didn‘t press things further, you either trust a friend to put the truth above political considerations or they are not a friend. That is a concept that Teresa O’Neill is never likely to understand.

Note: The latter part of this blog is prompted by an anonymous contributor who might otherwise continue to harbour unjustified suspicions about Councillor Taylor.

Thamesmead Community Market
MarketThose of us who a couple of years ago were keeping abreast of developments within the Lesnes Abbey area may remember Chris Molnar who was the Community Copper for the ward and who was a pioneer of police Twittering, Things have not been the same since he transferred elsewhere.

I have good reason not to like any police officer but Chris said a few things to me in his time here that made me think I should not tar him with the same brush as I have most of them. I can say that now because Chris no longer works as a police officer. He is in fact the man behind the Thamesmead Community Market, actually I think his wife may be the major force but Chris is well into it too.

There will be another Thamesmead Market next Saturday but the main reason for giving it a plug here is because the September market is going to be held in Wilton Road on my doorstep. Whether that is instead of or in addition to a Thamesmead event in September I do not know,

Put 15th September, Wilton Road, in your diary.

Contact CCEVents (see leaflet) to book a stall. Initial proposals suggested they might be as cheap as £10 each.


22 June - Two vote Val’s legacy to Bexleyheath

A couple of days ago I commented on not having seen a News Shopper for a couple of months and also pondered why Bexley Council has “serious issues” with me when all I do is report Council News. If they don’t like it they should stop doing whatever it is that gets reported.

Today both things were brought together by a friend who was shopping in Orpington’s Tesco and picked up a copy of the News Shopper from the distribution point there. It was the Bexley edition and this is its front page headline.
News Shopper
Below it was a totally unbalanced report about the decision to allow a 13 storey tower block on Broadway. I don’t know if the journalist was at the planning meeting as I was and the webcast is - as of this Friday evening a week later - still not available on the Council’s webcast but her account completely misses the fact that every Councillor on the Planning Committee was against the development. News Shopper readers are given the impression that Councillors rode rough-shod over and without a thought for residents who are rightly aggrieved by what some see as a monstrosity in their midst.

I would accept that BiB reports are frequently slanted in a particular direction but they never omit any known facts which would allow readers to reach their own conclusions. If I had written such a biased piece against Bexley Council’s planning decision knowing what I do about it I would be ashamed of myself and worrying that any reputation for reporting facts would have vanished.

Maybe the News Shopper should be banned from libraries and not Bexley-is-Bonkers.

The 13 storey tower is being inflicted on Bexleyheath because Councillors were under pressure by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who would likely overrule a refusal and because Councillor Val Clark is a very poor Committee Chairman who voted for the over-development twice.

Fortunately the News Shopper put the same news on their website today and their reporter Tom Bull has made a much better job of it.


21 June (Part 2) - Avoiding the Bexley Path of Doom

I went into the Civic Offices yesterday evening convinced that the new Chairman of the Children’s and Adults’ Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee was Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Longlands) so when I saw him in the Chamber I offered him my best wishes for a successful meeting. He must think I am nuts because in fact the Chairman is Councillor Cafer Munur (Blackfen & Lamorbey).

Councillor Munur must be one of Teresa O’Neill’s rising young stars but despite that is a decent enough chap always ready with a friendly word. When Councillor Craske (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) was busy protesting he had no idea who I was and Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) was pretending I wasn’t there, Cafer stood out as the one blessed with a modicum of civility and common sense. He is a decent enough Chairman too.

CommitteeAs you can see the Committee is small and Councillor Munur chose a seating arrangement that ensures members of the public (only me) can see almost nothing. That may have been a problem except that nearly all of the meeting was taken up by a slide show. I wondered how that would come across on the webcast but despite the Agenda referring to a broadcast it appears there was none. The web cameras are set up to record Councillors sitting in very different positions.

The meeting didn’t really scrutinise anything, it appeared to be held merely to bring the new Committee Members up to speed.

There were two slide shows, the one covering Children’s Services was not especially interesting, it merely listed what the Council had to do and what it has done. Clearly it has done a lot since OFSTED condemned Bexley Council six years ago. It’s been much better since Cabinet Member Philip Read took on the job.

