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News and Comment December 2020

Index: 20202021

31 December (Part 2) - That Was The Year That Was

BirthdayMy most recent almost normal event was a family gathering on 1st February. A couple of birthdays around that date prompted a gathering in Wiltshire; a dozen of us and I was laid low with the flu or some such bug coughing my insides up. Looking back on it it bore all the symptoms of Corona Virus including not fully recovering for four or five months.

In the few weeks that followed I dragged myself to the weekly pub quiz cowering in a corner and still coughing. By early March with the Covid warnings there for all to see the pub quiz was abandoned but on 11th March I took myself and three others off to Bletchley Park which was in full on Covid mode. Hand sanitizer, social distancing, barriers everywhere and the canteen barely functioning.

And then life as we know it stopped but not one person at those gatherings or friends locally caught my bug.

After a few weeks of dithering the Government decided on various disastrous and confusing courses that has taken us to where we are now. A place that statistically at least looks not a lot different to the situation six to eight months ago.

Whether a lockdown sceptic or fanatic there are statistics to prove your case. Little stands up to detailed scrutiny and almost nothing stands up to logical analysis. It may be incompetence from the likes of Matt Hancock or maybe he is just a control freak drunk on power. Whatever he is he is clearly a liar. Yesterday I heard him say that the Excel Centre is a fully functioning Nightingale Hospital. He takes us for fools.

Why has Ofcom banned the broadcast of messages which might contradict the government’s Project Fear? Several lesser known radio stations have been sanctioned for throwing doubt on the official line. Why are people arrested for filming empty hospitals? Why are undertakers not pleading for more capacity? Why do Social media channels banish the voices of medically qualified people who see things differently to Vallance and Whitty?

Everywhere one looks there are unanswered questions the most recent being that despite me living in Bexley and less than a mile from two primary schools one will open next Monday and one will not. Why? We are all served by the same hospital and it begins to look like an act of political spite by a Conservative Government willing to put lives in jeopardy to make a point. Unforgiveable if so.

How can anyone think that this Government leaves 2020 with its reputation enhanced? How can anyone not have seen the wokery and thuggery employed by the police once they were let loose with an ill-defined rule book? At age 77 the Office of National Statistics says I might have eleven years left. A Conservative Government just stole one of them and their incompetence will never be forgotten. Now we have them planning to vary the vaccine dosage contrary to the advice of the pharmaceutical company. Is there no common sense left in political circles?

Whatever happened to Millicent Martin who sang on my favourite TV programme of the 1960s? ‘That Was The Week That Was’. (Still alive in the USA.)

 

31 December (Part 1) - Not all bad

Early on in the little Twitter debate to which there was a reference yesterday three named Councillors and the Mayor came in for a certain amount of criticism and I was somehow drawn in to saying that James Hunt was “one of the good guys” which inevitably drew responses along the lines of just how bad are the others.

In my opinion three of the four named are among the best of Bexley’s Councillors, always willing to help when they can. One even shook my hand - remember when that was a thing? - in public in the bad old days of 2011 and 2012. A time when other Councillors were lying to the police in the hope that inquisitive residents might end up in jail. (One did for 24 hours.)

Contrary to what some would like to believe I am on reasonably good terms with several Councillors, there were two calls on Christmas Eve.

Seasons Greetings of course but one is always interested in my well being cooped up with, for the most part, just four walls and a computer for company and calls often. He is a genuinely nice and very modest Conservative and ‘he’ is the only identification clue there will ever be.

Bad parking Coptefield DriveA week ago he was pulling my leg that there have been no blocked drive pictures recently so this one, taken last night, is specially for him.

Murphy’s Law obviously but I have not been completely blocked in since registering my dropped kerb with Bexley Council. Frequently a bit awkward but no complete block.

The problem arises because there are two single dropped kerbs, mine to the left on the satellite view and another occupying the top left corner. There’s a double one going around the bottom left corner all at the end of an area designated as a turning circle on the original 1986 plans.

Cars can park end on opposite my dropped kerb just one drive width away. Long vehicles hem me in and any vehicle at all prevents acceptance of a delivery vehicle for example.

A near neighbour is occasionally affected but not usually as badly - until last night that is.

RK10 WMV was blocking his double drive all evening. Goodness knows why as there was no shortage of nearby parking space. It is not a car I have seen here before so probably it was not driven by someone’s support bubble so the driver would be breaking Tier 4 visiting rules too. Some people just don’t care.

  

30 December - Never had it so good

QuestionsI resisted getting involved with a recent Twitter argument between a resident and Mayor James Hunt over public questions at Full Council meetings. As far as can be judged from a one sided view of the debate it is that Council staff are insisting that questions are only one sentence long. Aren’t all well phrased questions one sentence long? Do we always need a long explanatory preamble?

Most of Bexley Council’s Scrutiny Meeting Chairmen insist on no preceding statements and I don’t see anything wrong with that, there are too many Councillors who love the sound of their own voices scoring political points.

If single sentence questions are now the biggest obstacle to democracy in Bexley we have come a long way since 2011.

Back then the Council proposed the following restrictions on questions…


• To disallow filming of meetings because the result may be edited. (Presumably Bob Neill, the Local Government Minister, was entirely unaware that videos could be edited when he made his recommendations to Councils.)
• To recommend web casting once the new Civic Centre is ready. i.e. kick the idea into the long grass.
• That the Mayor may disallow questions from anyone he/she may have taken a dislike to.
• That questions which are in any way similar to another asked within the last six months will not be permitted.
• Residents whose questions are accepted will have their personal details, name and address etc. published on the Council’s website.
• Questions relating to staffing levels and salaries will not be permitted.
• The mayor will be given permission to throw out any questioner who (s)he deems disrespectful, the judgment being entirely his/hers.
• If the questioner fails to attend the meeting his/her question will be rejected.
• If any question is accepted (but rewarded with a non-answer or falsehood) the questioner will not be allowed to raise a secondary question.


