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Bonkers Blog July 2019

Index: 20092010201120122013201420152016201720182019

31 July - Hasn’t he done well?

Falkirk FCI continue to get emails from Falkirk where a mystery man is trying to buy the football club. His name is Mark Campbell and some of the fans up there think he is the same Mark Campbell who tried to open a cab company in Bexley Village in 2012 and whose father was Deputy Leader of Bexley Council until 2014.

Except that the image shown here looks a bit like his father and the age matches our local Mark Campbell I am unable to provide a positive ID. Can you?

My opinion of the former Deputy Leader is probably best not written down but is based on the fact that he went on BBC TV in 2013 and every single word he uttered was a lie.

When both father and son took over a pub in Bean a salesman at the drinks wholesaler Maison Maurice wrote to me with a lengthy description of Mark Campbell which he summarised as “a total con man”. Maybe the salesman got him wrong but a whole file of stuff including Court papers was bundled with it.

Some of the Falkirk fans are concerned that their mystery man may be the same as ‘ours’ and not live up to expectations. He claims to be a billionaire who made his fortune in the USA. Google ‘Falkirk Football Club Mark Campbell’ and there are lots of impressive hits, including the BBC Sport web page.

 

30 July - Rubbish is kicked down the road towards Scrutiny

National cuts to the education budget was not the only Motion put forward by the Labour Group at the Full Council meeting nearly two weeks ago; Councillor Stefano Borella (Slade Green and North End) put forward another critical of the performance of Serco, the Council’s waste contractor.

I should declare an interest, I only use the green and brown waste services but I have no complaints at all.

It would appear that not everyone is so lucky. Councillor Borella reminded the Council that it was Labour that launched recycling services in Bexley as long ago as 1994 with paper and extended it to plastic, tin cans, paper, garden waste and food between 2002 and 2006. The service has since progressed to being best in London.

Serco’s contract has been extended until at least 2021 and revised collection arrangements are to be introduced later this year. The charge for the very profitable garden waste service will rise by £5. Stefano was a member of the sub-Committee that reached those decisions but he denied the claim made several times by Conservative Members that he was fully supportive of them. Finance had been the main consideration not service to the public. Serco’s budget had been cut by £255,000. Fly tipping incidents had doubled in the past two years and bin lorry drivers were now being paid less than £10 an hour.

He did not want to see Serco’s contract extended for what he said was their failure and would prefer a Council controlled trading company.

Councillor Sally Hinkley (Belvedere) seconded the Motion and had prepared a list of complaints made by residents.


• Every week I have to call them about forgetting one bin or another. There are maggots but every week they forget.
• My mother is disabled and on assisted collections but every week they leave the bins. We report it and are told they will look into it.
• They only do the job properly on main roads.
• They love to throw the recycling bins anywhere.
• My food bin is not collected and it stinks.
• The green bin was not collected last time either.
• Get rid of Serco.
• Bexley Council are the pits, worst Council for everyone.
• Don’t get me started. Every week for six months I’ve been phoning them.
• If they spill anything they don’t bother to pick it up.
• The Council makes all the right noises and then awards them a new contract.
• My plastics were not collected, Phoned Council who said they would be collected. They weren’t.
• It’s a terrible service.
• They failed to collect our bin but the Council said they had. Err?
• They scattered our rubbish everywhere.
• Our recycling has been missed for two weeks.


Note: This list has been edited down and comments shortened.


SeymourCouncillor Hinkley went on to say that Serco is the public face of Bexley Council and they are not good enough and in part the cause was the lack of job security at Serco. Until that problem is resolved “we will never ever get a decent service from Serco”. Like Councillor Borella before her she advocated taking the service back in house.

Councillor Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) Chairman of the Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee moved that the Motion be taken on board by his Committee. Councillor Borella believed his Motion deserved a debate. The Mayor disagreed and that was the end of that. All the Conservatives kicked the Motion out however the likelihood is that the Scrutiny Committee will not be uncritical of Serco either.

 

29 July - More foul play?

When I started this blog Bexley Council was crammed solid with the dodgiest of people. Deputy Leader Colin Campbell mentioned yesterday was by no means the worst of them. Ian Clement, the Council Leader had abused his Council credit card and his expenses to the tune of £2,200 and got away with it because his successor, one Teresa O’Neill, refused to do anything about it. He was caught out when he pulled the same trick, but only for £227, when he became Deputy Mayor at the GLA. He was sentenced to three months, suspended.

Another bad one was Chief Executive Nick Johnson. In a one to one deal with Clement he arranged for his retirement on grounds of ill health and received a reported £300,000 pay off and a £50,000 annual pension for life all at Bexley taxpayers’ expense. Then he went off and got much the same sort of job with Hammersmith Council his dodgy ticker having miraculously cured itself.

Dropping down to Director and Deputy Director level found much the same. Mike Frizoni ran a draconian parking regime criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman at a time when Bexley Council had two parking contracts, one for public consumption and another which broke the law. Their own auditor condemned it as maladministration - 13 times.

Mark Charters who had been Director of Children’s Services in Bexley at a time when OFSTED was awarding the borough the worst ratings possible went to wreak the same havoc on the Isle of Man. Less than a year later he had to leave and when last heard of was seeking refuge on the island of St. Helena as their Director of Safeguarding.

Murphy PattersonHis deputy was Sheila Murphy who did nothing to prevent the death of Rhys Lawrie. His mother reported herself as being likely to do him a mischief, the doctors and teachers did the same but Bexley Council failed to react - not until he was dead that is.

The whole story is indexed here and eventually his mother’s boyfriend was imprisoned for manslaughter. His grandfather does not believe a word of it because the boyfriend could not have been in the house at the time and paramedics who could have confirmed it were not allowed to be witnesses in Court.

The grandfather believes that Bexley Council and the police connived to cover the Council’s neglect and successfully shifted the blame from mother to boyfriend because the case was close to being another Baby P (Connolly) in Haringey. He uncovered a great deal of evidence and Sheila Murphy did not come out of it well at all but the Serious Case Review glossed over her involvement. The review was conveniently authored by her former boss Rory Patterson.

Mick Barnbrook queried that association in a Public Question at a Full Council meeting in November 2014 but Cabinet Member Philip Read refused to answer the question on the grounds that Mick was trying to smear Ms. Murphy and that he was not obliged to answer questions from former members of the BNP.

Despite Read’s denial of any close cooperation the conclusion was drawn that Sheila Murphy and Rory Patterson were indeed mates who helped each other. Five years later an anonymous email reminds me of just how close that association might be. Not only did they work together in Bexley but they are still doing so; this time in Thurrock.

Thurrock Council Thurrock Council

“Mr. Patterson appointed Mr. Archibald.” Same old tricks.

Much more worrying is the allegation that children have again died while in their care and allegedly The Thurrock Independent newspaper has been gagged. A News Shopper reporter once told me that Bexley Council tried that on too.

Thurrock Council seems to make a habit of it.

Perhaps because of the gagging, little news is available on the subject beyond the initial allegation; maybe my anonymous correspondent could provide a bit more evidence?

Meanwhile all we know is that Cabinet Member Philip Read’s assertion that asking a former Bexley Director to report on his subordinate in the case of a child death that had already aroused grave suspicions looks even more like part of the cover up by Bexley Council into Rhys Lawrie’s death than it did five years ago.

We should be grateful that all of the charlatans mentioned above are no longer in Bexley.

 

28 July - Foul play?

I go away for the day and come back to an email Inbox full of messages relating to a football club in Falkirk. What is that all about?

It would appear that a man called Mark Campbell is trying to take over the club. Some say he is masquerading as an American billionaire who wants to invest in Falkirk out of the kindness of his heart. Some do not agree. https://www.pieandbovril.com/forum/index.php?/topic/138524-the-falkirk-fc-thread/page/4306/#comments

Long term readers may remember that Mark Campbell is the son of former Bexley Deputy Council Leader Colin Campbell. I advised the football fans to be very careful indeed and sent them a few web links.

http://www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/blogs/2012/sep/1301.php
http://www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/blogs/2018/nov/1301.php
http://www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/indices/bexley_cabs.php

 

27 July - Oh dear, it’s back to 2011 standards of honesty at Bexley Council

One of the routine hoops that the Full Council meeting has to jump through is to approve the reports from the various Committee chairmen. With any luck they are quickly nodded through one by one and everyone can go home at a reasonable hour. The 17th July was not one of those occasions, Labour Members objected to the report from the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee which had been chaired by Councillor Alan Downing.

