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Bonkers Blog March 2018

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31 March - Bonkers Bexley

Chaos Placing these images on Facebook provoked the expected criticism of Bexley’s lamentable road planning skills. Who was it who could not predict that putting a pedestrian controlled crossing at all four exits of a roundabout would bring it to a frequent standstill?

One of the Facebook critics thought of something that had passed me by. When no pedestrians are attempting to cross, all the lights will be green. Drivers may think it is a traffic light controlled roundabout and assume they have right of way and continue as if they are a protected species.

One of the writers thinks the designer should be shot. Maybe that is going a bit far but why is he still in a job?


The traffic lights appear to be the control for the roundabout as they are too close to the junction, they should have been zebra crossings further back from the junction.

If you’re not local it’s an easy thing to think they give you the right of way. I use the junctions everyday. Even at 5:00 am going to work I’ve nearly been hit by a car not giving way.

The temporary Give Way signs are basically an admittance that it’s been planned wrongly. What’s needed is a freedom of information request to find who designed, planned and approved the junction. Then sue them in court if you are in an accident, using the poor layout design and signage as the reason.

 

30 March - Money for nothing

Empty Chair A glance at the Agenda for last night’s Resources Scrutiny meeting suggested that the only point in attending rather than watching the webcast was the outside chance of seeing the Vice-Chairman delivering value for her £750 a meeting payment. Unsurprisingly she was not there. Councillor Fothergill has missed three of the four meetings held in the past municipal year. Money under false pretences?

The first Agenda item was a presentation by Bexley Voluntary Service Council. It provides non-medical support to General Practitioners via a large number of voluntary organisations, charities etc. Age UK, MIND, the Alzheimer’s Society to name just a few.

It is jointly funded by the Clinical Commissioning Group (£150,000 p.a.) and Bexley Council (£58,000).
Resources Committee
In common with every other care related service the BVCS is facing increased demand. Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said that he believed those pressures will lead to some of the supporting charities withdrawing their services. “They are struggling.”

Cabinet Member Don Massey dismissed Councillor Francis’ comments, he “was missing the point” but Councillor Francis said that he had been to see “a dozen over the last few months and there are groups out there saying we will have to cancel our contract because we are making a loss on them”.

Two years ago Bexley Council pooled the administration of several vital services with Havering and Newham Councils in the expectation that economies of scale would save £741,000 a year. The joint operation goes under the name oneSource.
One Source
Not everything has gone according to plan especially the quality of service offered to Bexley residents.

A survey comparing before and after showed that the overall customer satisfaction levels in Bexley was 55% compared to 81% in Newham and 89% in Havering.

This masked some very poor individual results with none falling less than 20% over the year, several over 30% and one down from 86% satisfaction to only 33%. Only John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) thought to ask why.

He was told that it would take time for service levels to settle down and that Bexley “being a minor player” was disadvantaged. “The river, if I am honest, doesn’t help” according to Cabinet Member Don Massey. “There is a problem of isolation.”

After carefully criticising some of the staff at oneSource, Councillor Massey said that Sean Harriss the former £188,000 p.a. Chief Executive of Lambeth Council will take over at oneSource next Tuesday, Web sources suggest he was keen to get away from “the political viper’s nest” which is Lambeth Council.

Bexley Council is continuing to closely monitor the financial problems reported by Capita and make tentative contingency plans but does not appear to believe there is a serious risk of the company failing.

Business Rates were briefly discussed and examples of some of the bigger increases were provided. Day Nurseries did particularly badly with several suffering increases of around 90%. The lowest was 20% and the average 51%.

Doctors’ surgeries didn’t do much better overall with most being close to the average increase of 45%.

The Council has discretion to relieve the worst of the increases and it has distributed 88% of the £483,000 available.

Bexley Council is late to fully participate in the new arrangements for Universal Credit and will not do so until 24th October 2018. The experience of London boroughs already in the scheme has been “a significant reduction in rent collection levels and a marked increase in the use of foodbanks”.

Rent collection problems will not affect Bexley Council as it has no social housing.

Bexleyheath Job Centre is currently dealing with 1,507 claimants not all of whom live in the borough. It was felt that the new system would react more quickly to the changing circumstances of claimants than the old which would reduce the amount clawed back following over-payment.

Just when everyone thought the meeting was over Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) realised he had been uncharacteristically quiet and decided to make amends. What would his question be?

Err, there wasn’t one. Councillor Leaf merely wanted to express his confidence that the staff concerned would do their job well. It took him two minutes and 25 seconds with barely a pause for breath. When a pause eventually came Chairman Steven Hall quickly took the cue to draw the meeting to a close. Unfortunately he had forgotten Agenda Item 10. Fortunately no one wanted to talk about it.

 

29 March (Part 2) - Bexley’s health strategy

Hunt The amalgamation of Bexley’s police with Greenwich and Lewisham was not the only subject on the Agenda at Tuesday’s Scrutiny meeting although it was perhaps the only item of widespread interest. There was very little else to capture the imagination but the following bits and pieces caught my attention.

The Director of Public Health, Dr. Anjan Ghosh, said that the biggest impact on health were socio-economic factors like education, employment and income closely followed by behaviour; smoking, diet, alcohol consumption etc.

He had produced a ‘System Wide Bexley Prevention Strategy’ to improve the borough’s health across all fronts. Councillors Alan and Ros Downing both thought it was so big, “a huge, huge machine”, that it might be near impossible to implement and certainly take five years or more. Coordinating all the Council departments, “including police, licensing and planning“, impacted could pose a massive problem “and cost a lot more money”.

Factors
Dr. Ghosh and the Director of Adult Care gave spirited defences of the strategy largely based on the fact that a lot of it is already in place. Maybe it is not a new strategy after all but just a bit of empire building to justify the new director’s post. (Appointed September 2017. £98,616 p.a plus £4,683 allowance.)

Among other items of interest that popped up during the remaining 35 minutes were…


• In common with the rest of the country teenage pregnancies in Bexley have halved since 2010.
• Late diagnosis of HIV in Bexley is among the very worst in the whole country and has not improved since 2013.
• Bexley’s Stop Smoking Team is the most successful in London with 56% of referred smokers managing to quit. (444 out of 800.)
• 247 Bexley children are in care, 186 of them being aged ten or over.
• 144 children under five are awaiting autism assessment. (Councillors said that figure was very disappointing.)
• 80% of Bexley’s special schools are judged good or outstanding against a national average of 94%.

 

29 March (Part 1) - Andrew Bashford is Head of Highway Services

Albion Road Albion RoadBexley Council claims to have finished disrupting traffic outside the Civic Offices but the bad news is that chaos will continue in perpetuity. Yesterday the crazy pedestrian controlled lights placed on the exit of all four roads on the new roundabout were brought into service.

I needed to drive to Bexley Village yesterday afternoon, a journey that can take as few as eleven minutes given a clear run and no red lights although 20 minutes is more typical. Yesterday it took longer than that to get past the two new roundabouts. A year ago I forecast they would improve traffic flow. Clearly I failed to take full account of the idiocy that pervades Bexley Council’s road planning department.

The photos below were taken over a period of five minutes when I broke the return journey from Bexley Village. Every time a pedestrian used the lights the whole roundabout snarled up. As if the situation is not bad enough already, after Easter Bexley Council plans to install similar lights at the Albion Road roundabout.

Perhaps while there they will paint the yellow lines properly.
Watling Street
Watling Street
Watling Street
Watling Street
Watling Street
Watling Street

 

28 March - Signs of things to come? Police don’t show up

Ever since Private Eye felt it necessary to make my age a feature of their story about Councillor Maxine Fothergill I have been questioned about it but whether I look 74 or not is immaterial, yesterday I definitely felt like it and seriously considered dodging last night’s People Overview and Scrutiny meeting and watching the webcast instead. The only attraction of attending in person was the promise of hearing the police report from the new Commander and seeing him in the flesh. That decision saw me sitting in solitary splendour in the public gallery for 90 minutes.
Committee
I needn’t have bothered, neither the outgoing Borough Commander Stuart Bell or new appointee Simon Dobinson showed up.

That is not at at all surprising, the Borough Commander will now have three Councils to satisfy and probably a lot of similar commitments which will make similar inroads into his time. If nothing else there are going to be three times as many emergencies that cause him to absent himself at very short notice.

In their absence Deputy Director for Communities Toni Ainge reported very briefly (two minutes) on the current situation which has seen Bexley’s policing combined with Greenwich and Lewisham on a preparatory basis before going full steam ahead in September 2018.

Ms. Ainge said that burglaries had increased “fairly dramatically” in Bexley over the past year “and it is a trend across London”. The year on year figure was up by 21% which is now very nearly six per day and makes up 9% of all crime in Bexley. Fortunately the most recent month’s figures showed a decline.

The first comment came from Councillor Sharon Massey (Conservative, Danson Park) who said her residents were “very concerned” about the changes and in particular about the number of police officers who might be withdrawn. When combined with Greenwich and Lewisham Bexley might become “the Cinderella”. She was looking forward to “smarter working” and her Safer Neighbourhood Team had told her that one aspect of that was to do away with notebooks and use tablets “to avoid returning to the office and typing it all up”.

“Where have they been for the past 20 years?” Councillor Massey asked. “Shocking!”


DowningFormer police officer Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) has developed the knack of asking the sort of questions you or I might ask. Like me he was disappointed that no police officer was present, he had questions he would have liked to put to them. He was not too bothered about the larger police areas, “we used to do this years ago, it can work but we had more police officers at that time.”

“What will happen to ward officers? We have been told so many times that they will stay in the ward but clearly it doesn’t work.”

“What happens to the Youth Offending Team etcetera? Are they all merging? I can’t get answers. I am very concerned that I can’t find out. We will not get answers unless we get someone here in a blue uniform and even then we won’t get the right answers.”

“I have eight to ten such questions and I am sure it is not just me, a lot of residents would like to ask those questions. When will we get answers, how are we going to find those answers?”

Chairman Councillor James Hunt repeated the excuses for the absence of the two police Commanders and not unnaturally Ms. Ainge did not make a suitable substitute.

Cabinet Member Craske said he had similar questions “but the new Borough Commander needs time. It is not ideal”.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if we knew yet “where the Central Hub would be”. Unfortunately Councillor Craske could only confirm that we don’t.

