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News and Comment April 2021

Index: 20202021

30 April - Five go blogging again

The past 24 hours have seen reports on a variety of subjects, some trivial, some less so. Thanks to the Councillor who suggested I try Vision Express for an eye test. I did and they haven’t any appointments available until the end of May. I had a feeling it was a misbehaving website but that is what it kept telling me so I got nowhere. So did my friend with Orpington Eyecare Centre. I had sent him back there armed with a copy of the 1989 legislation but he was told the Act was suspended by the Covid regulations. They prohibit the exchange of paper documents so it is not possible to give him a prescription. Bromley Trading Services here we come.

Longlands Byelection
There has been an unseemly Twitter spat over recent days with the usual Tory bullies stating categorically that Labour Candidate Dave Tingle’s first leaflet made a personal attack on his Tory rival Lisa Moore. I couldn’t quite see the point myself. All Dave had done was quote from the lady’s LinkedIn profile and imply that her reference to the NHS was to gather the post Covid sympathy vote. Biased as I am against Conservative bullies I was inclined to take Dave’s side.

Then he came out with this. (See Photo below.)

What has Longlands Councillor Andy Dourmoush done to deserve that? Did he really say that that sign was legible?

Time to call in some favours with a Council contact or two.

As far as I can discover from Bexley sources there had been complaints about street name signs in Longlands including the four, presumably, that adorn each end and both sides of the strangely named Langdon Shaw. A Council Officer was despatched to inspect Langdon Shaw and Upperton Road and reported back that all the signs were in decent enough condition.

Now look at that sign again (picture below) and notice the little arrows. It is not a street name plate as such, it is a signpost that points towards the aforesaid roads. The Council Officer missed it because he was sent to inspect something else entirely.

The Council Officer made his report to the Councillor, Andy Dourmoush presumably, who accepted his word. Why wouldn’t he?

It’s a storm in a teacup but there cannot be any doubt that Labour Leaflet number two is personal.
Labour leaflet
For the record a new sign is on order.

I haven’t got a vote in Longlands but if I had one I might be leaning just a little bit towards Lisa at this moment. On the other hand Bexley badly needs more opposition and my (GLA) voting intentions are volatile to say the least.

Another thing… Am I alone in thinking that mapping potholes is on a par with the price of wallpaper in Downing Street? Potholes are definitely a menace as I am reminded every time I drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid several close to home but if they are the biggest problem to be found in Longlands Andy must have done a reasonable job for his residents. Like successfully fighting Sadiq Khan over a bus stop being installed where it wasn’t needed and where no one wanted it.

Now I had better redress the political balance if I can before I get any more complaints.


Jockeying for position
It is the time of the year for Conservative Councillors to squabble among themselves to see who can be top dog. There are clearly two factions in Bexley. Pro and Anti-Teresa but the latter grouping may be inclined to split their votes such that she scrapes in again every year.

Rob Leitch became her Deputy in 2014 and once he got his feet under the table was a breath of honest fresh air and then suddenly he was gone. Resigned not only his Deputy Leadership but didn’t try to be re-elected either. Someone was seriously disenchanted.

Now Louie French is following the same path. In just a few days time he will no longer be Teresa O’Neillְ’s Deputy and come next year’s election, who knows, but I would put a small amount of money on him standing down.

Rob Leitch told me why he had given up on working with Teresa O’Neill, not in any great detail, but enough for me to be reasonably confident of my suspicions.

Who will take over as Deputy Leader? Well it can’t be either of the Dreadful Duo can it; if they stood a chance one of them would have been appointed years ago. There’s only one Councillor it can be. David Leaf. Council meetings will go on for ever.

The other job up for grabs is the Mayor. It seems to me that James Hunt had a very rough deal this year, Covid restrictions and all that. If there is any justice he should be given a second crack of the whip. Should I put my faith in justice in Bexley? More likely they will deliver me Councillor Clark again. She of the ‘ABC of Chairmanship’ to be shoved down the public’s throat at every opportunity. Fortunately she leaves it on the bookshelf when chairing Transport.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis is leaving his elected post too. Will Mabel Ogundayo want to replace him?


Recycling failure

Missing bin Contaminated binThe road I live on is a bit odd. It has got a stupid name which I have had to spell for disbelievers a trillion times and one side of it is very different from the other. Small detached houses opposite flats and terraced houses. That is why the numbers are consecutive rather than alternating on opposite sides.

All of them were built 34 years ago, a simpler age when each house was expected to survive with only one dustbin and not the five colour coded ones we have now.

Consequently the flats were provided with space for one bin each and there is nowhere for extra bins to go. To compensate Bexley Council placed communal street style bins in their car park. However a month or two ago Serco stopped emptying the paper bin which then overflowed.

Bexley Council took it away and it has been missing now for nearly two weeks so for the affected residents the paper recycling service has been effectively suspended. Inevitably the paper went into the plastics bin but it was nevertheless emptied. Photo 2 shows it beginning to fill again.

How long before the full service resumes? Can there be any excuse for not replacing the missing bin immediately?


Libraries shut

Libraries shutWith some justification Bexley Council is proud of its Library Service. In the Tories’ 15 years in office they have closed the mobile service, cajoled voluntary groups into running libraries for them and cut the opening days and hours; but in the sense of putting up the shutters permanently libraries have been kept open. Except that they haven’t.

In Bromley all the libraries are open today. Same in Greenwich, Lewisham and Dartford but in Bexley they are shut.

The excuse? Covid. What else?

Why were library staff put in harm’s way by turning them into Covid Testers? I don’t know but whatever the reason how did all the neighbouring boroughs manage things so much more effectively?


Bank Holiday DIY. A recommendation
The 1st May blog is ready to go but there will be no more ramblings for a while as I must return to a long term DIY job.

It’s for a friend and I had forgotten all about it and not ordered the bits and pieces required. Amazon couldn’t guarantee delivery quickly enough and B&Q’s stock level can be dire at times. Then I remembered Toolstation in Plumstead (Pettman Crescent by the bus garage).

When my 34 year old drill expired doing the aforesaid DIY job Amazon was far too expensive which is how I first stumbled across Toolstation. From memory they were about £50 cheaper than Amazon. It was available elsewhere cheaper than Amazon but no one had my chosen tool in stock.

Toolstation did and handled the Click and Collect very efficiently.

At crack of dawn this morning I made a Toolstation order and within half an hour an email said it was ready and waiting. One small item I know for certain is £3.30 at B&Q but was only £1.80, VAT included at Toolstation. I think Amazon has lost a customer for its DIY stuff.

Happy Holdays!

 

29 April - Five go blogging

Here we go again, another day with nothing to do but gardening and thinking about getting an eye test. I seem to have fallen out with all of the opticians. A local independent swindled me out of £300, Boots; walked out after being ignored in the waiting room for 50 minutes and discovering that a lady in the queue had been there for three hours. Specsavers impossible to get hold of on the phone and Covid obsessive at their front door. Maybe all opticians are poor. A friend used an independent in Orpington who refused to issue a prescription on the grounds that he might use it to buy glasses elsewhere. Their minimum charge was £700. That’s been illegal since 1989.

I always feel the mainstay of Bonkers has to be Council meeting reports. We haven’t really got a local newspaper any more and the best you can expect from it is Council Press Releases which will always be biased. However there is going to be a shortage of such reports because Bexley Council is cutting down on the number of meetings. Not their fault, it is down to the idiots in Number 10 who have managed to get almost everything Covid related hopelessly wrong.

Councils webcasting all their normally public meetings has been an absolute boon during the 12 month lockdown. It’s not a perfect solution but it allowed easy access to the more obscure meetings that one might not otherwise attend. All that ends in a week’s time. Councils have to revert to the usual public meeting arrangements which isn’t really possible while the Covid regulations continue. What are they expected to do? Demand the public arrives early and take a Lateral Flow test? Bexley has taken the pragmatic view and pretty much cancelled meetings until mid-June. It’s what comes from having a Government that has difficulty differentiating arses from elbows.

The end result is more filler pieces which to my amazement people seem to read more than the Council meeting reports. Here’s another one…

@bexleynews
TweetWhen short of material the first port of call must always be the Conservatives Twitter propaganda channel. Today they are crowing about their Changing Places initiative which is a good one. But can they leave it at that? Of course not.

According to the former Number 10 spin doctor the Labour Group didn’t want them. Does anyone believe that?

He has made no secret of the fact when speaking in the Chamber but one of Labour Leader Daniel Francis’s young daughters suffers from Cerebral Palsy and he has personally campaigned for better bathrooms for the disabled including in recent days.

I met Daniel’s daughter once and she is much the same age as my own granddaughter and I can tell you that contrasting the two in my own mind is heart breaking. Daniel and his wife will be moving Heaven and Earth to improve the lot of their daughter and to suggest that he might do otherwise either directly or indirectly is bloody disgraceful even by the appalling standards of the disgusting duo who run the anonymous and cowardly Tory propaganda channel.


School Crossing patrols
In hindsight it was a mistake for Bexley Council not to directly fund school crossing patrols and rely instead on the generosity of Sadiq Khan. The Mayor has now run out of money and Bexley’s Crossing Patrols are in big trouble.

Parents and teachers are understandably annoyed. This is a statement issued by a Head Teacher in Bexley.


Dear Parent/Carer
I would like to update you on where we are with regards to a new school crossing patrol.

As a school, we have done everything we can. We have raised our concerns with the Council as well as our local MP. I have also been speaking to some of the local Councillors. The Councillors have advised that:
· the Council’s current policy is to freeze recruitment for any vacant crossing patrols. As a result, 17 of the 28 school crossing patrols in the Borough are vacant and this includes Old Bexley;
· the petition that has been raised by parents will be heard by the Place Scrutiny Committee as one of the Councillors is the Chair of this Committee;
· if parents would like to raise the issue with the ward Councillors for our area (St Mary’s and St James Ward), they can be contacted as follows:
Councillor.alan.downing@bexley.gov.uk and Councillor.alex.sawyer@bexley.gov.uk.
Additionally, Councillor Peter Craske is the Cabinet Members for Places with responsibility for road safety and can be contacted at councillor.peter.craske@bexley.gov.uk

I will of course contact you again should I hear any news from the Council.


There was a time when Councillor Craske advocated the withdrawal of all School Crossing Patrols as a money saving measure. Fortunately wiser counsel prevailed.


Norman Dodds House 

Norman DoddsOne of my Labour friends wrote to say I had been far too generous in my coverage of the new signage at Norman Dodds House and that the restoration of the old Norman Dodds sign was a direct result of BiB showing it missing a week ago.