The objections were reported in the News Shopper two days later but rather formally and with little sense of the disarray that had arisen. Here I will attempt to shed rather more light on what came over as a particularly disgraceful half hour of transparency versus censorship.

Mayor and DeputyCouncillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) referred to “the technical documents” presented to the Scrutiny meeting on 2nd July. She had attended because she was “particularly keen to hear what was said about SEN transport in view of the debacle that had taken place at the beginning of the year causing children and SEN parents distress”.

She learned that a report from last May painted a rosy picture and, “verbatim” Cabinet Member John Fuller had said that “schools were saying we are on your side and agree with your policy, we think it is great”. He went on to say “the majority of the appeals we had last year regarding travel we won. The Council were correct. We had one parent who took us further than we wanted to go and they lost. They had to pay costs and everything. We were right in what we were doing and this year we had no complaints at all”.

The foregoing conveys only a little of Councillor Perfect’s message which was buried deeply within quoted paragraph numbers and sub-section this and sub-section that. It all being a little too complicated at the end of a long day I wandered towards the boys’ room muttering “that woman can bore for England”. A Conservative Councillor heading in the same direction agreed whole heartedly.

However by the time I returned Councillor Perfect’s message was beginning to shine through. Far from John Fuller’s “there’s been no complaints at all”, “every single case had been upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman”. 55% of complaints to the LGO from London “came from one borough, Bexley”.

Ms. Perfect’s objection to the Scrutiny Committee report had the potential for serious embarrassment and Councillor Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) began to read out yet more unpalatable facts in the manner of someone reading a telephone directory. It was only marginally less boring than Councillor Perfect’s address. One could see various Conservative Councillors on the verge of nodding off, as indeed was I.

So bored or maybe embarrassed was Council Leader O’Neill that she interrupted and asked the Mayor to rule the Labour objection out of order. After conferring with her learned friends, the Leader’s attempt to use some arcane point of order was overruled by the Mayor and Councillor Ogundayo was invited to continue boring all and sundry to death.

Councillor Teresa O’Neill objected but the Mayor was having none of it. The Leader was clearly not happy and continued to mumble objections.

Councillor Ogundayo continued as before apparently oblivious to the fact that reading a catalogue of SEN transport rules and regulations was masking her message. viz. that the Scrutiny Committee had been told porkies on 2nd July.

The Mayor herself diplomatically stated her own “personal opinion”, that the Labour Councillors had taken boredom to new levels. Making amends for what had gone before, Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) got a little bit closer to the point by quoting from the LGO’s damning reports on Bexley. “Bexley does not reflect the law” being a typical extract.

Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) quoted from yet more LGO case reports which showed up Bexley Council in a very bad light indeed. Among other things Bexley Council was demanding that single parents should be in two places at the same time. The almost ten years old Bonkers’ tag line “Dishonest and Vindictive” was once again proved to be very appropriate to Bexley Council.


Camsey DowningCouncillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crooklog) objected on a technicality to Labour Councillors exposing the Council's failures to act lawfully and with compassion. “This discussion should not be taking place.” The Mayor disagreed.

Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) wondered, as no doubt will all of us, “why Members opposite do not wish us to talk about it”.

The Mayor attempted to focus the debate by saying it didn’t really need quotations from all six LGO reports and I am inclined to agree.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis summed up. In essence the case was that the Cabinet Member made a statement favourable to his portfolio in July which completely ignored half a dozen disturbing LGO reports made in the Spring. It seemed like a fair cop that didn't really need more than half an hour of lecturing to prove.

Six times the LGO had said that Bexley Council failed in its statutory duties but the Cabinet Member appeared to be either oblivious of it or concealed it from the Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Francis called for a special meeting to discuss remedies and the way forward “in the interests of residents. There has been a serious attempt to mislead the Scrutiny Committee and the only option open to the Cabinet Member is to resign”.

The Conservatives jeered their contempt for honesty and Scrutiny Chairman Alan Downing said “the party opposite does not share our concern [for disabled children] and spoke a lot of twaddle. I can’t believe what I have been listening to and I wonder what they are on about”. So discussing adverse LGO reports is ‘twaddle’ according to the Communities Chairman. Is there any need for further comment on such callous remarks?

Councillor Francis appeared to be close to tears as indeed should be every resident of Bexley who gives a moment’s thought to the injustices dished out to the disabled by Bexley Council.


DictionaryThe LGO reports really are damning.

https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/school-transport/18-012-904
https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/school-transport/18-008-486
https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/school-transport/18-012-597
https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/school-transport/18-011-365
https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/school-transport/18-010-415
https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/school-transport/18-010-993

Labour's Press Release.

It has been reported that the arguments continued long into the night away from the gaze of the webcams.

Note: As one might expect Bexley Conservatives conducted a furious fight back on Twitter to mask the LGO’s reports with sometimes irrelevant facts. Their main claim appears to be that Cabinet Member John Fuller did not mislead the Scrutiny Committee but had merely taken his eye off the ball and didn’t know about them. I would prefer to think that is the case because John Fuller has led an almost blameless life in the nine years I have been attending Council meetings.

When the facts become clear they will be reported in another blog.

 

26 July - 1128 and all that

I generally find that one of the more interesting parts of a Full Council meeting is the Leader’s Report; Teresa O’Neill does not usually go in for extended waffle and not unreasonably assumes that her 26 page (this time) written report has been read. This time however may have been an exception as she took up half the allotted time with her own beating of the Bexley drum.

O'NeillShe began by having her say on earlier parts of the meeting, Councillor Perfect’s Motion on Education and Councillor Hinkley’s complaint about the standard of rubbish collection (†) which she implied should have been raised at the time and not at a Council meeting.

The Leader had chaired a 140 strong meeting on 16th July about “generating good growth in the Thames Estuary” where she spoke about the proposed Crossrail Extension C2E. £4·85 million has been allocated to look for a solution. Councillor O’Neill will be one of nine nominees to the governing body of the steering committee which she called ‘a Board’.

She then went back five years to praise yet again the decision to move to the new Civic Offices which “created jobs, created homes, created community facilities and created opportunities for residents in addition to keeping Council Tax down”. (For the record it has gone up by very nearly 18% in those five years.)

Moving back to Crossrail she said “the delay is now considered to be to September 2020 to March 2021 and it has been suggested that it may be pushed out a bit more than that. Frankly we need to get it open”.

“Last week I visited the Thamesmead Housing Zone, one of the cleanest building sites I’d even been on. Phenomenal to see it going up. At The Quarry it is fantastic to see that we now have streets! That is what good growth should be about. The Housing Strategy, the Town Centre Strategy and the Communities Strategy are about shaping the future of our borough. We either take control and shape growth or it will shape us.”

Green Flag status had been awarded to the parks at Hall Place and Lesnes Abbey. Not so good was losing the status of being the safest borough in London following the London Mayor’s reorganisation of police services. She had had “a conversation” with the Deputy Mayor about it.

Councillor O’Neill looked forward to having “a new Prime Minister next week who knows Bexley very well”.

The first question came from Councillor Munir (Conservative Blackfen & Lamorbey) who wanted to know the percentage figure for permanent staff within Children’s Services; a question he could have asked at any time while passing the Leader or Cabinet Member in the corridor. For the record it has been within the range of 88% to 92% over the past few months for which Councillor Philip Read thanked the outgoing Director Jacky Tiotto.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) remarked on the delayed bin roll out. “Was the Leader confident it would be completed by Christmas?” Cabinet Member Craske managed to speak for 86 seconds without getting near to answering the question.

Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crooklog) complained about the “appalling” Crossrail delays. Has the Council Leader raised “objections about the way this has been handled?” The Leader said that was a matter between Government and Mayor and reverted to her theme that it was “fantastic” that she had chaired the C2E meeting.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) remounted his hobby horse, the widespread closure of Post Offices, the Sidcup office being the most recent to close. The Post Office is “alarmingly complacent nationally about the process for getting it reopened. Does the Leader share the frustration of Sidcup residents that the Post Office seems unable to get its act together?” “Absolutely” she did; what else would anyone expect her to say?

For no obvious reason Councillor O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) filled in the last four minutes of question time with a potted history of Lesnes Abbey. “Built in 1128 by Richard De Lucy the Chief Justice of England as a penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett” and then went on to quote favourable Trip Adviser reviews. His question? “Does the Leader support the progress of Lesnes Abbey?”

My God! To think we actually elect such people. For the record, Councillor Craske extolled the undoubted virtues of the Abbey and the surrounding park.

† Not yet reported.