I found the Adults’ Services slide show much more interesting which may be because I was able to relate it to my experience of Newham’s Adults’ Services. To say that their moderately senior staff are as thick as two short planks is probably an insult to floorboards.

It would appear that Bexley’s Adults’ Services are not yet especially good either and in just a few aspects are judged to be among the worst in London (see Slide 3 and 4) but the relatively new Director, Stuart Rowbotham, was not short of ideas to improve things. Some have already had an effect. Slide 5’s 2017 figures are already much improved.

Bexley Council is constantly criticised for its outrageous lying so it was a refreshing change to see and hear Mr. Rowbotham freely admitting to past failures. “Some things don’t look good at all.” Fortunately his plans for the future looked to be excellent.

Back in the bad old days a long gone Cabinet Member bragged that he had driven down the price paid to companies providing domiciliary care services. When the care companies could no longer provide an adequate service he washed his hands of all responsibility saying the services were contracted out and no longer his concern.

That is not a view shared by Mr. Rowbotham and Cabinet Member Brad Smith, they have increased payment to care providers by 16% and are rearranging the services in a way that should make them much more reliable. Without boring you with the detail it is what I have arranged privately for my 98 year old aunt in Newham. I refuse to have anything to do with Newham Council’s so called services.

Committee Providing Adult Care is very expensive and the percentage of the population requiring help is getting ever higher. I probably shouldn’t have been amused to hear Mr. Rowbotham use the expression ‘Barnet Graph of Doom’ which apparently shows that on present trends it will not be long before Councils have no money left to spend on anything except care services. A disaster that has already beset Northamptonshire Council he told us.

Mr. Rowbotham seemed to be the right man to avoid such a disaster in Bexley although we may not like some of the consequences.

One such consequence may be the £400 charge being imposed on transport for 17 and 18 year olds requiring transport to special schools.

Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) used it as an example of badly timed Scrutiny meetings. She said that the meetings schedule in recent months had disallowed scrutiny of that Cabinet decision.

Chairman Cafer Munur said that if that was the case he was determined it should not happen on his watch.


21 June (Part 1) - Institutional Corruption

News shopper report Today marks the sixth anniversary of Cabinet Member Peter Craske’s arrest on suspicion of posting an obscene blog in my name. A blog that was subsequently traced to his IP address and found on his computer.

Why was he never charged? The investigation into the crime and the enquiry into its failure went on for nearly seven years and came to a full stop when the Independent Office for Police Conduct said that no one had done anything wrong.

With a commendable sense of timing the IOPC has this week sent me a questionnaire asking how well I think they dealt with my complaint. That should be fun to fill in.

Neither the Metropolitan Police nor the IOPC made any comment at all on the most incriminating evidence such as the comment contained within the papers that after tracing the crime to Peter Craske’s computer the police thought it would be a good idea to tell me that the trail had gone cold. They similarly refused to comment on the letter that Bexley Police sent to the Chief Executive of Bexley Council suggesting a meeting to discuss how Craske could be got off the hook.

Never in the six and a bit years of investigation by the Met’s Department of Professional Standards would anyone comment on those things.

It is often said that the Metropolitan Police is Institutionally Racist. I’ve never really gone along with that, they are perhaps Institutionally Incompetent but much worse is that I am absolutely certain that they are Institutionally Corrupt.

My family connection to the Daniel Morgan axe murder enquiries has persuaded me that I must include the current Commissioner in that web of corruption.

The Daniel Morgan enquiry - technically a Hillsborough style Panel - is now well into its sixth year. It was set up by the then Home Secretary Theresa May after every single Labour Home Secretary who preceded her had refused to believe that the Police could be complicit in murder. The enquiry was expected to last for no more than a year.


20 June - Lull before the storm? Possibly

This evening marks the beginning of the Council meeting season. A Scrutiny meeting.

You must have noticed that blogs have been infrequent since the local election in May; the reasons are varied but one stands head and shoulders above the others. I have frequently said privately and occasionally publicly that if Bexley Councillors stopped lying Bexley-is-Bonkers would whither and die and with the election out of the way and the meeting season not yet started even the most prolific of Bexley’s liars has not found the need to do so.