 

26 March (Part 2) - Jobs for the boyos

Bexley Council has appointed a Managing Director to its in-house property developer, BexleyCo. They issued a Press Release earlier today that revealed that he is Huw Lewis.


Huw Lewis A Google search suggests he is not Huw Lewis who was a member of the Welsh Assembly until May 2016. Nor, I would guess, is he the Huw Lewis who lectures in politics at Aberystwyth University. He is probably not the Huw Lewis who teaches languages at The University of Edinburgh either.

My money is on him being the former Tory politician who was a Cabinet Member for Corporate Issues in Aylesbury Vale District Council in Buckinghamshire. He unexpectedly lost his Buckingham North seat in 2011.

That makes him a sort of Cabinet Member Don Massey equivalent.

If Aylesbury Vale Council is not as devious as Bexley a considerable culture shock awaits Huw in his new job.

 

26 March (Part 1) - Police record

13th July 2014
A client of AMAX Estates alleged theft by the company’s owner, Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill, to Gravesham PC 12360 and given crime reference SI/XY/006207/14. Nothing more was heard.
28th May 2015
The same client repeated the allegation in a letter sent by Recorded Delivery to the Chief Constable of Kent. There was no response to that letter or a follow up phone call.
27th January 2016
Michael Barnbrook wrote to the Chief Constable of Kent referring to those allegations and sought a response. On 12th February 2016, the Staff Officer to the CC replied and informed Michael that “a full review” was underway and he would be informed of the outcome. There has been no further response.
January 2018
More than one allegation of theft was made to an Inspector at Swanley Police station. He replied to say that he was not prepared to accept it and the correct channel was 101.
31st January 2018
Michael Barnbrook reported Councillor Maxine Fothergill to the Chief Constable of Kent for activities contrary to the Perjury Act of 1911. The CC’s Staff Officer replied on 15th February 2018 to confirm that the report was accepted and had been referred to the Investigation Management Unit. He has heard nothing more.
26th March 2018
Malcolm Knight wrote to the Chief Constable of Kent by Recorded Delivery alleging an Attempt to Pervert the Course of Justice by Councillor Maxine Fothergill.

What will happen next?

 

25 March - Tories didn’t like the Wilde Road proposals but lacked the courage to reject them

Councillor Val Clark is the only Bexley Council meeting Chairman who persists with asking members of the public if they wish to record the meeting, why I do not know, because the law has said that permission must be granted for the past four years. Maybe it makes her feel important.

The main item on last Thursday’s planning agenda was the plan for BexleyCo to build on the two Wilde Road open spaces, in effect Bexley’s left hand was asking Bexley’s right hand if it was OK to concrete over more parks and naturally enough the left hand was recommending that the right approve it.
Tweet Plan
It’s a cunning device that allows Bexley Tories to claim just before an election that they are not selling parks after all, but don’t be fooled. They are going to build on their own land and dispose of the houses a year or so down the line. They were crowing loudly that 50% of them will be affordable however before you cheer too loudly you should know that means no more than six. However to be fair that is infinitely more than Bexley Council usually achieves.

The planning application is for two buildings, each providing one three bedroom, one single bedroom and four two bedroom units. Twelve dwellings in total necessitating the removal of twelve trees.

The first resident to speak against the proposal was Mr. Chris Brown who made the most of his allotted three minutes by speaking quickly and concentrating on how existing residents will lose amenities that were considered essential when their houses were built.

The existing houses comprise 267 dwellings with four open spaces and play areas. The original planning application was approved with conditions one of which was that two acres of open space must be retained for residents’ use and integrated into the landscape for “use at all times”. The current proposals would allow for the retention of only one small play area and the open spaces would be lost.


Congestion CongestionAnother resident, Viv Waters, showed photographs of the narrow overcrowded roads which serve the area, packed solid with parked cars and the only free passage being via the footpath. Bexley Council had surveyed for possible traffic problems at 4 a.m. and concluded that there were none. Not long ago their own report had stated that the peak traffic time was 9 a.m.

Only six parking spaces, one for disabled use only, are to be provided for the occupants of 24 bedrooms. Will they include charging points for the electric cars that the Mayor seeks to encourage? Average car ownership in nearby roads is currently very nearly two per dwelling.

Bexley’s own planning man then spoke in favour of the application his main point being the provision of 50% affordable housing, ten times Bexley’s target figure. To accompanying laughter he said the new buildings would have no impact on adjoining residents. He dismissed out of hand the question of the open spaces being Assets of Community Value as dogs could be walked elsewhere and the provision of six more affordable homes must “significantly out value” the negative impact on the area.

Another of Bexley’s men praised the decision “not to sell the land to a private developer whose main aim would be to maximise profit”. Developing in-house would allow Bexley “to contribute to the Mayor’s housing target”.

“The development would not have a negative parking effect. There is spare capacity in the surrounding roads.”

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) made a formal presentation to the Committee which revealed that he was not against building on the two open spaces but “had serious concerns about car parking and traffic movements”. Unlike the previous speaker armed only with theory he had been to take a look at the situation himself. “It is a very tight site indeed.” To access the estate, he had had to drive over the footpaths himself. Parking provision “will be totally inadequate. It is a big big issue”.
Committee
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) spoke at some length about the conditions imposed (the open spaces and play areas) by the 1995 application. However his efforts served only to prove that planning conditions (in perpetuity, at all times etc.) count for nothing if Bexley Council wishes to ride rough shod over everything and everybody - residents especially. The Head of Planning actually said that conditions imposed in perpetuity are only good until another planning application overrides them. So they are totally worthless, right?

When Councillor Hackett asked for confirmation of some things within the planning officer’s report the Chairman said she was sure that they would not say anything that wasn’t true thereby provoking peals of hollow laughter. Every Twitter user and BiB reader knows that much of what Bexley Council says isn’t true.

When he asked the simple question “had legal advice been sought?” about overturning the conditions the answer was a long time coming. When it did it was “No”.

Councillor John Waters (Conservative, Danson Park) said that “everything he [Danny Hackett] said was irrelevant”. However he too was concerned about parking especially as public transport availability in the area was “absolutely minimal”. The Council Officer - the same one who said that Tesco in Northumberland Heath would not cause traffic congestion - accepted that he had used car ownership data from 2011. He continued to deny that parking was a significant problem.

Councillor Waters did not appear to be convinced by any of it, he had seen the problems for himself. The plan will “exacerbate the problem” and he was the first Councillor to suggest deferring the application.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) pointed out that the provision of balconies in the proposed blocks “compromised privacy” considerations and did not conform to Council policy. “The Council as both applicant and determinant is willing to breach its own policies to maximise its profit.” Also the development fell short of policy regarding amenity areas. “How will we be able to refuse similar applications in future?”

The Council Officer said that amenity space was available not too far away. “It was a question of balance.”

Councillor Colin Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) was concerned about the bats that roost in the area and the distance between the two blocks which “looked a long way” on the artist’s impression but “didn’t on the plan”. Surely no one would stoop to cheating?

Such was the depth of the Planning Officer’s knowledge that it took more than a minute to find the answer. They are 20 metres apart. There is a road and two hedges between them. No one knew much about bats. There is “potential” for them but “there would be a biodiversity net gain”. Don’t ask me how.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) was complimentary about the submissions made by residents but in his customary way was critical of Councillor Hackett. The Chairman asked him to show some respect. Councillor Leaf also had concerns about car parking provision.

Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Colyers) was concerned about parking and the height of the building compared to its neighbours. The new blocks are just over 12 metres tall; no one had thought to check on the height of its neighbours so Councillor Bishop’s question went unanswered..

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) said “we need affordable houses but there is not an awful lot on this site and I do not think there is sufficient for the problems they will cause”. He was not happy with the parking, the loss of trees and most of all the loss of open spaces. “The character of Bexley completely changes when you start eliminating the open spaces” said the man who voted to sell Old Farm Park. “For that reason alone I will vote against it.” Not quite the same degree of devastation caused by Adolph Hitler presumably, but maybe close.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s) got to the heart of the matter when he said if anyone else had proposed the plans for Wilde Road "would we pass this?" Referring to parking issues and amenity space he said “we would not normally pass it. If I lived there I would be very very annoyed”.


Chairman“Forget who’s applying, we have two applications here. There is not enough community space, we don’t want balconies - they are horrible, there is not enough space for parking. Would we sit here on a normal evening and say yes I approve or would we say no I refuse it? Something is not quite right with this.” He backed deferral of the application.

Despite Councillor Downing’s concerns on several fronts the Chairman redefined the deferral as being to reconsider parking issues and that was approved unanimously. Councillor Hackett’s recommendation that the application be rejected outright was not accepted but by what margin was not clear. Proving her credentials as a poor Chairman Councillor Val Clark failed to announce the result but the webcast, straying yet again from impartial Chairmanship, reveals that she helped to vote Councillor Hackett’s proposal down.

It is believed that five Councillors out of 15 voted to reject the application but there may have been some abstentions.

 

23 March - No one was Wilde about their plans

Bexley’s Planning Committee considered their own application to build houses on the green spaces in Wilde Road yesterday evening. The only thing going for the plan is that six homes will be so called affordable. A drop in the ocean while 7,000 Bexley families wait for social housing. When the Committee has considered schemes that might have made a real difference to the numbers they approved none.

It is of course unusual for Bexley Council to be asking permission of itself to go ahead with a plan of which no member of the public approves and apparently has no more than lukewarm support even from the Conservative Councillors one expects to obediently toe the party line. Maybe there is an election around the corner.

The 90 minutes of debate deserves a proper report but there will not be one here just yet as I have to be away all day, the second funeral this week. However the News Shopper’s reporter Tom Bull was at the meeting scribbling away furiously in his shorthand book so presumably he will have something on their website later today.

What struck me most was that the residents who spoke against the plan did so eloquently and effectively while the Council officers showed themselves to be less than competent. Presumably they are OK at analysing other people’s proposals but when it comes to proper planning work they may be politely described as hopeless.

