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Bonkers Blog November 2019

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20 November (Part 2) - Pass the sodium chloride; lots of it

TweetThere will be a meeting of Bexley Council’s Audit Committee this evening and I will not be going to it. I used to go to them all but eventually realised that they can be just a charade. You will hear the auditors which Bexley Council pays for and who value their contract highly report that Bexley Council has done a thoroughly good job - whether they have or have not.

For the most part they probably do do a reasonable job. I remember one year when Bexley’s accountants had made a minor cock-up but such things will happen from time to time. No one is perfect, but the reason I stopped going is rather more serious than that.

When Bonkers was younger and had assistance with various things one of my then associates looked very closely at Bexley Council’s accounting and found serious and very deliberate falsifications. I might have called it fraud, Bexley’s internal auditor called it maladministration - many times over.

The auditors were very well aware of the serious maladministration and could (should?) have prosecuted Bexley Council for it. They chose not to and told me if they were to be brought to book I would have to privately prosecute the Council myself.

All the old Finance people have gone at both Officer and Cabinet level but when you see Bexley Council singing its own praises over its accountancy practices it is always wise to take it with a large pinch of salt.

I have never made Bexley’s own audit available for public consumption, maybe I should have done. I still have a copy.

Click image for Wordpress source.

 

20 November (Part 1) - It’s not quite cricket at The Oval

The Oval Haddon GroveI was asked to take a look at a parking problem behind The Oval in Sidcup; it sounded similar to the one I have at the end of my own cul-de-sac. Thanks to some not very clever road design I can be blocked in by cars parking entirely legally but inconsiderately which has become almost the norm.

I drove into an area of town I barely know and along roads I have never been to before. They were crammed with parked cars and it was a case of await one’s turn to squeeze by. Eventually I arrived in Haddon Grove.

The situation was not quite as expected. It was a cul-de-sac but there the similarities with my own parking problem ended. One difference was that Bexley Council had at first made some effort to eradicate the problem but appear to have prematurely given up after the first set back.

The problem arises because the shops on The Oval use the end of Haddon Grove as a service road, their own ‘private’ tradesman’s entrance, and it attracts a steady flow of vehicles especially to the builder’s merchants on the corner.

Bexley Council took a dim view of using the rear of the premises as a loading bay and said such use was “incompatible with the residential character of the surrounding area and associated adverse impact on surrounding residential amenity, and the frequent use by commercial vehicles of Haddon Grove, a residential cul-de-sac, to the detriment of highway safety and the amenity of local residents”. The Council refused planning permission - twice.

Unfortunately for local residents the DIY store owner appealed to the Government Inspector and Bexley Council’s concern for local residents was brushed aside.

The end result is that Haddon Grove has become the destination for a multitude of builders’ vans and trucks which are driven sometimes less than carefully along crowded access roads.

Haddon Grove Haddon Grove Haddon Grove Haddon Grove


Haddon Grove Following the Inspector’s disregard for both residents and the Council, Bexley’s options were restricted. Children cannot be allowed to play in what should be a quiet cul-de-sac and some residents have moved out having become totally exasperated by the situation.

One thing that Bexley Council was able to do was authorise a single yellow line. That is not something they will currently do for anyone whatever the justification.

With an 8:00 a.m to 5:30 pm Monday to Saturday parking restriction there is no way the various trucks and vans can legally park on the public road behind the shops. The problem should have been minimised (not eradicated because there are other parking spaces) but with no enforcement it’s proved to be an empty gesture.

The Environmental Health Department knows about the problem but proved to be impotent, hamstrung by the fact that traffic noise cannot be classed as a Statutory Nuisance. Perhaps what is needed is Councillors willing to take an interest in the situation. It wouldn’t take them long, the half dozen delivery trucks seen here were all photographed within the space of four minutes.

Enforcing the yellow line should in theory go a long way towards fixing the problem but in practice will not be enough. Maybe a road hump or two could be added to the armoury of deterrents? As the Council acknowledged just a few years ago, residential amenity has been impacted along with highway safety. They need to do more.

A recent blog showed that some Councillors like digging residents out of unfortunate situations and see it as the reason for their existence. The Councillors representing the area around The Oval (Blendon & Penhill) are David Leaf, Nick O’Hare and Adam Wildman. It remains to be seen whether they are of similar calibre.

 

19 November (Part 2) - Unfinished business

MayorQuestion time at the last Council meeting has not been reported yet, how did that happen?

Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) was first to her feet. “Are we on track to make the £400k. SEN transport efficiency savings?”

Cabinet Member John Fuller said that since that prediction was made 70 more pupils have been added to the list which puts the budget under pressure. The £400k. is “at significant risk”. (It’s fortunate that the efficiency savings were implemented or the situation would be even worse.)

SEN transport is costing a little over £5,000 per pupil per year which was said to compare well with most boroughs.

Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) asked if there were any details available on plans to merge six South East London Clinical Commissioning Groups into one. Leader Teresa O’Neill turned the question back on Councillor Putson. “Had he asked them?”

Councillor Putson said the CCG was going to become “one huge Quango representing 1·9 million people and local scrutiny will disappear”.

Councillor O’Neill said “we don’t know the detail and I cannot answer your questions definitively at all”.

It is probably fair to say that it is rare to hear a good word said about the existing CCG at Bexley Council Scrutiny meetings and one can begin to see the reason why. Huge changes planned but not a word of consultation. At least we have Councillor Putson to keep his eye on things.

Conservative Councillor Adam Wildman (Blendon & Penhill) referred to Bexley no longer being the safest borough following the police Borough Command Unit amalgamation and asked the Cabinet Member for Communities to explain why it was important for residents to complete the Crime Survey. It doesn’t read like a question to me except that it asked if Cabinet Member Sawyer was capable of making the explanation.

Councillor Alex Sawyer is of course perfectly capable of the encouragement. “It is vitally important that residents partake in the survey”. Job done!

Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Longlands) asked a mischievous question. “How many times have opposition Members contacted the Cabinet Member for Resources to engage with budget planning?” Councillor Leaf took delight in answering the question. “None.”

Labour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) said that his Group met regularly with Council Finance Officers and last year identified £355,000 of savings agreed in public by the Cabinet which didn’t in fact exist. Presumably with his tongue firmly in his cheek Councillor Francis asked if the Cabinet Member would thank him for it. In his 146 seconds of response Cabinet Member Leaf delivered his opinion of Labour politics in no uncertain terms but it was devoid of any suggestion of thanks.

Councillor Perfect had a second question. Will the government fully fund the cost of educating Bexley’s SEN children next year? Cabinet Member Fuller said there would be a deficit of around £7 million next year but there would be a £3 million (9%) increase to funding in 2021. The deficit will be “eased but not eliminated”.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if The Cabinet Member for Communities would join London Mayor Sadiq Khan in asking the government to reverse its police cuts. This drew a very predictable response from from Mr. Priti Patel. The Mayor wastes money on things like TfL Golden Goodbyes (£51·4 million), ten million handed to TfL union officials, £700,000 on a beach party, £300,000 to his PR company and £9·4 million extra on the PR budget, £11 million on Fashion Week, £3·5 million on taxis by TfL alone; enough in total to pay for 12,000 police officers.

Councillor Howard Jackson asked if the Cabinet Member agreed that Bexley was safer under a Conservative Government. Oh dear, is that the best he can come up with? Fortunately Mayor Lucia-Hennis called time.

 

19 November (Part 1) - Everything that is wrong with the Met. Police and left wing politics in one video

The Metropolitan Police is led by someone who has been actively interfering with Home Office inquiries, the underlying corruption would be hard to deny. Left wing politics under Jeremy Corbyn is attracting the dregs of society. See one supporting the other in this video. (Be aware of bad language.)

Q: How can it be allowed in our capital city?
A: The Metropolitan Police is led by…

 

18 November - Lie of the weekend

TweetThis weekend was not a good one for going westward as I did on Saturday, the M4 was completely closed in the Maidenhead area to allow the installation of a longer overbridge which will span another of those demented Smart Motorways. They are not very smart are they?

I left home very early and joined the M25 at junction two just a few minutes after 5 a.m. to be greeted by signs that announced that the M25 was entirely closed between junctions 8 and 9.

The announcement was repeated on almost every overhead gantry right up to junction 8 where the road was absolutely clear. Obviously everyone at The Highways Agency was fast asleep which is why they are so good at killing people who break down on the motorway.

The diversion on the M4 was not very clever either. I was there around 6:30 which is just as well because the revised route took me through small towns on a narrow road complete with pedestrian crossings and mini roundabouts. At that time traffic was not too bad but my daughter who followed me seven hours later took four hours to do her usual two and a bit hour journey.

I returned via Bracknell and the M3 which turned out to be slow going but about seven miles shorter.

At my destination with nothing better than an intermittent wifi signal I made little effort to keep up to date with the news but I did spot one nice Tory fib.

I was a regular commuter to Waterloo from 1961 and was very much aware of what Dr. Beeching had in mind. His 1963 report was commissioned by Harold MacMillan’s Conservative government and was published before Harold Wilson scraped into power for Labour in 1964.

Mr. Shapps is pushing his luck somewhat if he thinks all of us will fall for his implication that the Beeching cuts were a Labour plan.