Whilst the idiotic fringe led by Councillor Philip Read continues to label me a Labour troll if his comprehension skills were a bit greater he might have noticed that any support for Bexley’s Labour Group does not go beyond the rebuttal of the lies that he and his ilk tell about Labour policies. If he has read what I think of Mayor Sadiq Khan how can he continue to believe I am a Labour activist?

Relatively minor contributors to the reduced level of blogging are the constant trips to East Ham - every two days for the past three weeks but with luck now stretching to three or four day intervals, and maybe the Maxine Fothergill effect. I don’t often think about that any more but earlier in the year the stupidity of Kent Police dampened my enthusiasm for blogging. They are still refusing to investigate Maxine Fothergill’s untruthful harassment statement, unless of course they simply cannot be bothered to tell me anything. When they responded to an enquiry from my MP three months after she made it her description of their reply was extraordinarily diplomatic. “Very poor” she said.

For the record, Kent Police is still investigating why one of their Sergeants fell for her lies hook, line and sinker

The News Shopper
Until two or three months ago a copy of the News Shopper was reliably delivered to my door every week but now that it isn’t I am afraid I haven’t given it another thought. However today I noticed - via Twitter - that they are reporting that 50 Bexley staff have been given £800,000 in gagging agreements. Doesn’t surprise me at all, I have met some of these people. A very small number have consciences and live to regret their blood money, for in some cases that is what it is.

As a result I have heard how the Council Leader herself has been involved in high level cover ups of major mismanagement and possibly criminal behaviour but in every case I have recommended that the ex-employee sticks to the agreement - especially when the money has been used to pay off a mortgage.

Anonymous messages
Useful though the Anonymous Contact facility can be it occasionally creates a dilemma. Some lead to a blog which then indicates to the writer that his input has been found useful but a few that look good turn out not to be so useful. Ignoring them will look rude but the only other way to respond to anonymous messages is via the blog. This blog appears here only to avoid appearing to be ungrateful for the input. It will not make a lot of sense to anyone but the sender.

An anonymous message provided an analysis of various things that a Conservative Councillor had apparently written which on the surface appeared to be less than honest. There are some Conservative names which I would automatically link with dishonesty and deception - only a small number, but they do exist. This anonymous message was not about any of them, in fact it was critical of someone for whom I have a high regard.

Because of that I forwarded the message to the Councillor concerned. With commendable speed I was sent an expression of, if not quite horror at what had been published, at least a degree of shock.

34 minutes later a more detailed response dropped into my Inbox. It included evidence that an original hand written draft had been very carelessly transcribed by a Council Official resulting in an inaccurate publication which could be construed as having something to hide.

A second similar but much older ‘allegation’ was made against the same Councillor. It provoked a near identical response and again with supporting evidence. This time the inaccurate transcription was both very small but very important. The error was made by a third party not employed by Bexley Council. It will be possible to correct the first set of mistakes but not the older one.

As the Councillor said, “the lesson is to do things for myself in future”.

I trust this will satisfy the anonymous messenger and demonstrate that in my opinion Bexley’s comment “[the Council] has serious issues with Malcolm Knight” (†) is entirely the fault of a few individuals at the very top of the Council.

† Friends have told me that this was said by a Council Officer addressing a meeting earlier this year when, for reasons which are not totally clear, the subject of Bexley-is-Bonkers cropped up. Since my website only reports as best it can what Bexley Councillors do and say, how can I be a serious problem to them? Unless of course they know that some Councillors are still up to no good.


16 June - The company they keep

While Bonkers was looking into the first of several allegations made against former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill and before I came to the conclusion that she may well have been the subject of a revenge attack by the enemies she had made within the Council, I was copied into some correspondence between her business associates who were on opposite sides of a property business argument. It was notable mainly for the intemperate language used by someone purporting to be an auditor and an accountant.

Ray Robson who won the libel case against Maxine Fothergill for her admitted lies was called “scum of the earth” and a lady who supported him and wrote to Kent Police earlier this year in my defence was called “a stupid girl”.