That may be true, how could I know for sure, but in total three self-proclaimed Labour Party members were agitated about the loss of Labour history so it could equally have been due to internal pressures brought to bear.

In due course we will learn how much the red sign cost. Less than Carrie’s Cushiongate must be pretty much guaranteed.


Ascending the Greasy Pole
GriffinI used to think Alison Griffin, Bexley’s Finance Director until early 2017 to be a cut above the remainder of Bexley’s top team but all of that flew out of the window when, while acting as Chief Executive, she banned Mick Barnbrook from making Freedom of Information requests. He had a habit of getting too close to the truth.

The Information Commissioner supported her decision after she wrote to them to justify her decision. The ICO’s letter to Mick indicated that he had been labelled a deranged raging racist. A man who was Sports Mentor to Stephen Lawrence and reported 19 politicians to the police, including the Leader of the BNP, 18 of them white, for expense fiddles.

Griffin went to Southend-on-Sea as Chief Executive and I thought I would be clever by asking a friend who lives there what he thought of her. Alas he didn’t have a clue who she was.

Now we learn that someone who doesn’t like people probing too closely into Council affairs has crawled her way to the top of London’s Council tree. One must hope that her final weeks in Bexley was a one off aberration.

Probably I am being too generous again.

Note: The old blog restored and referenced above has not been checked for broken links, mobile conformity etc.


Carnegie reaches its target
Carnegie AppealWith a couple of days to spare the Carnegie Building Restoration Appeal reached its Maximum Target of £150,000. A very fine achievement.

It may have reached it just a little bit earlier because I tried to register a friend who doesn’t have a bank card as a share holder but there was no way of getting his name and address on file when using my Debit Card.

You can’t do anything much at all these days without a Smart Phone and a bank account.

The question now is, will I be brave enough to go to a shareholders’ meeting and risk bumping into Councillor Read?

 

28 April (Part 2) - Rambling certainly, ranting possibly

In my view the news media has been a bit rubbish for the past five years. I remember exactly when I last listened to BBC radio. I was already more than a little disenchanted with them.

That very last moment was while tuned into an episode of The Archers and fictional farmer Brian Aldrich was entering a Magistrates’ Court charged with polluting a water course. The BBC simply had to have an Extinction Rebellion style mob pelting him with abuse, or maybe it was rotten tomatoes. I’ve no idea how long ago that was and I agree it was a trivial final straw but it was nevertheless a big deal for me. I had listened to pretty much every episode since I was a nipper by my mother’s side and withdrew instantly and entirely from a lifetime of addiction.

Yes I do clearly remember the incineration of Grace Archer.

From what I read the BBC has recently dished the dirt on Sir James Dyson for being a big time Tory donor when the truth is that his lifetime donations to all parties is £800 and he last saw Boris Johnson at a meeting in 2016. The BBC buried its apology out of the way.

The news media have it in for Boris Johnson too; what he might have said and what he might have spent to satisfy his fiancée’s expensive needs. Starmer and his motley crew are upset that taxpayers may have funded Carrie Symonds’ make-over but presumably he is happy that taxpayers paid for the redecoration of a Labour Party building in Northumberland Heath. (£756.76.)

What is an MP doing making seven claims under £1? Where is Mick Barnbrook when you need him?

HSBCI am among those who knew that Johnson had a penchant for lying and flamboyant phrases when I voted for him in 2019 so I have no right to be unduly offended by his behaviour now.

My reason for not wanting him as my Prime Minister any more is because of his dictatorial stance on Covid. I cannot accept that a £200 minimum penalty for drinking tea with a friend can ever be justified and nor can I accept the two tier policing which has been a feature of life nearly every weekend and obviously sanction by his Home Secretary.

As many worshippers as can be accommodated socially distanced in church on Sunday but no more than 15 for a wedding on Saturday. Johnson has simply gone mad.


Another trivial news item today concerns so called self driving cars in which there is a family interest. My son analyses the data collected by suitably equipped vehicles and is deeply into false positive and false negative alarms and answering worldwide governmental regulation questions via zoom from Washington to Tokyo via Brussels. It is slightly annoying to read that he would take risks with our lives any more than my father did when involved with the design of aeroplanes and helicopters. Engineers are no more keen on dying than the rest of us.

What Grant Shapps the Transport Minister is advocating is merely dipping his toe into the autonomous water. In slow speed stop and start motorway queues it is very relaxing to be able take one’s feet off the pedals and let the car creep along behind the one in front without driver intervention. It is almost enjoyable and hopefully reduces the rage from which some drivers suffer.
Shapps
No good in the urban sprawl unfortunately because Councils do not always maintain the white lines and they get obscured by parked vehicles.

Recent cars are pretty good at lane keeping too. I occasionally find myself on the A3 from Guildford to Hindhead very early in the morning and if there is no other traffic around and at a modest speed the meandering road can be negotiated hands and feet off. (Is that true? You will have to guess.)

When questioned about changes to transport regulations my son has been known to come out with the slightly chilling comment that “it is just a different way of killing people”.

Transport has always caused death and engineers strive to arrange things such that the numbers go down. The accident stats of the 1930s demonstrate that there have been many successes, Smart Motorways included (although keeping the hard shoulder too would have made them even better). The UK must try to keep in the forefront of emerging technologies. It usually fails. The first windows style computer was British, the first Supersonic transport was British. Radio, TV and pneumatic tyres all began in the UK and now manufactured elsewhere.

It is absolutely right that Grant Shapps doesn’t want to see any more failures to lead the world.

 

28 April (Part 1) - Institutionally corrupt

Alastair and Daniel MorganAfter eight long years the Daniel Morgan Investigation Panel will make its report public at a Press Conference in Church House, Westminster on 17th May. No members of the family have been or will be given notice of the Panel’s findings and speaking personally I will be amazed if all the allegations made over the 25 years of my fringe involvement have reached the final draft. The establishment tends to protect itself.

Because of Social Distancing rules the number present at the Conference cannot exceed about 30 and I am not even sure the press will be as interested as they should be. Some sections of the press are implicated in Daniel Morgan’s murder. My own seat has been reserved so there will be at least one outlet that doesn’t make excuses for police corruption.

Stories involving several Metropolitan Police Commissioners, a Director of Public Prosecutions (not Kneel Starmer) and a couple of Judges have all come to my ears over many years but I doubt they will all see the light of day or the House of Lords may be seriously depleted.

The likelihood is - and I must emphasise that this is my view and not necessarily that of closer family - is that the extraordinary corruption which led to 34 years of cover-up will be excused and said to be all history now. That simply is not true.

My every involvement with the police over 30 years, from the punch in the face at my front door to the political crimes of the more recent past have proved police corruption is alive and well without any doubt whatsoever. The omens are not good but Alastair Morgan is hoping that “the conclusion will be that there was institutional corruption, because there was”.

The DMIP Press Conference will be immediately followed by Alastair’s with I suspect my daughter by his side. I do not envy them doing that without the benefit of an advanced copy of the report to study.

The DMIP was authorised by Home Secretary Theresa May after Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Jacquie Smith, Hazel Blears and their underlings all looked the other way convinced that the Metropolitan Police could do no wrong.
Jack Staw letter

Home Secretary Jack Straw conned by bent police in July 1997.

 

27 April - Seeking equality for all. Digging out the data

Three months ago Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) bravely summed up his (with Councillors Diment, Gower and Newton) investigation into racial inequality in Bexley and was none too popular among a few of his colleagues for being just a bit too honest. Nevertheless he succeeded in his push for a Sub-Group to be assembled to continue his good work. It met last Thursday and was chaired by Councillor Caroline Newton.

AttendeesThere were inevitable references to the North of the borough which has the reputation of being ethnically diverse from which may spring a number of misconceptions. Having lived close to Thamesmead for 34 years I can vouch for the fact that the population looks very different to what I see when visiting family in rural areas and a little more unruly at times.

An obsession with counting things has led me to believe that bus services are most popular with black people and that picnickers in Lesnes Abbey Park are more often than not speaking Eastern European languages but in my limited experience, almost entirely confined to the daylight hours, the rare acts of violence and shoplifting seen are all perpetrated by white people whilst the silliest examples of idiotic driving are by young men.

It is all anecdotal, the only blatant racist behaviour I saw close up came from a Sikh woman, and it will be good if Bexley Council can discover what really goes on beyond a single and possibly biased gaze.

The meeting began with some facts and figures from Council Officer Julia Owen and some of her slides are reproduced below.


• Bexley has gone from low to high diversity levels in a short space of time and it is focused on the North of the borough.
• BAME residents are younger than the borough average with lower employment rates.
• BAME pupils generally achieve better exam grades than their white counterparts but not “black Caribbean pupils or those of mixed white black heritage”.
• Thamesmead East residents are better qualified than the rest of the borough but more likely to be deprived. (Possibly due to youthfulness.)
• Diversity and higher crime rates appear to go hand in hand.
• BAME children are under-represented in social care services when very young which reverses with age.
• BAME people are 40% of the homeless.
•Covid testing has shown fewer cases among Africans. 6% of positive cases from 12% of all tests. They and other ethnicities have the lowest rate of vaccinations.
• BAME residents are disproportionately represented on the Serious Violence Prevention Panel and in Domestic Abuse cases.
• Black (not BAME) suffered more Stop and Search but produced no more arrests than any other group. Lower grade offences by BAME people are more likely to go to Court.


Councillor Howard Jackson said (like me) he didn’t like the term BAME and asked for an alternative to be found. Mrs. Owen said that the term is definitely falling out of favour and the London Councils Working Group appears to be favouring Black Asian and Multi-Ethnic (BAME!) The Chairman asked that the Sub-Group tries to use very specific descriptions of population groupings to avoid misunderstandings.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) lent her support to that suggestion.

Councillor Teresa O’Neill (Conservative, Crook Log) was a little concerned that some of the source data went back as far as 2006. Census data being ten years old has been a problem as has drawing it from a multitude of sources observing different data rules. “Are we discussing a Bexley that no longer exists” the Leader not unreasonably asked.

Councillor Gower (Conservative, Bexleyheath) said that children coming into the borough for education may skew the borough statistics. The Council Officer suggested she had plans to remedy that.

The meeting went on to hear that the economically inactive (not looking for work) are predominately UK born but with ethic origins. Immigrants tend to come in with jobs pre-arranged.

Additional resources are being made available for tackling Domestic Violence among those from “ethnic backgrounds”. Poor language skills can be a problem for victims.