The major issue according to Tory Councillors was not the loss of the green space or the fact that the two new blocks are out of keeping with their neighbours but the fact that there will be only six parking spaces (one disabled) for 24 bedrooms of accommodation. Wilde Road is as far removed from public transport as it is possible to get within London but the planning officers repeatedly trotted out the nonsense that car ownership would be low.

Of the 15 Councillors in attendance only five voted to reject the plan but they were unanimous in a decision to kick the decision into the long grass - if they can find any unsold.

The Labour Group has promised to abandon the Tory plans to build over parks if they become the majority party next May.

 

22 March - What a tangled web!

I am not the only recent victim of Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s wild accusations. She reported the Kent Police officer who proved that Hayley Warnes did not steal her clients’ money because he let Hayley know he was pleased when she won the libel case against Fothergill. Fothergill, along with a lone supporter, also reported both Hayley and surveyor Ray Robson to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for a whole host of alleged malpractices. It has wasted a great deal of their valuable time and I am privileged to have seen the rebuttal which was sent to the RICS at the beginning of this week.

The attached documents make interesting reading and there would be enough material there to keep Bonkers going to the end of the month if it was not so damned complicated, enlivened only by the unprofessional language from the aforesaid lone supporter. “Ray (scum of the earth) Robson. Bertie Big Bollocks.” Who is he?

A solicitor’s letter catalogues the claims (said to be not an exhaustive list) made against Fothergill’s business for alleged malpractice. They fell into the following categories.


• That the time said to be taken up by various tasks was grossly exaggerated.
• That building faults reported by lessees rather than through management companies were nevertheless billed to the management company.
• That invoices relevant to a management company based in Erith were debited to one based in Dartford.
• Charges for non-contractual services were imposed rather than negotiated as required by the contract.
• Extra charges were imposed for services that were already covered by the contract.
• Contractors were asked to tender before clients had approved job specifications.


One such claim came to a little over £26,000, a figure that has been mentioned before. There is no indication that AMAX Estates ever settled the claims made against it.

Rightly or wrongly Councillor Fothergill has attracted a great deal of criticism for the management of her financial affairs yet she is trusted as Vice-Chairman of the Resources Scrutiny Committee to oversee much of Bexley Council’s multi-million pound budget.

 

21 March (Part 2) - The Streisand Effect

Councillor Maxine Fothergill phoned me, emailed me and eventually lied to the police in an increasingly desperate attempt to have her expensive libel kept secret; and what has she achieved? Instead of news of her indiscretions being confined to a few thousand people in and around Bexley something like a quarter of a million readers of Private Eye can now scratch their heads in disbelief. Who in their right mind makes false allegations of theft against business associates and concocts an untruthful story to bamboozle plod and thinks they can get away with it?

What sort of mind thinks that someone capable of such misjudgment is a fit and proper person to be a Conservative Councillor in Bexley and then decides that Vice-Chairman of the Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee is the natural home for such a talent?
Private Eye

Click image to view feature.

The Private Eye feature is not the only milestone crossed today on the road towards bringing Councillor Fothergill to justice, Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court has confirmed that my application for costs has been approved.

It doesn’t mean that I will get my £1,338.30 back as the payout will be at the lower Legal Aid rate and it will take three or more months to come through but it may be confirmation that the Court believes the case brought by Sergeant Robbie Cooke on behalf of Fothergill was ill-considered.

The Private Eye report was written by Darryl Chamberlain of 853london fame.

 

21 March (Part 1) - On yer bike!

Councillor Val Clark’s Transport Users’ Sub-Committee is usually interesting and a good place to learn what is in store for Bexley on the trains, on the buses and on the roads in general; sadly last night’s meeting was a bit of a let down and I came perilously close to falling asleep.
Committee
TfL’s bus man failed to show up. The Chairman said that made two consecutive absences so we lost the opportunity to question why bus routes that used to be operated out of Bexleyheath garage now have to travel from Dartford and because of that failed to provide a service when it snowed. Hugh Neal’s blog carried some fascinating background information on that very subject last Sunday.

The railwaymen had however turned out in force with both Network Rail and Southeastern represented. The latter gave a very detailed report on what went wrong in Lewisham on 27th February. One train broke down and nine trains were consequently halted and frozen to the ice covered non-conducting third rail.

There was little sympathy for the passengers who forced open the doors and got on to the track. There can be little doubt that their actions caused what might have been an hour’s delay to be extended to more than three. Only Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer appeared to recognise that being squashed shoulder to shoulder on a train with no toilets and no announcements because the emergency batteries did not last long enough may have something to do with the mass evacuation.

Southeastern wil be paying £100 or more to delayed passengers. How can they possibly identify them?

Little of general interest was revealed during the two hour long meeting. The cycling lobbyist did not appear to be very happy with what is being done to Harrow Manorway despite the cycle tracks, the bike shelter that is to be built opposite the station and the cycling hub, whatever that might be, on the new station’s northern flank in Felixstowe Road. He wanted restrictions on parking in New Road to give cyclists a clear run up the hill.

Anyone would think that motorists have not had half their Abbey Wood parking spots taken away already. I did not detect a great deal of enthusiasm among Council officers for his ideas.

Councillor Stefano Borella had noticed, like every Bexley motorist must have done, the problems that Bexley Council has caused with its new roundabout right outside the Civic Offices. I am on record as saying I thought a roundabout would be an improvement over the previous traffic light controlled junction, but that was before I realised that Bexley Council was not going to actually get rid of the traffic lights; the roundabout is an addition and not a replacement.

The only difference is that the lights are now at the roundabout exit points and pedestrian controlled and whenever they turn red the roundabout inevitably becomes gridlocked.

Andrew Bashford who is responsible for most of the crazy road systems implemented in the name of progress said it was an improvement because the pedestrian lights only hold up the traffic for 20 seconds or so whereas the old lights did so for best part of a minute.

I think he forgot that the old lights only stopped traffic on two roads out of four whereas the new ones can hold up all four at once. Pure genius. All it needs now is the addition of a yellow box junction and their cunning plan will be completed.

 

19 March - Medics’ pay. Useless cops. Stupid Councillors

Your Good Health!
NHSHere we have Bexley Conservatives taking the credit for the new facilities installed at Queen Mary Hospital after it lost its maternity unit and left the borough without local Accident and Emergency cover.

Maybe they have a point, these days it is difficult to see where Bexley Council ends and the Health Service starts. For the past year they have shared offices and it would appear share their taste for high salaries too.

I have seen some of these people perform at Council meetings and they were no better than ordinary. Next time you are told there is a two week wait to see your GP give a thought to those responsible for seeing the number of doctors’ surgeries fall while the population increases.
Salaries

Clinical Commissioning Group salaries.


From the most recent accounts. Five people, more than £700,000!

Fly tipping. Nothing to do with us guv!
A reader’s comment from a couple of weeks ago.


RubbishA few weeks ago I was in the access road behind Kingswood Avenue alongside Ye Olde Leather Bottle and saw a truck dumping rubbish. The truck’s registration number was noted.

The police were called but they were not interested. The truck had become stuck in the mud so it would have been an easy cop but no, it was nothing to do with them, they suggested contacting Bexley Council.

After being bounced around a few departments someone very helpful was located who came out immediately.

He arrived to see that the driver had put his rubbish back on to the truck and then another van arrived to help get the truck out of the mud. The police had a golden opportunity to catch fly tippers in the act but they couldn’t be bothered.

On a different note I now find myself in West Heath ward. Our new Tory candidates are Reader, Davey and Read. I’ve Just looked at their publicity flyer and some of their claims are just downright distortions of the truth. The voting decision in May will be very difficult.


No comment required
Troll Cretin

Councillor Maxine Fothergill
FothergillThe legal bill caused by Councillor Maxine Fothergill has reached £1,338.30 excluding a couple of train fares and the first class stamp to convey an allegation of Attempting to Pervert the Course of Justice to the Chief Constable of Kent.

Councillor Fothergill signed a Statement which the Police totally failed to check and used as a basis for their Charge of Harassment.

She claimed that I wrote 41 blogs in 2015 and 2016 which were written “in a manner which read that I had done something wrong and had been abusing my position as a councillor”. She went on to claim that Bexley Council had found her Not Guilty of obtaining a financial advantage for herself. One might wonder how she nor anyone else thought to tell me that I was misreporting her for a whole year. She was most definitely found guilty by Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct Committee.

Four of the blogs listed made no reference to Councillor Fothergill at all. 19 were critical of Bexley Council, not Fothergill. Nine suggested she had done nothing wrong and Bexley Council was pursuing her over nothing much and one said she was definitely innocent. The remainder reported background information such as clients reporting their missing money to the police and being ignored.

Councillor Fothergill said Bonkers was “attempting to destroy me” and the stress created was “directly linked” to her bowel becoming perforated and the loss of business contracts. Thanks to witnesses I know the dates of those events and nothing adds up.

The Chief Constable is also to be asked why he personally ignored three complaints sent to him alleging theft of six figure sums.


Mobile Bonkers
Over the weekend a mobile friendly version of the blog pages was tested, hence no new blogs.

At present everything on Bonkers is specified to the very last pixel so image sizes are fixed. The Mobile version allows them to expand or contract dependent on the size of the viewing window or viewport as it is known. It works but it’s not perfect. Why for example do all the Windows desktop browsers display everything perfectly even if the Window is dragged to Mobile size, but the Android version of Chrome displaces some images?

 

16 March - Four Friday Farces

Councillor training
In only seven weeks time there will be new Councillors in Bexley who will need to be trained in the weird ways of Councillors.

Here is an extract from the ‘induction course’ kindly sent to me by one of the 2010 intake.


When first becoming a Councillor one must be aware of a website called BEXLEY IS BONKERS. It is run by MALCOLM KNIGHT and is anti-Bexley Borough Council.

As councillors you must not look at the website to prevent its ratings being boosted.

The website is so well known within Bexley Borough Council that we have blocked it from being viewed on computers within the Civic Offices.


From what I have heard it is blocked in libraries too.

The extract was provided in writing above a signature but it may not be true, it did after all come from a Tory Councillor. Bonkers was not barred in the Civic Offices until April 2011.

Moronic parking
Moron MoronMost days, not necessarily all day, access to my drive is bIocked by moronic parking and Crossrail has not even started yet!