The correspondence began in January 2016 and I am still being copied into the explosive emails. I am not exactly sure why but can only conclude that friends of Maxine wish it to be known that they are still battling on her behalf.

Unfortunately the ins and outs of the property business are well beyond my comprehension so there is no possibility that I can judge the intricacies of the rights and wrongs of it, but some facts are inviolable.

I met Ray Robson last November but apart from that I don’t know any of the protagonists. For character references I only know that Ray and his fellow litigant Hayley Warnes persuaded the celebrity solicitor Mark Lewis to take on their case on a no win no fee basis and he in turn persuaded a Court that Maxine Fothergill lied, indeed she admitted as much.

So what her friends hope to achieve is hard to fathom except that some sort of revenge appears to be on their minds.

Their language has not improved and Ray Robson continues to be known as “scum of the earth” in correspondence which has been sent to the leading lights of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the object presumably being to persuade them, as Maxine Fothergill tried to do earlier, that she is more worthy of membership than those she libelled.

What sort of accountant refers to an RICS member as “scum of the earth” as well as “warped, deluded, mentally deranged and in need of psychiatric help” in an email (13th June 2018) to the RICS and 20 of his business associates?

The same accountant goes on to accuse Hayley Warnes of fraud, the lady who was deemed innocent by Kent Police and paid £40,000 in damages by Maxine Fothergill.

“I believe there was fraud at Mariners Walk and other Estates in 2014 and in light of the evidence contained in my Witness Statement this was, in my opinion, committed by Hayley Warnes, Ben Quaye and others acting in association with them. I believe the evidence against them is compelling”.

The evidence has already been before both the police and the High Court. The libel madness apparently extends beyond former Councillors into her circle of friends.

Another of the accountant’s gripes is that surveyor Ray Robson makes no secret of the fact he would like to see Maxine Fothergill’s AMAX Estates out of business and who can blame him for that?


15 June - Eastside Quarter. If it proves to be an eyesore blame Councillor Val Clark and Mayor Khan

Yesterday evening Bexley Council’s Planning Committee approved the Broadway tower blocks which will dominate the skyline for miles around after not a single word was spoken in their favour. Why was that? Because under the authoritarian Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan Planning Committees no longer have real power over major housing developments.

Firstly I should perhaps declare an interest, I think the Eastside Quarter designs for 518 dwellings are quite attractive but only in the same way that I think The Shard is quite attractive, it doesn’t mean I would like to see one built at the end of my garden. Thirteen storeys sets a dangerous precedent aimed at turning Bexley into the new Lewisham; what hope is there now for preventing Lesnes Abbey being placed in the shadow of the 14 story tower proposed for Knee Hill where it will severely damage the views of a distant City skyline?

While various Council Officers provided an illustrated description of the plans I took the opportunity to read the Agenda and found it littered with figures that conflicted with Bexley Council’s requirements or Sadiq Khan’s diktats.

Bexley aims for 35% affordable homes and Bellway claims that it will not be able to make a profit if the figure goes above 22%. (81 rented units, 29 shared ownership.)

Bexley Council is acutely aware that its transport infrastructure is poor by London standards generally and for many residents a car is essential. Khan aims to force us all on to bikes and buses. He wants to see no parking provision whatsoever in the Eastside Quarter but because his Zone 1 plan for the whole of London is not yet in operation Bexley’s Planning Officers have been able to compromise at 208 spaces.

The Council sets standards for amenity space and the distance between overlooking windows. Bellway Homes has failed on both scores, albeit by only around 10%.

Nevertheless Planning Officers accept and support all of these shortcomings probably because they know the rules and regulation and the vindictive ways of the GLA under Khan better than most but their unwavering support frequently suggests that working hand in glove with major developers may influence their impartiality.

But enough of my thoughts, what did the speakers at the Planning Committee have to say?
Two members of the public were allowed three minutes each to object to the proposals but their case came across as more emotion than fact and unlikely to carry much weight. For that Cabinet Member Brad Smith (Bexleyheath ward) stepped into the breach and made an excellent job of it. He said the current situation was that Committee decisions “had been taken over by the Mayor and this is not right”.