The adopted rules were slightly different. The secondary question was allowed but if the Mayor deemed it in any way objectionable the questioner would not be allowed to ask a question ever again.

The hypocrisy was beyond belief. The publishing of residents’ addresses was pushed through by Councillors who with just one exception would not allow their own addresses to be revealed by their Register of Interests.

In practice things were slightly different. Planted questions from Conservative Party Members were allowed even if that member was absent and at the other extreme, and on just one infamous occasion, a question was rejected for no other reason than the questioner had some years earlier been a member of the BNP because it was the only party that was supporting Brexit.

Planted questions were extremely dangerous, in conjunction with the six month rule straight answers to awkward questions became an impossibility.

The period prior to 2015 was a very dark one for Bexley Council. It is no exaggeration to say that criminal behaviour was not uncommon and a close rapport with the police was an essential part of the Council’s defensive armoury.

Someone must have taken the decision that their act must be cleaned up. Those interesting days are long gone and congratulations are due. I doubt the current Mayor interferes with questions, he says he doesn’t, but it was definitely the norm way back when.

I’d happily settle for single sentence questions and wasting as little time as possible.

Note: I am not aware that any of the Question Rules were ever formally changed despite some having obviously fallen by the wayside.

 

25 December - ’tain’t fair!

If you are lucky enough to live in a low Tier Covid area you can meet with a restricted number of family or friends today but not stay with them overnight. With no public transport running the concession is effectively limited to car owners. How did Boris and Co. manage to get away with that strike against the excessively Green and have-nots unnoticed by the main stream media?

 

22 December - Are you Pleb or Posh?

Covid test station Covid test station Covid test stationIf you are feeling under the weather or just plain curious while lurking under the flyover in Abbey Wood there is a welcoming tent where the friendly staff will administer a Covid test with its sensitivity turned up to maximum. If you had a bad cold in the summer of 2019 you will probably be sent home to self isolate.

If you just happen to be in the Civic Offices you can have the same test in relative comfort. You may not recognise Photos 2 and 3 but I know the passageway to the Council bogs when I see it.

I am pleased to announce that for the first time since 2017 I am heading towards Christmas without the slightest hint of a sniffle, the result no doubt of leading a boring life. No pub since the first Sunday of March, fewer than ten visits (†) to someone else’s house - remember when Boris allowed you to do that? - and shopping once a week at most. The Amazon bill is frightening.

And all for what? The foregoing admission probably explains that since April I have not known anyone who has gone down with the bug. Right at the beginning of Lockdown One I knew of a case in a Care Home which was Touch and Go but who is still around to tell the tale.

I find it shocking that the Government is still relying on a failed scientist to guide their decisions. They said he had been sacked from SAGE, not for being wrong about every disease forecast this millennium, but for bonking someone else’s wife during Lockdown One. Every time I begin to feel sorry for Boris Johnson’s predicament it evaporates with his latest ill-judged decision.

How is it that asymptomatic infection is rated so highly? We are told the infection spreads by air born moisture expelled from lungs and airways which I do not doubt and if your lungs etc. are so infected you are sure to know all about it. Anyone who has had the flu will know that.

So by definition if you are asymptomatic your airways are as clear a mine are. How are those clear airways spewing up bugs mutant or otherwise?

I can find medical reports that purport to prove my theory correct but no evidence from those who insist it is a major problem. Charlatans all probably.

When I spent a day or two with every close family member in both 2018 and 2019 while barely able to stand due to my coughing and inflated temperature not one of them caught the bug. This year without a hint of illness Boris bans me from visiting my son and granddaughter. No I would not vote for him if there was an election tomorrow.

† Note: Excluding permitted care duty visits.

 

21 December - It’s all crackers; and sinister too

Christmas treeI am feeling lucky. Like many people I was devastated to hear Boris Johnson wreck the Christmas arrangements for millions and a series of phone calls between my own family and friends found nothing but criticism. A family of life-long Conservatives probably isn’t any more but reading through all the rules and regulations revealed that I am not seriously affected.

Readers must know by now that I live alone and as such I am entitled to have a support bubble. Christmas bubbles have been cancelled but support bubbles carry on regardless so my Christmas arrangements can go ahead almost unchanged. Parties to my bubble have been isolating for the past week. No shopping, no visitors.

I am neither a Covid denier nor anti-vaccine but I do firmly believe that the Government has made an unholy mess of handling the pandemic and some of their actions appear to be more sinister than helpful.

Matt Hancock the Health Secretary is beyond hopeless and should be brought down as soon as possible. He and his boss are taken in by false statistics. The Polymerise Chain Reaction Test has been widely discredited but our Government bases its decisions on its results which are mainly false positives, death statistics which are known to be flawed and senior Civil Servants with an eye on lining their own pockets.

But don’t take my word for it, read The British Medical Journal. The following is reproduced with permission.


When good science is suppressed by the medical-political complex, people die

Politicians and governments are suppressing science. They do so in the public interest, they say, to accelerate availability of diagnostics and treatments. They do so to support innovation, to bring products to market at unprecedented speed. Both of these reasons are partly plausible; the greatest deceptions are founded in a grain of truth. But the underlying behaviour is troubling.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science.