Bexley Council is looking into racial inequalities within its own workforce. “Should senior staff be a little bit different?” There is a much higher BAME churn rate among Council employees. There were references to Unconscious Bias training.
Diversity Review Review

 

26 April - Monday mess and muddle

Not so clever
Overflowing bin No bin!The bin pictured on the left went unemptied for about a month and was then reported to Bexley Council. They said it had been contaminated, there was no obvious sign of it but it has been in the past so it probably was.

Bexley Council took it away a week ago with the inevitable result that the paper and cardboard was put into the adjacent plastics bin and contaminated it instead. Meanwhile dumped paper and polystyrene is redistributed by wind or wildlife and left to despoil neighbouring gardens. Mine included and far more than shown here.

Thanks Bexley Council.

Litter Litter


Good old Norman is back
Labour HQA fairly large helping of Humble Pie is required here because the Labour HQ photographed ‘sans Norman Dodds’ last Thursday evening did not last long. It has been restored to its former glory - and more.

My only excuse is that I didn’t really write either of the two blogs on the subject, I merely enclosed two readers’ submissions within a narrative shell.

Both came from Labour supporters who acted independently as far as I can tell. Different names using different email addresses on different days.

Maybe that speaks volumes for what Bexley Labour is like beneath the surface; although looking towards Downing Street one might say every political party. Whatever the case apologies are due. Abena still stands behind her illustrious predecessor Norman.

It’s a pity that I know no more of my MP than any other average Joe. 18 months into her Parliamentary career the previous Member for Erith & Thamesmead exchanged 239 emails with me, most apolitical it is true but from her successor none. Hence my ignorance.

A long time Bonkers reader has given his age away in the following interesting childhood recollection of Norman Dodds MP.


My memory of Norman Dodds was of a visit by a group of school pupils to the Houses of Parliament (I can’t have been more than 14).

He came down to show us round having just picked up his post. After greeting us, he asked whether any of us collected stamps; I just wish I had said I did. I was what might be called a casual collector, having a stamp album and having occasional spurts of buying stamps.

He then gave the envelopes complete with stamps - some from abroad, one was Malta or Gibraltar that I can remember - to someone who spoke up.

No need to do that, we weren’t voters.

Showing pupils round the House of Commons is nothing exceptional but there were no airs and graces, he seemed like a genuinely nice man, who was warmly acknowledged and spoken to by a number of people who appeared to have different roles in the House (judged by dress/age/gender etc. - I guess it was the 1964-1965 school year).

As far as I know he acted like a gentleman throughout his Parliamentary career. He is complimented in Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography. She said he was “a genuine and extremely chivalrous socialist of the old school”. He was willing to stand up for ‘unpopular’ causes he thought to be right - for instance, travellers. [See below.]

His death was a big blow to his constituents. His successor Wellbeloved was a poor replacement. I met him once and went home disappointed.

Norman Dodds was also mentioned in Harold Wilson’s autobiography.

Whether the present incumbent will be mentioned in (at least) two past Prime Minister’s (auto) biographies, I am far from certain.

This says as much about our Prime Ministers as it does about our MPs. I would be surprised if MPs figure prominently and positively in Blair, Cameron and Johnson’s autobiographies (I haven’t read the former two). Major’s quite possibly (with the exception of the b@$t@rd$). May; possibly; unsure about Brown.

I should add that the image of 315 Bexley Road as it is now is, I am afraid, rather similar to a great many other constituency offices now. I’m not sure why it can’t be called Norman Dodds House, that is mention of a person, not a political party?

My only other recollection is not first hand. There was an election meeting at the grammar school (my old school) at which George Brown spoke. It may well have been for the 1964 election as all my class had to research that election and I amassed an awful lot of material from the various parties. Much would have been Labour as my mother knew people in the party, including Councillor Powrie, who, amazingly, I found details about on the internet.

Another who put others first.

My grandfather worked at the Arsenal and he lived close by which is, presumably, how we knew him. I seem to remember that it was open to all (not 13 year olds though).

Then politicians were scrutinised by voters not by a cosy chat on the sofa with Philip and Holly. I’ve found a reference to his work with travellers in the 1960s and 1970s. it was not popular locally but I get the impression that Norman Dodds did what he thought was right.


My contributor goes on to discuss the state of politics in Kent with reference to names once familiar in Bexley. He apologises for “ranting” about them but speaking from experience I know he is absolutely correct. Dishonesty transcends County boundaries.


The end of the road
Most of my money goes on supporting family and I might be described as shopaphobic. Probably I will win no friends by saying I spend almost no money locally, however a couple of years ago I simply had to buy a new bed and Hamseys in Broadway were selling well known brands at less than internet prices. As a result I have been on their mailing list for a little while.

On Saturday they wrote to tell me they were closing down permanently, a Covid victim according to their letter. So that’ll be another Broadway restaurant coming soon then.
Hamseys

“OUR BEXLEYHEATH STORE IS CLOSING DOWN FOREVER”


The end of road travel?
I drank my first (2021) small can of beer yesterday after a 77 minute journey to Chingford. I left a couple of minutes after one for the 15 to 20 minute journey to Blackwall Tunnel and it took 53 minutes. All due to Socialist lunatics in Greenwich and County Hall. LTNs and a closed ‘motorway’ slip road displacing traffic on to reduced width tracks running alongside a little used bus lane.

My son who earns a living studying such things for Government agencies and Departments told me once how much money traffic hold ups cost the country. I have forgotten what the horrendous figure was but when did the economy and pollution worry a genuine blinkered Socialist?

 

25 April - Sunday round up

Nothing to report. I am invited to a garden booze up. If I take a drink it will be the first since last September.

Longlands
I have been given a copy of the latest Conservative Longlands byelection leaflet. I am still inclined to think that the Labour leaflet is more informative but people will either vote for more of the same or raise two fingers to the arrogance too often displayed by Bexley’s Conservative leadership. It is basically a one woman band and occasionally the word democracy gets forgotten.

canisters canistersOn the other hand we have been spared some of the madness imposed under cover of Covid by the socialist zealots who run neighbouring boroughs. Maybe that is too sweeping a statement, Bromley Council has been just as stupid according to a residents’ newsletter that is sent to me every month.

Conservative candidate Lisa-Jane Moore endorses all the existing Council policies which is fair enough, she would not have been permitted to do anything different but neither is there anything new. If there was the Leadership would have pinched the idea. Lisa is a good well meaning local resident but will probably have to learn the hard way that she she will be valued mainly as voting fodder.

And her gas canister problem (Photo1, see her leaflet) appears to be minor compared with more northerly wards. (Photos 2, Belvedere.)

No more Norman Dodds
Those who ought to know tell me that there is no longer any reference to the Labour Party on their Erith and Thamesmead Headquarters building because if it is festooned only with Parliament’s crest - the Portcullis - the signage can be claimed as a Parliamentary expense. Any mention of a political party and it can’t is their message.
Labour
Sure enough there have been redecoration bills among our MP’s expenses claims, but no signage yet shows on the register.

Getting taxpayers to pay for an MP’s ego boost doesn’t seem very honest to me but then pretty much nothing is at Westminster any more.

Wild Bexley
Fox FoxI have been adopted by a fox. It has progressed from trying to steal the bird’s fat balls to eating the leather shoes left in the shed for occasional gardening duty to sitting on the patio doorstep as if it expects to be fed. If I open the door it comes closer.

When the weather is good the door is usually left open and over the years it has attracted several birds and mice plus a bat and a frog. Johnson’s lockdown has been a lonely experience at times but I think I can do without a young vixen.

Maybe I am being asked to vote Fox on 6th May.

 

24 April - The Leader reports - but not a lot

Councillor O’Neill֦’s report to Full Council is is usually interesting while remaining commendably brief. This week’s was merely short but for the icing on the cake we learned that Councillors Pallen and Hall shared a birthday with the Queen.

Covid got a mention but nothing we have not heard before but the Cabinet Office gang which visited this week were given an ear bashing over Bexley’s poor public health grant.

The police had informed the Leader that the lockdown reduced the number of burglaries and an invitation from Peabody to tour their new skyscraper city in Thamesmead was “fantastic”.

And that was it. Just over three minutes, short and sweet.

Councillor Munur (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) wanted someone to tell him how wonderful the mental health services in the borough are, in particular that of children in care.

Cabinet Member Philip Read said the emphasis was on early intervention and there was a Project Group developing future procurement of services which should be active by April next year.

Councillor Taylor (Labour, Erith) was invited to ask a question and drew attention to the Agenda which continued to imply that the Council’s financial woes were due to Covid and said “it is not a point of pride” that it went to Government for “a bail out”. She asked the Leader to confirm that there would be no further job cuts and to residents that services would not be adversely affected further.

The Leader responded with a political jibe at Councillor Hinkley (she was repeating Labour H.Q. spin) and without the benefit of video I think Councillor O’Neill was confused. Councillor Leaf thought so too.

His answer to Councillor Taylor was that Labour had not been paying attention during the budget setting process and she “did very little or nothing”. He complained that staffing levels and cuts were being made into “a political football”.

She had ample opportunity to suggest how things could have been done differently but chose not to do so, he said, and “I refute the claims she has made.”

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) referred to a decision taken some years ago to get TfL to fund school crossing patrols, the only borough to do so, and now the funding has gone. Patrols that are lost for any reason are not now replaced causing widespread anxiety among parents.

Cabinet Member Craske said he was angry with the Mayor too for the axing of various road safety schemes but the Government’s bail out of TfL had enabled patrols to continue for another six weeks. He thought it would be helpful if Councillor Francis rang his friends in City Hall.

Councillor Craske was perhaps more interested in how Councillor Francis got hold of his information (an FOI to every London Council apart from Bexley) than saving the crossing patrols. One has to ask if he is as concerned as makes out he is.

Ten years ago it was his proposal that they all be abandoned as a waste of money. (Early in 2010 when such things were not always reported in detail here but the subsequent reversal was.)

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour) had the last word bringing attention to the Council’s dubious claim that they have increased the pot hole budget when the truth (masked by a current versus capital budget arrangement) is that it reduced by more than a million pounds over two years. In a further twist of the truth knife he suggested that the bragging over having two Green Flag parks in the borough was no great shakes as 15 years ago under Labour five parks gained the award.

Councillor Craske complained about Labour’s FOI request about crossing patrols saying it was a waste of taxpayers’ money despite Councillor Francis assuring him that none was made to Bexley.

He also denied the road maintenance budget cut but accepted there were five Green Flags until 2007, twelve months after the Tories took control of the borough.