Having said that it was Harold Wilson who implemented the cuts with gusto.

Shapps is the same sort of clever liar as those who run @bexleynews. Clever use of words can imply all sorts of things which aren’t really true.

Why can I see 18 unread Twitter notifications now that I am back home? Who have I upset this time?

Note: In case you are wondering, the weekend blogs were written in advance and ‘released’ remotely.

 

17 November - Barnet’s reunion in Bexley

Barnet BarnetConservative controlled Barnet is fairly universally acknowledged to be a failed Council; it farmed out all its services to Capita, didn’t save the money it claimed it would and then froze Council Tax for rather too long. Now it cannot provide decent services while it makes a half hearted effort to get itself out of trouble. It is still under the Capita cosh.

Not unnaturally the top staff are anxious to distance themselves from the mess that has been created, but is it really necessary for Bexley Council to offer the lifeline?

At the last Full Council meeting we were able to see the ex-Barnet Director of Finance sitting next to his Finance colleague. She is Nickie Morris, also ex-Barnet. How has she suddenly ended up in Bexley and become so important?

It would appear that the Deputy to Paul Thorogood suddenly left and a consultant appeared from nowhere. No recruitment process, no press advertisement. Presumably the Director of Finance is free to do whatever he wants. He revised the Council’s corporate regulations and delegated the powers to himself. How very convenient. And who rewrote and signed off those new rules? One Nickie Morris. It’s not just our elected Councillors who are a law unto themselves.

 

16 November - The secret Masterplan for Erith

I had only just started to summarise the Cabinet Report on Bexley Council’s long term plan for Erith when Jonathan from the Erith Think Tank sent me his. I have not had time to study the plans for Erith in any detail and tend to leave that sort of thing to Hugh Neal and his Erith based blog. Lazy I know but one cannot poke one’s nose into everything.

Bexley Council devoted eight pages of the Agenda and eight and a half minutes of Cabinet discussion to Erith at their meeting last Tuesday which may be indicative of their deep interest in the subject and perhaps their tendency to secrecy.

Jonathan’s thoughts are his own of course and perhaps a bit too long and detailed for a blog so the following is a cut down version and edited for an audience probably less knowledgeable than Erith Think Tank members.


I found out via Twitter after the event that Erith’s regeneration was to be discussed at the Public Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 12th November. It was particularly disappointing that despite exchanging emails with Deputy Council Leader Louie French on the 11th requesting better communication between the Council and the Think Tank AND with Erith Labour Councillors Joe Ferreira and Nicola Taylor on the 12th none of them thought to mention that Erith was to be discussed. Despite the warm words in support of good engagement the Think Tank was not at the fore-front of their minds when the regeneration plans were up for Cabinet approval. Think Tank members may have wished to attend and ask questions. [No they wouldn’t, no one other than elected Members are allowed to ask questions]

Cabinet Member French’s response was to the effect that the Think Tank should learn to follow the Council on Social Media more closely.

The statements from Council officers and the responses from Councillors was most illuminating. I now know more about the future of Erith’s regeneration than I learnt from the two hours of Bexley Council’s presentation to the Think Tank in October and my research to date. The webcast reveals that much of the Council presentation to Think Erith was obfuscation but the Cabinet meeting made it clear that ultimately there will be 6,000 new homes and 2,000 new jobs over the 30 year Growth Strategy.

To paraphrase:


• At 70 Pier Rd, the old Bank chambers, the Council has already engaged architects and will seek planning permission for the £4·2 million pound project. It is said that it will be redeveloped into offices and residential units whilst at the same time claiming the site will be protected. Quite how requires serious examination.

• Open a community kitchen at 66-68 Pier Rd in partnership with a Greenwich based co-operative. It will offer a cafe, a professional kitchen for hire and cooking sessions for local families. The Council believes there is room for two publicly funded cafe’s in Erith.

• Negotiate and purchase a lease for 28-40 Pier Rd (above Farm-Foods) and let it as offices.

• Progress the feasibility and concept design work for the Erith links program and submit a bid to TfL for ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ funding. A significant project for which the Council are bidding for funds that would see the movement of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians dramatically remodeled in the town centre and thereby improve the high street, air quality and congestion through Erith. Pier Road will become the main street in Erith. Bids for such funds have not been successful previously but a new bid will go in on the 29th November.

• Develop proposals for the redevelopment of Erith’s western gateway. (Walnut Tree Road, Bexley Road and Erith High Street.) That’s more housing and shops. The existing tower blocks will remain as will the former Town Hall, Running Horses pub and the Post Office corner.

• Explore a potential partnership with Orbit housing who are the major landowner in the area.

• Continue to acquire properties in the Pier Road area. Properties are being quietly bought by the Council at market value, one significant freehold interest and five long leasehold interests so far. They will be part of the new high street and provide pedestrian access from the station and via this road to the pier.



It is clear that there is a secret Masterplan for Erith and the Council are pushing towards it quickly whilst not being open with Erith residents.

Several Councillors spoke at the meeting, including Louie French and Philip Read in support of moving forward. Councillor Nicola Taylor argued for more affordable and social housing and for regeneration not to become gentrification. The partisan party political framing of the statement was met with a frosty partisan party political response from Leader of the Council, Teresa O’Neill, which did little to change anyone’s mind. No part of the document under consideration was challenged.

One has to question whether Councillors mean what they say when they talk of good community engagement and if the quality of the scrutiny at meetings is serving Erith well.


So a newcomer to Council watching has a similar view to me. Secretive and an almost total lack of serious scrutiny while ignoring what little there is. Jonathan will be circulating a more detailed version of his summary to Erith Think members.

Missing from the above is the detail behind financial bids to TfL. They are to remodel the Queen’s Road roundabout, simplify the junction at the bottom end of Walnut Tree Road, reverting roads to two way working to improve bus services and possibly reopen Avenue Road.

You may join Erith Thank Tank via their website.

 

15 November (Part 2) - According to Bexley Council it’s the end of an era. Their last Abbey Wood road closure

This is what they are saying about Harrow Manorway, the regeneration project started in May 2017 with completion scheduled for June/July 2018.


Next week, on the evenings of Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th November, work will take place to resurface Harrow Manorway between the Sainsbury’s roundabout and the traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing outside Sainsbury’s. This is the final stage of resurfacing work on the Harrow Manorway scheme. To enable the works to take place safely, Harrow Manorway will be closed in both directions between the Sainsbury’s roundabout and the Knee Hill roundabout. The work will start at 7pm on each night and traffic will be diverted via McLeod Road, Basildon Road and Eynsham Drive.

It will be necessary to close Overton Road at the junction with Harrow Manorway while the work is taking place. Vehicle access to Overton Road will be maintained via Yarnton Way, Alsike Road, Rushdene and Sedgemere Road. A fully signed diversion route will be in place. Sainsbury’s will be open for business as usual and their car park can be accessed from the north side of the Sainsbury’s roundabout (i.e. from Eynsham Drive/Yarnton Way direction). There will be no vehicular access to the BP garage although their shop will remain open.

As far as is practically possible, noisy operations will end around 11pm and all works will finish no later than 2am. The road will reopen a couple of hours later, depending on the time it takes for the surface to harden and weather conditions.

TfL bus services will follow the diversion routes and they will publicise these separately.

 

15 November (Part 1) - The Withdrawal Agreement and Lie of the Day : Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Phone boxI can barely type for rolling around laughing. Jeremy Corbyn says he is going to give me free fibre broadband right up to the door. Hang on a moment while I dry my eyes, have you seen what the red cretin has done to share values already?

The IRA supporting anti-semite is going to nationalise BT, the company I began work for in 1962 and which pays my pension. Known as the (nationalised) GPO back then I was made manager of three City Telephone exchanges (AVEnue, MANsion House and MINcing Lane) in late 1963 and struggled to keep mechanical switches installed in 1928 in some sort of working order while half the staff bunked off early if they could. Investment levels were zero, just a few paint brushes to try to sweep the dust off electrical contacts.

Corbyn hopes you will be lured by free gigabyte broadband at some date far into the future and not notice your Netflix and Amazon subscription go through the roof because all high tech companies are to be taxed to the point of extinction in order to pay for it. There will be no overall saving and service levels will plummet. A three year wait for a shared service line anyone? The economics of the madhouse and exactly why no one in their right mind should ever vote Labour.

Meanwhile the price of necessities like water, gas and electricity will continue to rocket so that you can freeze to death with the only source of heat being a red hot router. The Labour top brass is absolutely stark staring bonkers beyond anyone’s wildest nightmare.

Last Monday I noticed my aunt’s CCTV went down, it has never done that before. 10 minutes later my home phone rang. It was my ISP, they were concerned that they had lost their connection to her router, could I go and check it over? That is private enterprise for you, can you imagine getting a phone call from Loony Lammy or Dippy Diane after nationalisation? It’s no laughing matter really.

The Withdrawal Agreement has been especially hard going. I think we are able to wriggle out of the European Army after the transition period ends but it’s not as clear as I would like it to be. I suppose we must be OK because Boris says so.

Fishing policy gets only 13 lines of text. We may get an opportunity to put forward our views during the transition period. There must be more to come.