This van has managed to block me twice this week. End on parking overlapping a dropped kerb by quite a margin. A couple of weeks ago a delivery vehicle attempting the near impossible access knocked my wall down and ripped its tyre open.

Do you think Bexley Council would be willing to do something about it? No, neither do I. In my experience their parking enforcement team takes days to respond.


Where’s the refund?
BinsThe snow went 13 days ago and a week later Bexley Council said its waste collection service was still running a day late which was entirely understandable. However what isn't acceptable is missing collections over a wide area as they have here in Belvedere and not reacting to residents complaints.

Brown bin collection is a whole week late.

Bin collection is a paid service in Bexley and if they take the money they should deliver that service like any other provider would be expected to do.

Note: My garden waste bin was emptied on 17th March. Only mine, all the others along the road are still waiting. Not one iota of sense on display.


The police on hate
HateChilling isn’t it?

More than once I have been told by Bexley Council employees that senior Council officials and Councillors “absolutely hate you”.

I suppose it must be true.

Is that why Councillors have three times reported me to the police for harassment? For threatening arson, for revealing personal details of a minor, for issuing threats and using derogatory language, none of which was anything like true.

However it seems there is a remedy. “Even if you haven’t committed a crime, you may have committed a crime.” (© Old Holborn X on Twitter.)

The Metropolitan Police says the Councillor’s reasons for making up such hateful nonsense are criminal.

I have already written to the police once this week with an allegation of criminal behaviour by a Bexley Councillor. Maybe if I have a spare moment next week…

 

15 March - Harrow Place?

Peabody Housing Association showed off its plans for Abbey Wood’s empty Harrow Inn site this afternoon and given the time of day chosen (3 to 7 p.m.) the average age of those in attendance just before 4 p.m. must have been around 70.
Exhibition
The building facing the Wilton Road/Abbey Road junction looked to be decent enough but I couldn’t find anyone in favour of the Knee Hill end. It is a massive 14 storeys high and will overlook every garden from McLeod Road to Manorside Close and probably wreck television reception for anyone immediately to the East still using Freeview.

The architect has tried to soften the outline by somehow allowing see through panels but the high level view looked a bit too like a medieval castle to me. On the other hand no one will be looking at it from that angle.

I didn’t like it but I am not sure why.

The present design incorporates 37% affordable homes with no provision made for car parking apart from a handful for disabled use only. (†) In other words it is Sadiq Khan friendly.

As expected there will be retail units facing Wilton Road.

There were no leaflets to be taken away but a few photographs may be seen here.

In other news Bexley Council has today confirmed what those with their ear to the ground knew anyway. Commuters are not going to get their car park back when Crossrail vacates their Felixstowe Road site.

† It has been reported that others who asked the same question were given different answers.

 

14 March (Part 3) - An analysis of a Statement

I have been considering whether an allegation of Attempting to Pervert the Court of Justice can be brought against Councillor Maxine Fothergill. Her signed Statement to Kent Police clearly says that she is liable to prosecution if she willfully stated anything known to be false. Would someone labelled a liar in the High Court remain entirely truthful when making her Statement?

You will note that the police interviewed Fothergill eleven days after they interviewed me.
Tweet

Signature removed

Fothergill told the police that Bexley-is-Bonkers is an “anti Bexley Council website and as Councillors we are told not to view the website. It is blocked on computers in the Bexley Council building”.

“The first time Malcom (sic) Knight posted personally about me was on 8th December 2015.” That is not true, Bexley Council did not reveal which Councillor had been interviewed by its Code of Conduct Committee until 23rd December and the news was featured on Bonkers the same day, not before.

Fothergill went on to say “a hearing took place and it was determined that I was found not guilty”. A blatant lie.

Not content with that Fothergill told the police that the Bonkers’ reports “read that I had done something wrong” and “they were all about my personal business and my family”. As you will know, the initial reports merely reflected what was on Bexley Council’s website. They were not all about her business and there was no mention of her family whatsoever; the obvious reason being that I knew nothing of her family.

Fothergill complains that I “implied she was syphoning money out my clients for myself’. The blog to which she refers said that a cheque for £244,507 had been paid to Fothergill’s business and that her clients claimed that “they didn’t see much for their money” and had reported her to the police who had done absolutely nothing about their concerns.

Fothergill was secretly audio recorded admitting that she had lost her clients’ money and that recording refers to “about £100,000, it’s high” and “dishonesty from a member of staff or former member of staff”. A police investigation concluded that none of Fothergill’s staff had taken anything. They continued to look away when asked to investigate where the money had actually gone.

Fothergill told the police that she was reviewing Bonkers daily and “there were lies appearing on this website most days. I would be constantly worrying what people would think and what was going to appear on the website next”.

Strange that someone who phoned me within hours of posting news of her lost libel case and followed it with a solicitor’s letter made no attempt to contact me over these ‘daily lies’ in 2015. The first email ever from Fothergill was sent to me on 19th September 2017, three days after we met and reached an agreement about those 40 blogs.

“As a result of the stress I became very unwell and in January 2016 was taken into hospital as I was not eating and drinking properly. My kidneys were not functioning properly and as a result of this I spent a week being treated in hospital.”

A further claim was that Bonkers caused “a perforated bowel directly linked to stress”.

Leaving aside the fact that by January 2016 few blogs did more than report what Bexley Council had made public, the lady who escorted Fothergill to her private hospital came forward and told me exactly why Fothergill’s health was poor. Her problems were ‘eating and drinking’ related but predated any report on Bonkers. Fothergill had an elective procedure which need not be detailed here but nowhere on the web suggests that a perforated bowel can be attributed to stress. The lady hospital escort offered to be a witness to Fothergill’s lie in Court.

Fothergill claimed to be “suicidal”. Once again one must ask why she, or maybe her husband, made no attempt to contact me.

Fothergill complained that I had headlined her lost libel case with the words ‘The price of lying’. She told the police the libel case over her use of “wrong wording in two letters”. Bonkers had “insinuated” that she had been lying! The High Court proceedings did rather more than insinuate.

She said I “threatened to publish personal information about myself” which would have been difficult as at the time I didn’t know of anything personal. I had also told Fothergill by email and publicly that I did not intend to go any further with the story, an olive branch that was rejected because it did not include removing earlier news reports.

Fothergill said that she was “again very distressed by the posts which had appeared on his website. Due to this I rang Malcom Knight on 13th November 2017 to discuss this and asked Malcom to take the post down.”. She did but on 13th November the only post on the subject was one repeating the Court listing exhibited on the High Court website. All her complaints to me, even after I had put a stop to the story were about taking the posts down, never about them being untruthful except when she accused me of fabricating an email from a police officer.

Fothergill then protested that I would not look at the “evidence that the information he was providing on his website was incorrect”. I rejected the offer as it would only extend the story and I had posted relevant Court documents without significant comment. The place for such evidence was the High Court but it had been rejected there. Why would I want to argue with the High Court?

Fothergill told the police about seeking legal advice to see if Bonkers could be silenced but she did not tell them that her solicitor found no reason to do so.

Apparently I was determined “not to stop posting derogatory and damaging comments about me.” The only time BiB went beyond letting the facts speak for themselves was when I said that committing libel is “silly” and knowingly making false allegations of theft against an innocent employee is “nasty”.

Fothergill objected to the publication of a Court exhibit that suggested that she was encouraging an employee to seek favours from contractors. “The post is a personal attack on me implying I am corrupt”. The commentary suggested it probably wasn’t a corrupt act but legal opinion has since said that interpretation wrong.

Fothergill said she felt “threatened and intimidated” when I said that getting me into Court might make the case “go viral”

The police summarised her statement as follows.
Summary
You will note that Fothergill had convinced the police that she was found not guilty of abusing her position as a Councillor while Bonkers had reported that she was. More importantly Bexley Council’s website confirms that the BiB report was correct.

It is true that more than 40 blogs over almost ten months referred to that abuse of her position in some way. Some were only very indirect references to Fothergill, some didn’t mention her at all.

In December 2015 and January 2016 there were six blogs based on attendance at the Code of Conduct hearings with extracts taken from Bexley Council’s website.

There were nine which merely referenced the 13 Freedom of Information Requests submitted by Michael Barnbrook and Elwyn Bryant.

There was one blog listing Fothergill’s business interests all of which were already freely available elsewhere on the web.

There was a picture of Fothergill’s house based on information she had placed on her company website.

There was a picture of a cheque which had been queried by her clients who did not believe Fothergill had provided good value for their money. Fothergill had admitted on tape that clients’ funds were missing.

By 28th January 2016 BiB began to doubt that Fothergill had committed any crime and did so again on 4th February 2016. Over the following eight months 20 more blogs described how that probable innocence was established culminating in a blog entitled ‘Maxine Fothergill is innocent OK?’

All 40 blogs were prefixed with a message confirming that innocence - but it’s harassment, right?

 

14 March (Part 2) - Endemic police corruption

I know it is easily said but it is also easily proved. The police are far too political and because of it, corrupt to the core.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) was set up in 1985 to replace the discredited Police Complaints Board and 19 years later the PCA was disbanded as not fit for purpose and replaced on All Fool’s Day by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. (IPCC.)

Their true Independence was easily confirmed by their staffing levels on opening day. A staggering 84% were ex-coppers or ex-customs. (†) Inevitably there was not a lot of Independence on display.

WhistleblowerA former Metropolitan Police Officer who went on to work for the IPCC says it is riddled with “corruption and discriminatory practices”.

And probably it is. (Click image for newspaper report.)

When Bexley Police were refusing to properly investigate the obscene blog that we now know originated on Cabinet Member Peter Craske’s internet connection I complained to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Commissioner. That was six long years ago.

He sent the complaint to his Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) and six months later their Sergeant Michelle Gower provided me with a pathetic white wash. It just didn’t make any sense and was full of the most elementary errors.

I passed her report to the IPCC who agreed that Sergeant Gower had failed to conduct any sort of proper enquiry. They sent it back to the Met’s DPS in 2013 and it was two years before they even got around to looking at it.

Despite the investigating officer making lots of encouraging noises and promising “to get you a result on this one” at the end of 2017 he reported that not one single police officer in Bexley had done anything wrong.