The UK’s pandemic response provides at least four examples of suppression of science or scientists. First, the membership, research, and deliberations of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) were initially secret until a press leak forced transparency. The leak revealed inappropriate involvement of government advisers in SAGE, while exposing under-representation from public health, clinical care, women, and ethnic minorities. Indeed, the government was also recently ordered to release a 2016 report on deficiencies in pandemic preparedness, Operation Cygnus, following a verdict from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Next, a Public Health England report on covid-19 and inequalities. The report’s publication was delayed by England’s Department of Health; a section on ethnic minorities was initially withheld and then, following a public outcry, was published as part of a follow-up report. Authors from Public Health England were instructed not to talk to the media. Third, on 15 October, the editor of the Lancet complained that an author of a research paper, a UK government scientist, was blocked by the government from speaking to media because of a “difficult political landscape.”

Now, a new example concerns the controversy over point-of-care antibody testing for covid-19. The prime minister’s Operation Moonshot depends on immediate and wide availability of accurate rapid diagnostic tests. It also depends on the questionable logic of mass screening - currently being trialled in Liverpool - with a suboptimal PCR test.

The incident relates to research published this week by The BMJ, which finds that the government procured an antibody test that in real world tests falls well short of performance claims made by its manufacturers. Researchers from Public Health England and collaborating institutions sensibly pushed to publish their study findings before the government committed to buying a million of these tests but were blocked by the health department and the prime minister’s office. Why was it important to procure this product without due scrutiny? Prior publication of research on a preprint server or a government website is compatible with The BMJ’s publication policy. As if to prove a point, Public Health England then unsuccessfully attempted to block The BMJ’s press release about the research paper.

Politicians often claim to follow the science, but that is a misleading oversimplification. Science is rarely absolute. It rarely applies to every setting or every population. It doesn’t make sense to slavishly follow science or evidence. A better approach is for politicians, the publicly appointed decision makers, to be informed and guided by science when they decide policy for their public. But even that approach retains public and professional trust only if science is available for scrutiny and free of political interference, and if the system is transparent and not compromised by conflicts of interest.

Suppression of science and scientists is not new or a peculiarly British phenomenon. In the US, President Trump’s government manipulated the Food and Drug Administration to hastily approve unproved drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. Globally, people, policies, and procurement are being corrupted by political and commercial agendas.

The UK’s pandemic response relies too heavily on scientists and other government appointees with worrying competing interests, including shareholdings in companies that manufacture covid-19 diagnostic tests, treatments, and vaccines. Government appointees are able to ignore or cherry pick science - another form of misuse - and indulge in anti-competitive practices that favour their own products and those of friends and associates.

How might science be safeguarded in these exceptional times? The first step is full disclosure of competing interests from government, politicians, scientific advisers, and appointees, such as the heads of test and trace, diagnostic test procurement, and vaccine delivery. The next step is full transparency about decision making systems, processes, and knowing who is accountable for what.

Once transparency and accountability are established as norms, individuals employed by government should ideally only work in areas unrelated to their competing interests. Expertise is possible without competing interests. If such a strict rule becomes impractical, minimum good practice is that people with competing interests must not be involved in decisions on products and policies in which they have a financial interest.

Governments and industry must also stop announcing critical science policy by press release. Such ill judged moves leave science, the media, and stock markets vulnerable to manipulation. Clear, open, and advance publication of the scientific basis for policy, procurements, and wonder drugs is a fundamental requirement.

The stakes are high for politicians, scientific advisers, and government appointees. Their careers and bank balances may hinge on the decisions that they make. But they have a higher responsibility and duty to the public. Science is a public good. It doesn’t need to be followed blindly, but it does need to be fairly considered. Importantly, suppressing science, whether by delaying publication, cherry picking favourable research, or gagging scientists, is a danger to public health, causing deaths by exposing people to unsafe or ineffective interventions and preventing them from benefiting from better ones. When entangled with commercial decisions it is also maladministration of taxpayers’ money.

Politicisation of science was enthusiastically deployed by some of history’s worst autocrats and dictators, and it is now regrettably commonplace in democracies. The medical-political complex tends towards suppression of science to aggrandise and enrich those in power. And, as the powerful become more successful, richer, and further intoxicated with power, the inconvenient truths of science are suppressed. When good science is suppressed, people die.

 

19 December - Ten years on. What changes?

SnowWell the weather maybe. Ten years ago today Bexley was paralysed by an hour’s worth of snow and I had to drive to East Ham. I will be off there again later this morning. In 2010 Greenwich provided a clear run because unlike Bexley Council it had cleared its roads of snow. Today the situation will be reversed. The Royal Borough takes delight in creating gridlock.

Cabinet Member Craske was in the news because he had hiked parking charges, doubling some. Be thankful that at present he has been restricted to imposing 30% price increases.

 

18 December (Part 2) - Suckered

Somewhere in the back of my mind I had the idea that the GLA Council Tax precept for 2021/22 is going to rise by 21% and then this morning I spotted the comment (below) from Sir Kneel Starmer.

He very easily gets up my nose and was complaining that Council Tax is to be allowed to rise by 5% next year. The word hypocrite sprang to mind as I compared it to Khan’s projected 21%. A fair amount of Googling ensued as I planned a critical blog, but where did the 21% come from, the Daily Mail or some such rag?


Starmer Tweet Spoof leaflet
Google was not my friend. It found only a selection of PDF files about a GLA budget consultation going on now and every likely figure for a tax increase I could found was in the region of 2%. I began to suspect that my limited knowledge of accountancy was causing the 21% to be hidden from sight.

But eventually Google got me to the bottom of the conundrum. The 21% comes from a spoof leaflet put out by Conservative Mayoral candidate hopeful Shaun Bailey. If he is prepared to make things up to scare voters including me it becomes a case of hopeless rather than hopeful.