 

14 November (Part 4) - They cannot be serious!

I thought the Tories had decided not to stand aside for The Brexit Party in Labour marginals. Erith and Thamesmead is not really marginal at all thanks to Teresa Pearce so perhaps it is OK for the Conservatives to throw in the towel on Nomination Day.

RobertsonHands up who has heard of Joe Robertson? No surprises in the other two Bexley Constituencies

Nominations…
Bexleyheath and Crayford.
Erith and Thamesmead.
Old Bexley and Sidcup.

 

14 November (Part 3) - Will Bexley Council #doitforbexley too?

The Full Council meeting held on 6th November has been reported in a back to front sequence, the first item on the Agenda was a Deputation from local market arrangers, CC Events UK and sponsored by Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere). Sally has been a frequent guest of the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association providing assistance whenever she can and where I perform a minor role too. Even so the Deputation came as a surprise to me and explained why the scheduled AWTA meeting was held earlier than usual on 6th November.

CC Events is a new company set up by long time Thamesmead residents Chris and Catherine Molnar so they know the area pretty well, not least because at one time Chris was the Community Copper for Lesnes Abbey ward and the only serving police officer I ever trusted.

The couple have run markets across the north of the borough for Peabody in Thamesmead and for Bexley Council at Lesnes Abbey although the Wilton Road market is held just a yard or two over the borough border in the car park and garden of the Abbey Arms next door to Abbey Wood station. I think they have been active in Welling too.

The first market in which I was slightly involved was held in Wilton Road in September 2018 and if I have counted correctly there have been four more at that venue since then with another due on 15th December, the first to be held on a Sunday.

I have no idea how CC Events manages to make money but they have a long term plan to improve the area by degrees. At the outset it must have been hard work with not many more than 20 stalls paying just a tenner a pitch and the raffle prizes being worth more money than was taken in ticket sales; but you have to start somewhere and given enough support prospects should improve. Plans are afoot for the Wilton Road Food and Craft Market to go monthly from next March with the active participation of the Abbey Arms and support from local traders.

Greenwich Council has been supportive following the success of the first market but maybe Bexley a little less so so far; hence Sally Hinkley’s interest and the Deputation. This is a summary of what was said…

MolnarCatherine Molnar’s introduction ran through some of the information provided above but added that her company had been finalists in two categories of the 2019 Bexley Business Awards and that her aim was to bring events and markets to the less well off areas of the borough.

They not only bring food and craft produce to those areas but also provide free children’s entertainment and free stalls to local charitable and community groups. The markets bring vitality and improved footfall wherever they are held. Schools and Brownie Groups have taken advantage of the facilities on offer and have even made money from them.

Catherine said that with only two people staging the events, (booking stalls, buying decorative bunting, dealing with licensing regulations etc.) they need every bit of help they can get if their ideas are to reach their full potential. She sought Bexley Council’s full cooperation and expects their own endeavours to be an asset to the borough. Maybe at least a feature in the Bexley Magazine? She received a round of applause.


MarketChris Molnar fielded a few questions. He said that Abbey Wood Village has been in decline, especially so since the Crossrail related works began in 2013, but was “buzzing” on market days and the traders have reported increased sales and a reduction in the level of Anti-Social Behaviour which can be a problem in the locality.

His Social Media feedback has included “I was thinking of buying a house in Abbey Wood and your market makes that decision a winner”. “I’d stopped coming to the village because of the betting shops but on market days, wow what a difference.” “Thank you for giving us our village back.”

In the near future the market will expand to include a bakery and a fresh fish stall which Abbey Wood village has not seen for a very long time, if at all. It will also diversify into theatre on the Abbey Arms stage and public health demonstrations such as CPR.

Chris too received a round of applause.

The Mayor promised to send the Deputation to the responsible Cabinet Member for his consideration.

Later in the meeting, Independent Councillor Danny Hackett referred to Welling Round Table and to CC Events both of which. he said, endeavoured to give something back to the community and asked how Bexley Council plans to #doitforbexley too. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill responded as follows…

Surely that must be an encouraging sign?

 

14 November (Part 2) - The Missing

With fewer than ten hours remaining before nominations close for the General Election I still don’t know who will represent the Tea Party (†) on December 12th in Erith and Thamesmead. Just what is my local Conservative Association chaired by Councillor John Davey playing at? Someone somewhere must have his arm twisted firmly up his back by Conservative HQ.

It’s no way to run an election campaign is it?
The Missing
† Apparently Boris Johnson made a big political mistake yesterday, he was exposed as a man who put milk in his tea before removing the tea bag. Doesn’t everyone? You put boiling water on the tea bag, squish it around a bit and then add the milk to see how strong it looks and if necessary squish the bag around a bit more. Sounds like desperation to suggest that is wrong.

Still no Prime Ministerial Lie of the Day!

 

14 November (Part 1) - You don’t need to wear a red rosette to care

There was a time when I had to be careful with money but I began to see the back of those days by the end of the 1970s and now see myself as pretty well off. Unfortunately some people never make that breakthrough and have to struggle through life at every stage. Not all of them are the proverbial lazy scroungers and it seems to me that there is an injustice somewhere that contrives to push people who are a bit down on their luck a bit further down than they were before. It’s not turned me into a Socialist because my three score years and ten and a half has taught me that Socialist governments lead to more poverty not less. In the words of Cabinet Member Leaf you cannot deliver effective front line services unless you are solvent.

Nevertheless I remain very much aware that there are social injustices and sometimes not being lucky in life leads to ever more bad luck, which is why I felt I had to say something about the lady who through no fault of her own finds herself caught in the middle of a parking pickle in Gravesend. She is not a friend in the accepted sense of the word, I know only her first name and a rough idea of where she used to live but she is someone I have chatted to from time to time over several years.

By highlighting her plight here I hoped that some kindly soul at Bexley Council might agree to knock some heads together. Just a couple of hours after the blog was published I got a phone call, it was from a Councillor who felt much the same about the situation as I did. He said he could promise nothing except that he would check through the facts and do his best to resolve the situation. One cannot ask for more than that.

The call came from a Bexley Conservative Councillor so maybe it proves that you don’t have to be a Socialist to have a social conscience.

 

13 November (Part 2) - Another big black hole looms but avoiding them is what Bexley Council does. Fingers crossed!

I had a long day in North London yesterday, early enough to force me to pay the Grayling Tax (†) but I calculated that I would be back in time to attend the Public Cabinet meeting and I was - just. The problem was that the journey into Liverpool Street was in a rickety old train which had no heating. By the time I was home I was in no mood to go out again and my feet didn’t thaw out until bedtime. Once again I watched the webcast. The Agenda said it was going to be pretty dry stuff and so it was, Financial Plans, but they cannot be lightly dismissed.

As you might expect the meeting started with a statement from the Director of Finance.

At the end of the fifth month of the financial year the forecast was that the Council would overspend by £1·2 million against an approved budget of £175 million. £2·2 million of the year’s contingency reserve will have been used up, all of it.

Children’s Social Care will likely have a £900,000 overspend and Adult’s Social Care will be more like £1·6 million. Work is being done to ensure a balanced budget by March 2020.

The Capital Programme budget is forecast to underspend by nearly £36 million against the approved £148 million. It is caused “by slippage on the various regeneration schemes”.

The forecast for the next financial year is a gap (or black hole as some people like to call it) of £2·7 million increasing to £32 million by 2023/24.

There is talk of the government reducing the rate of Council Tax increase allowed without holding a referendum from 2·99% to 1·99% and it is assumed that Council Tax will not be rising significantly.

Cabinet Member David Leaf in an obvious reference to the forthcoming election said that he and others were working hard to ensure that the country does not become Venezuela MkII. Bexley Council, he said, “cannot deliver effective front line services unless it is solvent and financially resilient and that is a key priority”. One of the current problems is “lack of certainty in national politics” and he went on to blame certain “self righteous MPs” for the dithering and feet dragging that had led to that situation.

Councillor Leaf promised a short speech but still managed to stretch it out to eight minutes.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis said he would “enjoy partaking in the budget process”.

The Cabinet noted the financial plans and the approach adopted to close the projected budget gap and the meeting moved on to the next subject.

† If Failing Grayling had not blocked TfL from taking over Southeastern I could have travelled free early in the morning on my Freedom Pass, as it was I had to pay the standard fare. On the other hand it was a TfL operated train that had no heating and threatened to turn me into a block of ice.

13 November (Part 1) - Injustices abound. Councils seem not to care

There was no time for reporting on Council meetings yesterday and it will be the same today so to substitute here is a quick tale of woe which Bexley Council could very easily sort out but those who might like to do so are hidebound by rules.

A lady of my acquaintance until recently lived for many years with her disabled husband in a privately rented flat not far from me and close to St. Augustine’s Church in Belvedere. She earns next to nothing from a very part-time job.

Her landlady wanted her out in order to sell the flat but few landlords are willing to take on tenants whose income largely relies on state handouts. I saw a sympathetic letter from the letting agent confirming that she was their only long term client who had never defaulted on a single payment but apologising that they still couldn’t help her.