 

24 July (Part 2) - Education in Bexley is not Perfect

In my opinion Bexley Conservatives were playing slightly undemocratic games at last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting and one of the less important ones concerned a Motion put forward by Councillor Wendy Perfect for the Labour Group.

As is often the case with Labour Motions it was pretty dry stuff but suffice to say that it included education statistics which did not make for good reading. 137,000 more pupils nationally, 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff.

It asked Bexley Council to oppose Central Government cuts and lobby the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor to provide the resources to give Bexley’s children “the best start in life”.

MayorFor some reason best known to herself the Mayor decided to break the rules relating to the time allocated for debating Motions and extended it by about 15 minutes, maybe so that the Tories would have more time in which to demolish Ms. Perfect’s Motion.

Councillor Perfect spoke for nine and a half minutes trotting out a catalogue of anecdotes of schools that had no money, begging from parents and not turning on the heating etc. For no obvious reason the Mayor did not allow her the full ten minutes. (The tape does not lie.)

However the weakness in her tales of woe, if Bexley Tories are telling the truth - and that is something that one always has to keep in mind - is that none of Councillor Perfect’s anecdotes or statistics applied to Bexley.

The Conservative Group decided to put out their own Motion, not an amendment which is the usual procedure with paragraphs marked so that the changes are easily seen, but a completely new Motion.

The Conservatives said that pupil numbers in Bexley were stable, the number of teacher posts had increased by more than 50. Teaching Assistant numbers had gone up by 200 and other education posts had increased by more than 400.

Additionally two new special schools had been approved.

The reason for the time extension began to come clear and unsurprisingly the Labour Group objected to such a wholesale shift in emphasis on their Motion.

Unscrupulous Tories merely wished to welcome what was happening in Bexley and they believed the Council had successfully lobbied government to fund the borough's educational needs.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis protested with exampleְs of what Bexley parents are actually seeing “on the ground”.

Councillor Sybil Camsey proceeded to rub the local statistics into the Labour noses which had rooted out the lamentable national statistics. Reluctantly I have to agree that she probably had a valid point.

The Labour Motion was thrown out and Labour abstained on the Tory alternative. Independent Councillor Danny Hackett voted with the Tories, He was right to do so; it’s not the first time that Labour has put forward sometimes laudable Motions which are not very relevant to local government.

 

24 July (Part 1) - All cock

I very much regret not being able to get to any of the Alcock and Brown centenary events as pushing forward aviation was a big part of my childhood but a family event got in the way on Sunday and an appointment with a GP in East Ham wrecked yesterday. (I arrived in good time but he had forgotten all about it.)

I’m sure Councillor Craske is right when he says “a huge amount of work and planning went into today’s events marking 100 years since the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic in a plane built in Crayford”.

Congratulations must be due to everyone who had the foresight to dream up the event and then set about ensuring it was a success.

Councillor Craske is entitled to bask in the reflected glory although his claim (see Tweet below) that without the Vimy designed by Vickers in Crayford we would still be crossing the Atlantic in steam ships may be a little far fetched. I suspect someone else would have tried their luck in another string and plywood contraption sooner or later. But Alcock and Brown did it first, that is a fact even if they did crash land it in an Irish bog.

If I may be permitted to wipe just a little of the grin from St. Peter’s visage; I am distantly related to the Duke of Kent who planted the commemorative tree in Hall Place yesterday but I do acknowledge I have to go back nine generations to prove it. His wife’s sister-in-law tracked me down in 2010 and we corresponded occasionally by email until 2013.

It’s not much of a claim to fame but it is better than being associated with my Nth cousin who tried to assassinate the original J.P. Morgan in New York. His bullet missed and killed his personal physician instead. He was certified insane and escaped the electric chair.
Twitter Twitter

 

23 July - 428 and 301

Darenth Valley Hospital 301 busBexley’s Labour Group has issued another Press Release, this time it is urging you to take part in TfL’s consultation on keeping bus route 428 serving Darenth Valley Hospital. Currently it runs from Erith through Crayford and on to Bluewater via the hospital but TfL wants to chop it at Crayford.

Did I ever mention my trip on the new 301 service from Woolwich Arsenal to Bexleyheath via Abbey Wood? I wanted a B11 but although I was at the stop at least four minutes early and I could see it for several more minutes as I walked from home, it never showed up. All too common an experience on the B11 I have found. A 301 came along and I took that instead sitting in solitary splendour at the front on the top deck.

When it arrived at Bexleyheath I went forward to congratulate the driver on not hitting anything en-route and only being forced to mount the kerb once. He agreed it was one horrendous route.

Murky Depths wrote an article about it yesterday with some splendid pictures.

From Bexleyheath I needed to get the DLR to East Ham so I rode the top deck of a 301 all the way to Woolwich. I tend to avoid going north of Eastern Way so for me it was almost a tourist bus. I had not realised just how industrialised Nathan Way is or how difficult it is for buses to negotiate due to traffic levels and parking. I can’t see it ever being an Express route from Thamesmead to Woolwich Arsenal.

For any Freedom Pass holder with an interest in rubbish dumps, prisons and dodgy looking car repair outfits and an afternoon to spare I would recommend it as a cheap day out.

 

22 July (Part 2) - Crime’s up. Facebook gossip confirmed by official figures

There was a third question at last week’s Full Council meeting and it came from retired policeman Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James). He asked Alex Sawyer the Cabinet Member for Communities if he was concerned about what London Mayor Sadiq Khan had imposed on Bexley. viz. the amalgamation of Bexley’s police force with that of Greenwich and Lewisham which have nothing in common with our borough. The arrangement is known as the Borough Command Unit, BCU.

Councillor Downing has the knack of asking things that the average man in the street might want to know and has little interest in the sort of creepy question beloved of the inadequates who asked questions before him.

Similarly Councillor Sawyer is always prepared to call a spade a bloody shovel when necessary.

Downing SawyerIn summary Alex Sawyer said that the BCU was indeed a bloody shovel and was proving to be a disaster for Bexley. Who would have thought it?

In the few short months since Mayor Khan’s system was put into practice Bexley has lost its place as being the safest London borough and is now only fifth safest, dropping to seventh along the way. Another rip-roaring success story for the Mayor.

“There have been significant crime increases across the borough and it is simply not acceptable.”

Emergency call responses have decreased markedly and more and more crimes go unsolved. “The Mayor’s BCU isn’t working for Bexley.”

“The Mayor is obsessed with Inner London and doesn’t have a great empathy with us. The A2 makes it easy [for criminals] to get in and out.” Easier than in Greenwich and Lewisham where access is largely via side roads.

“Communications are far far from ideal. There have been many instances where the police hear about things only through Social Media and that is unacceptable. The Mayor really does need to up his game, there is a world outside Inner London”.

Labour Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Thamesmead East) made a reference to budget cuts and what the BCU Commander had said at a previous meeting. She asked Alex Sawyer what the Home Secretary was doing about it.

Alex didn’t think the blame lay there but on a Mayor who had paid out £51·4 million in Golden Goodbyes, the staffing bill had gone up by £21 million, his own staff numbers had increased by 60%, £700,000 on parties, £13 million a year promoting himself, TfL spends £35 million on taxi fares and £10 million goes to Trade Unions.

“The Mayor of London wastes taxpayers’ money.’

 

22 July (Part 1) - 100 years after the first transatlantic flight. Bexley celebrates

I was unable to get over to Hall Place to look at the Vickers Vimy celebrations due to a very long standing family commitment but my friend Elwyn Bryant did. Here are his pictures to mark the day.
Vimy celebrations Vimy celebrations Vimy celebrations Vimy celebrations

Vimy celebrations Vimy celebrations Vimy celebrations Vimy celebrations

 

19 July - Drama in the Council Chamber. Enter stage right

After being you know where all afternoon I contemplated not going to Wednesday’s Full Council meeting but a quick look at the Agenda convinced me that I should. The number one question of the evening was of the stomach churning arse crawling variety so beloved by the least adequate of Tory Members. Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) was going to ask Cabinet Member Peter Craske if a statement allegedly made in 2014 by the Old Bexley and Sidcup Labour Party to the effect that the 2014 library strategy would cause libraries “to become a thing of the past” had proved to be correct.

Betts CraskeThat sort of staged question is exactly what you get when you elect a Councillor of Nigel Betts’ calibre.

Councillor Craske said that contrary to the situation elsewhere in the country Bexley had seen a 4% year on year increase in the number of library visits and a 5% increase in the number of items borrowed.