It is a disgraceful thing to do and I do not like being suckered. So that’s two candidates I cannot vote for should there ever be another election.

Incidentally, Robert Jenrick’s claim that Council Tax is now cheaper in real terms than it was in 2010 is pretty much correct for Bexley. The Bank of England inflation calculator does not yet extend to 2020 but the figures suggest that the 2020/21 tax rate in Bexley is about £100 to the good over the past ten years at Band D. All of that is just about to fly out of the window!

 

18 December (Part 1) - New vehicles electric only by 2030? Fat chance with attitudes like this!

It’s too early to return to the subject of electric vehicle chargers isn’t it but tough luck that is what is coming and all Greenwich based too.

Source London Source LondonA few yards to the West of the old Abbey Wood Post Office Greenwich Council allowed a company called Source London to put in two 7kW charging posts alongside a power unit which emits an annoying hum.

zap-map.com is the website which lists every electric vehicle charger in the UK and beyond together with the technical details and the all important tariff.

The chargers in Abbey Wood Road fail to say what the tariff is and it is not hard to guess why. It is utterly ridiculous.

zap-map says that the charge is not for electricity used but the time for which the charge point is used. The more powerful of the two chargers will put in more than six kilowatt hours of electricity in an hour. No charger is 100% efficient so not seven kilowatt hours, however Source London in their wisdom restrict the stay to 20 minutes according to zap-map so a charge will max out at £1·40. (20 minutes at seven pence per minute.) How is that enforced? No idea!

And how far will two kilowatt hours (third of six an hour) of electricity (less if the battery is cold) take you? If you are really careful in an efficient car it might just about get you to Bexleyheath and back if Knee Hill doesn’t get the better of your battery. No wonder they had not been used for a week when I checked.
Source London

Podpoint PodpointThings are silly in a different sort of way the other side of the railway line. There are six charging posts in the Sainsbury’s car park, 2 x 7kW on each and all free to use for up to three hours. Unfortunately six have been broken since June, maybe earlier.

None of them are any longer secured to the floor and you can pick them up and play with the cable if you are silly enough. (Photo 1 left leaning over but working.)

Someone lifted one right out of the ground and tossed it to one side. (Photos 2.) I have told the charging company three times including yesterday and three times they have said that they will get straight out there to make them safe. Almost needless to say there has been no improvement whatsoever.

Yesterday morning I saw one of the local scroats peeing on the one in the darkest corner. Maybe it will take an electrocution to get some attention.

 

17 December - Madness!

Bollox They really are certifiably insane aren't they? How could anyone ever contemplate voting for a party that appoints loons like this to act like brainless despots? Nothing they do is rational any more, not been for months.

Surely stupidity of this magnitude cannot be excused on the grounds that the other lot - think Drakeford and Sturgeon - are worse?

 

16 December - Scraping by

Clown It is not yet 7 a.m. and I have already listened to last night’s Public Cabinet webcast two and three quarter times; it would have been twice but a battery failed prematurely part way through the second hearing/recording.

As forecast Bexley Council has successfully brought forward its draft balanced budget three months early, albeit with reliance on a £15 million government loan facility. It has not yet been approved but has gone from the Local Government Department to the Treasury.

Very little new came to the fore last night. Apparently the proposal to charge for entry to the Hall Place gardens has been shelved and Councillor Craske gave an absolute assurance that no Library will close and none will close on a Sunday apart from the majority which have always been closed on a Sunday.

The Conservatives wanted everyone to know that they had given up their entitlement to an increased allowance in the coming year while omitting to say that all the Independent and Labour Councillors had done the same thing.

The Finance Director confirmed that the Chancellor’s budget has allowed the staff cuts to fall from 304 (around 20%) to 243 Full Time Equivalent posts (just under 15%).

A Cabinet meeting is basically seven senior Conservative Councillors telling each other of plans which they already know about. There is no need to preach to the converted by delivering lectures on the alleged inadequacy of the Labour Party but as usual they simply couldn’t resist it. We were therefore treated to lengthy well rehearsed diatribes from Councillors Peter Craske, David Leaf, Philip Read and Alex Sawyer - Craske and Leaf twice each.

The object is to appear macho before their peers and of course the handful of residents who might be watching the webcast. Cabinet Members Louie French, John Fuller and Brad Smith are not possessed of such juvenile minds and their comments were all the better for it.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske was very keen to condemn some dubious Facebook comments about the alleged closure of Blackfen Library and blamed Labour Councillors for orchestrating it yet I had read it earlier in the day and saw only a minor skirmish between the Mayor and a Labour Parliamentary candidate from December 2019.

Only Labour Councillors made any real comment about anything reminding the Conservatives that in the distant past they had closed five libraries, three of them mobile units. Councillor Dourmoush gave a restrained thank you to all the staff who had worked tirelessly to produce the budget ahead of schedule and without the theatrics of the Labour slagging to which too many of his colleagues are addicted. I would expect nothing less from him.

In an hour and 20 minutes it was all wrapped up, It could have been nearer an hour if four Cabinet members had stuck to the matter in hand but a Croydon situation has been well and truly avoided. Bexley was never in their league of incompetence - and our borough lives to fight another day.

Incidentally, the Capitalization Order is naturally not without a lot of strings attached. Leeds City Council got cold feet and withdrew its application.
Leeds City Council

Click image for source webpage

Nottingham City Council is not happy either because the loan must be repaid within five years. Bexley’s £15 million would need a 4% higher Council Tax levied over four consecutive years and it’s proposed increase is already spoken for. Not out of the woods yet!