GraveshamEventually Bexley Council stepped in and found her a flat in Gravesend which came with a parking space for a car which is essential for her husband to get around.

Unfortunately the landlord had not only let the flat and parking spot to Bexley Council he had separately let the parking bay to a Gravesend commuter too. There is no unrestricted street parking because the flat is too close to the railway station.

The displaced lady immediately applied to Gravesend Council for a resident’s parking permit to circumvent the problem that Bexley Council had unwittingly caused but was refused on the grounds that they don’t issue them to people who already have off street parking which on paper at least she has.

Her husband who gets a disability allowance from the government has been too proud to ask for a Blue Badge and in Belvedere he didn’t need one. The waiting list for a Blue Badge is long. Meanwhile as of last week Gravesend Council had dished out ten parking tickets.

This is something that a responsive Council could sort out in an instant and at the lower levels in Bexley Council some sympathy has been on display but despite it being Bexley Council that is effectively swindled by an apparently rogue landlord no one at the right level has the gumption to have a word with Gravesend Council to sort something out in the short term. If it is not sorted we will all know that Bexley Council is the uncaring, vindictive, money-grabbing organisation that many think it is.

Meanwhile a lady through no direct fault of her own is incurring hundreds of pounds a week in penalty charges.

 

12 November - The Brexit Party

Having previously publicised all the Erith & Thamesmead Labour prospective candidate videos I suppose it’s only fair to do the same for The Brexit Party.

With the Tories still playing silly buggers in E & T (†) and their candidate announcement more than a week behind the promised date it is not beyond the realms of possibility that I shall vote for Mr. Farage’s party. All it needs is for the Tories to announce another no hoper like they did in 2017 and everyone will know they are not being serious. The question will then be “can I forgive the non-stop slow motion effects in Mr.Bright’s video?”.

† They are not going to give the Brexit Party a clear run as rumoured elsewhere are they?

 

11 November - The Withdrawal Agreement and Clown of the Day

There has been very little time to read the Withdrawal Agreement or do anything else useful today, the CCTV in East Ham stopped working and required attention but I am now one third through the Withdrawal Agreement.

As expected anyone who works for the EU gets all sorts of tax and pension advantages and will continue to do so; precisely what is not clear because it is all as set out in another document but I think one can safely assume that Mr. and Mrs. Kinnock will be happy. This also applies to employees of all the hangers-on and fringe organisations like the Medicines Agency, the Galileo project and far too many more.

All employees are “exempted from obligatory affiliation to and payment into national social security systems in the United Kingdom” too. The Gravy Train will not entirely hit the buffers next year.

And now at last something we all recognise, the Transition Period. “There shall be a transition or implementation period, which shall start on the date of entry into force of this Agreement and end on 31 December 2020.”

The date that Boris has apparently promised Nigel he will not extend.

I expect there were plenty of Lies of the Day, a politician must have opened his mouth somewhere, but none I saw struck me as especially bad so instead Bonkers brings you the total moron that is Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for East Dunbartonshire a place I used to know well. All distilleries, ship yards, council houses and friendly workshy drunks when I was there. Surely you would have to be drunk to vote for this woman, she thinks that Dianne Abbott is a politician of the same stature as Margaret Thatcher and Barbara Castle.

Utterly deluded as must be all the Lib Dum MPs and anyone else who votes for her.

Far too many MPs display less intelligence than me or you or probably anyone else you will speak to this week.

 

10 November - Slowly does it!

TweetThis Tweet by Bexley Conservatives is probably not good enough to qualify for Lie of the Day but it isn’t entirely honest.

I personally think that voting for Sadiq Khan is an act of madness, he has failed in all his ambitions, but I don’t think it is entirely fair to wholly blame him for the Crossrail delay. My guess is that he knows far less about Crossrail than I do and he failed to look properly into what was going on.
Khan claim
In retrospect we should have known Crossrail wouldn’t open on 9th December 2018 as planned. I was the only person to go to every single one of the Abbey Wood Crossrail Liaison Panel meetings; they were very interesting, but more than once I went through the Minutes with Roger K. who more often than not sat next to me, and concluded that not a single one of the action points listed three months earlier had made any progress at all.

If that was any indication of how things worked at Crossrail HQ, well…

Bexley Conservatives say they are ready for Crossrail and by their logic they have Sadiq Khan to thank for that.

Bexley Council’s regeneration work around the station, mainly paid for by Network Rail, was scheduled for completion in June 2018, six months before the new rail services were due to commence. They must hate people like me who don’t throw the leaflets away.


“Work will finish in both areas by June 2018. The Elizabeth line station will be fully operational in December 2-18.”


Right now we have Gayton Road to the south of the station unfinished and the stairs still out of use. To the north Felixstowe Road is about the enter its fifteenth week of its nine week closure.

A later revision to the aforesaid leaflet said…


“From June 2017 until Autumn 2018, major improvement works will be taking place on Harrow Manorway to upgrade the area between the flyover at Abbey Wood station and Eastern Way.”


Looking on the bright side Harrow Manorway does show signs of moving into its final phase.

For the first time in maybe eighteen months there is two way working all the way from the station to Eastern Way, the two roundabouts are pretty much completed and only yesterday I saw one of two 180 buses running in convoy reverse its direction via the Sainsbury’s roundabout without running up the kerb. Maybe Andrew Bashford is learning from past mistakes.

The pictures below were all taken yesterday afternoon. The bus stop sign suggests that the planned congestion (more bus lanes!) will only be applied north of Yarnton Way and the expensive German granite blocks are blackened by tyres just as quickly as the cheaper ones elsewhere in the borough.

All done by Christmas? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway

 

9 November (Part 3) - The Withdrawal Agreement and Lie of the Day : 4

Oh dear, I have progressed through the Withdrawal Agreement to where it deals with Euratom and I gained top marks in A Level Physics in the very last year that it did not include Nuclear Physics. Maybe this report should be read with even more care than the earlier ones.

The first thing to strike me is that we will be allowed to keep all fissile materials stored here. Well thanks for that! We are also required to observe all EU and international safety regulations. What do these Eurocrats take us for? Oh, yes, fools isn’t it?

Euratom equipment in the UK at the end of the transition period will have to be paid for. Why? Haven’t we made a full contribution already?

The Agreement then moves back to Courts. The European Court of Justice will continue to dictate to UK Courts until the end of the transition period, Ok we have been stuck with it for many years, we will have to put up with it for a few more. However it can still have a go at us for four years after the transition period if it considers we misbehaved before it. Such decisions have “binding force” although we will be able to contest decisions in the same way as a Member State.

This Withdrawal Agreement shows every sign of going downhill. It’s hard to find anything unequivocally favourable to the UK.

On State Aid the EU again reserves the right to poke its nose into UK business for four years after the end of the transition period if it believes we broke their rules before the transition period ended.

The UK will also be stuck with all the rules and regulations relating to greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions which is probably no bad thing but we don’t need unelected dictators to tell us so.

CorbynJust over 25% of the way through the Withdrawal Agreement now.

It’s not yet mid-day so it is a bit early for Lie of the Day so here is one from yesterday evening. Jeremy Corbyn denying he ever met IRA leaders. Haven’t we seen dozens of photos that prove him a liar?

As an alternative here’s a little video that someone made which suggests that everybody’s favourite terrorist sympathiser has a very selective memory.

“I never met the IRA. I never met the IRA.”

Come on Boris, you can do it too!

 

9 November (Part 2) - The fantastic Leader’s report

O'NeillThe Quarterly Leader’s report is always worth waiting for even if the preceding events are sometimes a little tedious. Planted questions and Motions are not my favourite Council events.

Last week’s report went something like this…

Teresa O’Neill referred back to the “fantastic” Alcock & Brown celebration last July but moved swiftly on to the damaged Cob statue in Belvedere or is it Erith? It must be right on the boundary. Opened by Boris Johnson when Mayor and damaged beyond repair by an Asda driver.

I have some respect for lorry drivers, my son has an HGV licence (passed test first time in under two weeks so maybe it’s not that difficult) as part of his road safety researches and, as he once told me, as a fall back in case his business hits a rough patch. Fortunately it’s not happened yet. However local Asda drivers certainly give the impression that they are in a class apart, and not in a good way.

The Leader said that negotiations with insurance companies were getting nowhere fast so she wrote to the Chief Executive of Asda. We all know how unhelpful insurance companies try to be so who can blame her?

Councillor Peter Craske has been messing around in a bin factory and who better to be in one? The Leader has seen those already delivered to the Crayford depot and the first of them should hit a pavement near you next Monday. I will have to wait three more weeks for mine. No idea what I am going to do with them, I need neither.

Councillor O’Neill went to the topping out ceremony of the new Peabody towers at Tavy Bridge along with Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) and avoided being stuck in the broken down lift which followed hers.

The Estuary Envoy got a mention and who might he be? Apparently it is a she called Kate Willard and she “champions” the Thames Estuary.

The Leader said the SEN inquest chaired by Councillor Alan Downing “was a really good meeting” and “to apologise was the right thing to do”. The leading parent protester “is going to come in and have a cup of coffee” because “there are some really valuable lessons to be learned”.