Smith“High rise, high density, no parking is not right for Bexley. We are not the same as Inner London Boroughs with strong and varied transport options and setting this as a precedent will encourage it to spread and become normal in Bexley. The Mayor of London is out of touch with Bexley residents. It is an early warning sign of what the Mayor plans for Bexley and we only have to look at Lewisham to see what that is.”

The plans are “oppressive and completely out of character with anything in the surrounding area. Bexley’s Growth Strategy says that tall towers are not appropriate for this area”. (It mandates no more than eight floors.)

Councillor Smith went on to criticise the lack of parking provision and politely ridiculed the developer’s sales pitch which refers to the proximity of the A2, the South Circular Road and the M25 and Bluewater being less than 15 minutes away - by car.

Bad though he believed Bellway’s proposals were he was aware of Khan’s ambition to make them even worse and later this proved to be the crucial factor.

Every following speaker was critical of the proposals along very similar lines. Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup.) said the parking provision was “woefully inadequate” and Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) said he was “totally opposed to the eyesore sticking up.”

Labour Councillors were particularly critical of the lack of affordable housing but they won support from Tories too. New man Howard Jackson (Barnehurst) simply didn’t believe that Bellway couldn’t make a decent profit out of 518 dwellings to support more than 22% affordable homes. It was “ridiculous”. He doubted the Planning Officer’s assurances that 208 parking spaces would be more than enough either.

A whole hour of such criticism went by before Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) returned to what had been worrying me. The danger represented by the real villain of the piece, Sadiq Khan. “If this is refused and it goes to the Mayor he can in effect rule zero parking. That is the reality we have got to think about.” He too doubted that “a scheme of this size could not support more than 22% affordable housing”.

Councillor Dourmoush’s dire warnings about what havoc Mayor Khan could wreak on Bexley struck a chord with Councillor Linda Bailey and when Chairman Val Clark called for a vote it was she who proposed approval but not before Clark reminded the Committee of how “someone in another place” could interfere with their decision. Councillor Bailey was seconded by Councillor Dourmoush, both protesting that they did so very reluctantly because “the alternative could be even worse”.

Councillor June Slaughter said that what the Chairman alluded to was “absolutely appalling. If we don’t make a stand we won’t achieve anything. We might as well not bother to hear this application and just accept Officers’ recommendations. If we don’t make a stand we will never make a difference locally.”

She is right of course but that is the reality of electing a Mayor more interested in political correctness than the wellbeing of citizens. The Chairman ignored Councillor Slaughter. I suspect the decision had been pre-determined.

Three hands went up to approve the application and presumably the Chairman processed the mental arithmetic quickly so she stuck her hand up too to create a four all draw, she then voted in favour again as Chairman.

When Councillor Val Clark successfully aspired to be Bexley’s worst Mayor ever she constantly harangued members of the public with her claimed forensic knowledge of the words of wisdom in Sir Walter Citrine’s ‘ABC of Chairmanship’. So much so that I bought my own copy.

This is what it has to say about Chairmen abusing their power to vote and change Committee decision.

The Chairman would be well advised to think twice before he votes at all.

When the Eastside Quarter appears to dwarf the Civic Centre when viewed from the A2 on the approach to Bexleyheath and its retail space proves as difficult to fill as some Councillors believe it might be, the one person to be blamed will not be Sadiq Khan as it should be but two votes Clark.

Note: The regular Planning Chairman, Councillor Peter Reader, was absent due to a pre-booked family holiday.


7 June - Welcome departures

Railway news
Crossrail Thameslink ThameslinkNetwork Rail which has dominated life in Abbey Wood since August 2013 is moving out. Their main depot was part dismantled a few months ago and this week a crane has been busy removing more of their offices.

I have travelled by train on approximately alternate days since Thameslink services commenced through Abbey Wood on 20th May and for the first few occasions went out specifically to catch one; all were cancelled.

I then reverted to just turning up and catching whatever showed up. Once I just missed a Thameslink train and twice found the next one cancelled; apart from that I never saw one. However this morning the Charing Cross train came in late and I could see the Thameslink train behind it so the wait seemed to be worthwhile.

