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News and Comment August 2019

Index: 2020

29 August - L&Q. “Because Homes matter”. What? Even to them?

OverflowEvery six months or so I take a look at an L&Q house not far from Blackfen to see what further bodges that housing provider may have inflicted on the poor lady who lives there. This picture of water cascading from a defective gutter taken from a video published here last February may jog your memory.

Previous blogs on the same subject were written on 14th October 2017, 5th June 2018 23rd August 2018 and 26th February 2019.

The principal and continuing concern may well be persistent damp but I have seen poor plumbing, poor carpentry, very poor fences and probably dangerous electrics.

L&Q do generally turn up and do something about the faults but the jobs are never done properly. No self-respecting home owner would tolerate the standard of workmanship and it is amazing that L&Q are ready to stump up the cash only to see their property systematically ruined.

The house in question is at the end of a terrace of four which were all served by a single gutter and one downpipe. Most people would think that is not sufficient and L&Q presumably agree as they have divided the front gutter (see Photo 1 below) so that one serves three houses and the old downpipe only the damp affected house. The same improvement has not been provided at the rear for the problem area pictured above.


Almost needless to say L&Q bodged the job.
Gutter Original outflow Garden outflow Joined downpipe
Joined downpipe Damp concrete Damp concrete Damp concrete

L&Q’s first attempt terminated the downpipe just above ground level (Photo 2) and caused the wall to become damp. They ‘corrected’ it by extending a pipe across the front garden so as to dump the water further away from the house. (Photo 3.)

The result is that the water from the roof of three houses is dumped into the fourth house, the one which is persistently damp.

Around the back I am not quite sure what they have done but to save a few pence they have constructed the downpipe from two short pieces and used an inadequate joiner. You can see the kink in the pipe in Photos 4 and 5 and it leaks.

The eight photographs shown above were all taken at around 2 p.m. last Tuesday afternoon and there had been no rain for many days beforehand. So why is the concrete path so wet? Photos 6 to 8.

A surveyor’s instrument detected 51 damp patches but according to the lady occupier you don’t really need electronic gadgetry, a few snails and slugs will do.

I suppose some might consider the lady a bit of a fusspot and lucky to live in a Council house but I don’t think she should be forced to accept L&Qs low standards. L&Q however disagree, they told her that if she keeps complaining and rejects inadequate repairs she could lose her house and have forbidden her to write to them again except under strict conditions. The tenant is apparently “abusive”.

In a follow up letter dated 5th June 2019 - from the Business Excellence Manager no less! - L&Q wrote to say that they were “concerned regarding the tone and nature of some comments” and they were going to “monitor your correspondence”. To be fair they did promise to attend to fault reports too but presumably only to L&Q’s abysmal standards.

The lady admits to finding letter writing stressful and I wondered if out of frustration she had resorted to using intemperate language; I asked to see her correspondence file worried that she had given L&Q the excuse they were looking for to get rid of her.

I suppose she had. There were references to leaking gutters, inadequate fences, fuses blowing, snails in the bath, a complaint that a named L&Q official was “rude, arrogant, lacking in knowledge, useless and a disgrace”. Yes, that is sure to set the abuse klaxons sounding.

The description seems about right to me but petty bureaucrats do not need much prompting to opt out of their responsibilities with cries of “vexatious”.

On the day of my visit the occupant was breathing only with great difficulty which she part blames on the dampness. The next day it had deteriorated to the point she was admitted to hospital. I think those of us who live in comfortable homes too easily forget how the less fortunate are forced to live and no doubt there are worse things than scraping mould from bedroom walls and slugs from the bathroom.

 

22 August - Rhys Lawrie has been dead 7 years but still the accusations fly

We are going to miss Tom Bull when he leaves the News Shopper because we went several years without having anyone in the mainstream press who was willing to poke his nose into the murkier corners of Bexley Council.

His story in today’s issue about the best part of a million pounds going into silencing Council staff who have seen what more senior people would prefer they hadn’t seen is very timely.

Not all that long ago I met a lady in a country pub whose conscience was pricking over something she had seen covered up. I have her contact details which could not possibly be mentioned here because it might put her £30,000 Bexley Council pay off in jeopardy. I refused to report on our meeting and suggested that unless her conscience was worth thirty grand she would have to live with her secret. All I will say is that the Council Leader was very directly involved. Gagging orders
Over the past month I have been looking into some very colourful allegations directed at Children’s Services both in Bexley and across the river in Thurrock. The common feature is the people involved, Sheila Murphy and Rory Patterson who have both been employed by both Councils. Another common feature is that children died on their watch both north and south of the Thames.

I have been thumbing through Trevor Lawrie’s files. Trevor you may remember is the grandfather of Rhys whose death in Erith was extensively reported here in 2013.