The Leader called in favours with Boris Johnson by writing her own personal letters to the new government within days of its formation ensuring Bexley was first in the queue. A letter went to Met. Commissioner Cressida Dick requesting more police and one must wish the Leader good luck dealing with that useless if not totally bent cop.

She has had a conversation with the Home Secretary about dealing with unaccompanied asylum seekers which couldn’t have been too difficult given that the Home Secretary is Bexley Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer’s wife. She “has had some movement on that”.

Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) was the first to ask a question but it was of the creepy arse licking variety so I will give that one a miss except to say it was planted because the reply was read from a script by the arch question and answer rigger Councillor Philip Read. Him again.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) asked another question which wasn’t much better. It gave Cabinet Member Craske the opportunity to say that Danson Park had been voted the best in London. Really? What? Better that Hyde Park, St. James’ Park, Regents Park?

Hackett FrancisCouncillor Danny Hackett (Independent, Thamesmead East) was the first to ask a genuine question. It was about fireworks and already reported elsewhere. Councillor O’Neill as you may remember provided a positive and encouraging response.

Next with a proper question was Labour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) who didn’t think Bexley Council had done enough to counter the plans to expand London City Airport or to plan for and publicise the forthcoming Barnehurst, Bexleyheath and Welling rail closure in February.

Cabinet Member Louie French didn’t think much of the Airport’s consultation efforts either, it was all “a bit bizarre” but the Council did submit a formal response.

He has some ideas for publicising the alternative rail travel arrangements but has concerns about capacity.

Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log) dared to mention the C word; Crossrail. She tempted fate by saying it could open in October 2020 but that was “appalling”. Bexley Council has spent a lot of money in the area but “businesses are still suffering. Under Boris Johnson Crossrail was on budget and on time and then along came Sadiq Khan and suddenly we are three years behind”. Last Wednesday she should have said two years behind but 24 hours later she was right.

Teresa O’Neill is clearly no Mystic Meg for she had spoken to TfL bosses and confidently revealed their dirty secret; the Elizabeth line “had probably slipped another month”. How wrong can they get? (In case you have been asleep for the past day or two Crossrail opening has been deferred well into 2021 at best.)

The same TfL bosses had been to look at the hordes of ill-mannered school children who run riot by the Clock Tower every afternoon. No solution was offered. What do you think? Confiscate their Oyster cards, tasers or a big net dropped from the sky and hauled skywards like in one of the final scenes from War of the Worlds?

Finally the Leader sang the praises of the Larner Road and Arthur Street developments.

Despite the mischievous blog title I think the word fantastic was only used three times, not counting Councillor Davey getting in on the act.

 

9 November (Part 1) - More misinformation? It’s more than likely

The repercussions from Bexley Council’s SEN Transport humiliation at the hands of the LGO and persistent parents rumble on.

From inside the Council comes an excuse for Mr. Simon James who sat alongside the Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller after keeping him in the dark about the fast developing disaster and never breathed a word about it to save his embarrassment. Could he have been under instructions from his boss Jacky Tiotto who conveniently left for pastures new just a few days later? Hmmm, I’d forgotten that.

But was John Fuller misled on another matter too? He said, with possibly too much relish, that the parent who rebelled through the Courts against the Council’s decision “had to pay costs and everything”.

They lost and had to pay costs and everything.

Someone who suggests he was close to the centre of things has said that that simply wasn’t true, not a penny in costs was awarded, but the Council ran up a big legal bill by instructing counsel.

I’ve not found any reference to this gigantic Council cock-up in the local press which only covers the Council Press Releases like the new bins arriving next week only four months late. Where’s Tom Bull when you need him? Maybe some inquisitive Councillor should follow this one up.

 

8 November (Part 2) - The Withdrawal Agreement and Lie of the Day : 3

I made a mistake with yesterday’s Withdrawal Agreement comment. I thought for a moment it was 500 pages long and it is 600 so I was not very close to having read the first 20%, however today I have got past the 20% mark.

It goes on and on and on about the movement of goods and intellectual property rights before moving on to policing and security.

I get the impression it is written to protect the EU rather than the UK and we are going to have to pay for access to certain European security databases and I see no reference to the EU paying to access ours.

We are going to have to observe the protected product names for all time so I cannot rebottle lemonade and call it Champagne Cola or something. No one will care but I see no reciprocal arrangement to protect Cornish Pasties etc. Maybe I missed it.

So far so good or at least not too bad really on the WA; I assume they are leaving all the nasty stuff like the European Arrest Warrant and Fisheries to the end hoping that readers die of exhaustion before getting that far. They may yet get their wish.

Now for lie of the day. The day didn’t start well and I thought I might be giving it a miss but then the foulmouthed Labour candidate Jess Phillips came to my rescue. She said that a school was having to cancel its Christmas Fayre but a journalist said he did some checking in her constituency and drew a blank. Did I not read the Phillips is one of three MPs tipped to replace erstwhile Deputy Leader Tom Watson? Is talent so very short in the Labour Party at national level that Jess Phillips could be in the running?
Tweet Tweet
Then Zac Goldsmith wrote to his Lib Dem opposite number, Sarah Olney accusing her of blatant lying. Who is surprised? Didn’t she pull a similar stunt at a previous election in Richmond? Not sure, the Lib Dems pull so many stunts it is hard to keep up.

Zac Goldsmith

I must look harder for Tory lies.

 

8 November (Part 1) - Bexley Conservatives enslave Labour

OgundayoI’ve said before that I feel that too many Council Motions are of the form ‘This Council resolves to be a decent law abiding organisation for a change by signing this piece of paper’.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo spoke eloquently for ten minutes this week to ask Bexley Council to observe Teresa May’s 2015 Modern Day Slavery Act which applies only to commercial organisations and sign The Charter Against Modern Slavery.

Councillor Ogundayo provided examples of how slavery had been discovered within Bexley. It is undoubtedly an evil and no one can deny it, not even Conservative Councillors.

It was obvious what was going to happen, it always does when Labour puts forward an idea which has no downsides; the Conservative Councillors take it over, and so it proved.

Cabinet Member Philip Read objected to the Motion and circulated an Amendment.

The differences were tiny. Mabel Ogundayo’s Motion had been in the queue for a year and had become a little dated, that was corrected. Like most rewrites of an existing draft it was improved in several respects however the Tories’ main objection was that The Charter of Modern Slavery had been formulated by the Cooperative Party and the word cooperative is anathema to Bexley Tories. There was no way they were going to sign their Charter.

In putting forward his objections to the original Motion Philip Read directed personal insults towards Councillor Ogundayo. To add to his previous allegations of youth, inexperience and a poor educational standard he added plagiarism. The Motion had been “copied from the Labour Party’s Handbook on Composite Motions” and those reading it “will lose the will to live”. It was put forward by Labour so that “they could claim the moral high ground to make them feel self-righteous”. Totally unnecessary objections from the reliably obnoxious Philip Read.

He voted against Councillor Ogundayo’s Motion.

The whole of the Labour Group had the good sense to vote in favour of the Conservative amendment, it was undoubtedly an improvement on the original but once again a good Labour idea was usurped by the unscrupulous Tories. It’s a pity the two parties cannot learn to work together.

 

7 November (Part 5) - The Withdrawal Agreement and Lie of the Day

I am now getting on for 20% through the Withdrawal Agreement. There is a whole load of stuff about protecting EU residents and their dependants, their health needs and the movement of goods.

So long as we can kick out the criminals it all seems fine to me.

It looks like we are stuck with the VAT system for five years beyond the end of the transition period which could be a very long time. On the other hand we are not likely to want to go back to the pre-1973 Purchase Tax system so does it really matter?

It probably doesn’t move the score to Nigel 1 : Boris 1 but it is one thing less to worry about.

SoubryFor lie of the day I offer the unscrupulous Anna Soubry, EU Remainer extraordinaire allegedly representing the Leave people of Broxstowe.

Desperately looking for support she found a voter who was prepared to say on camera that he had voted Leave but was a Soubry convert. Pull the other one!

He was soon exposed as a Lib Dem activist and former Council candidate prepared to sell his soul, as of course unprincipled Lib Dems so often are.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘Spanners Anna’ featured here again before December 12th.

Urban Dictionary. Box of Spanners. “A product, device or service that appears to work, but when you look deeper turns out to be a collection of badly thought out and badly implemented ideas that is going to cause you no end of grief.”

 

7 November (Part 4) - My hopes for a fireworks argument fizzle out

Councillor Hackett called me last week and tried to persuade me to go to the Danson Park Fireworks which was nice of him but I already had a ‘date’ elsewhere. I have a sneaking suspicion he was looking for someone to stand on the gate with him for company while he checked tickets and froze his toes off.

The display was organised by Welling Round Table and Danny very recently switched from being one of their many volunteers to being a Member. Their fireworks display is probably the biggest #doitforbexley event in the borough, exactly the sort of thing that the Council seeks to encourage. The community coming together to raise pots of money for worthy causes without costing the Council a single penny.

Unfortunately Bexley Council may not have quite got the idea of #doitforbexley yet.

Each year it publishes its charges for everything from A boards outside shops to weddings at Hall Place and in between is the hiring of parks. As far as I can make out it charged the Round Table the standard £1,500 to hire Danson park, £340 for the banners to advertise it and £40 a week for each one seen hanging on the boundary fences which it cannot even be bothered to hang up itself.