Note: The Santa Claus clown image above is from a Christmas card received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s office - don’t ask! I can only assume it is intended to give an insight into the opinion of Rishi Sunak of his Cabinet colleagues. Couldn’t agree more.

 

14 December - The cretin has spoken

Cretin False positivesI don’t remember much about ‘O’ Level Biology but I vaguely remember learning that viruses mutate. In recent years I have picked up a dose of the flu far too often even after being vaccinated against it.

The medics say that the cheap NHS vaccine doesn’t cover every strain of influenza and NHS England takes a guess as to which strains that have been travelling around the globe might reach the UK; and very often they get it wrong. The damned thing has mutated!

Mengele Hancock is now trying to scare everyone with news of a new strain of Covid 19. What did he expect? Presumably he was a failure at ‘O’ Level Biology just as he has failed at every other task he has been set.

His constant failure has led to the country being economically wrecked and tens of thousands of people dying from untreated cancer and the like. Based on flawed Covid testing he has decided to put another couple of hundred thousand people out of a job by moving London and surrounding areas from Tier 2 to Tier 3 restrictions. As far as I can see it will have no direct effect on me whatsoever.

Tier 2 caused the Carol Service I’ve attended for the past 33 years to be cancelled but apart from that I have been doing whatever I like and think is sensible. It just so happens that all of it falls within Tier 2 and even Tier 3 rules. I suspect an awful lot of people are also trying to be sensible. Most of my elderly friends have cancelled family gatherings at Christmas.

The only difference I have noted between Tiers 2 and 3 is that I cannot go to the pub or eat in a restaurant or attend sporting events. However I can go to a crowded shopping centre or have my hair cut. Where is the evidence that Covid secure pubs are driving higher positive test figures? Answer. There isn’t any.

For those who try to follow the arithmetic contained in the right hand panel, please note that Bexley is currently said to have fewer than three positive tests per 1,000 population. Under 0·3% prevalence. Oh forget that! The figure already includes the false positives.

 

13 December - Looking towards greener transport

The Carrie Symonds inspired green agenda continues to spew nonsense from Government mouthpieces. Last week it was air-source heat pumps at £8,000 to £12,000 a go which are too big to fit in your kitchen cupboard.

A month ago it was no new diesel or petrol powered vehicles to be sold from only nine years time which might be stupidly ambitious. We may well have sufficient power and vehicle battery storage back to grid at night and various ingenious initiatives will make the whole idea more viable than it looks to be right now but there is a very sceptical public to convince.

EV nonsenseEven Government agencies do not know what they are talking about.

Last week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development came out with a totally ridiculous statement.

Electric cars create eight percent more toxic particles from brakes, clutches and tyres.

They must have been desperate and made it up. For a start an electric vehicle does not have a clutch, it provides seamless full power from a stand still to top speed much to the consternation of Mercedes and Audi drivers.

You can pick out an electric car from a traditional motor by looking at the front wheel hubs. One is clean and the other is black. On my trip to East Ham and back this morning I didn’t use the brake pads at all. (†)

Some electric cars do things slightly differently but basically the speed is proportional to the accelerator depression. Take you foot off and it rapidly slows down and stops. Drive reasonably carefully and you need the brakes only for an emergency stop.

As for tyres, I have worn 1·5mm off my fronts in nearly 16,000 miles. They should be good for the close to 40,000 I have always achieved on every car I have owned.

Bexley Charging point GridserveI can just about understand the fears of regular long distance drivers who don’t want to stop every two or three hundred miles for a half hour to fill up but that isn’t going to go on for ever.

I dropped in to the new Gridserve electric car refuelling station on Thursday. If you have the currently most expensive car their ‘pump’ can put in 300 miles of energy from totally green sources in ten or twelve minutes. Not even time for a cup of tea.

In ten years time the ultra fast charging will probably be common place. Ten minutes charging of mine would be lucky to give you 50 miles but if that is enough to get you home for an overnight trickle on cheap electricity what is the problem with that?

100 refuelling stations like this one should be on stream within the next five years; assuming Councils are sufficiently forward looking to approve them. Uckfield up for approval next week I understand.

Gridserve Gridserve Gridserve Gridserve

Gridserve provides WH Smith, Costa coffee, Post Office, exercise bikes and comfortable lounge at their Braintree service station. Slightly cheaper electricity than Bexley Council’s offering too. In ten years time the electric vehicle scene will look very different to what it does now and many will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

† This can be a slight nuisance as the lack of use can lead to brake drum corrosion. On the Gridserve trip I used the brakes once on the outward journey and twice on the return. Having just read the OECD report I was counting!

 

11 December - Lockdown sceptics

We learned today that Bexley is a little over the 200 Covid cases (positive tests) per 100,000 of population marker or as I prefer to say two in a thousand. That sounds much less scary doesnְ’t it?

I still only know of one person who has gone down with Covid symptoms since last April and he is a man I met just once three years ago in far flung Wiltshire. His wife and two daughters remained healthy. I know I don’t meet many people in lockdown times but my score of one case known to me seems to be on the high side of normal among friends and family.

The testing procedure is widely reported to be massively inaccurate and on radio news this afternoon I heard that a double test regime conducted by Cambridge University in conjunction with a pharmaceutical company led to the conclusion that tests on students were 100% false positives; and Boris Johnson is busy wrecking the country based on such dodgy figures.

Yesterday I found myself in a coffee shop, the first such visit this year. Actually one visit per year might be an above average score for me, I tend to regard drinking coffee away from home as an expensive bad habit. I wore a mask at the counter but had to lower it when the lady the other side of a Perspex screen couldn’t make out what I was saying.