It was easy enough to drive a coach and horses through the lame excuses provided and an eight page letter (plus 30 pages of appendices) went to the IPCC last December.

In the meantime the IPCC become totally discredited like all of its predecessors and was rebranded to try to hide its failures. It became the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Last week I received a 14 page letter from the IOPC bearing the same signature as that on their first (IPCC) response more than five years ago. The letter confirms that absolutely no police officer in Bexley made any mistakes.

The IOPC has explained that tracing the obscene blog to Cabinet Member Craske’s home address in the October but not seizing his computer until the following June was entirely consistent with efficient policing.

Finding the offending blog on his computer and deciding that he must have downloaded it (and another not yet published) from the web out of curiosity like loads of other people gave Craske an entirely plausible excuse. Forgetting that they had traced the obscenities to his IP address and not someone else’s eight months earlier was not a grave error to disgrace every officer involved.

Conspiring with Bexley Council and the Crown Prosecution Service to “resolve Councillor Craske’s situation” is not in any way a strange thing to do. There may not be an explanation for it but attempts to pervert the course of justice must be accepted.

Need I go on? There are pages of similar nonsense. Seven years after Councillor Craske had his moment of madness hundreds of letters and emails have proved just one thing. The police and their protectionist bodies are all hopelessly corrupt.

The root cause of it in the Craske case was political interference. A Sergeant in Bexley admitted it. She then denied it locally when she realised that was not the party line but admitted it again when interviewed by the DPS.

Elwyn Bryant’s theory is probably correct. That theory is that Councillor Craske would have been charged but for Bexley Conservatives calling in a favours from high places. That might explain why Bexley Police chose to ignore CPS advice too.

† Source: Dirty cops, bent justice and racism in Scotland Yard by Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn.

 

14 March (Part 1) - Five days late

It is perhaps just a little too trivial for a blog but after the snow disappeared on 3rd March my green bin was emptied only four days late which I considered to be pretty good in the circumstances.

However the brown (garden waste) bin collection due a week later is now five days late and I reported it on Bexley’s website this morning. I’d never had to do that before and it wasn’t too difficult but it was disappointing to note that there is no provision for saying the whole street and indeed all of them nearby, had been missed.

If other people report their missed collection it could result in Serco making dozens of individual trips out rather than doing the whole lot in one go.

And if they never do collect the bin, how does one go about claiming a refund?

 

13 March (Part 3) - Health warning

Probably you should not read this blog if you are not in the very best of health.

I have been trawling through the Statement Councillor Fothergill made to Swanley Police as part of her campaign to have me censor the news. I’m not sure I will ever be able to publish everything I consider to be untruthful but maybe one of her more imaginative claims can be mentioned.

I was accused of causing so much stress that the Councillor’s bowel perforated. The two were “directly linked”.

I am no doctor obviously but no NHS or similar website attributes a perforated bowel to stress and in any case a former Fothergill employee came forward to say the intestinal problems first occurred in 2012, long before any blogging. Councillor Fothergill and I were corresponding by email during the month the police were told her bowel perforated and there was no reference to any illness. Maybe the problem, the details of which I know but will keep to myself, recurred but it was not brought on by me.

 

13 March (Part 2) - Another day, another massive deception

When Bexley Conservatives post on Twitter you can be pretty sure that there will be more to it than at first meets the eye.


TweetTheir latest effort adopts a fairly standard format; dig up something from the past which we are supposed to have long forgotten, claim that the Tories did the right thing and claim that Labour voted against it.

Put like that it is almost true but as usual fails to tell the whole story.

In 2012 Bexley Council sold a large chunk of land in Slade Green to Redrow Homes. The site had previously been occupied by the Howbury Centre and arguably, maybe even certainly, it was in need of a rebuild but with space remaining for new houses.

The price paid by Redrow was said to be £14 million but it was never confirmed, it being regarded as commercially sensitive.

A figure that was made public was £8·6 million. That was what Bexley Council spent on developing the replacement Howbury Centre. Their statement is still available on line.

Bexley Council upset many people by transferring management of the new Howbury Centre from a voluntary group which had raised a million pounds to keep things running nicely and handed it to a commercial group with a blemished financial record which promptly raised nursery costs from £1 to £8 a session.

Bexley Council decided to spend the estimated £5·4 million ‘profit’ on their Tory heartlands. Labour wanted them to invest it in Slade Green which had provided the wherewithal.

Whether or not that was a good idea one could debate at length but in 2018 that no longer matters. What matters is that Labour voted against investing £8·6 million in Slade Green only because they wanted to invest £14 million in Slade Green.

Once again Bexley Conservatives are not telling voters the truth. Please tell me when they do.

 

13 March (Part 1) - A confusing two pronged approach

If there is a problem in Wilton Road, Abbey Wood, I am not convinced the biggest one is begging; from what I hear noisy brothel customers in the middle of the night is more of a nuisance.


TweetBegging undoubtedly goes on. Earlier this year a red headed woman asked me for 50 pence. It has only happened once and she made no fuss when I walked on by.

A week ago I was approached by two more women in Wilton Road but they were not beggars. They said they were from Bexley Council and were trying to find the begging lady, could I describe her, did I know where she was?

They were concerned for her welfare and left me with their business card.

The card indicated they worked for a private care company and not Bexley Council but there is no reason to doubt their claim. If it was true, Bexley Council is right to be concerned for the beggar’s welfare. Several traders have said that she will prostitute herself for a few pence and Facebook posters have said the same in more graphic terms. She has been banned from entering some shops and clearly needs help.

There is at least one other beggar on Wilton Road. A couple of days ago a man asked me for money outside McColl’s where I bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph and just a couple of minutes later he asked the same question as I picked up a copy of the Metro at the station.

A nuisance but over three or four months not exactly a big deal.

The police however must think it is. The two ladies who claimed to be working for Bexley Council were concerned for the beggars’ safety but the police appear to have abandoned the softly softly approach.

A trader told me that the police located and warned the beggars last Friday and yesterday the police Tweeted that they had issued a Community Protection Notice.

Most visitors to Wilton Road will be pleased to see the back of the beggars but I am inclined to think that Bexley Council had the right idea when they sent the two ladies to look for the vulnerable redhead. But as I have learned, police will always take the easy option.


CPN
The Tweet refers to Greenwich Council but not Bexley. Maybe they are not united in their approach.

 

12 March (Part 2) - Experts in the art of deception

Stretching the truth somewhat is what Bexley Conservatives do - all day every day.
Tweet
The above is a two day old extract from their website.

The whole truth is rather different. In 2014 all three parties were keen to reduce the number of Councillors but it was the Labour Group which made the first move.

On 23rd July 2014 they put forward a formal Motion calling for the numbers to be reduced.

This is it.
Motion

Labour’s Motion.

The Tories voted it down, what else would you expect? They hate crediting Labour with anything. UKIP made a similar suggestion, Bexley Conservatives voted against that too.

The Conservatives followed Labour with a Motion of their own, it wasn’t a bad one and eventually had the desired effect but don’t ever let the Tories get away with their claim that the savings are thanks only to them. They weren’t first in line to propose it; that accolade goes to Labour Councillor Seán Newman.

 

12 March (Part 1) - “The sergeant must be identified and punished”

TweetI am coming to the conclusion that there must be a complaint against Sergeant Robbie Cooke of Swanley Police. He is the man who took the decision to charge me with harassment following Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s last desperate attempt to hide the news of her lost libel case.

The complaint will not be that he had no understanding of the law or that he sympthetically listened to a woman who admitted to making false statements in the High Court but that he made not one check to see if she might be telling the truth.

He accepted without question that the Councillor was found not guilty of an “act to gain financial or other material benefits for herself” when a quick look at Bexley Council’s website would have shown the claim to be false. Councillor Fothergill told Cooke that she was “not guilty, other than how this could have been perceived in the public eye”.

Councillor Fothergill told me that her business, AMAX Estates, was being damaged because BiB had brought the libel action to notice and the news must be removed because the whole world was able to see it.


“What you put on your blog is out there on the WWW forever unless removed but still serves to cause troubles all the time.”


She told Sergeant Cooke the same but if he had Googled AMAX Estates at the time of the complaint he would have found only one Bonkers’ entry, a blog entitled ‘Maxine Fothergill is innocent, OK?’ - and even that has since disappeared from view.

And so the police failures go on, and on and on.

Priority will be given to other matters of which Perverting the Course of Justice is in prime position, but sooner or later there will have to be a complaint to Kent Police.

 

11 March - Fallen on hard times? No vote for you then

TweetIf you have followed events in Tower Hamlets or some of our university towns you will know that voter fraud has become a problem that should be tackled, but how?

Conservative Councillor Philip Read has circulated a view that would disenfranchise many.

My 97 year old aunt has become a non-person because her birth certificate cannot be found - she was born in 1920 in Rangoon - and cannot establish residency because she has been away from home for three months. She is therefore unable to provide the three items of ID required for a Blue Badge and the Carers’ Allowance.

Philip Read would deprive her of her vote too.

 

10 March - Feeling better now

The removal of the threat of six months imprisonment for publishing news of a Bexley Councillor labelled a liar by the celebrity solicitor Mark Lewis did remarkably little to lift my mood but yesterday’s article by 853blog seems to have done the trick. It also created quite a big stir on Twitter.


Mark LewisAs usual Conservative Councillor Philip Read could only issue insults. Councillor John Davey was banned from Twitter by his boss after likening Mayor Sadiq Khan to Adolph Hitler but Philip Read is given free rein to damage Bexley Tories’ tattered reputation even further. Let’s have more.

David Banks is an expert in media law and a journalist who writes for The Mirror and The Guardian.


Read Banks
I am taking the weekend off, a date with an old lady who may or may not remember who I am. “Who is that gentleman over there?”

 

9 March (Part 3) - An independent look at the Fothergill case

KnightThose of you not yet bored to death by Maxine Fothergill’s harassment allegations may care to take a look at the 853 blog where Darryl Chamberlain explains a little of went on. He reveals some things that are yet to appear on Bonkers, in particular that the Councillor persuaded Kent Police that she was found not guilty of breaching Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct contrary to what may still be read on Bexley’s website.

She claimed that she was “not guilty, other than how this could have been perceived in the public eye”.