It does nothing to help with parking and the Round Table has to arrange parking restrictions and its volunteers have to get hold of the cones and put them out themselves. It doesn’t look like genuine community encouragement to me, more an attempt to make a quick buck.

HackettAt last night’s Full Council meeting the Independent Thamesmead East Councillor Danny Hackett stood up to blow the Round Table’s trumpet and to ask a few questions.

In this year alone the RT has raised £67,000 for local charities. Danny confirmed the stories I had heard about Bexley Council charging their fees for every last thing as described above and he said he had already raised the issue with both Council Officers and the Council Leader.

He queried the use of hashtag doitforbexley when support by the Council has been somewhat lacking.

I looked forward to hearing Teresa O’Neill doing a little squirming and wriggling. She said charges were necessary because otherwise “you would have people putting up banners all over the place”. (Not if you continued to require Council permission but charged a lot less you wouldn’t.)

However it wasn’t all bad news, the Leader is going to meet the President of the RT, former Conservative Councillor Kerry Allon, to see how the Council can be more helpful in future. She was “absolutely up for helping people to help our residents”. That must be good news for CC Events UK Ltd who were at the same meeting looking for Council support for their community endeavours.

It seems that Independent Councillors asking nicely can do more for the borough than the bickering variety.

Personally I wonder how it is the Finance Officer who not long ago was employed by Newham Council which pays for everything to do with its firework display can argue in Bexley that financial obstacles must be put in the way. The Round Table event must surely be a better way to have fun while keeping the costs down and if Teresa O’Neill sincerely wants to lend a helping hand all should be well in November 2020.

 

7 November (Part 3) - Going round in circles

It was very silly of me to go to the Extinction Rebellion meeting last week instead of the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee in the the Civic Offices because I probably missed the details of how South Eastern are planning to mitigate the total loss of rail services on the Barnehurst, Bexleyheath and Welling line next February. Network Rail is going to fix the constant land slip problems and the only practical way is to shut the line for nine days 15th to 23rd February 2020.

The plan was first discussed at the meeting last March when Councillor Borella didn’t like the Chairman’s idea for rail replacement buses which involved a torturous journey all the way up to London and suggested express services to the nearest North Kent line station. Something like Barnehurst to Erith, Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood and Welling to Plumstead or Woolwich Arsenal.

I knew that this more sensible idea was taken on board by the rail authorities because of a conversation I had with Network Rail’s PR Department in September. Thanks to The Lewisham & Bexleyheath Community Rail Partnership, a commuter group as I understand it, I can bring news of what is actually proposed.


A half-hourly peak period only bus service from Barnehurst to Slade Green. (Not Erith which is a much easier road route but is served by fewer trains than Slade Green.)

Bexleyheath and Welling to be served by a quarter-hourly ‘circular’ service. Abbey Wood to Bexleyheath, on to Welling and back to Abbey Wood in a clockwise direction only. Bexleyheath commuters will be well pleased with that in the morning!

Going further afield Falconwood and Eltham will be provided with a quarter-hourly ‘circular’ serving Mottingham, Eltham, Falconwood and back to Mottingham. At present several peak hour trains skip Mottingham so the idea does not look too clever unless the train timetable is amended.


The Rail Partnership has proposed several amendments which make better use of existing TfL bus services but if one looks at the route detail for the rail replacement buses one can still see problems. Residents of New Road in Abbey Wood will see up to eight more double deckers passing their doors every hour and quite how they are supposed to turn right into Wilton Road at the end of Abbey Road and stop at the foot of the station stairs I am not sure.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that the Chairman of the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee has proved to be every bit as helpful to The Partnership as one might expect. She is fortunate to have one knowledgeable Councillor on her Committee in the shape of Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green and North End).

The full Barnehurst mitigation proposals may be viewed here.

 

7 November (Part 2) - The rabble is roused

I'm not sure for how much longer I can continue to attend Bexley Council meetings. It is well known that Anti-Social Behaviour makes Bexleyheath ia no-go area after 3 p.m. Monday to Friday but it seems to be getting the same in the evening.

For the second time recently it was difficult to find somewhere to park the car. My long term favourite spot has eight bays in a road with no houses and it was almost unknown not to find one or two of them free.

Last night the wall piddlers were back in force standing under a non-functioning street light with all eight parking bays empty. Presumably I am not the only one to be frightened away. The evening economy must suffer.

It would be a shame to miss Full Council meetings, the atmosphere is totally lost on the webcast and they give good value for money. Last night’s will provide blogging material for a week. The only slight downside is that Mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis is far too good a Chairman to let the meeting descend into chaos. Bring back Councillor Val Clark I say!

Most Council meetings are enlivened or spoiled depending on one’s point of view by a politically motivated irrelevant diatribe by Cabinet Member for Resources David Leaf. However yesterday being the first day of electioneering his rant might be more appropriate than usual. It was also quite restrained by his standards. After doing his best to humiliate Labour Leader Daniel Francis after a Conservative Member planted a mischievous question, Councillor Leaf got into his rabble rousing stride…

I’m not sure a Full Council meeting is the appropriate venue for tub thumping but he’s actually quite good at it isn’t he?

 

7 November (Part 1) - It’s a write off

CobProbably I shouldn’t have tempted fate by suggesting it was “flimsy” and that it was only a matter of time before a speeding motorist would demolish the Erith Cob as had happened to a similar statue in Scotland.

But I was wrong, it lost a leg due to the inattention of an Asda lorry’s driver.

Yesterday Bexley Council Leader Teresa O’Neill quietly announced that the two tonne horse is beyond repair.

The Leader has been in touch with the top brass at Asda and asked them to fix what they have wrecked. They are consulting their lawyers and she is hopeful of a satisfactory outcome.

 

6 November - Decisions and lies

You probably know by now that there is an election coming. 😉 I for one am not sure who I will be voting for although I do know who I won’t be voting for. One of the things that is important to me is Brexit. In simplistic terms is Boris Johnson stretching a point a little too far when he speaks of his agreement or has Nigel Farage gone off his rocker?

To get to the truth I have been reading the European Union Withdrawal Agreement, the Johnson version. It is heavy going and 599 pages long and I have only got 10% into it so far.

I don’t much mind the transition period, thanks to three years of dithering by the Maybot a clean break is no longer possible, nor do I object to EU citizens being given all sorts of rights and the European Court of Justice having jurisdiction during that transition period.

However I don’t think I like “The United Kingdom’s judicial and administrative authorities shall have due regard to relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union handed down after the end of the transition period”. We are stuck with the buggers for evermore!

That looks like Nigel Farage 1 : Boris Johnson nil to me. There are however more things to this election than Brexit. The loss of Scotland, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, our savings, our houses and the shirts off our backs is not unimportant but if by the time I get to page 599 of the Agreement the score is Nigel 10 : Boris nil then it will be time for pause for thought.

Sky liesWhile Bexley news is thin on the ground - it’s not going to last long - I considered keeping a score of election lies just for a bit of fun. There’s bound to be a ready supply of them.

In the past 24 hours or so we have seen the so called Liberal Democrats edit a Guardian newspaper headline so that it favoured them more directly than it actually did and not content with that deception they fiddled with some figures on a graph to the extent they became another whopping big lie. When did LibDems not lie?

The Conservatives mischievously edited a video clip of Labour’s Keir Starmer and Sky News made up a total lie about Conservative Chairman James Cleverly failing to turn up for interview with one of their third rate presenters.

I didn’t see it because I almost never turn on the TV and absolutely never in the early morning, however I did catch James twice while flitting between LBC and TalkRadio.

I am old enough to remember that if you heard something on the BBC news it must be true but now you cannot trust any of them, least of all Sky.

Finally we saw all and sundry - more accurately the broadcast media and the loony left - complaining that Jacob Rees-Mogg had said something offensive about the Grenfell Tower fire. I heard him on LBC speaking to presenter Nick Ferrari.

Jacob R-M said, with the benefit of hindsight of course, “The more one’s read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer and I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do. And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen.”

There is absolutely nothing offensive about that, it is basically what the official Grenfell report said.

Nick Ferrari agreed and so do I, I said the same to a friend on the day the report came out and I don’t have the benefit of an Eton education to help work it out.

James Cleverly apologised for the remark even though it seemed like a statement of the obvious to me but then I would not expect anything very sensible from James Cleverly. I met and spoke to him once and formed the impression that he was a bit of a prat.

Most MPs seem to be not over-blessed with brain cells. For the most part they are not any more intelligent than the average Jo waiting in a bus queue. The next five weeks are going to demonstrate that fact on a daily basis.

 

5 November (Part 2) - Bexley Council lagging again

Bexley Council is fond of telling us of things that it does well compared to other Councils, recycling being the obvious one but it may also have more world class parks than most although it has occasionally added totally spurious examples like the Happiness Index where in fact it wasn’t even in the top half of London Councils and in nowhere land countrywide.

Tesla M3The Government recently offered Councils more money for electric car charging points which is another area where Bexley Council has proved to be a laggard and a failure. Local authorities have been placed in four categories of success and Bexley is second to bottom because it only has eight charging points per 100,000 of population.