There had been a number of initiatives; 4,000 children had participated in last year’s reading challenge and it was being repeated this year with a space theme. Two book festivals had attracted more than 3,000 attendees each. There had been theatrical events, comedy nights, live music, a vinyl record club and quiz nights. We have refurbished libraries and added new things to them, museums and exhibition space. In Crayford there is a community space and a Post Office. Opening hours have been extended.

Although the Thamesmead library is currently in temporary accommodation pending a rebuild the number of members has increased by 10,000 in five years. A new library is to open in Sidcup too.

Councillor Craske finished by asking the Labour Party to apologise for their remarks.

Councillor Melvin Seymour’s question (Conservative, Crayford) was asked with similar intent. How many times were grass verges cut in 2016/17 and 2017/18? These are really profound and far reaching questions to top the bill at a Full Council meeting aren’t they?

Councillor Craske said that in 2016/17 nine cuts were made each year and a year later the number was increased to ten and it has remained at that level ever since. Unfortunately the Labour Mayor had slashed grass cutting alongside the TfL managed A2 to only two per year, he said with a certain amount of relish.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slde Green and North End) reminded the Cabinet Member that in 2015/16 the schedule dictated twelve cuts per year. Peter Craske admitted to “never being very good at maths at school” which presumably explains his insistence that changing from twelve to ten was an increase.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis asked the Cabinet Member for Education if he agreed that the Conservative Government’s refusal to fund the education of vulnerable children was an absolute disgrace”.

With commendable honesty Councillor John Fuller relied “yes I do”.

 

18 July - Caught red handed

Yesterday’s Full Council meeting was a little like old times. The Opposition Members getting agitated and the Conservative Group mouthing sometimes audible ungentlemanly language. It was a baptism of fire for the new Mayor Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis and in my opinion she handled it pretty well. At one time she even ruled against Council Leader Teresa O’Neill who was attempting to deflect democracy with some obscure point of order.

The argument was about Bexley ducking their responsibility for transporting Special Educational Needs children to school. The new rules had been applied unfairly and numerous cases had been taken to the Local Government Ombudsman who sided with parents.

Worse was that Bexley Council had put out a SEN report two weeks ago which sang their own praises and Cabinet Member comments went out of their way to portray parents in a bad light. The report failed to mention that of all the complaints received by the LGO, more than half came from Bexley and three quarters of them were upheld.
Report

Not a word about the adverse Local Government Ombudsman verdicts.

A blow by blow account should appear here after what will be a busy weekend. Meanwhile the Labour Group has helpfully issued a Press Release. It includes links to the LGO’s verdict on Bexley’s Council cruelty.

 

17 July - History in the making

Current WarsI expect it is the same on TV (I never watch it) but commercial radio and Twitter promotions have been heavily advertising the delayed but soon to be released film Current Wars in recent days. A two year old film delayed because of the Harvey Weinstein business.

It explains an epic battle which has fascinated me ever since I first read about it many years ago. The competition between inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla (backed by George Westinghouse) over whether the world should adopt Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC) for the distribution of electricity. Fortunately Tesla won with his AC system or the world would not be anything like as advanced as it is now. (Actually it probably would as surely engineers would soon have realised their mistake.)

Thomas Edison was pipped at the post not only by Tesla but also by Graham Bell with the telephone, Joseph Swann with the light bulb and his phonograph was soon eclipsed by Emile Berliner’s much more practical gramophone. In my opinion Edison was a ruthless and rather nasty man but it was him who became rich and famous, he must have had a better PR department than Tesla.

And why is Bonkers advertising a reputedly not very good film? Some of the techie bits were filmed locally at the Crossness sewage pumping station.

Yes, Tesla cars do use AC motors although not all electric vehicles do.

Another bit of local history is the Alcock and Brown centenary celebrations at Hall Place on Sunday 21st. My father flew in rather larger bombers than the Vickers Vimy only 21 years after their historic transatlantic flight and I moved to Farnborough in 1949 where the sky was always full of strange flying machines. A time when Alcock and Brown were comparatively recent heroes. Every schoolboy aircraft spotter knew who they were.

Unfortunately a very long standing family engagement will prevent me taking the 229 bus to Hall Place but it should be well worth the trip. A pity to miss it because it is free and I won’t be able to check out if Cabinet Member Peter Craske is still denying that I exist.

 

16 July - Pushing their luck

Stupid cop Stupid womanMet. Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has been roundly condemned by everyone from the Prime Minister, through the Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt down to every tin pot journalist for attempting to dictate what newspapers publish.

Former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill thinks she can do the same.

Four months ago I decided to remove the old Bonkers pages which detailed the worst excesses of Bexley Councillors in recognition of the fact that they appear to have made an effort to clean up their act, an act which was at one time undoubtedly criminal. The job took quite some time and wasn’t completed until May. I mentioned the revisions here soon afterwards. No one commented which was a bit disappointing.

Former Councillors Massey and Fothergill benefited from that decision because they were, err, former Councillors. Has beens unable to sully Bexley Council any more.

Soon after the revisions were made I received a twelve page letter from Essex solicitors Cohen Davis warning me, I think, that if I published (republished?) details of Ms. Fothergill’s various misdemeanours they would sue me. For what? I confess I am not really sure because I only looked at the opening paragraph and another towards the end. However it seems that among other things Fothergill is looking to me for reimbursing her the costs of attempting to restore her tattered reputation and of her failed attempt to get me banged up for publishing news.

For newcomers to Bonkers, I had published how Bexley Council had found that Fothergill was likely to have brought them into disrepute because of her financial antics, how she ran foul of Sevenoaks Council for flouting planning law and had to apologise in the High Court and pay out a substantial sum to recompense her libelling of two business associates. All matters of public record that Fothergill would rather you didn’t know about.

Was she seriously going to take me to Court and have all those things brought out into the open again? The Independent Councillor for Fawkham & West Kingsdown on Sevenoaks Council must be as mad as the proverbial brush. She should count herself lucky that I’d decided to wipe various slates clean.
Just stupid

 

15 July - Making residents’ lives difficult - as usual

Road closure Bus diversionWith just ten days notice Bexley Council issued an unhelpful Public Notice announcing a two week closure of the B213 to Erith otherwise known as Abbey Road. Nearly a mile of it.

They said there would be no access to the five cul-de-sacs that lead from the B213 towards the railway line in Belvedere. The sort of of notice which one should expect from a bureaucrat who has no regard for those who pay his salary.

Fortunately the Council’s contractor, FM Conway, managed each junction such that residents could drive to and from their homes pretty much all the time; obviously not when asphalt was being dumped across those junctions but even then they tried to do it a half road width at a time to minimise any inconvenience.

No doubt someone somewhere was held up for a while but given that the road was in a very bad state and needed to be resurfaced it has been a job pretty well done.

The postman came every day, delivery vans made the effort but Bexley’s recycling lorries gave up and didn’t come until Saturday. The normal collection day is Friday. (Garden waste was on time.)

As you may deduce from the two photos shown here the job ran a day late, entirely the result of Conway’s staff being helpful to residents in their cars. The constant hold ups meant that every day they fell another few metres behind with the result that buses are still on diversion today.

The residents of New Road are understandably not happy.

Abbey Road
Abbey Road
Road closure Road closure Road closure Road closure

It is not all that long since New Road was a quiet residential climb through the woods and then the B11 came along. Last Saturday the 301 joined it taking the total number of buses to 18 an hour. That’s throbbing diesel engines at three stops in each direction from six in the morning until just before one the following morning.

How long before South East London gets to see the silent electric double deckers being introduced in North West London? (Final Photo below.)

Today because of the continuing Abbey Road closure the regular New Road buses are joined by the 229, 469, 602 and 609. A total of at least 36 buses an hour. This morning a neighbour told me that her bus was one of a queue of three descending New Road while two were trying to go the other way.

The junction of New Road and Abbey Road (See Photos below) is a typical poor design from Bexley Council presenting difficulties for the drivers of all large vehicles and the left turn from Woolwich Road to Brampton Road at the Knee Hill traffic lights is close to impossible for buses without the good will of fellow drivers. It was occasionally difficult with four buses an hour, now we have more than twice as many much bigger vehicles.

Not easing over the kerbs on Knee Hill by just a couple of feet looks more like stupidity by Bexley and Greenwich Councils with every bus that passes.

301 bus Road closure Road closure Electric buses

The Alexander Dennis electric buses are essentially Chinese technology assembled in the UK. They have a 382kWh battery (64.2) and a 200kW motor (150kW) giving it a range of about 160 miles (320).

Figures in parenthesis - my electric car. I imagine the bus would have difficulty competing with my 0-60 figures.