I suspect I am alone in enjoying Stefano’s brief reference to Craske’s “little break from Cabinet in 2013”. That was when the police traced obscene on-line references to myself and other residents to Craske’s IP address. The Police, CPS and Council had to come together to find a way to “resolve the situation”.

All part of a day’s work in 2013 Bexley.

 

23 April (Part 2) - Going through the Motions

Bexley MotionThe Motion put forward by Council Leader Teresa O’Neill (shown here with the Labour amendment in bold) required Standing Orders to be amended to allow it to jump the queue of accumulated Motions. With a two thirds majority required for the change it only just passed the usual tribal voting from Labour and Conservative Councillors.

The reason for its accelerated submission was to push the vaccination programme harder although what the debate does, in the Leader’s words, “to raise awareness” is questionable given that almost no one will have been listening to the webcast; but nothing new in that.

Maybe this blog will do her a small favour.

Labour Leader Councillor Francis (Belvedere) thought that suspending Standing Orders set a bad precedent and it would be better to amend them if they were found to be inadequate or unsatisfactory. He was ignored.

The Leader said that the “vaccines are an amazing story” and praised the volunteers and the “absolute champion residents”. As top London vaccination borough a contingent from the Cabinet Office had visited this week to learn from Bexley’s “success story”.

“The GPs had been fantastic” (†) however some areas and some occupations had shown reluctance and that must be addressed.

The Labour Group put forward an amendment which politicised the Motion which would have been a red rag to the proverbial bull in Tory Bexley. Did they really think an innocuous Motion could be changed to one going against O’Neill’s Lord and Master in Downing Street?

No chance.

Councillor Francis reeled off a long list of local Covid statistics, both good and bad, and thanked everyone from vaccine scientists to vaccination volunteers but majored on the NHS staff who had been in the front line.

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) seconded the Amendment, concentrating on the Government’s many mistakes, “the pay cut” for NHS staff and skirting around the Government’s alleged contract corruption. All the suspect statistics like 150,000 Covid deaths were trotted out; it was not the way to win friends in Tory ranks.

Councillor Borella’s (Labour, Slade Green and North End) similar contribution was more measured and Councillor Ogundayo’s (Labour, Thamesmead East) possibly even more so.

However none of it cut any ice with Leader Teresa O’Neill who lost no time in confirming what everyone has always suspected. Conservative Councillors in Bexley are not permitted Independent thought.

Without a moment’s hesitation she said “We wonְ’t be accepting the amendment”. Like me she regretted that her Motion had been turned into “a political football” and ended with an emphatic “we will be voting against the Amendment”.

The Leader speaks for everyone.

It is exactly what happened. Labour Members abstained.


† I could tell you a different story.

 

23 April (Part 1) - Bexley flies the flag

St. George's flag St. George's flag

Just occasionally Bexley shows it has a Conservative Council.

Note: There is a minor change to what was the Council menu item above to overcome a minor inconvenience when using the mobile version of Chrome. The top level, renamed Democracy, no longer does anything apart from revealing all the old menu options.

 

22 April (Part 2) - Question Time

Question Time at last night’s Full Council meeting in Bexley adopted the usual pattern. Members of the public have learned that there is little point in questioning a Cabinet Member of a Council when the answers have far too often been inadequate so the field is generally left open for Conservative Councillors to make a bid for a more lucrative job with sycophantic, so called, questions.

Whilst yesterday evening did not echo that scenario exactly it certainly began that way…

The first question came from Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) but was completely inaudible on the webcast. The Agenda revealed that its intention was to provide the Cabinet Member who thought it was a good idea to abandon street tree planting and later impose a £235 tax on any resident who requested an exception be made, to boast about his change of heart.

Councillor Craske (Blackfen & Lamorbey) said he had planted more than a thousand trees across the borough since changing course two years ago.

In extreme creeping up arse mode Councillor Steven Hall went on to ask if anyone was not in favour of tree planting which enabled Craske to go into Labour bashing mode. A selective memory allowed him to say he “was pleased to say I ignored their [Labour] opposition” and that he had planted trees in every ward irrespective of representation.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green and North End) interjected the inconvenient truth that six trees had been planted in Slade Green and more than 170 in Sidcup. Councillor Craske said that “trees had been allocated on an equitable basis” and made a spiteful remark about it being Stefano’s bid to take over party leadership following Daniel Francis’ announcement. “All Borella and no Arborella” said Craske in the lamest pun since his “Don’t be a Tosser”.

“Oh dear” said the Mayor.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) asked the Council Leader to repeat the good Covid figures reported here yesterday. “Highest vaccination levels in London and more than 93% of house bound residents.” Councillor Diment asked the Leader to congratulate “the army of volunteers” and she dutifully did.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis asked what was being done about “the Covid high risk people in pockets of the borough who have not taken up the vaccine”. The Leader said that Councillor Francis was right about it being a problem and all sorts of things were going on including door knocking and a touring bus.

ThanksCouncillor Esther Amaning (Labour, Thamesmead East) preceded her question by giving thanks to the many Councillors and residents who gave so generously after her daughter and two grandchildren died in a Covid related suicide. Her question was basically “what mental health monitoring is the Council undertaking?”

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer offered sympathetic words and revealed that he too had been close to an unexpected suicide in recent months. He listed many charities and NHS facilities active in the field many of which accept approaches without GP referrals.

Councillor Amaning expressed the view that gyms and swimming pools should not be shut down again to provide respite to vulnerable residents in enforced confinement. (I have a daughter with the same disablement as Esther’s and I know how much she suffered because of the government’s failure to recognise disabled needs.)

Once again Councillor Sawyer offered sympathetic words and regretted that the situation has not been ideal.

Councillor Nicola Taylor’s (Labour, Erith) question related to the safety of women in public places and once again the answer came from Alex Sawyer. He reminded us that Bexley was a relatively safe borough and next month would host “a live public event where women and girls can express their views” and Bexley would be signing up to The Women’s Charter and would look at any similar initiatives favourably.

Cabinet Member Sawyer filled in the remaining 30 minutes of Question Time with an update on various Domestic Violence and Child Abuse initiatives involving both police and schools. 

 

22 April (Part 1) - ME. ME. MP.

I’ve not been through Northumberland Heath since the 301 bus provided Abbey Wood with a direct route to Bexleyheath on 13th July 2019 and when I did recently one big change came out and hit me. How long ago it changed I do not know but it is not yet showing on Google Street View.

Norman DoddsWhere has Norman Dodds House gone? Norman Dodds was MP for Erith and Crayford from 1955 until he died ten years later aged only 61. His name was commemorated by the local Labour Party HQ on Erith Road, North Heath.

Not any more, someone more important has taken over.

Where for that matter has the Labour Party gone?

No idea of that either but one time Bexley Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare has snatched it away, lock stock and smoking barrel.

No indication anywhere that the building might be associated with the Labour Party, not even if you blow up the poster and read the detail.

It seems to be saying that someone who rose via two intermediate shadow ministerial appointments to be Shadow Exchequer Secretary under the hapless Anneliese Dodds in only ten months has allowed that promotion to go to her head. Egotists ’R’ Us!

What has always been a source of puzzlement and amusement to me is how small Labour’s talent pool must be if a Bexley Councillor who I didn’t even realise was the Deputy Leader of the local party for two years in which I didn’t miss a meeting can with zero Parliamentary experience be deputy to the most important Labour job apart from the hopeless boss himself.

Maybe I have just answered my own question.

Norman Dodds House Oppong Palace

 

21 April - Bexley Covid update

The Council Leader chaired a meeting of Covid experts led by Director of Public Health Anjan Ghosh yesterday morning and she said pretty much everything in Bexley is “fantastic” which allowing for her usual hyperbole is not too far removed from the truth, Anjan was rather more specific with a whole load of statistics to present.

He said there was “a mini-spike” just before Easter. There were only 22·4 ‘cases’ per 100,000 on 22nd March (second lowest in London) but ten days later Bexley was the highest in London and remained there until “only a week ago after which it steadily dropped”. On 19th April the rate was only 15·7 and no one knows why Bexley’s figures leapt around but the largest numbers were in the 12 to 16 and 30 to 49 age groups, thought to be secondary school pupils and their parents.

There have only been 36 cases in the past seven days and only two school students are isolating. There are wards with zero cases including Slade Green which had been bad.

Close analysis of waste water etc. has given no indication of any new variants reaching Bexley, nothing like the Wandsworth and Southwark infections has been found.

Central Library was provided with 2,500 Lateral Flow self tests and they were all taken within two days.

The white population is still much more likely to be vaccinated but the gap is narrowing. The overall performance is among the best in London but Thamesmead, Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green and Falconwood are lagging and being pursued vigorously. Decliners are being approached up to three times before being recorded as such.

Councillor Brad Smith asked about the possibility of a lack of confidence in vaccines following the advice given and the action taken by foreign governments. He was told that “Bexley has been a vaccine enthusiastic borough and the rules relating to the use of particular vaccines changes almost daily” and some governments have been more risk averse. (A young friend with a history of blood clotting was refused an Oxford AZ vaccine last week and was sent to Guy’s for the Moderna.)

Councillor Smith appeared to be unimpressed by the answer and especially concerned about vaccines being made a condition of employment.

The Leader said that after 6th May virtual Council meetings will no longer be allowed and for that reason almost all Committee meetings will be cancelled until 21st June.

As things stand at present there will not be another Covid update meeting and if Councillors have to meet in the Council Chamber they will be required to take two tests in the week preceding the meeting. A way will have to be found to allow members of the public to attend.

A selection of slides presented by Dr. Ghosh.

Covid stats
Covid stats
Covid stats
Covid stats
Covid stats
Covid stats

 

20 April - Oh, the irony!

Philip ReadWith nothing worthy of comment until - possibly - tomorrow’s Full Council meeting in Bexley the Twitter barrel has to be scraped. Fortunately Conservative Councillor Philip Read comes to the rescue as he so often does.

He makes capital out of the fact that all six of the MPs found guilty of expenses fiddles more than ten years ago were Labour but a poor memory has left him open to more ridicule.

It is a matter of public record that Michael Barnbrook was a complainant and sometimes the principal complainant in all those cases (and several more) which may explain to some extent why Councillor Read refused to answer Michael’s public question at a Council meeting when Read’s department was accused of covering up the neglect that preceded the death of Rhys Lawrie with a Serious Case Review that Michael thought was of dubious merit. It was conducted by a former Bexley Director of Children’s Services.