By contrast Dartford has 15, Lewisham 19, Bromley 22, Newham 24 and Greenwich 61. (Government figures.)

But it could be worse, Harrow has 6 and Havering only 4.

Note: Transport Minister Grant Shapps recently bought a Tesla Model 3 (see image) and was an instant convert to electric driving; hence green number plates, driving in bus lanes, free parking and higher speed limits hitting the headlines.

 

5 November (Part 1) - Five four three two one : £80!

Harrow Manorway If you were born lucky you may have been driving past Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s at twelve minutes past eleven yesterday morning because for just a minute or two the road that has been a stop go bottleneck for the past month was completely clear of obstructions.

Bexley’s contractor was moving on to work on the eastern carriageway. More blocks; however to the surprise of many they have done their best to avoid further congestion. Traffic is being allowed to squeeze carefully by in both directions.

It probably doesn’t help pedestrians trying to cross the road and one must hope that drivers respect the decision made in their favour. The sound of hooting at drivers who were being careful and respectful to pedestrians earlier today suggests that many will fully live up to local expectations.


Pavement parking Five minutesWork continues on adjacent roads too. To the south of the station Gayton Road remains unfinished despite its end of January completion date and to the north Felixstowe Road which should have been completely rebuilt by September makes the usual slow progress.

There are however many signs that the project must be approaching its end game. The road surface is complete (but the scheduled reopening date passed a month ago).

Other signs of completion are the parking signs. You must be using a taxi, a disabled badge or capable of nipping into the shop and out again within five minutes to be allowed to stop anywhere near the station.

There is no doubt a parking problem. Gayton Road and its pavements have become a long term car park, the worst I observed was for three days.

All without penalty despite the opportunity for Bexley Council to make a PCN killing. They can’t even get a CEO down there daily. Are they really proposing to station one in Felixstowe Road all day long to enforce their five minute restriction? Is Bexley a suburb of Cloud Cuckoo Land? (Please don’t answer that one.)

 

4 November (Part 3) - A fire cracker

Councillor Craske has been on a mission in recent days to discover who might be willing to sell fireworks to children and he is very pleased, as everyone over the age of 18 surely will be, to announce that every single retailer complied with the law.

It wasn’t always so.

Tweet News ShopperFor example shopkeeper Baljeet Singh was fined £1,200 with £430 costs and a £120 victim surcharge for selling fireworks to under age customers (see associated Tweet) and in another case Jarnail Singh did the same thing and had his knuckles lightly rapped by the Licensing Committee. The report is still on the News Shopper’s website (click associated small image)

Why the difference? That’s an easy one to answer.

Baljeet Singh stood for election on a Labour ticket in 2010 and was clearly a hardened criminal. On the other hand Jarmail Singh was a Tory candidate at the same election and had made an innocent mistake.

Don’t tell me that Conservative Councillors in Bexley are honest upstanding citizens. Trust Councillor Read to be up to his neck in the skullduggery.

 

4 November (Part 2) - Bexley doing what it does best; attacking the local economy

There's been a popular little cafe in Lesnes Abbey Park for the past couple of years but now it is shut. An enforced closure by Bexley Council over what is believed to be a minor disagreement about opening hours. But maybe not, no one wants to talk.

Bexley Council has been gunning for Amal Abdi the franchisee since last year and thinks it can find someone better than her to run it.

They have been advertising the concession since the Summar and no one seems to be interested in working for a Council that might toss you aside without a second thought. The end result is obvious. Small minded people in the Council have deprived park visitors of a valuable asset. There is no more common sense in the Parks Department than there is in Highways.
Cafe Cafe

 

4 November (Part 1) - Match abandoned

For someone who has never seen the attraction of kicking round balls I have spent an awful lot of time corresponding with football supporters over the past two months. They have been supplied with documents most of which have never been published on Bonkers about the son of former Bexley Council Deputy Leader Colin Campbell - he who blatantly lied about me on BBC TV.

Those papers contain reports of the business malpractices, a Court case and bankruptcy of Mark Campbell. My interest was aroused because he was claiming to be an American millionaire and wanted to buy Falkirk Football Club. Much the same sort of activity we have seen before.

Some of the supporters smelled a rat. I and some of Mark’s Bexley associates were happy to supply them with unsavoury evidence - to good effect it would appear. Mark Campbell is not going to become the new owner of Football FC.
Mark Cambell

Click image above for yet another difficult to get into newspaper website.

 

3 November (Part 2) - Danny does a Donald

LabourIt’s nearly ten years since I first told Independent Councillor Danny Hackett that he would never make a successful politician. At the time he was a red hot Blairite and was somewhat taken aback.

“Why?”

“Because you are too damned honest.”

It took me until this time last year to additionally realise that he had become in every way bar Brexit just as right wing as I am.

As we all now know, Danny’s position within the Labour Party finally became untenable when he nailed his colours to the mast over anti-Semitism. He had come a long way since June 2017 when he was the Labour candidate in Old Bexley and Sidcup.

Danny has not only proved to be too honest for his own good but fearless too. He has come out in support of his 2017 rival in Old Bexley reaping the wrath of some rather unpleasant people in the process.

I am sure he meant well but I cannot help but wonder if his intervention may have unintended consequences in the same way that President Trump’s condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn is alleged to have done.
Trump Hackett
Among many others I am still waiting the naming of the Conservative contender in my Erith and Thamesmead constituency. My vote for him is not a foregone conclusion, what if he were to be a Dominic Grieve impersonator? For me the priority must be stopping the UK becoming the new Venezuela.

Maybe there is a clue in this very recent Erith and Thamesmead photo? Who is centre stage with a big wide grin?
Mark Brooks

 

3 November (Part 1) - Bexley Council. Taxing Charities?

Welling Round Table put on their annual firework show last night, a good job the weather settled down a bit, I bet it was muddy. It is the ultimate example of #doitforbexley. Costs a fortune to put on, involves scores of volunteers, puts a smile on thousands of faces and raises huge sums for charity.

As you can see (image below), it is supported by the Mayor of Bexley which may give the impression that it is supported by Bexley Council, maybe not 100% support as in Newham but at least bucket loads of assistance.

I wish!

Hard evidence is next to impossible to uncover but I am as sure as I can be without seeing the bills that Bexley Council ‘taxes’ the Round Table for every little thing it needs to do to run a successful display. In other words taxing charitable causes.

Which Councillor is going to tell me that I’m wrong?

And then the Council makes a fat profit out of ignoramuses who still don’t know it is illegal to park on the pavement anywhere in London.
Fireworks Fireworks

 

2 November (Part 2) - It’s only Scabby Wood

Felixstowe Road Harrow ManorwayIt is 89 days since Bexley Council said that Felixstowe Road would be closed for nine weeks. The road was in fact finished a couple of days ago, the work has moved on to footpaths and flower beds or whatever the earth filled area is for.

Why isn’t the road open? It would take very little effort. Could it be that there is no one in Andrew Bashford’s department with the brain power to come to some sort of compromise? Abbey Wood has been crippled by traffic problems for nearly three years.

It is the same on Harrow Manorway. Having forgotten to put in some unnecessary granite blocks, three weeks ago some not very temporary traffic lights were installed while the road was dug up and more blocks installed. By last Thursday the job had reached the half way stage, presumably work will commence on the eastern carriageway next week.

If Andrew Bashford and Co. had one iota of commonsense Abbey Wood could have had some relief from the perpetual chaos for three days. But no one cares, it’s only Scabby Wood. It doesn’t matter.

 

2 November (Part 1) - Who are you? Prove it

Hustings

If you live in Teresa Pearce’s constituency and had the necessary ID with you, you could have turned up at the Labour candidate selection hustings yesterday and cast a vote for one of the three short listed candidates.

I was relieved to learn late last night that Abena Oppong-Asare had triumphed proving among other things that a slick video does not a good MP make. Best of the three for the Bexley end of the constituency by a wide margin. Where did the other two live? Far enough away to need a satnav to get here.

So we have a Labour candidate that people who can find something attractive in the Labour manifesto can reasonably vote for. No ID required. Vote for Abena as many times as you like.

 

1 November (Part 2) - Not my fault honest, it was him

I was explaining Bexleyֹ’s SEN cock-up to a friend this morning and it made me realise that the formal report into who said what about whom wasn’t really sufficient, at least one question should be asked and answered. A big question.

On 2nd July Councillor John Fuller through no fault of his own found himself making a false statement about SEN transport. It was disappointing to hear because John Fuller is the most approachable - no, the only approachable - Cabinet Member. He very occasionally indulges in the political rough and tumble of Council meetings but there’s never a suggestion of the dishonesty that one might expect from… Well you can guess.

At last Tuesday’s meeting Simon James, the Council Officer in charge, made a clean breast of it. He admitted that John Fuller had been left to wallow in ignorance of the real situation on 2nd July which was unforgiveable.

We also learned from Chairman Alan Downing that the staff who were responsible for the stress dished out to so many parents and the extreme embarrassment to John Fuller had left the Council’s employment but it would be a senior officer who would be responsible for advising John Fuller wouldn’t it? Not a minion.

So the boss has been given the elbow; no?