Well it’s a train. Clean, open and quieter with hard seats and no wifi. Southeastern seems to have about 50% functioning wifi at the moment, maybe a little bit more.

Maxine Fothergill
i) Kent Police are still showing no interest in pursuing the various allegations of fraud and theft.
ii) Kent Police has shown no interest in investigating my complaint that the statement she made about me was almost entirely false and therefore a criminal offence.
iii) Kent Police are investigating their own failure to spot that Fothergill’s statement was untrue.
iv) The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has still not dropped Fothergill’s smokescreen complaint that her business rivals who succeeded in their libel case against her are the real villains of the piece.
v) Sevenoaks Court has awarded £324.45 costs for the malicious allegations made against me. The actual direct costs were £1,338.30 with various incidentals on top.


5 June (Part 3) - Crossrail to Ebbsfleet. An engineering challenge

I’ve crossed the Thames four times in the past six days, well eight if you are especially pedantic, and the three and a half miles to Newham has taken between 40 and 105 minutes. You can blame Bexley Council for that, more specifically you can blame Council Leader Teresa O’Neill who campaigned vigorously for the relatively small bridge planned by Labour Mayor Ken Livingston to be abandoned.

I am hoping that Crossrail and the District Line via Whitechapel will reduce waiting times and be more consistent overall. Crossrail has sounded the death knell for Abbey Wood as we know it but there can be little doubt that it will transform rail transport choice while local roads grind to a standstill.

We nearly didn’t get Crossrail either, it was left for Teresa Pearce MP to plead for the Abbey Wood branch in Parliament. Bexley Council was against all forms of borough expansion in the late noughties, how things change. It will be in serious financial trouble if its Growth Strategy is not a success and they acknowledge it will not be a success without a Crossrail extension across the borough preferably to Ebbsfleet.

If only they had woken up to that ten years ago.

There can be little argument that a Crossrail extension must in theory at least be a good thing and today the Thames Estuary Commission appears to be on the brink of giving its support for the project. Support it may well give but how can it possibly be engineered?

CrossrailCan two additional tracks be laid parallel to the North Kent line? The ideal solution but there are numerous obstructions along the way not least of which is the Harrow Manorway flyover.

Fewer than 48 hours ago a senior Network Rail engineer told me that it would have to be taken down along with extensive modifications to Abbey Wood’s new station itself. He showed me the bridge support pillars that stand directly in line with the Crossrail terminal track. I didn’t like to tell him that he told me the same story more than a year ago, clearly no one is changing their mind.

It would be fairly easy to run a single Crossrail track as far as Erith but from there more obstructions get in the way. Not insurmountable but expensive obstacles.

How else could a Crossrail train get to Dartford and beyond? One way would be with retro-fitted third rail equipment, the capability was specified in the contract. Interspersing Crossrail trains with Southeastern or its successor would be a recipe for delays which would impact the frequent interval service across London. Dropping the pantographs would probably waste five minutes too, so where is the time advantage?

Railway enthusiast forums have touted other ideas one of which is to terminate the North Kent line at Abbey Wood. How will that improve connectivity to the east? It would require horrendous delay inducing crossovers outside the Plumstead tunnel portal as it would still be impossible to get two Crossrail tracks under the northern half of the flyover.

The solution to that would be terminating the North Kent line at Plumstead. Suddenly it doesn’t seem like much of a transport infrastructure improvement but we have recently seen railway improvements which are nothing of the sort. Still sounds like a railway enthusiast’s flight of fancy to me. No direct route from Slade Green to London Bridge. It’s slow enough as it is without introducing a change of train.

Getting the Thames Estuary Commission to back a Crossrail extension is the easy bit. There is no simple engineering answer to the extension but political minds are not always practical minds. Perhaps knocking down the new station is the way forward after all.

After all, Abbey Wood residents will all be very tolerant of yet more years of chaos and disruption to normal life, won’t they?