This effrontery is on a par with going into the High Court with forged letters.

 

9 March (Part 2) - Exposing wrong doing is costly

There has been some interest in the likely cost of defending legitimate news reporting against a Bexley Councillor who required the news to be removed as the truth might damage her business. The real expense was of course caused by a Police Sergeant in Swanley who appears to be totally clueless about the law relating to Court reporting and journalism in general.

At present I do not know what the total cost will be. The first solicitor I saw was looking for something in the region of £25,000 to run a two day trial during which he thought he could totally humiliate the Councillor in question. I was only looking to be found innocent and it seemed to me at the time that with the maximum possible fine being £5,000 it might be more sensible to plead guilty.

I am expecting a bill for the advice given that day but as yet it hasn’t arrived.

A second solicitor thought the job could be done for £3,600 which he demanded up front. In the event he had to do nothing apart from spending an hour and a half taking notes about the background to the harassment nonsense.

A couple of days ago I was told I am due a refund but how big I do not yet know. The solicitor will also be seeking reimbursement of costs but the Conservative government has changed the rules to ensure that true justice is consigned to the history books. I will, if I am recompensed at all, only get costs at the Legal Aid rate.

I doubt I will organise any crowd funding for what will likely turn out to be a relatively small expenditure, I shall look at it as a necessary expense incurred while exposing the standards of behaviour one can expect from a Conservative Councillor in Bexley. Well some of them anyway.

Meanwhile a couple of readers have been incredibly generous, an anonymous £40 tumbled through my letter box a couple of weeks ago and this morning a large brown envelope flopped on to the doormat. Inside were four £20 notes.

How about that then? How can such people be thanked?

The sleepless nights and weight loss have however had one very positive effect. The number of Twitter followers has been quickly boosted by 120. It is not a way of increasing numbers that I would wholeheartedly recommended.
Twitter

 

9 March (Part 1) - Happy Wood

Lift Harrow Inn
The Abbey Wood station lift to Felixstowe Road was brought into service yesterday, only three months late. Please don’t mention the name Stannah to any of the Network Rail managers.

250 metres away Peabody plans to build on the old Harrow Inn site, it would be unkind to say “only nine years late’ but that is how long Abbey Wood residents have had to put up with the eyesore which dominated their locality.

Go and look at Peabody’s plans next Thursday. Some older plans may be seen here. Related blog.

 

8 March - Vote Labour

There are some Council meetings which really have to be reported straight away and there are some days when the time available for blogs is extremely limited and sometimes the two coincide. Today is one of those days.

Last night Bexley’s Full Council was due to rubber stamp its 3·99% Council Tax increase, not quite a full Council actually, Councillor Fothergill did not show up. You might think that the huge Tory majority would ensure a quick vote in favour of the proposed increase but there was nothing quick about yesterday evening, it dragged on for close to three and a half hours while numerous Conservatives queued up to tell each other how wonderful they were.

The evening started well enough when Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer gave me an especially warm welcome. I would guess that he at least is content to see the Member for Colyers put back in her bottle, however it was mainly downhill from then onwards.
Council
Something I have noticed with six of the seven Mayors I have seen perform is that even the best of them, and Councillor Peter Reader has been one of the better ones, is that at this time of the year, realisation that they are soon to rejoin their nobody friends on the Tory benches sets in. All trace of impartiality then disappears. Four or five times last night Labour Members pointed out that Tories were breaking Standing Orders and each time it happened the Labour Councillor was told to shut up by the Mayor and the Conservative was invited to carry on. The seventh Mayor did that throughout her year in office and not just at the end.


MayorThe Mayor also stretched the rules by allowing a new Tory Motion to take precedence over those already in the queue, it was a blatant piece of electioneering “utterly condemning” Mayor Sadiq Khan for his decision to merge Bexley’s police with Greenwich and Lewisham. In my humble opinion Sadiq Khan is possibly the biggest (or should that be smallest?) idiot to ever be elected to high office and few would doubt that Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich would make a better match.

The Labour Group wanted to expand the Motion to call for more government funding, but that would look like Bexley Tories were criticising the Conservative government so they were having none of it however sensible it might have been. More than once the Conservatives fell about laughing at the very idea and voted it down.

Labour proposed a rebalancing of the budget which would mean that the newly formed BexleyCo would run off with less of our money but the payback would be no park sales and a restored CCTV system.

During the ensuing debate Council Leader Teresa O’Neill criticised Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) for his support for maximising housing opportunities and tried to twist his words to mean he was in favour of building on parks. Danny had been speaking only of brown field sites of course, it is the Tories who are hell bent on building over parks.

Labour Councillor Brenda Langstead (North End) reminded everyone that a huge unused park lay behind Church Road in Bexleyheath. Whose house backs on to that unsullied space? Council Leader O’Neill’s of course.

Labour's Press Release on building over parks.

The abandoned CCTV system came in for much comment. The Tories are spending £585,000 a year on maintaining it but not spending the £225,000 needed to staff it. Both Cabinet Member Craske and Teresa O’Neill said the police were monitoring it but everyone knows that is a lie. In his report to the People Scrutiny Committee following the Northumberland Heath riot the Borough Police Commander stated very clearly that it was followed on Social Media not CCTV. Maybe a few coppers went into the control room late in the day but that is a long way from it being used effectively.

Labour's Press Release on the restoration of CCTV.

After Conservatives Linda Bailey, Val Clark, David Leaf, Gareth Bacon, Geraldine Lucia-Hennis, Ray Sams, Eileen Pallen, Sybil Camsey, Steven Hall, James Hunt, Louie French, Melvin Seymour, Caroline Newton, Brian Bishop, Christine Bishop, Colin Tandy, Brad Smith and Christine Catterall all stood up and waffled to various degrees of ineffectiveness, Cabinet Member Don Massey accused the Labour speakers of being “the comedy act”. The man is a very bad joke.

Councillor June Slaughter said something about Old Farm Park which was so far out of character for her that I am not going to report it before she is given an opportunity to better explain it.


DourmoushCouncillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) said he was pleased that Bexley Council was building a new town in Thamesmead which will come as news to everyone, especially Peabody Housing Association.

After behaving himself in Council for the past year or so Cabinet Member Philip Read decided it was time to reopen his dispute with his opposition shadow Mabel Ogundayo. When she first took office he took issue wth her youthfulness and inexperience and left many of us with the impression he was not in favour of the election of attractive black women. His criticism then was that she took three weeks to respond to his urgent email about a young child said to be in need of the Council’s help. The delay was entirely due to her parents’ preoccupation with their daughter being close to death with meningitis.

Dragging up ancient history for an imaginery political advantage while he was supposed to be debating the budget was a disgraceful performance by Cabinet Member Read and detrimental to his achievements in Children’s Services. A leopard never changes its spots.

Councillor Read said that Labour was nothing but “a collection of slogans masquerading as a political party”.

As the meeting dragged on I amused myself by viewing it as an election hustings which in many ways it was.

As you may know I am a traditional Tory voter, at least I was until David Cameron became Prime Minister. I very much regret voting Liberal when a friend stood in Aldershot in the 1960s and I gritted my teeth when I cast my one and only Labour vote for Danny Hackett in 2014, but he had become a friend too. I had no idea who I might vote for next May, in part because Danny has gone to Thamesmead and I had no confirmation of who the candidates might be in Belvedere.

Yesterday’s lamentable performance by a bunch of self-serving, self congratulating, arrogant, unlistening and occasionally lying Tories has made up my mind very firmly. There is no way anyone can vote for such a bunch. A bunch who it might be said appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Resources Committee no less, someone who admits to losing “about £100,000” of clients’ money.

I detect not the slightest bit of Corbynitis among Bexley’s present Labour Group, I am going to vote for them next May before Momentum comes and gets them!

Note: Blog from written notes, not the audio recording.

 

7 March (Part 2) - Some thankyous are due

The past month or three has shown how many friends Bonkers has and it is only right that some get a mention.


TweetMark Lewis the solicitor who pursued Councillor Fothergill in the High Court was a constant comfort and ally. He told Kent Police that he would take action against them if they continued to effectively prevent the reporting of Court procedings. There was never an expectation of him being paid and the same goes for his barrister friend Julian Hunt. Julian gave me two hours of his time free of charge and it was him who phoned me around 17:30 last Monday with the words, “Hello, I have some good news for you”. Somehow or other the CPS believed he was acting for me when he wasn’t and sent him their decision to abandon their prosecution.


TweetIf It was not for Julian I might well have gone to Sevenoaks on a fool’s errand.

Locally there was constant support from bloggers, Hugh Neal (Maggot Sandwich), Richard Spink (Thamesmead Grump) and Darryl Chamberlain (853blog).

Political support came from Teresa Pearce MP who fired off two letters to Kent Police and Bexley Councillors, Daniel Francis, Danny Hackett, Brenda Langstead and Seán Newman all had kind words to say. A similar number of Tories did likewise but naming them might bring retribution; but in some ways they were more supportive than Labour with phone calls, Twitter Direct Messages and Mobile texts.

From the press came the support of the editor of the News Shopper and their Bexley reporter. From further afield there was interest from Private Eye, The Register and the Sun.

Four people, themselves all victims of my accuser, sent a dozen or more letters crammed with evidence that the Charge Statement was almost entirely false. Those letters went to both Kent Police and their Legal Services Team in Maidstone.

Then there was the less formal. The residents who had rejoiced when their Councillor neighbour moved out of town, the police officer who believed that the Councillor must be brought to justice but suffered interference from above.

And what of the police many have asked, what do I think of them? Not a lot. I have for the past 30 years regarded them with the greatest of suspicion, how could it be otherwise when a family member had his skull split open by a police officer or his hireling for trying to expose their corruption?

When the police have alienated every honest citizen how will they ever get the co-operation upon which they claim to depend? Not from me that is for sure.

Over the past 24 hours I have re-read everything I wrote about the Code of Conduct guilty verdict and cannot find a single thing that gets anywhere near harassment. Every blog that was not a factual record of what Bexley Council was saying was either critical of Bexley Council and/or supportive of the accused Councillor.

To call it harassment as the Sergeant in Swanley did can only mean he didn’t read a word of it before charging me. My criticism of the police is mainly directed at whoever thought that police officer was Sergeant material.