In brief Bexley Council largely ignored reports from doctors, teachers and the mother herself that Rhys was at risk. More than that he was often seen bloodied and bruised. Within 24 hours of his death from 39 separate injuries the police concluded he died from natural causes. A manslaughter charge was eventually brought nine months later but the grandfather is absolutely certain that they got the wrong man to save Bexley Council embarrassment and as my most recent file perusal suggests, the police too.

Evening Standard It was reported six years ago that not a single first responder was called as witness - some must have known the truth - but the latest file search show that the witness statements were quite obviously doctored. In no case I saw did the signed for number of pages correspond with the actual number of pages sometimes by a factor of three. Pages cut on some, inserted on others, all neatly typed and no signatures.

Some of those witnesses voiced their concern but to no avail. I have seen some of their complaints, all written down. It does not reflect well on the police.

The case always did look suspicious and the more one digs in the more those suspicions are aroused. I did not realise until the recent file inspection that the teachers had made several adverse reports to Bexley Council and not just the one immediately before Rhys’s sad demise. The correspondence reveals that they were seriously worried about Rhys’ situation and Bexley’s neglect.

From across the river comes the more colourful allegations. Child snatching, gagging parents and unsuccessful attempts to section those who do not take their punishment lying down. Four of those accused have Bexley connections, some current.

It seems to me that both sources of information should put their heads together as the two cases have such obvious similarities. Unfortunately one may be concerned for his continued employment and is reluctant to put too many cards on the table. The other, Trevor Lawrie, has no such inhibitions. His email address appeared on the Evening Standard’s website in 2012. It is still there. (Or click image.)

Bexley Council has issued a Press Release on Children’s Services today, I hope you will understand if I take it with a degree of scepticism.

 

16 August - The Leather Bottle battle resumes

Leather BottleAfter lying derelict for three years and a couple of failed planning applications, this week has seen some activity by two men and a mechanical digger on the site of Ye Olde Leather Bottle in Belvedere.

It was Bexley’s oldest pub and demolished under the nose of Bexley Council who did nothing to intervene. They also did nothing when the Health & Safety Executive asked for their co-operation either but thanks to the intervention of Labour Leader Daniel Francis (and others) the developer is due in Court next week on H&SE charges.

When I took these pictures today the workers showed a genuine interest in my well-being as I attempted to negotiate the almost blocked public footpath. They recommended I didn’t use it as the far end was full of drug paraphernalia and needles. Not at all like the reception the developer himself used to mete out.

They were happy to tell me that they were only there to clear the site but added that the plan was to build flats. Anybody would speculate similarly so that comment should perhaps not be given any legitimacy.

The most recent reference to the Leather Bottle on Bexley’s planning web pages is 17/01745/FUL which saw the development plans refused. However there has been a delivery of bricks and building materials. Time for Bexley Council to take action? One would think so but a phone call to the Planning Office failed to raise any interest.

The developer at this site is the same as the one who desecrated part of Lesnes Abbey woods.

Leather Bottle Leather Bottle Leather Bottle Leather Bottle

 

11 August - Something smells

The grandfather of Rhys Lawrie, the almost four year old neglected by Bexley Council and subsequently murdered while Bexley’s Social Workers were too busy partying has been in touch with references to a whole load of new information which has only served to confirm his worst suspicions, if only because he is now banned by a judge from talking publicly about the death of a child.

Was there ever better proof that he is on to something?

He lives very close to me, I will have to see if he is interested in meeting.

Meanwhile across the river in Thurrock similar things are happening which I have again been asked not to delve into too deeply at this stage.

One thing that can be confirmed however - because it is in the public domain if one knows where to look - is that Rory Patterson who wrote the Serious Case Review that allowed Bexley Council to escape from a Baby P sized hole was indeed co-opted by Thurrock Council as a Councillor while a Director of the same Council too.

How strange is that?
Register of Interests

Click image for source document.

 

4 August - Birds of a feather

The more I poke around the web the more I get to understand why Councillor Read was reluctant to answer a question about the connections between the principal players in the Rhys Lawrie case. Rhys did not quite reach his fourth birthday after suffering a life of abuse, abuse that was reported by doctors and teachers alike but ignored by Bexley Council. Just a month before his unnecessary death a teacher warned Bexley Council but it was put aside because it was the Christmas party season and by the time the Social Worker decided it was time for work again it was too late. Rhys had been murdered. Bexley Council went into denial mode. Grandfather Trevor Lawrie is convinced that the police did Bexley Council a favour to get them out of a Baby P situation.

Despite the 39 injuries which proved fatal the police decided that they were commensurate with falling off a a sofa and did not protect a potential crime scene.

Rhys lived in Erith at a time when Bexley Children’s Services were run by Sheila Murphy and and soon after Rory Patterson the previous Director had gone to work for Southwark Council. Conveniently he was selected to write the Serious Case Review that absolved Bexley Council of blame.