Michael was subsequently banned from making Freedom of Information requests to Bexley Council.

The list of MPs brought down by Michael Barnbrook may be seen here.

 

19 April - Curtains for Kurten?

David KurtenWhen I next see my bubble friend I am going to have to tell her that she should think again about her London Mayor choice.

Whilst government subsidies may usually be a bad thing, David Kurten’s list of “things we don’t need” extends beyond what is sensible. I am entirely with him on Vaccine Passports. I don’t care if I never enter a pub again or have to give up membership of sports clubs but I could be banned from attending Council meetings too. What sort of democracy is Bonkers Boris aiming for?

What has David got against the influenza vaccine? Taking a vaccine should be an informed personal choice. There are risks with all medical procedures but my No.2 is due later today.

Track and Trace has been a total failure and PCR test results have been abused and became a tool of oppression. I am not too far away from David there.

SMART meters have had a bad press but the latest generation provide useful information that may allow some people to adjust their consumption habits. Not so good perhaps if in future they are used to regulate demand. (A Faraday Cage may be the answer.)

Continuing with Labour’s Climate Change Act condemns us to the very high electricity costs which put British heavy engineering at a commercial disadvantage and ensures regular price increases. Solar and wind farm subsidies naturally follow and up the prices go again. An inescapable consequence of Ed Milliband’s over-ambitious folly.

Electric cars may not be needed but the subsidy that kick started adoption is disappearing almost as fast as a boy racer in their rear view mirrors.

Kurten’s list may not be entirely wrong but there is enough in it to make me think he might be slightly nuts.

18 April - Thanks Phil, nice tip off

Queen ElizabethThis appallingly sad scene has been repeated across the country about 1,600 times every day for the past year. The man inflicting this misery is ‘libertarian’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson, not just gullible to have been so often led by false statistics but ready to put what is left of his reputation on the line to defend his mistakes with more blatantly false claims.

The Chapel at Windsor has a capacity of 800 people. At Easter 300 people safely worshipped there but for the Duke’s funeral only 30 people were allowed. Proof ultimate that Boris Johnson’s rules are mainly lunacy

Councillor Philip Read has helpfully brought to my attention a report to the effect that Lockdowns have had a minimal impact on Covid infections, something that is easy to find on other reports too.

Conservative Read has also highlighted the irrefutable fact that it is the vaccine programme which has got Covid on the run with positive test cases around ten times lower than in Europe generally and more than 20 times lower than just 21 miles away across the channel.

But the deluded fool otherwise known as Boris Johnson insists that it is his beloved lockdown which has done the job. The sooner he is consigned to the political scrap heap the better.

Thanks Philip. Nice tip off.

Vaccination success Lockdown failed
Evening Standard

From Evening Standard. Click for source.

 

17 April - The Mayor from Bexley

GLA ElectionProbably everyone has received a copy of this booklet which attempts to explain the forthcoming Mayoral and GLA election and provide an insight into what the countless candidates are planning for us.

Can there be any better disincentive to vote than a 36 page explanatory brochure?

I flicked through it and cast it to one side. Next day I flung it across the table towards my bubble friend to see what she made of it. I expected a sharp retort from someone who didn’t bother to vote at the last General Election.

She doesn’t like her MP Bob Stewart because of his obvious disinterest in a local problem when she heard him speak at a residents' meeting and also because she doesn’t regard herself as a voter in far away Beckenham. Her back garden is in Orpington.

To my surprise she read all the prospectuses and then said “there is only one of those who I might vote for”.

It was David Kurten.

David was high on my shortlist too. His nomination papers confirm him to be a Bexley resident.

If you want to see London decline further towards taxed to the hilt lawless ghetto status you vote for the virtual signalling wastrel Sadiq Khan. If you value freedom to move around the city safely, unhindered and inexpensively you do not.

David Kurten

 

15 April (Part 4) - Labour doesn’t do irony

Tweet Block
It’s not obvious from the Tweet shown here but it started when someone commented on this morning’s Longlands byelection blog. It ended with a Labour activist thanking a Conservative Councillor for not blocking her. Decent Councillors don’t and Ahmet is certainly well into the decent camp. Presumably the Labour activist isn’t.

For the record, no one, not even intolerant Labour activists who are uncomfortable with exposure to conflicting views, are blocked from following @BonkersBexley.

 

15 April (Part 3) - Moving from Bexley to reduce your Council Tax may be a troublesome option

Moving houseIt’s a month since Bexley Council refused to acknowledge that its website was running like a snail although it is a bit better now. Unusable has improved to just about tolerable.
Moving house
I thought Bexley’s website uselessness was confined to the /democracy/bexley/ sub-domain but maybe I am wrong.

Reports have filtered through that other parts failed at around the same time.

The moving house page for example is not working and given that phone calls can go unanswered and emails are ignored the inevitable is happening. People who don’t live here any more are being Direct Debited to help fill Bexley’s financial black hole.

 

15 April (Part 2) - Bexley Council’s website leads everyone in ignorance

Senior OfficersI still get a daily news summary from the News Shopper and it usually goes into the bin pretty quickly but yesterday their top item caught my eye. A Hermes text scam, and I thought I would take a look.

I never did get to see it because the adverts and questionnaires got in the way but somehow a three day old item on excessive Council salaries came up.

The Bexley section is shown here and it looks to me to be wrong in several respects, not that you can entirely blame the News Shopper because Bexley Council’s website is wrong too.

Just from listening to webcasts I know that the Monitoring Officer is no longer Nick Hollier and Toni Ainge and David Bryce-Smith have both departed.

Paul Moore is a confusing area. The long serving Deputy Chief Executive left in 2019 and another Paul Moore appeared on the scene last year. Another import from Newham.

The inability to attend Council meetings and the failure to show faces on webcasts makes all these people close to anonymous, especially when the Council’s website is in such a state of neglect.

 

15 April (Part 1) - The Battle of the Brochures

Difficult questionsBy a lucky coincidence both the Conservative and Labour leaflets for the May 6th Longlands byelection dropped into my Inbox yesterday afternoon. Maybe because the Labour one had been nicely scanned and the Tory equivalent had been photographed with a phone my immediate reaction was that the Labour one was far more eye catching. Would it stand up to more detailed analysis?

I don’t know who the Conservative candidate Lisa-Jane Moore is and she will get no criticism from me today. She is pictured with Longlands ward Councillor Andy Dourmoush who was one of the few Tories who went out of his way to speak to me back in 2014 when he was first elected. I have always found him very sociable and helpful.

At a time when Bexley Council is not doing a lot apart from raising prices, taxes and staff unemployment their scope for bragging is restricted.

They manage to favourably mention the construction of the cinema in Sidcup and an investment in new trees which always provokes a wry smile from me as I remember how Bexley Conservatives scrapped the tree planting budget after regaining power and Councillor Craske allowed new street trees only if residents sponsored the planting at £230 or whatever the charge was as recently as three years ago. (†)

Five years ago Bexley had the second worse provision of street trees in London.

Needless to say there is not a word about how Bexley came to mess up their financial affairs although there is room to remind voters of how Sadiq Khan has messed up his.

The Conservative leaflet may be seen here.

Given the parlous financial situation in which Bexley finds itself it is not surprising that Labour’s David Tingle (Parliamentary candidate for Sidcup in 2019) has been able to deliver some well aimed kicks. The £14·8 million spent dealing with the temporary housing crisis and Bexley’s rather lame if not downright dishonest attempt to blame their lack of money on Covid. The auditor said otherwise.

Mr. Tingle makes the point that an extra Labour Councillor will have no direct effect on Bexley Council but it may give the Conservatives pause for thought. Their arrogance is at times absolutely breathtaking.

The Labour leaflet may be seen here. There cannot be a lot of doubt that it is by far the better piece of graphic design but it also delivers pertinent facts in a palatable fashion - free of typos too which cannot be said of the Conservative leaflet which comes across to me as unfocussed.

Price rises and cuts
There’s a lot of Tory votes to be overturned.

Votes 2018
† Turns out my memory is still not so bad. A bit of research reveals that Bexley Council did indeed charge individual residents £230 if they wanted to plant a street tree.

 

14 April - The bin tax

IncineratorI must confess I hadn’t noticed and required an email reminder or two but it is not just car parking charges that went up by 30% this month, the garden waste collection charge is being hiked by a similar amount.

Last November 30th I paid £40 for a service I do not use every fortnight and now it maxes out at £55. That’s more than twice what I paid when the garden waste service began - there was an early bird enticement to sign up.

At around £3 for collection of a frequently half full bin I doubt I will bother any more. The main casualty will be my neighbour’s hedge and front lawn.

If you have a borderline need for the waste collection service, now might be the time to think of what you should do come renewal time.

The waste charge has always been a bit of a scam. When the system was changed from free combined garden and food waste to the current segregated one Bexley Council gained £440,000 a year from recycling the cleaner waste. They successfully duped residents into thinking that payment was unavoidable.

If prices had risen in line with inflation you would be paying no more than £34.
Waste charge

Click for Council website.

To cancel your bin subscription email wasteteam@bexley.gov.uk.

 

13 April (Part 2) - London Council Tax rates

I had not expected the Council Tax League Table positions to be any different this year to last but I was wrong. Some Councils levy rates only pennies apart from their fiscal neighbours which means that the most minor of roundings within their internal calculations can cause a change but nothing has shifted Bexley from its lowly position with 24 boroughs in London levying lower taxes.

Fortunately it is among the majority of Councils which make the new Tax Rates easily accessible on their websites and the annual chore is much easier than it used to be. Maybe that is because I no longer attempt to dig out the figures before the new financial year commences.

Only Islington and Camden have not updated their figures for 2021/22 although in the case of Islington I found their figures well away from the front page link which still goes to 2020/21. Camden as in previous years simply hasn’t got the latest figures on their website. The figures used here come from a local estate agent and must be checked when Camden Council wakes up.

There does appear to be widespread carelessness or incompetence on display. Some Council’s list this year’s figures alongside 2020/21’s but the change is nothing like being in the expected 6% range and a search of their sites for last year's figures confirm that something has gone wrong. The old figures shown are either from 2019 or just hopelessly wrong.

Fortunately Bexley is entirely free of these criticisms, it is just far too expensive but at least Council Tax has not tipped over the £4,000 a year threshold as it has in Kingston-upon-Thames. I suspect Kingston is Conservative controlled but their website does not provide a list of Councillors’ names, only an ‘enter your postcode and reveal one name’ system. Utterly useless.