Will I make a formal complaint against him? Probably not. The police investigate themselves and whatever malpractice they uncover will be deemed to be standard practice at the time. Previous complaints have gone on for up to seven years and all they did was prove beyond any doubt that the police are corrupt. To challenge them is a waste of life.

Will I allege harassment against my accuser? No way. The law is an ass about harassment and I will not be a hypocrite who exploits its stupidity.

What has to be pursued is the catalogue of lies stacked against me in the statement to police. It was untruthful in practically every detail and to make such an untruthful statement is a criminal offence.

Getting Kent Police to accept an allegation may prove to be difficult. I am aware of eight allegations of crime against my accuser and all of them have been ignored or rejected by Kent Police.

On the other hand I was told yesterday that I am the seventh person to be on the receiving end of false allegations to Kent Police from the same source and they reacted instantly to every single one of them. But not one resulted in a conviction.

A lot of money remains unaccounted for. Will Kent Police ever begin to look for it?

One can only assume corruption by someone somewhere.

 

7 March (Part 1) - The natives are revolting

Anyone who has reason to drive at the time schools are opening or closing will know exactly how atrocious some of the driving and parking to be found at those times can be.

Why it has to be like that is beyond me. Not once did I ever drive my children to school and picked them up only on those rare occasions I got off early from work, the number of occasions may never have reached double figures.

School was about a mile and a half away although I learned only recently that both of them took the forbidden short cut along the canal towpath where a strange man sometimes asked what colour knickers the girls were wearing.

It is all very different now and residents who live close to Old Bexley Primary School have just about had enough of irresponsible drivers.

Some pictures would have been nice but they have gained the support of the Local Government Ombudsman who has ruled that Bexley Council is in breach of Condition 6 of the planning consent for the expanded school. Bexley Council has failed to put a Travel Plan in place and is currently refusing to consult with residents. Their age old tactic.

The police have confirmed that access by emergency vehicles has been blocked but still Bexley Council does nothing. Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer has organised a few visits by traffic wardens but is otherwise considered by residents to be ineffective.

Residents are being encouraged to complain and template letters are available on the residents’ website, www.stmarysward.org.

 

6 March - What can I say?

At 11:45 this morning the postman delivered a letter from Sevenoak’s Magistrates’ Court, it said I had to be there by 9:30 this morning or else. I hope that yesterday’s email from the CPS takes precedence.

I am very much aware that I am expected to comment here on recent events but it might be some while before I am thinking straight again. I really could do with a break.

I have contemplated giving up on Bonkers, it has been demonstrated three times now that if a Councillor goes to a police station with a complaint, however far fetched and untruthful it may be, the police will take action without a second thought. It is extremely stressful and very expensive. It is also very dangerous that such power is so regularly abused.

It is tempting to take three months off while Bonkers is made mobile friendly because the 2009 design is now a long way from ideal, however numerous readers say I must never abandon monitoring our Council, so I suppose I had better pick myself up however difficult that might be.

I would have thought that someone who finds themselves in the news would be best served by keeping a low profile until things calm down. Where are Harvey Weinstein and the Oxfam managers these days?

The last thing a sensible person should do is risk even more news becoming public. I was charged with harassing a Bexley Councillor continuously for two years. From 8th December 2015 to 1st December 2017. Why would someone wait that long before complaining?

The early months of 2016 were spent proving to my satisfaction at the time that the Councillor had annoyed so many colleagues that they may have exacted some sort of unjustified revenge. More than a year later my support became harassment.

During the time I was supposed to be harassing a Councillor I discovered that a cannabis farm had been found in a house owned by the Councillor who confirmed that my information was correct. I chose not to report it while the Councillor in question accused the, quote, Fat Controller of leaking the information to me.

I also ignored the gossip machine which was suggesting who had grown the drugs. I obviously have a lot to learn about harassment.

During the alleged harassment period the ‘harassed’ Councillor sent me a long email suggesting malpractice by named Council colleagues. When the boot is on the other foot the Councillor is happy to see Bonkers point the finger.

I didn’t publish those allegations either, nor did I report three separate false declarations made on planning applications. I think someone intent on harassment may have made merry with all those things, but I didn’t. If I had been I might have illustrated the libel reports with photographs of the libeller, but there were none. Deliberately so.


TweetBelieve it or not I received more support from Conservative ranks than I did from Labour over the last few weeks, they are outnumbered more than 3:1 of course. My supposition that the Councillor in question had annoyed rather a lot of fellow Members looks to be fairly close to the mark.

Just one Tory saw no need to keep their support secret, the Twitter user not subject to the Conservative whip.

I doubt you have heard the last of this subject but that is enough for now.

 

5 March - Wasting police time

CPS

 

4 March - A fly tipper’s tale

Fly tipperWhen I photographed this man dumping builder’s rubble into a Bexley Council plastics bin after forcing its lid off in October 2016 I didn’t expect to be still writing about it 17 months later. I sent the photos of him caught in the act to Bexley’s Head of Waste and a neighbour sent video.

We were asked if we would be willing to be witnesses if there was a prosecution and then everything went quiet. Enquiries went unanswered. A year later I submitted a Freedom of Information request which was acknowledged but never answered. A reminder suffered the same fate so a complaint went to the Information Commissioner. It had the desired effect and the excuses for doing almost nothing are quite revealing.

The open truck was traced to a Registered Keeper in the Midlands but he claimed to have sold the vehicle before the incident occurred. He couldn’t remember who he had sold it to and was reported to the police for failing to register the sale.

A heavily redacted email reveals that Head of Waste Steve Didsbury did intend to report back to both my neighbour and me but he and others managed to confuse my report with a later one (March 2017) from ward Councillor Danny Hackett. Danny was concerned about two yellow vans that were dumped nearby on private property.

Bexley Council’s FOI response tells me that they can do nothing about those two vans. “Regarding the other two vans in the photographs, one is registered SORN and the other is unregistered, untaxed and uninsured. There is no offence of fly-tipping being committed”.

What is that all about? I made no reference to yellow vans in my original report and sent only the three photos of the open truck and the man pictured above. I made no reference to yellow vans in my FOI either.

In mid-December 2016, long before the matter became confused by Councillor Hackett’s yellow van pictures, Councillor Craske was told that “the photographs provided do not legally show that the person was committing an offence”. Did he not look at the photos? They showed a man transferring rubbish from his truck to a Council bin. What could be clearer?


Abandoned vansThe yellow vans are still in situ and according to residents who live in the adjacent flat, they have been for at least the past eight years.

Mr. Didsbury has sent his apologies for never keeping me updated about my report of 11th October 2016 but he and others were totally confused by the fact that two derelict vans were parked nearby which had nothing whatsoever to do with the three photos I had submitted.

The whole episode demonstrates incompetence on the part of Bexley Council. Failing to provide an update on my submission until compelled by the Information Commissioner, being defeated by an unregistered vehicle - surely it must have been picked up by ANPR cameras by now? - and confusing my report with Councillor Hackett’s about two different vehicles made five months after mine.

Incompetence rules OK?

 

3 March - The London Plan. Bexley’s view

Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill opened the debate by saying “we as a borough are up for growth, all Members have signed up to the Growth Strategy but it has to be the right sort of growth”.

“We hosted an event for the Deputy Mayor last month [January] and all the tickets went, a very good take up by residents. A number of guests said that the London Plan was not cogniscent of life in Outer London and especially Bexley with no tube stations etc.”


SalomThe responsible Council Officer Seb Salom said the Plan would be highly influential and the Council would have to conform to it until 2041. “Its main focus is on providing more homes and optimising the use of remaining sites but there are significant differences between the London Plan and Bexley’s Growth Strategy which are of particular concern. It is much too detailed and prescriptive. It goes too far. Our housing target has been increased threefold and small sites by eightfold. We consider it to be undeliverable based on flawed methodology and the promised consultation was not forthcoming.”

“There is an emphasis on zero parking and it will include Bexleyheath town centre which is wholly dependent on the bus network which is not particularly resilient.”


BaileyCabinet Member for Growth Linda Bailey was “so annoyed about how it was going to be put into the borough with no consultation, it was a bit of a farce. The Deputy Mayor stood in front of a hall full of people discussing the London Plan but said he was not going to take anything back. When we do consultations we have to take notice of residents. I am disappointed but it is not my main gripe.”

Increasing the housing target “threefold is not achievable. Our Growth Strategy called for 33,000 homes over a longer period. This [the London Plan] is not building communities, it is really disappointing and the loss of parking spaces is just not on”.

The Leader added that Bexley’s Growth Strategy was produced before the London Plan and was extensively consulted.

Cabinet Member Don Massey said that there is “much in the plan that we would agree with but there are also a lot of things which are very very worrying and problematic. It will set neighbour against neighbour and I find it unbelievable that the Deputy Mayor supposedly came down to listen to people and took nothing out”.


FunnyCouncillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) contrasted Bexley’s response to the plan with that of GLA Conservatives who he suggested were less negative about it. Council Leader O’Neill stopped him in his tracks saying “please don’t play those games”. Councillor Hackett said he did not understand the Leader’s point; the Leader of GLA Conservatives was a Bexley Council Member. Teresa O’Neill became very annoyed with Danny for stating the obvious.

Councillor Hackett tried again but Cabinet Member Linda Bailey said his behaviour “was quite appalling” and again attempted to close down the issue raised by the opposition.

When Councillor Hackett tried one more time Council Leader Teresa O’Neill reminded him who was chairing the meeting and denied him the right of reply. Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) was given the opportunity to speak instead. He said the Council’s response to the London Plan was “excellent”. He too was concerned that the Deputy Mayor had ignored all the comments made by residents and others at the local event.

He said to the accompaniment of ironic laughter that Bexley was exceeding its housing targets.

Councillor Hackett, referring to the former Civic Offices site, said the GLA had concerns about the number of affordable homes to be built there. They are “part rent part buy so not truly affordable housing”.

“We do not want garden grabbing but we do need to take maximum advantage of every site.” The Council Leader reminded Councillor Hackett that the application for the Civic Centre site was “strongly rejected, are you listening Councillor Hackett?”.


SawyerCouncillor Hackett said he was listening while taking notes and that the Leader was “wasting everyone’s time”.