I sat on a stool by a high bench style table looking out on the interesting scene below (report later probably) and struck up a conversation with two fellow drinkers. We weren’t squashed close but there would not have been room to get two more people into the spaces between us. I am probably going to die, one came from Northampton which has been suffering worse than Bexley has.

If I don’t die the hospitality industry will. Statistically pubs and restaurants have not given a deadly dose of Covid19 to anyone; hospitals have killed thousands due to inadequate infection control.

Yesterday an 83 year old friend had his Pfizer injection at Princess Royal University Hospital in Lock’s Bottom. He was still alive when I phoned earlier this evening.

 

9 December (Part 2) - Mind the gap

Next Tuesday Bexley Council will approve its balanced budget for next year. The Covid costs have gone up since the last calculation was made, £5·175 million instead of £3·517. The Government has agreed to cover some of it, a payment was made in November and two more are expected. An overspend of £9·225 million is still on the cards.

Last month savings of £6·446 million were proposed, most of it falling on staff numbers but the proportion has fallen due to savings on contracts and the changes made by the Chancellor in his Budget Statement.

Reserves have inevitably taken a ten million pound pummeling but I suppose that is what they are there for.
Reserves
It could have been worse; below is how the reserves reduction has been kept within ten million.
Economies
As expected, car parking charges will go up by around 30%, some a little more, some a little less. An annual season ticket at my nearest car park will go from an outrageous £1,334 to a staggering £1,734, nearly three times what my railway season ticket to London cost when I first moved to Bexley thinking it was a decent place to live.

 

9 December (Part 1) - Sage? Onions perhaps but more likely turnips

I despise Boris Johnson, there I’ve said it. I despise the man I voted to be Prime Minister exactly a year ago because he is a very conspicuous example of what many of us will have met while at work. Someone who is promoted to the level at which total incompetence can no longer be hidden.

It took a pandemic to expose him. Reputedly not a details man he blindly relies on advice from a small group of discredited experts. At first the Sage modeller who got it wrong on foot and mouth disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and the various influenzas that followed. More recently his Chief Scientific Adviser who admitted to feeding the Bozo false statistics in order to scare the gullible who were not looking at his source data and only yesterday we had the Office of National Statistics announce that the figures upon which the last lockdown was imposed were inflated by a factor of two.


Daily Telegraph main headlineWorse than being badly advised and not knowing it, is Johnson’s willingness to impose his version of a police state. £10,000 fines for swapping tables in a restaurant as reported yesterday is not the sort of country I want to live in. I have never abstained in an election but if Boris Johnson is still in charge at the next election it may be the only option.

And what is this Telegraph headline all about? One day we are rejoicing because of a vaccine the next it is not going to improve our lives very much.

I whip my mask off the moment I get to the travelator out of Sainsbury’s. I doubt my piece of flimsy rag makes the slightest bit of difference to anyone but it makes the Bozo feel better knowing he can control my life with the aid of the occasional uniformed thug.

What does someone more knowledgeable than me, and most of us, have to say about masks for ever? I stole this from Twitter…


Sir Patrick Vallance has said: “We don’t know yet how good all the vaccines are going to be at preventing the transmission of coronavirus”.

Mr. TurnipPatrick: it doesn’t matter. You’ve seen the data from the vaccine 1st interim analysis (please don’t insult those of us familiar with reading public summaries of trial protocols at http://clinicaltrials.com, not “the results”, which will be along in 2023. Stunning; with over 90% reduction in infections!

Oh, hold on, no, that’s not right. The vaccine is associated with a much lower propensity to become PCR positive. Not infected. These aren’t the same at all. If they used high cycle thresholds (& it isn’t stated that they didn’t) then this is meaningless, because Thebes didn’t define the operational false positive rate. What a shame!

We can’t actually conclude anything definite about the performance of the vaccine from these 1st interims. Never mind, the MHRA have invoked their mythical foretelling skills & decided this means superb protection against infection, severe illness & even death! We know this, because the NHS promo ad (sorry, press release) this morning spoke of ‘this life saving vaccine’. (I kid you not...its in my timeline that I complained to the NHS about the ‘inaccuracy’.)

Anyway back on topic. It won’t matter whether or not the vaccine reduces transmission, because we’ll have protected those who need protecting. I hope this helped. You seem a little confused recently about basic immunological facts. I can always lend you my copy of Roitt’s Essential Immunology, you know, the one we both used at university!

Anyway, keep it up. With SAGE in charge, what could go wrong?


The author is Michael Yeadon (@MichaelYeadon3) with 32 years of experience in respiratory pharmacology and Pfizer’s Vice President for respiratory diseases until he founded his own biotech company. I think he is saying much the same as I have been. That Boris Johnson is a victim of bad advice from people who are paid enough to distinguish an arse from an elbow but can’t.

 

8 December (Part 2) - Where are you on the Covid list?

The graphic below comes to you at the suggestion of a Councillor friend, yes I do have one or two, following a general discussion on Covid issues. It has been a thoroughly depressing year for most of us and for me it has done nothing to improve the reputation of the police and has wrecked any trust I may have had in the Conservative government, but news of the first vaccinations today gave a bit of a boost to the mood.

I had assumed that I would be quite a long way down the vaccination priority list but the aforesaid friend thought otherwise. It may be useful to post the priority list. It’s (expendable?) old fogeys first!
Vaccination priorities Vaccination priorities

 

8 December (Part 1) - The cost of Covid. Can it really average £56 million per London Borough?

Bexley Council said last month that it was £3·5 million out of pocket following its Covid19 expenditure which may not sound very much compared to the cost of bringing commerce to a grinding halt nationally but it represents nearly 4% on Council Tax. How does that compare with other boroughs?