 

14 July - Much more than just a good constituency MP

“Surprised you didn’t get the scoop from TP” was the message that reached me first after Teresa Pearce MP announced her decision not to put herself up for re-election; to which the reply was “I don’t like to betray confidences”.

Not that Teresa gave me advance notice very directly but my Teresa Pearce MP email folder in Outlook contains 3,147 messages and I don’t think any of them are about politics. Some must be I suppose but very few.

Most of them are about family, hers and mine, and the day to day problems of life. illness, old age, death, the pleasures of being a grandparent and in her case the perils of being an MP in an age of ill-tempered intolerance.

TeresaOne would have to be very insensitive indeed to not read into those emails what was on Teresa’s mind.

She was fond of saying that “all political careers end in failure” which in her case is most definitely not the case unless you count not having solved the problems of homelessness etc. which are so dear to her heart. Hardly her fault and she would always do her best.

Since her announcement Social Media locally has been swamped with praise for her constituency work in Erith & Thamesmead with almost zero detractors but she was more than a good constituency MP, to me she has been a very good friend too.

She knew I didn’t share all her political views but I think we very often shared values. I doubt I’ve met her more than two dozen times, five, or maybe it was six, when she stood by me helping to take on a police force that can only be described as politically motivated. Even now she is still fighting one such battle on my behalf and I’m hopeful that one day she will manage to convince the police that they have got themselves into the most awful muddle.

When I first met Teresa on social occasions I worried that we would fall out over whatever was the burning issue of the day but nothing approaching that ever happened, Teresa really is the most lovely of ladies.

When I first had problems with Newham Social Services in 2015 she stepped straight in and spoke to the appropriate people to great effect. When the police put out a Press Release to say they were going to prosecute me for what someone else hadn’t done she was on to them before I even knew it to tell them that their knickers were well and truly in a twist and when I was unwell for seven weeks Teresa volunteered to be my personal shopper.

Teresa really is the most delightful and kindest friend one could ever hope for who just happens to be a damned good MP too.

I owe her a lot and wish her a happy retirement when the time comes. To my mind she deserves an award of some sort for services beyond the call of duty.

 

13 July (Part 2) - All is not well in Welling and it is dead in Bexleyheath

The next subject on the Cabinet’s Agenda was shopping centres, what is to be done with them, and the final draft of the Shopping Strategy was up for adoption. Deputy Chief Executive Jane Richardson put forward the case for it.

High streets are changing as purchases go on-line with the “grim prediction” that it will soon reach 50% of sales. “But we know how important our towns are to the economy of our borough and how critical they are to the wellbeing of our community”. (Around 23,300 people are employed in the town centre businesses which generate around £1·56 billion a year.)

“Our report is the outcome of considerable research and engagement and is a lengthy tome. We face a massive challenge and we will need to work collectively to sustain our town centres.”

Councillors Diment, Clark and BaileyCabinet Member Louie French said, err, nothing not said already while Cabinet Member Craske said that “town centres that invest and stop; die. The successful ones keep reinventing themselves”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) welcomed the fact that the Strategy acknowledged that all Bexley’s town centres are different and stressed the importance of proper funding.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) said the Strategy was very well thought through but it was “important to have key partners on board”. He reintroduced the subject of Post Office counters and “their attitude”.

They closed the Post Office in Sidcup three weeks ago, they knew three months earlier but did absolutely “nothing to facilitate a solution”.

“They only got around to a consultation letter on the day the Post Office actually closed. Mr. Brokenshire met the Post Office in London today about their apparent tardiness.”

“Small businesses have a fleetness of foot but key people like the Post Offices have got to be in our town centres. We saw Bexley Village go eight months with no Post Office and there are problems in Abbey Wood and Slade Green. Somehow people like the Post Office have to be brought on side and made to be far more responsive to the needs of the local community or otherwise Councillors end up being blamed, as we are in Sidcup, for the closure of the Post Office. Post Office counters have a very frustrating attitude at the moment.”

Richard Diment is becoming a very good campaigning Councillor for Sidcup and Bexley more generally.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said things “are deteriorating in Welling, the traders feel let down by everybody”. There is too much crime and three of the shopkeepers have given themselves a year “and I am getting out”. They don’t like doing business in Welling and they are afraid. One had a violent attack in her shop and received no support from the police.”

“They don’t like it there any more; it is the upsurge of crime. The challenge is greater than it was even a few months ago.”

Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crooklog) said that in Bexleyheath everything including the car park shuts at five thirty “and then it is dead”. Cabinet Member Louie French said “the big game changer will be the opening of the Bellway development. The flow of people will see some changes to the town centre and businesses will open up”.

Despite the misgivings the Town Centres Strategy was adopted.

If like me you learned very little from the meeting of what the Strategy means in practice maybe the stated key aims will shed a little light on it. Maybe.


• Business Health and Inward investment: Supporting independent businesses and encouraging inward investment (from both nationals and independents) into our town centres, broadening the appeal of each town centre with its target customer base.
• Digital Economy: Facilitating improved connectivity in town centres and helping equip businesses to compete digitally through online commerce and marketing.
• Evening and Night Time Economy (E/NTE): Encouraging a more diverse offer for all ages to socialise and enjoy, whilst managing the Licensing and Planning regime to ensure locations with E/NTE uses feel safe to both users and residents.
• Place Marketing: Working with partner organisations to market each town centre in a coordinated way. Enhancing and celebrating each town centre’s unique selling points to develop positive brands.
• Place Making and Public Realm: Creating sustainable, healthy, distinctive and attractive places for people to live, work, shop and socialise. Longer term this involves managing the development agenda through the Local Plan, but within the scope of the Town Centres Strategy this focuses on nurturing and reinforcing character through preserving or repurposing key sites and enhancing the public realm.
• Diversifying the Retail and Leisure Offer: Improving our understanding of the retail and socialising needs and expectations of town centre customers – including children and younger people. Providing more Planning flexibility to encourage innovative uses of space and testing new retail and leisure concepts through meanwhile use.
• Accessibility and Wayfinding: Making our town centres easier to access through a variety of modes – making it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle - and the town centres themselves more welcoming and inclusive for all residents and visitors – including those with disabilities.
• Events, Markets and Meanwhile Uses: Encouraging and supporting a wider range of quality special events and markets to activate public spaces, and using vacant retail units for test trading of new and innovative business/leisure offerings. A key part of the Strategy is to identify how, working with other town centre stakeholders, the Council could either directly or indirectly enable improvements and economic prosperity, and in doing so tap into a wider range of resources to effect change. This will include working closely with the existing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), but also with businesses and landlords more widely to build the collective capacity to effect change in their localities. Subject to available resources, the potential interventions will need to be developed, including the prioritisation and programming of current budgets and working with external stakeholders. These will be included in an action plan to be published early Autumn.

 

13 July (Part 1) - Doing for Bexley?

Perhaps I was too hasty in dismissing last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting as an event of little interest; my excuse is that listening to the webcast while making conversation with an old lady who is not sure whether I am her father or her brother is not conducive to paying close attention. Bexley Council thought the first part of the meeting was sufficiently important to issue a Press Release about it yesterday; it prompted a revisit of the webcast.

Unfortunately the beginning of the meeting was not recorded at all so Ms. Ainge’s explanation of Connected Communities was at least partially missing. There had been 360 responses to a consultation which “included Councillors and key partners”. (Some Councillors had made multiple submissions.)

Whatever can Connected Communities be? Apparently nothing to do with public wifi and ultrafast broadband. It is to promote Cohesive Communities; Healthy Communities; Socially Active Communities and Successful Communities.

And why?

Probably the principal motivation is to save money. The Council wants to see a thriving voluntary sector, with “strong volunteers” and Civic participation and vibrant spaces and places. Not a bad thing obviously but in reality it is all part of the (relative painless) cuts agenda.

SawyerCabinet Member Alex Sawyer was the first to speak in favour of the plan. He wanted “Bexley to be a welcoming place which residents are proud to call home”. He wanted to see decision making “move away from the centre to working in partnership with residents and community groups as equals”. (A dramatic move for a Council with a long history of not allowing members of the public to speak at Scrutiny meetings.)

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said that ‘Do it for Bexley’ really means ‘Do it for yourself’ and 24% of residents had no idea what the Council’s slogan meant. She is probably right but if the budgetary black hole is to be filled without impoverishing residents in her ward what else can be done?