 

13 April (Part 1) - Everything is on hold

Because of the week of mourning for the late Duke of Edinburgh there will be no Cabinet Meeting in Bexley this evening and probably little to report here for the rest of the week.

As far as I can see from the Agenda the Council’s finances appear to be in a slightly worse shape than three months ago.

Maybe I will find time to fill in all the missing numbers in the Council Tax League Table. Some Councils are still showing last year’s figures on their website. Probably Bexley’s 25th worst position in London will be maintained.

 

12 April (Part 2) - Easy money

Bexley Council has made it into Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column again and this time it is Councillor Gareth Bacon MP who does them the honour.

Whenever I mention his name favourably I get a modicum of kick back from those who disagree but I am still inclined to think that this Private Eye column was written on a slow news day.

If it was not for the Covid scare and the cancelled 2020 elections Gareth Bacon would have been out of his Bexley and GLA jobs a year ago after becoming MP for Orpington. Byelections are expensive to organise and run and because of that Gareth chose to cling on to his job until the next convenient date showed up which in theory saves money. This will the GLA election on May 6th.

The supposedly honourable intentions were marred somewhat when Bexley Council appeared to reschedule a meeting to prevent the MP losing his Councillor job because of a poor attendance record. (A Councillor must not be absent from meetings for more than six months.)

The decision to keep his jobs until 6th May 2021 doesn’t seem to be exceptionally unreasonable and far worse things about Bexley Council have been noted here in the past but one might wonder how much more expensive a one off byelection is than one combined with the GLA election. How does the extra cost compare with a year’s worth of Councillor allowance?

I have not noted any contribution by Councillor Bacon to life in Bexley over the past 18 months but on the other hand at the GLA and in Parliament he has impressively demolished Mayor Sadiq Khan a few times.

Presumably, unlike some of his colleagues Gareth Bacon didn’t think about not drawing his Bexley allowance.
From Private Eye

Private Eye. (From a photograph submitted by a reader.)

 

12 April (Part 1) - The Covid only health service

From time to time I have mentioned how two friends with suspected heart problems have been at first ignored and then messed around by the NHS in a disgraceful and possibly life threatening manner. The last occasion was three weeks ago.

Since then both have had scans. One was provided with a stent and told there was not much else they could do for him. The other received an urgent telephone call which told him that he must get himself into hospital with no delay whatsoever.

He did as he was told and was immediately placed into Intensive Care with instructions not to get out of bed for anything at all. He has been diagnosed with a condition which Google tells me affects only single figures of people a year and if not treated quickly is very serious indeed.

The NHS has kept him waiting for a year.

Moving down the urgency scale by quite a long way my telephone consultation on Friday 6th March resulted in a consultant’s promise that my situation would be discussed with colleagues the following Monday and they would call me back. Two weeks on and I have heard nothing.

These episodes are being repeated all over the country because the Health service is failing miserably under the direction of Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

 

11 April - Crime pays pretty well

Those who have been following my occasional references to the Daniel Morgan (Axe Murder) Panel will presumably know that its report is widely expected to be published within the next six weeks and likely to be critical of many senior police officers.

The journalist who first brought police corruption to wider attention and lost his job at The Guardian for his efforts has recently started a blog about police corruption and not unnaturally one of his first is a long one about Daniel Morgan.

The only police officer who Daniel’s family believed to be honest was Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook who conducted the Met’s fifth enquiry into the murder. Like all its predecessors it failed and the Met arrested him because of allegations that he did not follow the rules relating to supergrasses as closely as he should have done. However they did not proceed with any charges and a Court awarded £155,000 to the alleged criminal.

Now the man Cook fingered has plans to hit back by suing Cook.

Michael Gillard’s The Upsetter reveals all.
From The Upsetter

 

10 April (Part 2) - Not a public meeting

There was a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting last Thursday evening which was supposed to be a public meeting - but it wasn’t. The Health Scrutiny meeting is held jointly with Bromley Council where webcasts are a rarity. So not a public meeting after all; a secret session, which is a pity because now of all times health is a public concern.

If anyone is interested, this is how hospital bed occupancy has plummeted over the past three months at Guys/St. Thomas’, Darenth, Bromley, Woolwich and University Hospital Lewisham. Be aware of the very different scales used on the graphs below.

But Boris will keep you locked up until 21st June.
Critical care beds General beds

 

10 April (Part 1) - Half-hearted Conservative campaign

CanvasserThe Conservatives are not serious with their attempt to gain seats at the GLA and Mayoral elections are they?

They posted this image to Twitter a couple of days ago, a canvasser delivering (or maybe not) newsletters in my road. The photograph was was taken maybe two minutes walk away from my front door yet Peter Fortune didn’t make it through my letter box.

Yesterday a different leaflet came with the post, at least I assume the postman brought it because it was sandwiched between items of ordinary mail. It is in part an attack on the blood stained (knife crime up 60%) Mayor Sadiq Khan with some dubious claims from Shaun Bailey the Conservative candidate mixed in.

Where does he get the idea that I will save “£307 by reversing Sadiq Khan’s 10% council tax hike” from?

My current bill says that the incompetent and wasteful mayor will extort £447·47 this year “an increase of 9·5% on last year”. Rather more than the less than three pence a week we were promised a Mayor would cost when asked if we wanted one in a referendum 20 odd years ago. I voted against, it was obvious what would happen and it has.

If the £447 is a rise of 9·5% it must have been £408 last year which is robbery to the tune of £39. That’s not £307 is it? It’s a lie worthy of a senior Bexley Councillor.

Shaun wants to see 30 minutes of free parking in high streets and he expects us not to laugh when it hits the doormats in a borough that has done away with many 30 minute bays and approved an across the board price increase of 30%.

One of Khan’s many silly ideas is his cross border toll to come into his fiefdom which the Tories say is to be set at £5·50. But as I understand that is only for the oldest cars, most will pay £3·50. That doesn’t make it a good idea but Shaun Bailey must have a similar mindset to the authors of @bexleynews who will always exaggerate to make a a point - when it is not an outright lie of course.

No more tower blocks in Outer London. Maybe Bailey has a point there, I hate the way my local area is developing given the way Bexley Council is scared to say no to planning applications for fear of Khan over-ruling them.

Sorry Shaun, I may think that Khan has achieved nothing positive whatsoever in his five years but I won’t be voting Conservative next month; maybe you can blame Boris Johnson for a share in that decision.

 

9 April - Dishonest or Vindictive? The choice is yours

Until next week’s Cabinet meeting there is not going to be a lot to report here but on the other hand today is exactly two months after I complained to Bexley Council that two Councillors were offending against their Code of Conduct rules.

I have already said that it was at the trivial end of the scale but it is a clear cut breach of the rules and I was interested to see how Bexley Council would react. Would the old strap line of ‘Dishonest, Vindictive, Criminal’ that I nicked from a News Shopper report on Bexley Council twelve years ago still have any validity? Not the Criminal bit obviously, if that is still going on it’s well hidden but the other two raise their ugly heads rather too often.

I was so sure that Bexley Council would do the sensible thing that I didn’t mention the complaint here intending to give them credit when they reacted positively.

Two months on I think the situation has changed.

The relevant part of the Code of Conduct is this bit.
Code of Conduct
Tweet Tweet
TweetTwo Councillors block me on Twitter and in one case has done since the day I opened a Twitter account in 2013. The other one had me on the block list from the day she opened her account.

The Councillors are Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Philip Read who has a long record of abusing all sorts of people from all walks of life and Council Leader Teresa O’Neill.

This is what I said about them on 9th February and hoped never to repeat here.


I wish to make a complaint against two Bexley Councillors who I believe are offending against the Council’s Code of Conduct relating to Social Media and in particular, Twitter.
Your Code under the heading Golden Rules includes a paragraph which says...
The use of blocking and muting should always be seen as a last resort.
For reference, I joined Twitter on 14th July 2013.

Complaint against Councillor Philip Read.
Councillor Read joined Twitter in May 2009 and I have never engaged with him although I have copies of a very large number of abusive Tweets he aimed at me. They were made before the introduction of your Code and I made no complaint then and I do not do so now.
Councillor Read blocked my account immediately after 14th July 2013, presumably as soon as he became aware of the account.
This is not blocking as a last resort, hence the complaint and my request for an explanation.

My second complaint is similar.

Complaint against Councillor Teresa O’Neill.
Councillor Teresa O’Neill joined Twitter in January 2017 at the same time as several other Bexley Councillors. I suspect her account was opened by a third party, one who regarded blocking my account as the norm. It was blocked from Day 1 and very obviously there has been no exchange of Tweets. I accept that the possibility exists that she is unaware of the situation.
My complaint is however the same as that against Councillor Read. The blocking does not follow your Golden Rules of being a last resort.
I engage with other Councillors including the Mayor who have never had reason to make a complaint.
I look forward to your response which should either be an unblocking or a detailed account of what has justified the double use of the Last Resort clause.


TweetI’d guess that my complaint has been rejected because both accounts continue to block me. That can only be confirmation that both Councillors are vindictive and dishonest. Possibly worse is that Bexley Council supports them in their dishonesty and confirms that their Code of Conduct is worthless.

It may have been a complaint at the trivial end of the scale but it has served as proof that within Conservative Bexley Council the integrity level of those who lead it is absolutely zero. Anyone surprised?

Note: In practice it makes no difference; I have two Twitter accounts.

 

6 April - When the simpler option is the better option

TweetThe MP’s Tweet is partially right. A DLR extension from Barking to Thamesmead should be on the Agenda but it is not so certain that it should carry on to Abbey Wood.

There might be some benefit for London bound Thamesmead commuters but very few will live near the station so their many varied bus routes will continue to carry the bulk of the load. For the Canary Wharf area it would be a better bet to head off in the other direction avoiding Crossrail and taking the DLR all the way.

Probably Murky Depths understands the situation better than our MP who has presumably jumped on the Greenwich Council band wagon.

Longer term, with the likelihood of a Crossrail extension through to Belvedere and beyond and Bexley Council’s plans for 8,000 houses in that area it might make a lot more sense to extend the DLR through Thamesmead to Belvedere giving its growing population more transport options. Abbey Wood will be spoilt for choice eventually and there is no room to get a railway line along Harrow Manorway without demolishing the not yet completed work or burrowing underground.

There was a time when the MP for Erith & Thamesmead would put her case in a way that might carry more weight than a quickly forgotten Twitter post. Contrary to the plea put forward today it may well be a “half measure”, not “right” and not “absolutely crucial”. Short sighted too.