Covid expenditure

Not sure to be honest, there is insufficient time to hunt down all the meeting Agendas but my attention has been drawn to the situation in Barnet. They are reporting a Covid hit of £41 million. How does that happen? Are they spending more because they have had a bigger Covid problem? Is that the gross figure or net after government handouts? It is hard to explain an eleven times discrepancy.

London Councils estimates that Covid will have reduced income by £1,100,000,000 and cost £700,000,000. That is £1·8 billion. A crude average, that is divide by 32, makes it a staggering £56 million per borough.

Maybe Bexley has not been asking Boris for enough money?
Covid expenditure

Barnet Council

 

7 December - Where is the money coming from? Why is Bexley so much worse off than its neighbours?

Bexley Council has been keen to make the point that it is not another Croydon in-waiting and perhaps Croydon issuing a second bankruptcy declaration boosts Bexley's position somewhat, but it is in a far worse state than its immediate neighbours.

Bromley grantOur Council loves to blame the government grant formula for a less than generous payout but those similar neighbours have kept clear of trouble.

Enlarge the green image on the left and you will see Bromley Council publishing the figures for the benefit of their residents.

Bromley receives the lowest per capita grant in London and Bexley is three notches higher up the scale. Few would think that Bromley is a less pleasant place to live and their Council Tax is lower. Fourth lowest tax in Outer London while Bexley is 13th. Forgive me if I begin to think that Bexley is run by a bunch of incompetents.

Bexley Council’s Leader has said several times that if only Bexley had a grant as generous as Greenwich’s the local Council Tax levy would all but disappear but below is what Greenwich Council’s auditor Grant Thornton had to say about how the Councils are managed. (For additional information download Greenwich’s meeting Agenda pack for 25th November 2020.)

Bexley is either bottom or second to bottom Council in London for having already spent its reserves. And things have got worse since the graph was prepared.

Greenwich Agenda

Bexley second worst Reserves situation in London.
But it gets worse! See below.

Greenwich Agenda

Worst in London. Graphs prepared by Grant Thornton.

One must wonder if Bexley’s Councillors are aware of the harsh reality. Maybe they were assured by the Finance Director’s fine words in January, two months before these graphs were prepared. Scrutiny? What scrutiny?

I am no accountant but have Financial Directors been spending the reserves to keep the spending in check in earlier years? I think even I could balance a budget that way especially if rewarded with the pay rise recently dished out by the Chief Executive.
Overspend
Bexley Council says over and over again it has saved more than £100 million in the past ten years which always makes me think how damned inefficient they must have been ten years ago but perhaps it is yet another of their dubious claims.

Now their magic accounting reduces a loss of £8 million to £2·5m. Abracadabra; a balanced budget and annual bonuses earned.

Savings Changes

Council message to Bexley residents.

Looks like Bexley Council has been recklessly raiding the piggy bank while telling residents porkies.

 

6 December - Win some, lose some

Photo PhotoHe has a record for having planning applications rejected but the developer who demolished Ye Olde Leather Bottle under the nose of Bexley Council has struck lucky this time. With very little delay he has approval for nine two bed flats at 176-178 Bexley Road, Erith.

Maybe the redevelopment of old public houses is going through a bad patch. Another such planning application was refused last week, this time it was for four three bedroom houses behind the Foresters Arms in Upper Wickham Lane.

The application was by the Wellington Pub Company and rejected because of likely adverse effects on the viability of the pub and on-street parking.

 

4 December - Birds, Buses, Budgets, Breaches and Bad Boys

This blog continues mainly as a lockdown time filler and because every time I suggest it must stop people offer kind words and urge me to continue. However sometimes there is little to report and a break is welcome.

Bird tableOne of the advantages of living near a fly tipping site is the occasional availability of timber, sometimes totally unused and complete with bar code stickers. Pallets are especially useful, rough bits go to my son for his wood burning stove and some is stored on my garage floor.

My old bird feeding table is on its last legs and I have been making a new one. I am appalled at how slow I am doing such things these days and I am going to have to hunt around for oddments to make its roof. There is going to be a lot more to it than what is seen here and it will be capable of easy disassembly and adjustable shelf and feeder heights. Maybe I should patent it.

The postbag has brought forward a mixture of the serious and maybe silly as you will see if you continue. The first of these took me back a few years but has almost nothing to do with Bexley Council


The wheels come off in Bexley!
Bus 557 TrolleyOne of my earliest memories is waiting for a bus to Hackney with my parents half way along the Lea Bridge Road where we lived. It must have been 1948 or early 1949. A six tandem wheeled trolley bus came over the humped railway bridge and as it did so the rear nearside wheel fell off, tipped over and rolled backwards over the hump of the bridge and disappeared doing what damage I know not.

The one shown here bears the correct route number and is preserved by The East Anglia Transport Museum near Lowestoft.

Something similar happened to a school bus in Erith on Wednesday. The wheel simply fell off. Not a TfL vehicle I hasten to add but GN07 EUU which I think looks something like the one pictured here and sub-contracted to Bexley Council

My wood burning son is a bit of an expert on bus safety and I have heard a few stories about bus accidents in my time, but not about TfL.


Breach of contract?
From within Bexley Council comes another tale of discontent. Apparently some staff have contracts which provide pay increments dependent on a good standard of performance. Seems fair enough.

This year the complaint is that although performance standards have been more than satisfactory there will be no bonus or increment on the grounds that “we can’t afford it”. Will that apply to the Chief Executive who is also on an incremental scale? Maybe it is academic because she has not reached the standard required. Who would make that judgment?