Councillor Sawyer said that the 24% of ignorance represented an opportunity “and it was a great basis to build upon”. He said that Councillor Ogundayo’s suggestion that the Council should be doing everything “was an absolute nonsense, if volunteers want to do things, let them do it. Empower them”.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske said “he really didn’t get why people expect the state to do everything” - on a day his government floated the idea of dictating the amount of sleep we should all take.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) who is heavily involved in the Sidcup Community Garden said that volunteering brings new friendships.

The Cabinet formally voted in public to adopt a plan that it had privately approved before the meeting started.

 

12 July - Temporarily and permanently, buses are forbidden to use direct routes

Councillor Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) suggested I should ride on the top deck of a 229 bus while Abbey Road is closed and it was still being diverted up New Road and down Heron Hill. She said the views were spectacular.

Earlier this week I was near a Harrow Manorway bus stop when a 229 came along with no one in the front seats so I hopped on. I won’t mention precisely when because I don’t want to get the driver into trouble but while ascending New Road (Photo 1) it encountered the sort of inconsiderate driver all too common around here and the bus was forced to briefly mount the kerb at low speed. There was an expensive sounding crunch and I went back later to that spot and saw the scrape in the concrete.
229 229 229 229

Almost inevitable because for most of New Road the bus must be on the wrong side of the road so it is fortunate that the diversion is scheduled to end today before there is a more serious accident.

301Oh, hang on a minute. From tomorrow a new double deck route 301 will be ascending New Road every 12 minutes with every likelihood it will meet another coming down.

Probably there will be a few more kerb scrapes or maybe worse.

The possibility could so easily have been avoided if Bexley Council was not so pig-headed about Knee Hill. The kink at the top which prevents the 301 from running that more direct route could so easily have been removed to the benefit of every driver.

But no, Council heads are stuck firmly up their backsides determined to preserve just a few square feet of the woods because they say it is ancient.

The 301 is intended to provide Bexleyheath residents with a quick route to the Crossrail station and every time they miss their train by a couple of minutes they should curse the intransigent jobsworth who decided that their bus must take the longer route. As it is, it is scheduled to do Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood in between 13 and 16 minutes depending on the time of day.

Murky Depths has the full timetable.

Vista

Belvedere’s new industrial area from the top of a diverted 229.

 

11 July (Part 2) - The non-stop gravy train

Remember how I said that highly paid public servants are mainly interested in job jumping their way to the top collecting Golden Goodbyes as they go but I had lost some of the documents that helped prove it?

Bexley’s former Chief Executive Gill Steward was handed £94,000 for a two year stint in the borough whilst achieving nothing very obvious and now she has been replaced by Jackie Belton who has come to us via Newham and Lambeth.

A trawl through Newham’s web archive reveals that Ms. Belton was gifted £170,000 when she left as a Director on 30th April 2015 and was paid £13,334 for that one month’s work, if that is the appropriate description for what a Council Chief Executive does.

Four years later she left Lambeth. On past form she seems to be good for at least forty grand a year just for leaving for a better job let alone the £150,000 a year salary.

This clique of people jumping on the pay Merry Go Round which is the public purse are disgusting aren’t they?

Sir Eric Pickles was right when he said that none of them were worth more than £100k. a year and shouldn’t be employed at all if the borough has, as in Bexley, a full time Council Leader.

What’s wrong with the perpetual temporary stand in Paul Moore or even Jane Richardson? Both know Bexley inside out while recent Chief Execs have only known the inside of a bullion vault.
Paid off

Note 1 merely gives the date of departure.

 

11 July (Part 1) - “Devious Bastards”

At some time in the first half of the 1970s, Hart District Council summoned me to Aldershot Magistrates’ Court for not paying my Rates. I most definitely had so I thought it might be fun to let them do it and show up with my bank statement.

However a few days before the hearing I decided to double check my payment with the bank; in the 1970s you could walk in to a bank unannounced and talk to someone. All was well, the money had really gone from my account with correct sort code etc.

Unfortunately I had overlooked or hadn’t noticed that I banked at the same branch as the District Council and the manager tipped off the Council that they were about to make fools of themselves. I remember feeling deprived of an opportunity to make monkeys out of Council bureaucrats. I imagine one Bonkers reader is feeling much the same.

At the end of last month I briefly mentioned Bexley Council taking an elderly gentleman to Court alleging he had not paid one of the three Council Tax installments due so far when he had ample evidence that they were wrong. He too opted to see them in Court. You may as well read his report verbatim


I decided against taking my bank statements to the council offices in favour of having my day in court so that their incompetence could be made public. Well it didn’t turn out that way; they have another trick up their sleeve to cover their arses.

Upon arriving at Bexley Magistrates’ Court I was directed by reception to an area at the end of a corridor. Already there was a bloke and two women engaged in conversation and then later another woman arrived and explained to the others that she was late due to traffic.

Then one of the women went and sat at one of two tables placed at the end of the corridor and called me over. After looking at my bank statements she phoned her office then wrote on my summons “Withdrawn”. She then informed me I didn’t have to attend court as though she had done me a favour.

So anyone wrongly accused of non-payment of council tax by Bexley Council will find it impossible to get justice at the Magistrates Court to which they have been summoned. Devious Bastards.

The woman then asked me if I would be at home all afternoon to which I replied yes so she said she would phone me. Did she? NO.

 

10 July (Part 3) - ThamesLink fined

It’s transport time again. Those who use the most northerly of the three cross borough railway lines will remember the havoc caused by ThamesLink when they supposedly started a Rainham to Luton Service 14 months ago. Their incompetence caused the loss of the ten minute interval service on the Greenwich line. Locally Abbey Wood and Slade Green were the most affected.

A ten minute interval service means there is no need to consult a timetable, you just turn up and a train quickly does the same. Thameslink took over two of those six trains an hour from Southeastern and then cancelled almost all of them.

Even when they began to get on top of the problem they only attempted to run one of the two scheduled services and just to make things more exciting they didn’t bother with the xx:58 (to London from Abbey Wood) in the morning but it was the xx:28 that didn’t run in the afternoon. Or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever it was it was hard to remember.

I was frequently inconvenienced when the DLR brought me back to Woolwich Arsenal and I’d find myself with a 20 minute wait. So would many other people.

Things have been pretty much normal for the past couple of months but that wasn’t good enough for the Department of Transport. As Bexley’s Labour Group are telling people in their Slade Green heartland, Govia Thameslink has received a £15 million penalty for inflicting so much inconvenience on passengers.

As they explain in a Press Release, Slade Green station is going to get a £30,000 share of the pot.

What do you want to spend it on?

 

10 July (Part 2) - Transport for London. Talking fresh Lunacies

Bus stop Bus stop Bus stopThe inaccurate bus stop sign outside Abbey Wood station was first mentioned here on 9th March and pictured six days later the reason being that it is very obviously the wrong sign in the wrong place.

It is marked Lensbury Way which is a quarter of a mile to the north and because of that the B11 is not listed as stopping there because that route does not serve Lensbury Way.

A Bonkers’ reader whose faith in getting TfL to do something about it is perhaps touching has batted emails to and fro with Transport for London to no avail. Here is the latest bit of nonsense that has come out of their Customer Service Department.


TfL emailAccording to Naomi Tuckett who can have no knowledge of the area but knows better than her correspondent who lives only a few hundred yards from the flyover the B11 stops only at bus stop D.

That is indeed correct but only for those wishing to travel in the opposite direction.

I wonder if there is some kind soul on Bexley’s Transport Sub-Committee who could phone 0343 222 1234 and put Naomi out of her misery with Stop A?

Maybe she will do better with the question about there being insufficient shelter at both stops. An arrivals board would be nice to. Most station bus stops have, why not the most prestigious locally?

 

10 July (Part 1) - Public CabiNOT

I have missed three Council meetings in a row. Two because of events in Newham and one because it coincided yet again with the local Traders’ meeting which was held in the newly refurbished Abbey Arms.

Yesterday Newham Hospital decided to discharge my 99 year old aunt who has been treated for a urinary infection. They kept her in for longer than when she broke her leg in April and except that like all hospitals they just dump patientsְ’ food in front of them and walk away with no regard for their inability to eat, all was well. It obviously pays to become known as a vociferous complainer if you don’t want to be neglected and ill-treated. My aunt still has the bed sores they sent her home with in April which require District Nurse attention twice a week.

I had to be in East Ham by 13:00 to await the homecoming and she turned up at 18:40. There never was a realistic chance that I’d be back home in time to get to Public Cabinet and since the old lady refused to go to bed “until my wife gets in” (fat chance!) I sat and watched the webcast instead. It was quite short, about an hour and twenty minutes if I remember correctly, and unremarkable. I don’t think I will be doing a formal report.