5 June (Part 2) - L&Q in the gutter

A return visit to the L&Q house at first suggested things were better. The disabled lady occupier tries to keep it clean and tidy and is not afraid to go around with a paint brush. She is no longer able to look after the garden but apart from that first impressions are not at all bad but the detail tells a different story.

Damp detector Fence As noted following the first visit too much of the house looks as though it has been subjected to the attention of a mad and incompetent DIYer anxious to get away and back to the pub.

Thanks to fresh paint the signs of damp are much diminished but closer inspection shows it bubbling through. Damp in the external walls has caused frost damage and the occasional brick has burst open and surface efflorescence can be seen here and there.

Nothing is done right. A new mortice lock has been put in crooked and the wooden frame has been splintered. Probably vulnerable to anyone with a malevolent shoulder.

Five unearthed power sockets have been taken out of use and replaced with surface fed units. Plastic trunking, some of it already falling off the wall, is a major feature of the decor. Would you willing accept one bodge job on top of another?

The floor tiles remain broken,

Efflorescence Salt Socket Door frame

The lady’s main concern is damp. She puts down salt to deter the slugs and snails and employed a surveyor; his test meter detected 51 places where damp was a problem. The tenant bought her own. (Photo 1.)

She says that when it rains the gutter overflows. It is an ordinary plastic gutter which serves four adjacent houses. At the end of last year L&Q were persuaded to replace it with one of larger capacity. They erected scaffolding - that is how the fence came to be broken - but on the appointed day the maintenance team failed to show up. Then someone else got involved and said the existing gutter was perfectly adequate.

The scaffold was taken away unused.

This video suggests there is something very wrong with the gutter. A possible cause of damp walls may not need a surveyor with a fancy meter, someone from L&Q with some sense and a ladder might be enough.


5 June (Part 1) - You don’t often see…

…yellow lines being removed in Bexley but yesterday it happened. The area around Alsike Road in Thamesmead and Fendyke Road in Belvedere was subjected to a very noisy and smelly burning off operation.

The lines were installed more than three years ago to allow unimpeded access to Crossrail storage sites. Whether they were ever legal is doubtful because there were no restriction warning signs but they proved effective and deprived the residents of Fendyke Road of two parking bays and a long length of single yellow line which was converted to double.

In Alsike Road commuters lost 100 metres or so of free parking space.
Fendyke Road Fendyke Road Alsike Road Alsike Road

Network Rail finished their work East of Abbey Wood station last August and the need for parking restrictions evaporated. Residents asked for the ‘temporary’ parking restrictions to be removed but to no avail.

But yesterday they were.

Nine or ten months after it could have been done and more than six months after the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator made his request, Bexley Council limped into action. There was no good reason for inconveniencing residents for longer than necessary but it is what Bexley Council does.

Whether anyone was fined for parking at the far end of Fendyke Road is unknown. I hope not. The yellow lines have no end markers and the nearest warning sign is 200 strides away beyond the junction with Fossington Road.


4 June - L&Q. Like it or lump it

Last October BiB reported on the state of an L&Q house south of Welling. Later today I shall go back there to see what if anything has been done to improve it.

Below are some pictures of what the place was like when I last saw it.

I occasionally find myself at my front door key in hand while a young neighbour is doing the same at the flat opposite. My key gives access to a three bedroom detached house which cost less than £70,000 and bought on a 15 year mortgage paid off in a little under five years.

RentAcross the road the rent is in the region of £850 a month and until not long ago five people squeezed into one bedroom. (Halifield Drive is the next road to mine.)

It represents a shocking disparity which is totally unfair and unsustainable yet there is not much I can do about it and it would seem those in power have shown no inclination to do anything about it for the past twenty years. There is evidence that some of those in power hide behind fine words while caring nothing.

BlazerA couple of weeks ago I was invited to see how the other half live in social housing, L&Q social housing in this particular case. I am wary about such invitations because one never know what one is getting into and Dianne Blazer, Bexley’s Housing Services Manager, had reported less than two months ago that there was nothing much wrong with the house. (See below.)

If the name Dianne Blazer rings a bell it is because she was part of the Bexley Council team which persecuted Sidcup resident Rita Grootendorst for the state of her award winning but somewhat unorthodox garden.