Medium Term Financial Statement
Reading through the Medium Term Financial Statement, as one does, I was glad when I got to the end of it.
MTFS
The end showed it had been written by an unfamiliar name. Simon Little.

I would guess that Bexley Council has hired in a new Mr. Fixit.

Simon Little has recently been briefly employed by Surrey Heath Council (Camberley), East Essex County, Broadland (Norfolk) and the notorious OneSource (Newham and Havering).

Either he is very good and in demand or it is another example of jobs for the boys and girls handed out by existing former OneSource and Newham staff.

Let’s hope it is the former.


A look back in time
TwitterI don’t think I have ever initiated a Twitter thread except to announce a new blog because I fear I might be dragged into deep water. Yesterday I answered someone’s question and it led to a load of old history being re-examined.

A new follower going by the name of @shantazhir had found an old and outdated reference on a page (not a blog page) written in 2014 and I answered him as best I could within Twitter’s 280 characters.

He responded by implying that all Councillors are disreputable having found some even older web pages. He did well to find them, the years 2013 to 2019 inclusive have been mainly absent for ages and the Indexing facility which can assemble groups of old blogs on the fly is currently disabled except for 2013 and 2020. It is needle in a haystack time trying to find old stuff right now.

I don’t think Councillors are crooked but if I was asked to name one who I am sure would always tell the truth when within ear shot of the Leader, I am not sure I could. Away from prying ears? Two. Maybe four if I stretch things to the limits of trust.

I once had a written apology from a Councillor for ignoring me because the esteemed Leader was close by.

To save @shantazhir the bother of hunting for that elusive needle, here are a few facts and statistics from the dim and distant past. I doubt we will see the like of it again.

• Number of times a Bexley Councillor has maliciously reported a resident to the police for something they most definitely have not done. Four.
• Number of nights a Bexley resident has spent in police cells because of a totally untrue accusation by a Bexley Councillor. One.
• Number of Bexley Councillors and staff reported to the police by residents because of crimes committed against them. Six.
• Number of Councillors and staff referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for alleged crimes. Five.
• Number of Councillors arrested by police who had proved their crime to their own satisfaction. One.
• Number of Councillors who have stood in a Court Witness Box and sworn statements against a resident which they absolutely knew for certain was untrue. Two.
• Number of Council legal staff who have stood before a Judge in support of their malicious persecution of a resident. Two. (The Judge did not believe them.)
• Number of Councillors appearing on TV for a significant amount of time reporting on incidents of which they had no direct knowledge and which every single word was a lie. One. (I still have the recording.)
• Number of times an at risk child has died in Bexley after Council staff ignored reports from doctors and school teachers. Two.
• Number of times a vulnerable adult has died alone in Bexley as a direct result of poor managerial decisions and subsequently covered up by senior staff and Councillors. One.
• Number of times that Bexley Council has put out a totally false Press Release in defence of their dubious and possibly criminal actions. Innumerable.

All the foregoing has at one time or another been reported on this blog without challenge. Very few of those referenced remain as Councillors. Only one of the foregoing was Labour and is no longer in post. All of the incidents are from 2015 or earlier. Whatever @shantashir thinks, Bexley is not what it was.

In my opinion the current Mayor is entirely innocent of any aspersions cast by my new Twitter follower.

 

1 December - What did he Leaf out?

Tweet@bexleynews has a new pinned Tweet in which they accuse the Labour Group of scaremongering about the Council’s dire financial situation. Surely dire is not too strong a word for a Council that has taken a begging bowl to the Government?

Cabinet Member David Leaf wrote about it on Conservative Home and it makes for an interesting read. He not only blames local Labour Councillors for being critical but also their supporters. I suppose that must be The Guardian Newspaper.

I have no recollection of Labour previously saying that the Council will go bankrupt or Council Tax will rise by 40%. I am tempted to say that that is totally untrue. I think local Labour know that tax increases are capped.

Many of the services are better than seen elsewhere as the Councillor claims but some are not. Parks are not patrolled at night and no one looks at the live CCTV.

He trots out the usual top borough for recycling for 15 years which I will forgive him because Bexley hasn’t dropped off its pedestal by much during that period. It was eighth for dry recyclables in 2010 and only second for compost and for a while Bexley was stuck at 48·5% overall and Bromley was on 49·76%.

The replacement Thamesmead library that began construction a year or two ago is mentioned but not the string of cuts to library services elsewhere.

David Leaf says that Labour Councillors are frightening the life out of Council staff by saying that job losses are in prospect. He says they are “salivating” at job losses and it is “sickening”. He does not mention that 304 jobs will be cut. It was not Labour that said that but Leaf’s very own Director of Finance, Paul Thorogood. His exact words were “304 is approximately 20% of the Council’s current 1,560 workforce.”

When he says that Covid has caused income to “vanish” he is right. I pass a big Council Car Park most days and it is near empty but the Auditor said that Bexley Council was in financial trouble last March.

To drum up support for increasing fees he tugs at the heartstrings with the need to pay Lollypop Ladies - and Men.

Councillor Leaf says that Covid has hit the Council hard but omits to say it hit them for £3·517 million and the begging bowl is four times that figure.

I have no doubt that Councillor Leaf and his Conservative colleagues will work their socks off to come up with a balanced budget but without even hinting that residents will feel the pain is the sort of deception that we have come to expect from Bexley Conservatives.

Finally he lists some Labour Councils who are in trouble along with TfL. Probably they have been badly run but he doesn’t mention that Conservative Peterborough is in a bad way too as of course is Bexley. Who steered it to that position?

 

News and Comment December 2020

Index: 20202021

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