I think I heard Councillor Alex Sawyer say “our residents love Bexley” or something similar - I’ll check when the recording goes on line - which I suspect is a case of supreme optimism.

The meeting ended with the Leader thanking Children’s Director Jacky Tiotto for her transformation of Children’s Services in the borough. It was her last meeting before taking up a new appointment. Unfortunately someone pressed the Stop audio button on the webcast system so I never got to hear how Councillors reacted.

 

9 July (Part 2) - Crossing boundaries

Sunday’s blog proved to be a bit of a scoop. It seems that no one else had bothered to find out why Bexley Council was closing off so many parking bays in Wilton Road and on closer examination over the boundary into Greenwich too. News quickly spread across Twitter, the local Facebook group and to other blogs.

TweetIt was confirmed that a film company making a promotional video for bookmaker Paddy Power had been authorised to disrupt Wilton Road and its environs by Bexley Council. You can only guess how that happened. Who is the Head of Public Relations for the Association of British Bookmakers and also in charge of licensing filming in the borough? One Councillor Peter Craske. The one time Bexley blogger.

Thanks to his department taking over Greenwich too we had for one day only a better quality bus shelter in Abbey Wood Road than Bexley Council could arrange for the nearby Crossrail station.

It’s odds on that someone somewhere appears to have overstepped the mark. Who accepted the fat fee?

Abbey Wood Councillor Denise Hyland is asking questions. If she doesn’t get an answer then a Freedom of Information request should do the trick.

Paddy Power Paddy Power Paddy Power Paddy Power

 

9 July (Part 1) - No major project runs on time in Bexley

The bins are late and the road works around Abbey Wood station seem to have been going on for ever. Network Rail moved in in August 2013 and built their station more or less on schedule. It opened on the originally forecast date with just a few oddments to be finished off; the lifts being the most obvious.

Gayton Road Gayton RoadIf only Bexley Council could aspire to something close to that achievement but there’s probably no chance with everyone’s favourite roundabout designer Andrew Bashford in charge of Highways.

This was Gayton Road right next to the station at 08:30 this morning. It is still all barriers and holes in the ground.

Look below for what Bexley Council said would happen last October. All done by February!

Even that notice went up way behind schedule. Further down this page you may see what they originally claimed. All done by June last year.


Gayton Road
Gayton Road
The rebuilding of both Gayton and Felixstowe Roads is currently 13 months behind schedule. How’s Felixstowe Road getting along? Not even half done I would say.

How’s Harrow Manorway down to Eastern Way doing? About three quarters done at a guess. Work started in May 2017 and should have finished well over six months ago.
Harrow Manorway
Bexley Council will offer uncooperative utility companies as their excuse.

 

8 July - Councillor Alan Downing fights your corner on health issues

I probably should have gone to last Tuesday’s Communities Scrutiny meeting if only to see new Chairman Councillor Alan Downing in action but you cannot be in two places at once. The fact that it dragged on for three hours made me a little bit glad I was unable to be present. Thank goodness for webcasting.

CommitteeProbably the most newsworthy subject was health, a subject on which Councillor Downing has done his fair share of plain speaking in the past. Would he curb his usual inclinations when in the Chair?

Changes are due for Erith Hospital and Richard Diment, another Councillor who knows his way around health issues, said he was “somewhat baffled” by them. He had been told nine months earlier following a discussion with a previous CCG Managing Director that there was “an urgent crisis to be addressed and here we are eight or nine months on and I haven’t heard what is to be done to improve the patient experience”.

“There are anecdotal stories of patients attending mid-morning and finding the doors closed.” Bexley Health Watch has reported similarly. “What has been done since those discussions nearly a year ago to improve those conditions?”

The answer was “reviews and consultations” and the space available will be better utilised in future and refurbished. It was acknowledged that there have been temporary closures.

Chairman Alan Downing said that “things seem to drag on and on and are not fit for purpose and it has not been fit for purpose for many many years. At the last meeting in November we were told exactly the same things. If I was living in the North of the borough I would be wondering what is going on. We will have 4,000 new residents there within the next couple of years and we can’t offer them any Health Centre at all. It really is very very bad”.

“There has been ample time for the Trust to get organised and sort something out and you talk about making more space but we are talking about one room and Oxleas haven’t even put in a tender for the decorating. We can’t have this.”

“Discussions about the new stroke unit went on for four years! I want action taken very very soon and quicker than you are offering. No one seems to know what is going on. The staff are not consulted, the morale is actually dreadful, and everything is one big mish mash.”

“All we are getting is a nice new waiting room. We have to do better than this.”

Councillor Caroline Newton agreed “and was a little disappointed”.

Councillor Dave Putson, who lives in the North of the borough, was unable to get an appointment with his own GP because of “staffing issues” and they referred him to the Erith Urgent Care Centre. “It was embarrassing. It was overcrowded and I could hear what was going on in the consulting room. It was not fit for purpose.

Councillor Putson was told that “it would require a full rebuild to meet that [problem]”. He went on to say “we used to have a 24/7 A&E Department and now we have Erith eight until eight and the long term plan is 31,000 new residents. We need a hospital.”

Councillor Alex Sawyer took a similar view and criticised the lack of communication. “We are hearing about changes that might be coming but it does diddly squat for now. Residents are being short changed.”

The discussion went on in similar vein for another hour. Councillor Downing said that “I will leave here tonight not happy and not convinced. I would hope that the Health Sub-Group will really really make it very unpleasant for the Trust to get something done. It is really annoying that we represent residents and we can’t offer them anything. Nobody knows”.

 

7 July - Still Bonkers after all these years

Many of us who live in the neglected North West of the borough are only too well aware that far more people than one might imagine don’t know where the borough boundary lies, and not just the newcomers. I have occasionally seen Greenwich’s rare traffic wardens stray beyond the border. Over the weekend the police have issued two separate Section 60 notices in and around Thamesmead both of them displaying woeful ignorance of where the ward boundaries are, I never expect anything other than incompetence from the police but you would expect Bexley Council to know better.

To speed the demise of the Wilton Road traders Bexley Council is taking away more parking bays tomorrow in order to promote the betting shop on the Greenwich side of Wilton Road.

Wilton Road traders have said that Paddy Power will be filming an advert. (Subsequently confirmed by the film crew.)

Photo 1 shows the parking restrictions on the Bexley side of Wilton Road and an identical warning (Photo 2) has been posted on the other side. Everyone with local knowledge will recognise where it is; bang outside Paddy Power.

Did Bexley Council make another of their trademark little mistakes? Well yes probably but it is made far worse by two more signs around the corner in Abbey Wood Road. Abbey Wood Road is well and truly part of Greenwich, every yard of it lies inside the Greenwich boundary. The No Parking signs (Photos 3 & 4) are around 80 yards beyond Bexley’s jurisdiction and include the Bexley logo, not the Royal Borough’s.

Just what to they think they are doing threatening drivers who park on the Royal Borough’s terrain? Where is their Traffic Order and Public Notice?

Greenwich Councillors have been asked for comment but they know nothing about it.

Is Bexley Council crimlnally exceeding their authority again? Is Bexley Council fraudulently extracting filming fees to which they have no right? No one who follows Bexley Council closely would be surprised by anything at all.

No parking No parking No parking No parking
Filming

Two of the roads roads listed in the letter above are in Bexley and one is shared. The Green Space? Not sure. Do they mean Manorside Close?

The Association of British Bookmakers’ Head of Press Relations is Bexley Cabinet Member Peter Craske. Hmmm. I wonder.

 

5 July - When they were young

A probably mischievous Labour activist sent in these photos a couple of months ago for use during the next quiet patch; it’s not so much quiet at the moment as simply not enough spare time in the day. I’m at least two Council meeting reports behind and there are some meeting minutes to be written. Don’t even mention Newham!

The black and white photos are 30 years old, the date of the others is uncertain, obviously newer.

What they show is that once elected in Bexley it is pretty much impossible to get rid of the blighters. Apart from the two that went off to be MPs they are all still here!

Bacon Bailey Bailey Betts
Betts Bacon Johnson O'Hare
O'Neill Pearce Potter

 

2 July - For some it will be no new bins until Christmas

It’s all change for dust bins in Bexley this year but not as soon as the Council said it would be.

The Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee met last week to discuss various issues and the following is a summary of what was said. PlacesMr. Bryce-Smith the man in charge kicked off by saying his written report “was significantly out of date” and that “the service roll out due to take place during July is now expected to start from the beginning of September for a period of 14 weeks”.