She and her cohorts made Rita’s life a misery until a Court put a stop to their shenanigans.

This is what Dianne Blazer thought about the L&Q house, what would I make of it?
I found myself at a door with an entry system and waited inside with some apprehension while the occupier slowly made her way down the stairs out of my sight until the very last moment. She was a sixty something lady who clearly took care of her appearance but was blessed with a very wheezy pair of lungs. I later discovered they might be the least of her health problems. Her medical record listed nine ailments of which diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer in remission were probably the least serious.

As one might expect of a disabled lady largely confined to an upstairs room there was a certain amount of clutter and it took a while before the full extent of the problems made their presence known. Maintenance of the house by L&Q has been the biggest bodge job I have ever seen. Nothing is properly finished off, it is as though a bungling amateur nipped down to B&Q and then ran riot with nothing better than a hammer and blunt chisel.

SafetyThe plumbing and electrics are worst affected and I was warned off of touching some sockets for fear of an electrical tingle.

The occupant complained of damp but the weather had been fine and the only signs were a suspicion of it on door mats and paint and paper peeling from the walls.

I have video (which refuses to play on line) of water pouring over gutters and down the walls. There was mildew here and there but not too much of the horrible black stuff.

Ms. Blazer might report that the house is basically up to standard but I bet she wouldn’t want to live in it.

Let’s look at some pictures.


There is no fan either up or downstairs but switches exist.

Want to see some more?
The plumbing is not up to much either and you have to mind your head because masonry randomly falls from the roof and the eaves.
What about the floor and such like? Not good.
The damp has taken its toll.
The doors are ill fitting and the windows badly sealed. The garden path has subsided and been patched. Redundant pipes are capped and left to provide trip hazards.
And whatever you do don’t go up into the roof space.
Everything is, as you can see, a bit of a bodge. A young person might be able to improve some things given plenty of money but a disabled lady can do nothing. It’s not just Dianne Blazer who knows about the situation but finds it “in good repair”, so does Bexley Director David Bryce-Smith. Councillor John Waters and David Evennett MP are aware too.

Both politicians have visited and the lady occupier speaks highly of both of them but they can do nothing other than suggest suing L&Q. David Bryce-Smith would probably say that living in squalor in Welling is better than being sent to Birmingham but that would only emphasise how desperate the housing situation is in Bexley.

What has L&Q done apart from bodging every job they have been persuaded to look at?

Their present stance is that they are going to do nothing more to help because a lady with emphysema, fibrosis of the lung and idiopathic pulmonary disease shouted at their carpenter. Ah diddums! Where would she get the breath from?

Another of their excuses is that they haven’t been given “two weeks unfettered access”. Maybe the poor lady does not wish to be homeless for a fortnight. Her only relations live overseas and she would never be able to make the journey.

It’s enough to make one turn socialist until one realises that their house building record is even worse than the other bunch of incompetents.

I suspect this case will require a periodic update.

All house photos 8th October 2017.


2 June - Work continues…

Harrow ManorwayThere may be next to nothing going on politically in Bexley but work on its creaking northern infrastructure continues. The A2016 Eastern Way - effectively the Thamesmead bypass - is closed because of a major problem with a bridge and the diversionary route is severely restricted by the road works associated with the Harrow Manorway regeneration.

There have been reports of motorists taking an hour to get out of Thamesmead, certainly traffic queuing up Knee Hill is becoming a far too regular occurrence. Goodness know what things will be like when the Elizabeth Line opens.

The Harrow Manorway Photo Album has been updated and the latest pictures may be seen here.

The most notable development in the past week has been the installation of lamp posts.

This weeked is another with no trains on the North Kent line. The main activity is building a cage around the Gayton Road stairs to the flyover to stop idiots lobbing missiles at passing trains.

Last week another Crossrail train parked outside Abbey Wood station was vandalised.

Latest Crossrail photos. The tiny Abbey Wood station car park is nearing completion. A senior Network Rail engineer told me this week that contrary to what was suggested on the local Facebook group that it is still the intention that the car park will be publicly accessible - if you can afford the fee.

Return to the top of this page