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) reminded Members present that the Labour Group was wholly behind Bexley’s Growth Strategy and “has been from Day 1”. To suggest otherwise was wholly wrong but 1,500 houses had been approved in Bexley without a single one of them being affordable.

Cabinet Member for Transport Alex Sawyer commented on the Plan’s target of “80% of journeys to be made by foot, cycle or public transport. It’s a fine aspiration but not for a borough with no tube and no light railway. The target is laughable, for some in this borough cars are a necessity. Pushing the Crossrail extension scheme back to government is a mistake. Nothing in our lifetimes will impact Bexley residents more than Crossrail. The Mayor should get stuck in.”

The Council’s response to the Consultation was approved. The Consultation has now closed.

 

2 March - Simply trivia

There are three basic types of blogs; the serious, the trivial and those in between. Today material was available for one of each and the plan was to present two of them. However events have got in the way. I almost forgot an annual check up at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and travelled in the freezing rain but arrived with minutes to spare. I was seen right on time but in the few minutes spent with the consultant it had begun to snow hard. Should I gamble on a train from Woolwich Arsenal or opt for the relative comfort of a rattling 469 bus to take me on a circuitous route all the way home? The bus won and it was probably a good decision, by the time I was indoors Twitter was full of Southeastern’s advice to get home quickly while one could.


TwitterToday was rubbish collection day for me and once again I had managed to rustle up only a carrier bag full over the past two weeks. The chances of there being a collection must have been close to zero, the working conditions for the men involved have been atrocious with so few footpaths being ice free. In any case they would be better employed on the gritters keeping the road network usable which they appear to have been doing.


ParkingThey may not have easily got along my road anyway, ice or no, ice as thoughtless parking was to the fore once again. A van has been parked edgeways to the kerb since Wednesday at least. All the residents in my road have reserved off street parking and the van could have been parked three feet further back than it was. But no, the driver prefers to create a hazard very close to a blind corner.

Roll on the yellow lines which will come once Crossrail services begin.

The larger photograph shows a refuse lorry going about its difficult job on Central Avenue in Welling. The picture perfectly illustrates how Cabinet Member Sawyer’s claim that getting traffic from A to B as quickly as possible is total nonsense.

Note how traffic rounds the bend to find a bus stopped and Keep Left bollards carefully placed to prevent any further progress. If there is no bus at the stop the blind bend will reveal a yellow money box junction.

Cabinet Member Sawyer will have got you either way.

Something less trivial tomorrow - probably.

Bexley Council’s bad weather advice.

 

1 March (Part 6) - The Council Tax debate

You will all know by now that Bexley’s Council Tax will be going up by just a little over 4% once Sadiq Khan has taken his cut but perhaps what various Councillors had to say about the rate rise may still be of interest.


O'Neill MasseyCouncil Leader O’Neill said there had been an underspend in the past year of £2·2 million and £263 will be spent next year. Compared with 2010 that is a “reduction of costs of £110 million. They were not actually cuts, they were innovative and creative transformations of service.”

Cabinet Member Don Massey was pleased to have underspent again and to have “kept Council Tax as low as possible for as long as possible. That’s how we keep our reputation for being sensible with money”.

“Our financial position is reasonably sound, in fact it is much better than many other local authorities particularly in London.” (4 minutes and 42 seconds.)


ReadCabinet Member Philip Read felt obliged to once again run down the list of achievements since he took over the Children’s Services role. After scoring an “Inadequate” score only five years ago “children’s services are now the envy of many local authorities.” Youth Services have been improved too and are another example of “preventative work. The Youth Offending Team is now at the front line of preventing young children falling into criminality. It will be given more resources.” (5 minutes and 30 seconds.)

Cabinet Member Linda Bailey took a similar approach. She said her achievements included the Ocado warehouse due to open next May, the Business Awards ceremony now in its sixth year, the “massive” Thamesmead housing zone, Erith and the Carnegie Building, Erith Park and the Arthur Street regeneration. Beside that is the Erith Quarry housing development which Bexley residents are snapping up. Sidcup’s “dying High Street is now thriving”. The Thames Innovation Centre is at last in profit. Blackfen has been improved “and a lot of successful projects”. (4 minutes 32 seconds.)


Smith CraskeCabinet Member Brad Smith galloped through a carefully prepared script while several members of the public stifled yawns. His theme as always was to say the way forward is to spend less through doing things more efficiently, frequently interspersed (three of them) with jibes aimed at the Labour opposition. (7 minutes and 16 seconds but seemed much longer.)

Cabinet Member Craske said that Crayford library lent 21% more items since the premises were shared with the Post Office. There was less money available now compared to 2010 but some things are better. The old Local Implementation Plan was so complicated “that no one could understand it, the system was idiotic and even Transport for London couldn’t understand it. We had to have schemes we didn’t want in order to get projects we did want”.

He “despaired at other Councils which rushed into cutting this and cutting that while Bexley found other ways of doing things. We have been the number one borough for recycling for 13 years and only Ealing has joined Bexley in the 50% club”.

“Libraries are another good example, other Councils rushed in and closed libraries while Bexley has refurbished three in three months. Central library has been transformed.” Inevitably Councillor Craske took credit for the Cory sponsored Belvedere Beach. He was “proud of this budget”. (7 minutes and 17 seconds.)

Cabinet Member John Fuller said that schools are now coming back to the Council for assistance especially with Special Educational Needs. (2 minutes.)

SawyerCabinet Member Sawyer also indulged in a history lesson harking back to 2006. “We have brought real change to this borough”. New roundabouts, new bridges and “getting traffic from A to B as quickly as possible remains the key aim” he said with a perfectly straight face.

The false claim that the LED lighting “brings brighter streets” was repeated for the umpteenth time. The lower electricity costs made it “a win win situation”.

The accident prone Welling corridor scheme was also given a favourable mention and he “looked forward to more prosecutions” of errant motorists. The need for an extended Elizabeth Line was plugged once again. The new Abbey Wood station represents “a new era for the commuters of Bexley” but he is “very concerned about the loss of the loop service”.

Cabinet Member Sawyer was also “proud of this budget” and residents “are proud of this borough”. (7 minutes exactly.)


DaveyCouncillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford for now) said the budget was “brilliant” and more than once that he too was “proud. We have lots of residents who cannot afford their Council Tax.”

For Labour, Councillor Daniel Francis said that some aspects of “what has been heard tonight is a fantasy world. A world where £110 million pounds of cuts don’t involve a single cut, it is all efficiencies. People don’t go out and speak to people because they will tell you that a 25% cut in their grants is having a real effect and what we have heard tonight is not the reality I hear on the doorstep”.

“We are going into an election where members opposite have run out of steam and run out of vision on how we take this borough forward. They will knock on doors saying here is the 4% Council Tax increase, here are all the cuts you continue to have, some of which were reversed at the last moment, but others continued at full throttle saying they are here to protect the most vulnerable members of society; absolute nonsense. Council Tax reduction scheme? They have punished those people the most and that is after twelve years of this Council. The people going into this election will have a choice, a choice between those who will support the most vulnerable or a choice of people who have run out of steam and who will continue to sell those people down the river.

Having heard that the Conservative Cabinet rapidly voted their 3·99% budget through. Will it be enough to lift the borough from its 24th most expensive in London tax position?

 

1 March (Part 5) - Guess the borough

On Bexley’s boundary with Greenwich it is not difficult to see the differing levels of care shown for pedestrians around shopping centres and major transport hubs.
Snow cleared Snow not cleared Snow not cleared Snow not cleared
All photos within a few minutes of mid-day today.

 

1 March (Part 4) - What the lady says…

But her opinion is not shared in Kent or in Bexley.


PMI think some people will have been surprised to learn of those links with some leading politicians. I absolutely agree with my Hon. Friend that a free press is very important: it underpins our democracy.

Whatever those in the press say about us and whatever they write about us, it is important that they are able to hold politicians and the powerful to account and shine a light in some of the darkest corners of our society, and while I am Prime Minister, that will never change.


Note: Prime Minister Theresa May today in response to a question from Mrs. Anne Main, Conservative MP for St. Albans.

 

1 March (Part 3) - One rule for them

My blog comment “No more Maxine Fothergill info. Some has been held back in case of further threats but with luck and good judgment it will never see the light of day” was interpreted by a certain Bexley Councillor as a personal threat which could result in my imprisonment for six months.


TweetOn the other hand an implied threat of violence against a resident dissatisfied with their poor snow clearance operation is deemed to be perfectly OK by Bexley Councillors.

If anyone is inclined to report them to the police for threatening behaviour please be very aware that the Police in both Bexley and Kent apply very different standards when investigating Councillor crime.

There is no need to run through the obscene blog fiasco again is there?

 

1 March (Part 2) - No buses across Bexley? Blame TfL not Bexley Council

The loss of bus services across Bexley yesterday morning was difficult to understand, how could a town centre bus garage become isolated? I was also curious about how the B11 appeared to be running but the 229 wasn’t.

I Googled around to see if the B11 was no longer based in Bexleyheath and drew a complete blank on which route came from where. However a reader has come to my rescue, thanks Brian.


TfLEverything one could possibly need to know about bus routes is on Wikipedia.

There it is revealed that in their infinite wisdom, Transport for London snatched routes 99, 160, 229, 269, 401, 428, 469, 492, B12, B13 and B15 away from Bexleyheath and based them in Dartford.

Mystery solved. You had no bus services yesterday because Tfl is no longer fit for purpose.

Bexley Council’s gritting operation was not that bad, although it was less effective than it might have been because of the lack of buses.

Perhaps we will hear some excuses from the TfL representative at the next Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting.

 

1 March (Part 1) - Fibre future

ISP ReviewA month ago Bexley Council announced that it had applied for a grant to provide public buildings with Gigabyte internet connections. In other words it is not for you, not yet anyway.

The initiative has been given wide publicity in the technical press. Click image for source website.

Perhaps of greater general interest is that the Council wants its planned 31,000 new homes to have a choice of ultra-fast internet providers. Since it will be up to 30 years before those homes arrive maybe Gigabyte fibre internet will be very much old technology by then.

Think Broadband report.
Council Press Release.

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