Former Erith & Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce’s ideas which may still be supported by Labour In Bexley should be looked at again. They are reproduced in full below. (Briefing Note.)

Murky Depths
Briefing Note
TfL has secured funding to carry out more work on plans to extend the DLR from Beckton to Thamesmead. This comes after the confirmation of the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Opportunity Area Planning Framework (OAPF). Thamesmead & Abbey Wood Opportunity Area.

The current proposals are for a new station be built in Beckton, with a bridge over or, more likely a tunnel under, the Thames to a new station in Thamesmead. Both sites are subject to lots of new housing( circa 25,000) being built, or planned, and the DLR extension was included in TfL’s latest financial plans.
Map
If the DLR extension is built, then it’s provisionally expected to be able to offer 15 trains per hour – roughly one every four minutes. Although construction work is a very long way from being funded, TfL has secured the £1 million for feasibility work on the line so that they can clarify the likely route and look to identify any issues and/or future problems.

The feasibility work will be carried out by TfL, while Arup and Atkins, as part of a joint commission, will be responsible for design, engineering and environmental assessment.

Infrastructure company Aecom will offer socioeconomic support.

The £1million will be completely funded by external partners, through a joint funding agreement between the London Borough of Newham, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and developers Thamesmead Waterfront, Aberdeen Standard Investments and St. William. Thamesmead Waterfront is a joint venture between Peabody and Lendlease while St.  William is a joint venture between Berkeley Group and National Grid.

This work will enable TfL and partners to further develop the proposed DLR extension from Gallions Reach in Newham to Beckton Riverside, and then across the river to Thamesmead.

This next stage of technical work will allow further development of the route and the potential locations of stations to be considered. Support work on other transport options within the OAPF will also be carried out including options for a rapid bus corridor and new walking and cycling links.

It is this location of stations that is a concern. Currently the possible plan is for the route to come across to central Thamesmead with a stop at town Centre and another at Carlyle Road as shown on this picture.
Map
In discussions with TFL in 2017 it was proposed that the DLR could have stops at Thamesmead Town Centre and Carlyle Road and then move across to a stop at Belvedere Station. This would get the maximum benefit of unlocking potential in an area (Lower Belvedere) that is sorely in need of regeneration and housing. There are a number of reasons why this is a good option and the best solution.


1) The route from Carlyle Road to Belvedere would go mainly across land already owned by Peabody as well as some brownfield areas.
2) This route would mean that very few existing properties, if any, would be demolished
3) This route would unlock the potential of areas around Belvedere station for housing.
4) This route would bring a much needed transport link to the poorly served area of Belvedere and Erith.


Originally there was a proposal to link Belvedere to the north of the river via a bridge but this was deferred by the Mayor when the DLR was proposed. This would mitigate that decision and unlock the huge development area of North Belvedere for much needed regeneration.

The route that is being suggested, by some, of Carlyle Road to Abbey Wood is flawed in a number of ways.


1) To get to Abbey Wood the route would either have to rebuild Harrow Manorway (which is nearing completion) in a hugely costly redesign that has taken four years to complete or it would mean demolition of a large number of social rented properties on the Abbey Wood estate.
2) Any demolition of social rented and privately owned properties across the Abbey Wood estate could involve compulsory purchase and possible legal challenge, which would escalate costs and result in delays.
3) The construction of Crossrail caused a serious flooding problem in Abbey Grove area. Further piling and construction could worsen the situation.
4) It’s probable that the Thistlebrook travellers site that would be affected and may need to be rehoused by RBG elsewhere in the borough.
5) Abbey Wood station itself is already served with routes to central London, north London and Luton (via Thameslink). When the full Crossrail route opens, an Elizabeth line service every five minutes at peak time (only 8 minutes to Canary Wharf) will also allow passengers to catch one train right through central London to Paddington, Heathrow or Reading in the west
6) This DLR route would be more costly, maybe prohibitively so.


It is understandable to want connectivity and to wish for the proposed DLR to link to an existing transport hub at Abbey Wood but surely it makes economic and social sense to link up poorly connected places to unlock potential rather than concentrate on one already well connected site. For these reasons we would urge all elected representatives and community voices to press for the Belvedere option.

 

5 April - Parking. £3·50 an hour; two hours minimum

It’s a modest increase said Councillor Ahmet Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands), when speaking of short term parking going up from 80 pence to a pound, while backed up by Councillors Gower (Conservative, Bexleyheath) and Munur (Blackfen & Lamorbey).

This is what a similar percentage increase looks like in practice for all day commuters near Abbey Wood station.
Prices up

 

4 April - It’s Easter and I may break more than a chocolate egg

Easter cardNothing here today, I am off to do a DIY job for a friend. Replacing an old telephone extension cable with a better quality one routed in a more sensible fashion. It can be done from outside and within an attached garage but if I make sufficient progress, which I won’t because stage 2 involves climbing into the loft, I’ll have to nip inside to make the final connection where three vaccinated people will contrive to create a new Covid variant over a cup of tea.

There will inevitably be much conversation along the lines of stuff Boris Johnson while we dice with imminent death.

I have received four Happy Easter messages via WhatsApp and text message. One from a church going Christian and three from Muslims - but no real Easter Egg, only the card shown here. Miserable lot! 😉

Happy Easter to all.

 

3 April (Part 4) - Getting the needle

On 18th March Bexley’s Director of Public Health assured us all that second Covid doses were reserved for those who had been given their first, a welcome reassurance to us all.

On 23rd March my bubble friend received a text message to say that “changed guidance” was going to cause a week’s delay to her second jab and she was subsequently given a new date; 11:15 this morning.

Vaccination centreShe dutifully drove to the appointed vaccination centre only to be told that they hadn’t any vaccine to give her. Try again next Wednesday they said.
It may of course be nothing worse than a delivery failure, but two in a row?

Maybe the vaccination programme is not quite as brilliant as Boris makes out.

Note: Pfizer and Bromley.

 

3 April (Part 3) - Untold police corruption

So there I was minding my own business at about 9:30 last Sunday evening when the phone rang more than once, the mobile bleeped and later on I saw that the email had not been left out of the excitement. People were anxious to tell me to watch Line of Duty on BBC 1 because it had just referenced the Daniel Morgan murder and the Podcasts about it made a few years ago.

I wasn’t watching because I have no licence and have not watched TV since last July however I was shown a recording during the week. Not knowing the LoD story I was not at all sure who the crooks were or whether they all were. After 20 minutes my blood was boiling and I didn’t want to watch any more. Unknown to me at the time, Daniel’s brother Alastair also had to use Catch Up and reacted in the same way I did. Off his TV went. If you absolutely know that the police are corrupt, seeing it played out as entertainment is not good for one’s health.

Alastair and KirsteenMaybe I should remind anyone new around here that Daniel Morgan was a private investigator murdered with police involvement in 1987 for, so the theory goes, an intention to shop their corrupt activities to the newspapers. Daniel would have been a somewhat distant relation if he had lived.

Correspondents expect me to know everything about the case and the investigation authorised by Home Secretary Theresa May eight years ago. I don’t know everything and I am not going to reveal anything that isn’t in the public domain. What I can say is that the Daniel Morgan Panel will soon make its report public a mere seven years late.

Some of the questions…

How come the case became part of the Line of Duty plotline? A fairly easy one to answer. The police adviser to the BBC series was the senior officer who conducted one of the Met’s five failed investigations into the murder.

Do I know exactly when the Panel’s report will be published? A diplomatic No Comment is required. Do I know if Cressida Dick will survive? I can only guess she will be no more than a minor player because trying to derail the Panel’s progress more than once and keeping people under prolonged arrest in an attempt to deprive the Panel of evidence is not in the same ball park as protecting the associates of axe murderers. For that the Panel will hopefully have looked back further in time.

Will the suicide of a decent copper be revealed as another murder as suggested in one of the Untold Murder Podcasts? I hope so.

Will the police force which reviewed the Met Police’s failed investigations and cleared them of all wrong doing be revealed to be a sham? I would think that is a near certainty.

If you remain doubtful about the depths of corruption within the Metropolitan Police you really should check out the Podcasts.

Closing moments of the penultimate Podcast of Series 1.

For the record I have not discussed the murder of his brother with Alastair for more than a year. All too sensitive and he is under enough stress already. The above is all public domain stuff.

 

3 April (Part 2) - Classless

Philip ReadIt’s a bad habit I know but at the end of each day I flick my Twitter App from @BonkersBexley to the one that follows @PhilipRead1. You never know, he might be calling me the sad old cretin from Abbey Wood again after, I assume, a spot of self indulgent lubrication.

Most of the time the effort is wasted but last night it paid off.

A bit of background information may be required.

In recent days an enthusiastic Labour activist asked her Councillor friends if they could help with the delivery of election leaflets. Maybe due to inexperience or even ignorance the request went out to Conservative Councillors too and those with the most pathetic small minds made the most of it.

Various references were made to accepting the leaflets and depositing them in Thames Road or Footscray before Gentleman Hackett stepped in to protect his young ward constituent from an attack by the sad old man from West Heath in the shape of a plea to keep things “classy”.

I guessed that Councillor Hackett had in mind the way Read attacked the young, inexperienced and black Councillor Mabel Ogundayo on her first outing in the Council chamber back in 2014. I don’t know if it left its mark on Mabel but it certainly did on me.

“You can dish it out but can’t take it” says the man who dished out abuse to Councillor Ogundayo and to me but blocks me in case I might be tempted to respond. There is a word for such people isn’t there?

Philip ReadThe least classy Councillor on Bexley Council threw the advice back into Danny Hackett’s face.

Read who only sees things in rigid party political terms cannot comprehend how a Councillor might wish to look after all the residents of his ward irrespective of political leanings. He thinks that Danny’s motive can only be to “cosy up” to Labour.

Two Councillors phoned me this week, one in the friendliest possible fashion persuaded me that one of my meeting reports came across as less balanced than it might have been - so I amended it. The other one was from Danny. Not unduly political but I think I can be pretty damn sure that there is no prospect of him cosying up to his old party. And would they want him?

 

3 April (Part 1) - What’s the point?

EgressAfter the old GPO gave me a job in 1962 they sent me on a six month training course to learn how telephone exchanges worked and something of the culture of the Post Office. One thing drummed into me was that divulging the address of any customer who was not listed in the phone directory was an offence meriting dismissal. In those days being ‘ex-directory’ was not especially common unlike now when it appears to be the norm.

It is a lesson that I have observed ever since and I never pass on phone numbers or email addresses without the owner’s permission. Passing on one’s email address to all and sundry is a sure way of generating spam messages as most people know all too well on top of which a third party may sell on personal data or be hacked.