The bin procurement exercise had been a cock up, “several relatively minor ones”, he said, leaving the Council open “to potential future challenge”. The procurement exercise has been started all over again - so not minor consequences.

Mr. Bryce Smith’s side-kick Steven Didsbury said that 24,000 residents had asked for non-standard issue bin sizes and that the delay had the advantage of fewer people being on holiday during the bin issuing and old box collecting exercise; I think it is known as clutching at straws.

The plan was to issue new bins on a normal refuse collection day and for them to be used on the following collection day. About ten residents have refused the bins “for aesthetic reasons” but most people at the road shows had shown enthusiasm for them.

Cabinet Member Craske said that a total of “160,000 bins had been ordered”. (I thought they said that they had only just gone out for tender again, not ordered.)

Councillor Gareth Bacon became a little agitated - but rightly so - about the meeting Agenda, a Public Document, being anti-Brexit in tone. “The language is lacking in a number of areas.” He said the out-of-datedness could not be explained by the ten day Agenda printing timetable. The Agenda has “been put together sloppily.”

The anti-Brexit stance including reference to an undefined hard Brexit “has no place in this report at all”. “Officers should not use politically loaded terminology.”

The Deputy Director duly grovelled on both issues.

Councillor Bacon also complained about bins being left all over the street instead of being put back where they were found and expected to see improvements.

Councillor Val Clark was concerned about the high levels of food waste put out with the unrecyclable rubbish, “it really surprised us”. She went on to say that many people including her friends do not have or use the kitchen waste bin. She thought there should be “re-education”. A better fox-proof bin is available on request.

The official figures show that about 8,000 tonnes of food go into the brown waste bin each year but around 11,000 tonnes into general waste.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon said the delay was “very disappointing” and that announcing “late summer was pushing it a bit”. Has the delay cost anything, she asked. “A slight impact” was what she was told “but there are off-setting ones” because the recycling level will remain higher for longer. What is that all about? Is the new system going to reduce the recycling rate?

Councillor Stefano Borella asked if the borough could go even greener by buying some electrically powered refuse vehicles. He was told that the problem right now is that only small all electric vehicles are available - which is true - but some with electrically powered hoists may be purchased soon. What is the point of that if the battery is charged by the diesel engine? Quieter when operating perhaps but the exhaust fumes still end up in Bexley’s atmosphere.

All the vehicles will have to be electric by 2025 because of government regulations combined with their ten year life cycle.

Councillor Borella thought that more details of where Bexley’s waste ends up should be available but it had fallen victim to the Council’s policy of pruning its website to a bare minimum.

Councillor June Slaughter thought “a clamp down” for persistent failure to recycle properly should be considered but Mr. Bryce-Smith said the law makes fixed penalties virtually impossible to implement and “persuasion and education” was preferred.

Finally it was revealed that around 2,000 properties are unsuitable for wheelie bins and will keep their boxes and the total expenditure on new bins will be in the region of two and a half to three million pounds not including new vehicles.

 

1 July (Part 3) - Desk hopping their ways to a personal fortune

The plan for today was to write about how some senior Council staff play the transfer game shuffling from one well paid job to another while being paid handsome Golden Goodbyes. Generally such people are well known failures and are part of the same self-promoting clique.

Unfortunately a serious problem has arisen, some documents sent anonymously detailing the history of Bexley’s new Chief Executive Jackie Belton have simply disappeared. No idea why, I don’t delete emails and I have many folders of them going back to the last century. I have searched high and low and can only think I may have misfiled something which would certainly make it very difficult to find.

If the anonymous sender could possibly send the email again it would be much appreciated. Meanwhile let’s make the best of a less than ideal situation.

Bexley’s last Chief Executive, Gill Steward, achieved nothing very obvious and left a trail of unflattering public comment in West Sussex but more particularly in Cornwall before her arrival in Bexley but despite her chequered history and recent ejection she immediately stepped into a job in Kingston-upon-Thames. My counterpart there said she was on a daily rate of £1,000 and according to his report her predecessor in Kingston went out the door with a nice £340,000 in the back pocket.

How much did Gill Steward get for her Bexley failure? Tom Bull, the News Shopper, reporter put in an FOI but I told him he had no chance of getting an honest answer out of Bexley Council, and I was right. However he persevered and last week obtained his scoop. Ms. Steward went off with £94,000 of taxpayers’ hard earned cash in her handbag.

The new Monitoring Officer disappeared at much the same time and £54,00 better off. She had been described as “reprehensible” at an Employment Tribunal. One of the judges said her actions were racially motivated. One must wonder who is responsible for Bexley’s recruitment.

Can I top Tom’s scoop? I will try.

Steward was so divisive that there was a danger that other senior managers might resign rather than work with her. I have it on good authority that one did. Someone well known who has been with Bexley Council for a very long time and a fine upstanding citizen in his own right. If he couldn’t work with Steward then you can be sure that her management style was poor to put it in the mildest of terms. He was in very many ways an indispensible asset to Bexley Council and sure enough, once Steward had left they twisted his arm to come back - which he did.

BeltonNow we have Jackie Belton who has been at both Lambeth and Newham Councils in recent years gradually climbing up the greasy pole.

As I said earlier the documents relating to her various Golden Goodbyes have been lost - for now anyway but this is what she was paid in Newham.

Bexley Council has not yet updated its website with details of their new Chief Executive but if she gets the same pay as her predecessor (£192,000) it is not enormously more than what Newham paid her for a Directorship some years ago.

Perhaps Bexley doesn’t pay as well as Newham or perhaps they will accept second raters, they certainly did back in 2016.

What the itinerant Senior Council Management is good at is doing not a lot and drawing up watertight contracts for the day they are dismissed.

None of them we have seen so far in Bexley have been worth anything like the amount of pay doled out so generously on our behalf.

 

1 July (Part 2) - On this day in 1969

I’m told that on this day 50 years ago Prince Charles became Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle which makes me feel very old again.

I was on holiday in a village somewhere in Pembrokeshire the name of which I have long forgotten. The locals were getting very excited about the Investiture and a party had been arranged in the village hall. Men were at the top of the church tower rigging an aerial for the new fangled UHF TV transmissions which had only found their way westwards as far as Cardiff. I assume the ceremony must have been shown on BBC2 only. Why would the BBC punish the Welsh like that?

The excitement was contagious and for some reason I decided to drive northwards in my Standard Vanguard to take a look. Checking the map today shows it to be the sort of journey that only the young and foolish would undertake on a whim. I remember two things about it; being held up by sheep and for the only time in my life being pulled over by a policeman several miles short of our destination.

He explained that the elderly couple in the house over there had missed the only bus of the day into town and would I give them a lift so that they didn’t miss the momentous event. Not something that would ever happen in today’s distrusting environment.

Anyway I stood by the road and took this snap of Charles as he was whisked away. By chance I saw him again a couple of days later as he made some sort of tour of the Principality. Not seen him since although I did once bump into his Mum at Waterloo station. The Royal Train was sitting in my platform and I was late home. I was not impressed.
Prince Charles

 

1 July (Part 1) - Proud to be Catholic

Lesnes Abbey hosts several events in the summer months, next weekend there is some sort of Music Festival, I hope that the organisers remember that with impeccable timing, Bexley Council has closed Abbey Road today and it will remain closed for two weeks.

Yesterday a religious ceremony brought forth umpteen Catholics. As is the case every year, they are God awful inconsiderate parkers. This year maybe worse than ever.

Had I needed to get to East Ham in a hurry it would have been difficult. I let a neighbour who runs a tiny car park up my drive because there was no room for her elsewhere. My own car is a bit broad in the beam and would be a struggle to get out.

I notified Bexley’s parking enforcement office to tell them there was a fortune to be made if they came quickly. The lady on the end of the phone dealt with my call swiftly and politely.

Walking around I found four local residents inconvenienced to some extent and two of them said they had notified the Council.

Two CEOs showed up, it seemed like we waited ages but the camera suggests it was no more than 20 minutes and most of the cars pictured below were ticketed. If they had showed up 15 minutes before the Exodus started they would have caught more.

One of my immigrant neighbours shouted some sort of abuse at me in an unfamiliar tongue. I didn’t understand a word of it. Maybe his own car had been illegally parked because access to the residents’ parking area had been completely blocked.

Let us pray that the Catholics have learned their lesson and won’t block everyone in next year.

Will the concert goers be any better next week?
Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

The cavalry showed up just in time. The Tesco delivery driver couldn’t get anywhere near to his customers.

 

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