Thurrock CouncilMurphy left Bexley too and lo and behold the pair of them got together to run Thurrock Council’s Children’s Services. Under their watch two children have died. The Council tried to gag the local paper and complained about their reporting to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Rory Patterson has now left Thurrock Council, officially a retirement but time will tell.

Google used to reveal that Patterson was at Kensington and Chelsea before coming to Bexley but all that is left now is a reference to a missing web page. At the same time Kensington and Chelsea Social Services Department was headed up by Director Terry Bamford.

He transferred to the Primary Care Trust which promptly ran up debts of £14·5 million. Bamford left in a hurry.

Where did he end up? Err, Bexley. What was I saying the other day about the Merry Go Round of failure?

The information reported above only scratches the surface of what has come my way but much of it cannot be verified through web searches but it all adds credence to the suspicion that Bexley Council was very much more responsible for the death of Rhys Lawrie than they would like to admit and that his Grandfather’s hunt for the truth exposed much more than a conspiracy theory.

Hence the refusal to answer Mr. Barnbrook’s questions. Bexley Council was so concerned by his interest that it published a special Addendum in the meeting minutes to refute his suspicions.

 

1 August - Council employment is just a self interested gravy train

BeltonA few eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that Bexley’s Chief Executive Jackie Belton had been earning around forty grand a year from job pay offs, let alone her inflated salaries.

It was always thus.

In 2011 when Sir Eric Pickles (now Lord Pickles) was Secretary of State for Communities my friends MIck Barnbrook and Elwyn Bryant organised a petition asking the Council to reduce the salaries of their Directors which topped £200,000; twice what the Secretary of State had said should be the maximum.

2011 was peak lying time for Bexley Council. If you think they are too often the most part appalling liars now you should have been watching them back then.

Elwyn and Mick helped by John Watson and Nicholas Dowling trudged the streets for weeks gathering the required 2,000 signatures but Bexley Council, crooked as ever, refused to accept the petition.

They said that Elwyn and Mick had falsified the salaries stated on the petition and they had therefore misled residents. How ironic; the salaries were my only contribution to the petition. It had been sent to me for an opinion and I suggested that instead of using approximate salary figures they took them directly from Bexley’s website so that there could be no argument.

Petition
Despite that Bexley Council rejected the petition by claiming those figures, their own figures, were wrong. As Councillor Linda Bailey famously declared at the very same time; “we can do what we like”. ††

Despite the setback Elwyn’s interest in the subject continued. When the News Shopper revealed that Bexley’s Chief Executive Gill Steward was given £92,000 as a reward for failure he asked his MP James Brokenshire what he thought about it. Mr. Brokenshire was Communities Secretary at the time but thanks to Boris Johnson’s clear out only a week later he didn’t have to reply to the letter. That came from a Civil Servant who said the guidance recommended that large severance packages should be considered by Full Council in public.

Other recommendations are that senior executives voluntarily reduce their earnings, that Chief Executives should be shared between local authorities and that severance payments should be capped at £95,000. The immoral gravy train which is senior Council job appointments is totally out of hand when the Merry Go Round of job swapping becomes the norm.

It was not always thus as another local commentator reminds me…


Your blogs about ex-gratia payments and salaries make alarming reading. I remember as a child council workers were paid less than those from the private sector on the premise that they would receive a better pension. †

More recently an argument was made that to attract the ‘right’ kind of applicant salaries commensurate with the private sector HAD to be offered - without any regard for the advantageous pension benefits. One of the reasons we face the incredible amounts now on offer.

George Osborne, when he was chancellor, saw what was happening and how employees on a final salary pension were getting out of control and he put limits on these pensions.

The law of unintended consequences took over and GPs (among others) began to retire because without an enhanced pension there was little point in continuing to work. Council staff saw a way around this and simply left one job for another collecting another severance payment on the way to the next highly paid job. Something not available to GPs. It seems that Bexley Council has not seen through this or is happy to allow it. Probably the latter.

Since I retired myself I took on an occasional job with a nearby borough, only for a few weeks a year. I’m signed up to the Local Government Pension Scheme and have been amazed at how much pension I have accrued. I pay only 5·5% on a sliding scale whilst the employer contributes another 18·5%. Staggering! On top of that I’m given life insurance and ill health pension rights!!

I’ve been told that the previous pension scheme was even more generous. Mr. Pickles should have sorted that out but alas it didn’t happen.


† I remember my father saying the same thing when I joined the GPO in 1962. It might be more acceptable if Council employees were more competent than they are but one only has to look at the design of Bexley’s roads and roundabouts or the latest bin cock-up to know that they aren’t.
†† Actually “I can do what I like”.

 

News and Comment August 2019

Index: 2020

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