I have always taken suitable precautions and as a result get no spam email at all. Occasionally someone abuses the address shown at the bottom of this page but it is a throw-away address that is easily changed. When dealing with companies I create an email address specific to that company so if I do get spam email I can tell who has leaked it. Most recently Saga Insurance and Adobe software; rubbish email came from both so I simply cancelled the addresses and set up new ones.

I have a unique email address for Bexley Council too and on the rare occasions I correspond with them they naturally reply using it.

But not yesterday.

EgressThey have passed on personal data to a third party without my permission. To read the email I have to confirm that data with some mysterious third party. Why does Bexley Council think a simple email needs wrapping up in some security software? And it is not even secure is it?

All that is needed to access the message is my Reply email address which would be obvious to anyone who intercepted the email shown on the right and a stupidly long alpha numeric code which is displayed for all to see.

Now I will never know what is in the message. Maybe it is an apology from the Council Leader for reporting me to the police for being critical of Councillors.

I know that there’s a couple of IT experts who read this blog; maybe they know what advantage there is in using Egress on what I am pretty sure will be a very short email containing no valuable data.

 

2 April - Enjoy it while you can

Felixstowe Road Felixstowe RoadFor some years after I retired from BT I was able to see the BT Tower from most local vantage points, certainly if I wandered up to what is now the Viewing Point in Lesnes Abbey Park. I think it was The Gherkin that took that view away and slowly but surely town planners are building a barrier to our City views.

If you go to the Lesnes Viewing Point today you can see Peabody scarring the skyline to the North West and across the borough boundary a 21 storey tower is going up that will dwarf our only existing skyscraper that towers over Sainsbury’s. (The gold coloured building on the second photo below.)

Maybe it is a blessing that Bexley Council plans to hide them all with another BexleyCo monstrosity to be built on the Felixstowe Road car park site. Due for completion in 2026 it allows plenty of time for me to get out of town if the useless Mayor doesn’t persuade me to leave sooner.

A 14 storey tower at 500 Abbey Road for which permission is already granted will obliterate the view from the new Viewing Point. It will appear to grow out the left side of the historic Mulberry tree. (Second photo again.)

Since Council Leader threw Councillor Danny Hackett off the Planning Committee as his punishment for falling out with Labour, the North of the borough has had no one to stand up for what it might want.

Fortunately, if you value the skyline, Peabody always drags its heels. Their 14 storey tower was due for occupation at the end of this year but clearly that is not going to happen. There is as yet no sign of any work on Peabody’s Knee Hill site.


City skyline

How it was. (16th March 2014.)

City skyline

Today from the Viewing Point. (2nd April 2021.)

Harrow Inn Tower

Harrow Inn Site timetable.

To the North

Peabody land.

 

1 April (Part 2) - BexleyCo’s West Street Park development steamrollers on

General PurposesWith half an ear on last night’s General Purposes/Audit meeting I formed the impression that Bexley Conservatives are reverting to their old less than impressive ways. Let’s see what closer inspection brings. As has been the case for two weeks now the inability of Bexley Council to serve up an Agenda in a reasonable time is a constant problem as is the fact that most Councillors are willing to pay for only the cheapest and nastiest internet connections.

The eradication of the West Street Park in Erith was the main Agenda item; in particular the repercussions on a public right of way said to have existed for the past 30 years. Bexley Council was dismissive of all objections and through an appallingly poor quality piece of audio I think I heard a Council legal officer set out a legal precedent for not being required to retain any right of way that may have existed. If it did.

Conservative Councillors led by Cafer Munur (Blackfen & Lamorbey) were keen to seize on the legal precedent which would allow residents’ objections to be ignored. He is probably right but as a piece of PR it didn’t look good. Fortunately I was probably the only member of the public interested enough to be tuned in.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) spoke up for residents and objected to the fact that Bexley Council had not seen fit to inform objectors that the subject was up for discussion. I’ve seen similar things before. (†) Residents were given no chance to ask a Councillor to sponsor a Deputation because they had been kept in ignorance. On the other hand Councillor Francis is quite capable of speaking up without the backing of any Deputation. In March 2016 he spoke non-stop on the same and similar subjects for 61 minutes.

He was told that residents have no right to be informed of anything although another anonymous Council Officer quoted from legislation which appeared to contradict that statement. Councillor Francis said the lack of information was grossly unfair and the subject should be deferred to another meeting.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) said that a Deputation would make no difference because the Council was relying on law to trample over residents’ concerns. “We welcome deputations but I don’t think the outcome would change.” She has a point but once again it doesn’t sound too good at the end of an audio feed.

The Chairman Councillor O’Hare agreed as did Councillor Munur who reminded his colleagues how the Council was similarly able to use the same technique in respect of Old Farm Park. Maybe they were impressed but I wasn’t. From a cynical public’s point of view it will sound undemocratic.


General PurposesCouncillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) was unapologetic too saying the law backed the Council in not informing interested parties and the Agenda had been in the public domain for a week and and any would-be Deputees had little excuse for being unprepared.

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) objected to the refusal to hear from residents and believed that when the applicant is BexleyCo the Council must be seen to be open and honest. She noted that a Deputation must be submitted at least seven days before a meeting so relying on an unannounced Agenda published a week before the meeting was impractical. The Council is “pushing things under the carpet” and “rubber stamping” decisions.

Councillors voted not to defer their decision dividing along party lines with the exception of Conservative Nigel Betts (Falconwood & Welling) who broke ranks by supporting deferral. Four to three against more discussion.

I suspect he was a victim of poor communications or simply not paying attention.

Later a Council Officer produced an aerial photograph from 2002/3 which suggested that part of the public right of way is less than 20 years old. The actual planning documents from the relevant periods were not available. Councillor Taylor said that she was sure the maps showed the path in dispute and the conditions at the time said that it must be made a right of way. There was again an unfortunate lack of evidence and she was reminded that General Purposes is not a Planning Committee equipped with maps. Her concerns got her nowhere.

The Chairman said again that residents had been given ample time to object and a Council Officer referred back to the law and that a new Public Right of Way would not arise from an agreement with or licence granted to a development company. (Wimpey circa 2002).

All Conservatives, including Nigel Betts, supported BexleyCo’s ambitions. (Five to Two.) One day BexleyCo may pay a dividend to Bexley Council and revive its reputation.

Bexley Councillors may well have the law on their side but last night the casual observer might conclude that they made a good honest move when they ditched the old “Listening to you” strap line. I hope they don’t take their cues from the dictator in Downing Street.

† When Bexley Council narrowed Abbey Road, Belvedere in 2009 the Consultation papers were not sent to those who lived on turnings off the road, but it did consult with some who lived further away. Probably unimportant as they ignored every objection anyway.

 

1 April (Part 1) - Prime Ministers I have known

I was asked to rate the Prime Ministers of the past 25 years and quickly replied that they have probably become worse in chronological sequence. From Currie lover John Major to the unprincipled dictatorial sleazeball in office right now. But I can probably do better than that.

AldershotI don’t remember anything of Clement Attlee - how old do you think I am? - and Churchill only made an impression on me because he brought food rationing to an end in 1954. The Eden era found me living within the Aldershot Garrison Town (‘Home of the British Army’) and wondering like every other schoolboy why the tanks and lorries had all been painted sand coloured. The Suez expedition answered that a few months later.

Harold ְ‘Never had it so good’ Macmillan came and went without me really noticing to be replaced by Sir Alec Douglas-Home, pronounced Hume. I still remember him being unwell with the flu and some BBC wag instead of saying (phonetically) Hume was in bed with flu said Home was in bed with Flo. Well it seemed funny at the time.

And along came the first of many shady characters, if you can call a cigarette smoker who stuck a pipe in his mouth to make himself look more homely and who was alleged to have a dubious relationship with a raincoat manufacturer - Gannex - and his private secretary, shady. But we did. How innocent we were. Harold ‘Pound in your Pocket’ Wilson.

I watched him on a friend’s TV - I didn’t have one - deliver that speech and I didn’t believe a word of it.

Edward Heath famed for nationalising Rolls Royce, the three day week. arguing with and eventually losing out to the miners’ union with the accompanying time tabled power cuts topped off by selling us out to what became the European Union.

Wilson briefly came and went again to be replaced by James Callaghan, he of the 20%+ inflation rate and the begging bowl held out to the International Monetary Fund blamed on British Overseas Airways Corporation buying another Jumbo Jet. Three more words: Winter of Discontent.


Navy Navy NavyMaggie Thatcher. Why do I not remember more about her? Working too hard I expect; day and night.

I recall before the 1979 election promising my two children that if Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister I would be able to afford to give them both a pound a week pocket money.

In recent years they told me they were by far the richest kids in their school.

I watched the Navy sail from Portsmouth in 1982 and in my telecoms role listened to the Falklands telephone operators connecting calls with an Argentinian machine gun at their back.

So Maggie was a hero but not to my Dad. She fiddled with Civil Service pensions and someone who in the 1950s and 60s would taxi old ladies to polling booths never had a good word to say about the Tories ever again. I think I have recently reached the same position.

John Major; seemed OK to me at the time, maybe made a bit of a mess of nationalising the railways and a bigger one of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, but don’t forget who was pushing him hard to join. The Labour Party.

Blair; he didn’t fool me and soon after his election we had a wrecked pension system, windfall taxes on industry, gold reserves sold off for a song, hard won European concessions given away, weapons of mass destruction, 45 minutes to Armageddon and a government whistleblowing scientist dead in the woods.

Gordon ‘Bigotted woman’ Brown came and went in a flash but not before signing away our rights in Lisbon in near secrecy to be replaced by ‘Hug a Hoodieְ’ Heir to Blair Hooray Henry Cameron, currently in trouble for dubious lobbying activities. He half heartedly negotiated with the EU assuming no one would dare deflect his European ambitions and ran away when they did.

Theresa May - Brexit surrender. Say no more, and finally the biggest disappointment of all Johnson. Where does one start?

Sacked for lying, journalist beaten up, breaching the ministerial code, Jennifer Arcuri, false Covid statistics, dictatorial powers, dual standard policing and not a word about Batley Grammar School for fear of upsetting people who will never vote for him. Cowardice, corruption and an extreme right wing Clampdown on Freedom.

Who in their right mind would even think about confining seventy year olds to a 25 mile circle around their home?

Vive la révolution! Bring back SuperMac.

 

News and Comment April 2021

Index: 20202021

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