Not at all, it seems that it must be junior officers who paid the ultimate employment price because the Minutes of the 2nd July meeting record that sitting alongside Cabinet Member Fuller was his right hand man Simon James, yes, that Simon James.

One couldn’t make it up. The man who should have steered Cabinet Member Fuller away from his embarrassment simply didn’t. As the Minutes show, he was right there alongside John Fuller.

His juniors were shown the door but it is him who last Tuesday said that in future, procedures would include keeping the Cabinet Member in the loop.

Can you believe it? The question must be how did he get away with it? In Bexley you have to believe in the incredible.
Attendees

Minutes of 2nd July meeting. Simon James was sitting right next to John Fuller and watched him flounder without coming to his assistance.

A second question was buzzing around my head today. At every General Election the Labour Party trots out some tired mantra like “24 hours to save the NHS”. This time they have returned to a tried and tested favourite. The Conservatives are going to privatise the NHS.

I have been following election campaigns since 1959 and if memory serves correctly Labour always come out with something like that. So my question is why is the NHS still a a government agency? Maybe the Labour Party is scaremongering again and who was it that first introduced Prescription Charges anyway?

 

1 November (Part 1) - Chief Exec. says “Say sorry and put it right”

The inquest into Bexley Council’s SEN failures took up an hour and a half of Committee time and to demonstrate that it was a serious matter it was well attended by non-Committee members too.

The sorry saga began at a Communities Scrutiny meeting in July, a meeting I decided not to go to after a long day in East Ham, I did however sit and listen to the webcast at home and there was one bit I remember very well. That is Cabinet Member John Fuller telling the Committee how well the Council had been doing with SEN transport even beating one pesky parent in Court. Unusually, that meeting was not reported here, however I did keep a recording of it.

Two weeks later at a Full Council meeting the Labour Group pulled their rabbit from the hat; the Local Government Ombudsman did not agree with Councillor Fuller and had ruled against Bexley several times. The Labour Group issued a Press Release.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee From there it is probably safe to ignore Tweedledee and Tweedledum’s Twitter attack, it was all bluster and distortions as we have come to expect, and examine this week’s inquest in greater detail.


BeltonThe meeting began immediately and without any of the usual Agenda preliminaries with an apology from the Chief Executive Jacky Belton and a baptism of fire because amazingly I have not heard her address a public Council meeting in her previous seven months in office.

As stated elsewhere she was not in office at the critical time.

She offered “sincere apologies to the eight families who went to the Ombudsman and for the way their transport needs were assessed and for not implementing the LGO recommendations in a timely manner”. Three of the families had to return to the Ombudsman before obtaining justice. “It was totally unacceptable, We got it wrong”.

Council Leader Teresa O’Neill said she didn’t know about the LGO cases and that is one of the lessons that must be learned. She “was sorry about the impact it had on families”.

One of the parents addressed the Committee. Her son had been provided with transport for three years but then she came up against a refusal. All her enquiries received generic unsigned responses, no explanation was provided and her son was transformed into a ‘she’. “All deadlines were missed and I was left with no option but to go to the Ombudsman who found the Council at fault on 15th January and gave them a month to issue a full apology and arrange a fresh appeal.”

Bexley Council failed to respond even after being chased five times. When another apology date was missed, four more reminders fell on deaf ears. Eventually an appeal outcome was received on 5th April well outside the LGO timescale. It came with an assurance that her son’s ten months of transport problems had not affected his education. There had been no consultation with his mother and the Council felt it appropriate to criticise her for not sending a daughter to the nearest school. (There was a very good reason for it.)

To add insult to injury Bexley Council told her that there was no further recourse to Appeal. The LGO said that that advice was entirely incorrect. The stress caused by Bexley Council’s contempt for the law put the mother in hospital and she decided that her health was no longer good enough to pursue the case further.

She informed Bexley Council after which they said not another word. No sympathy, no empathy, no regret for the problems they had caused. The mother is a School Governor and knows that at no time did Bexley Council inform the school of what was going on.
Committee
Councillor Putson (Labour, Belvedere) asked the lady a question. “Was the action taken by the Council correct and as recorded in the Agenda?” The mother said that the Agenda was not a correct reflection of what happened.

Councillor Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if help had been sought from elsewhere, politicians perhaps. The parent said that David Evennett MP and Cabinet Member John Fuller had both been notified but she “struggled to get a response”. David Evennett passed on her email to the school “but no one from the Council ever contacted the school”.

Councillor Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) expressed his sympathy for what had happened and asked what the situation was “in the new school year” but alas there could be no answer as the mother had been refused transport for her son this year. As a Governor she had heard that things were improved.

Councillor Perfect asked how she felt about the Council after finding herself beaten down to the point she felt unable to pursue the appeal that the LGO said she was entitled to. “Do you trust the Council now?”

“If the Council won’t listen to the Ombudsman we stand no chance as parents. The Council’s response was an insult.”

Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) asked “What can the Council do for you?”

“Improve communication, show empathy and not treat children as numbers. Recognise the stress involved in being an SEN parent. Start the process earlier so that it is completed before schools close for the Summer. Every Summer holiday is ruined by arranging transport. It is heartbreaking.”

The Council Officer in charge of SEN Transport, a Mr. Simon James, admitted mistakes were made in his department right up to the 2018/19 academic year. Among the mistakes were incorrect distance assessments, no explanations offered to parents and no notification to the Cabinet Member. “Those mistakes will not be repeated in the future.”

More children are being assisted and fewer complaints are now being made, none to the Ombudsman. Among the improvements made are bringing the responsible staff closer together with a single manager and improved training. The need for parents to apply annually when circumstances had not changed had been abolished and decisions would be made before the end of term.

Councillor Ogundayo asked why the issues with Local Government Ombudsman were not made available to the meeting in July (when Councillor Fuller painted a rosy picture).

At the same meeting Cabinet Member Fuller said “schools are on our side” but the parent Governor speaking tonight said that was not correct. “Which schools were happy and which were concerned?”

Councillor Ogundayo also quoted the words of John Fuller provided in audio form above and asked for it to be justified. “How much did the family highlighted have to pay the Council following the lost Court case?”

Mr. James said the information should have been shared but wasn’t. There was no information available on happy or concerned schools but a programme of meetings with schools had been implemented.

Councillor Ogundayo said that her questions had not been properly answered but was told that there was no information on which schools had been supportive of Council policy which must cast doubt on the veracity of some of the statements made in July.

Councillor Ogundayo’s question about the lost Court case remained unanswered but tChairman Alan Downing ruled the question to be “old history” and inappropriate to the meeting. The Councillor complained that the lack of transparency made it more difficult to learn from history. The Chairman told her “to sit quiet for a moment”.

Councillor Putson referred to the Agenda which listed the number of complaints and appeals and asked how accurate the figures might be given that they were pretty much all wrong in July. Absolutely accurate this time apparently. He went on to ask why it was that at the last meeting the Cabinet Member was allowed to (innocently) give out wrong information when the responsible officer was there and could have corrected him.

No straight answer was provided, just an assurance that this time the figures were correct.

Councillor Ogundayo came back with her question about the amount awarded to the Council when a parent lost a Court case. Complaining parents ought to know the risks. She still didn’t get anything beyond apologies for past mistakes.

The Chairman offered his opinion that no single individual was responsible for the mistakes although he understood that “none of those are now present in the Council.” Despite that I counted seven managers from the appropriate hierarchy sitting at the Committee table. Maybe only junior heads rolled.

Councillor Ogundayo pressed her Court costs question once again and this time was promised a written response.

Councillor Putson also asked about staffing levels and as reported yesterday they have risen from three to seven but in reality an even bigger increase because the three often suffered vacancies.

Referring once again to the Agenda he drew attention to statements that appeared to be “misleading, or inaccurate or contradictory” and were the dismissed cases dismissed as a result of “political or budgetary pressures or policy or staff error?”

The Chairman didn’t like his question and was “disappointed that it was asked. Bringing in politics is really out of order”.

Councillor Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) attempted to bring the Cabinet Member to account for his “ignorance” on 2nd July. Councillor Fuller didn’t like that word and reiterated what Council Officers had already said more than once. No one had told him the truth but since then he had “worked hard and had meetings almost daily to put it right”.

Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said the Council is claiming that they were correct in one case “but the LGO said in writing we hadn’t complied and the lady walked away only because she was exhausted by the process and we are still saying we were correct but that is not what the LGO put in writing to the lady who made the presentation this evening.” Bexley Council will always deceive if it can and only the Labour Councillors can be relied on to expose them. Note who asked the only difficult questions recorded above.

Even the Chairman thought that Councillor Francis had made a good point.

Labour Leader Councillor Francis reminded Committee Members that almost half the families rejected for SEN transport last year had it reinstated and the LGO had complained of a lack of transparency and non-compliance. The Chief Executive herself circulated “an email on the 24th of July which was quite frankly, in retrospect, full of errors. It basically said only eight cases, nothing more to see here. That email bears no resemblance to where we are now.”

Finally there was Councillor Ogundayo’s question about a more public apology but as already reported she was given short shrift when all the Conservatives voted against further apologies. It’s always best in Bexley to hush things up if you can.

 

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