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News and Comment October 2021

Index: 201920202021

31 October - Ignore Boris; stick to diesel for as long as possible

My eye-brows twitched upwards when Bexley Council put out a Tweet (below left) on Thursday to the effect that they had installed 41 charging points across the borough. News to me and it is the sort of thing I look out for. Their last claim on the same subject was that they had installed 13 double headed charging points, 26 if you like, all of them feeble 7kW units.

Claiming that there were 41 and referring readers to zap-map.com seemed barely worth a blog mention but early this morning I received a message on the subject of chargers, so on the last day of the month when blogs traditionally are little read, why not?

The map below right, click to see more, is from the Council’s recommended zap-map and filtered to show (as solid blue) only the chargers run by Bexley’s preferred provider BPpulse. Some of the BPpulse chargers do not belong to Bexley Council (Starbucks etc.) but even if they were the total is far short of 41 or even 21 double-headers. Count them and only the original 13 are there. (In fact I can only find twelve but maybe that is just me.)

zap-map is a live on-line service. At 8 a.m. this morning eight of Bexley’s chargers were reported as out of service. BPpulse has an appalling reputation among knowledgeable electric vehicle owners, a third out of order (eight out of 24 or 26) at any one time may be a little above average which brings me back to this morning’s message. It quoted a news report that said one in ten chargers were out of order. If only.

Tweet Zap-Map

Click to enlarge and see a bigger map.

The UK charging infrastructure is expanding rapidly but maybe not as quickly a the number of EVs. Making it worse is the fact that owners are changing from the early adopting techno-nerds to ordinary motorists who are not interested in how the system works.

They tend to plug in and go away without freeing up the charger when their battery is filled. They do not realise that a battery charges very slowly once it is more than 80% full and they will make quicker progress by unplugging at that level and if necessary top up at another charger later. The so called splash and dash.

Hybrid drivers seem to be especially ignorant. In many cases they will plug in a vehicle with a maximum charging capability of 3·5 kilowatts into a charger that can run between 15 and 100 times faster, thereby causing a queue of more capable vehicles. This is a situation made possible because there have been four different types of charging plug and most charging companies still try to cater for them all. To provide only the current standard CCS plug would render all Nissans and most Renaults unusable except for home charging.

People who have no home charging facilities and regularly do long journeys should probably stick to diesel, the new price of electricity may make that a cheaper option anyway.

The following is a description of one electric driver’s very recent nightmare journey. There are many more.


So we got our first EV, a 30kW [Nissan] Leaf, in 2017. In 2020 we replaced it with a [Renault] Zoe ZE50 R135 Rapid charge.

It used to be that you could travel along the motorway with no particular issues, if one charger was broken, you’d go to the next one.

But, travelling from Bristol to Ipswich today has taken eight hours.

These days it seems, with many more people in EVs, there just aren’t enough chargers, every one we reached had a queue of people, and if you stay at the services more than two hours they want £15. Half the chargers on the M4 are broken it seems.

It’s literally at the point of making me think we need a petrol car again, just for long journeys, because the lack of charging infrastructure makes long EV journeys a massive hassle and really stressful.

Anyone having similar experiences?


To which this was just one of dozens of answers.


I was at home being nagged, wife was driving there (on Friday) and back (today), doing that thing where apparently I need to coordinate the trip and tell her where to go from home via Zap Map etc. (I would have found my own way…)

She left home fully charged, charged once on the way down, didn’t get a full charge as she had to wait for two other cars to finish charging and then had to leave before hitting the two hour limit.

She arrived with ~30% battery. She could have gotten to Membury on the way back, but going by Zap Map the CCS devices are all broken, so she went to Leigh Delamare. One charger there, so she had to wait for another car to finish and left there with 90%.

She had to divert up the M40 because the end of the M4 was closed, so went to South Mimms, where the CCS device was broken, and the other one (Type 2 and CHAdeMo) in use on Type 2 by another Zoe.

I sent her to Lidl at Waltham Cross, where another Zoe was charging on CCS, I got her to AC charge until the Zoe left then switched to CCS.

Total trip, eight hours. Most of it waiting for chargers.


Boris Johnson’s green plan is absolute lunacy.

CCS - The current charging standard. CHAdeMo - All current Nissans. AC charging - Renaults. (CCS optional extra on recent Zoe cars.) The fourth connector is pre-2018 Teslas. Type 2 is (not very!) shorthand for AC. Type 1 AC is obsolete.

 

30 October (Part 2) - Bexley by-election gets interesting

Last night The Reform Party leader Richard Tice threw his hat into the Old Bexley & Sidcup ring to challenge Bexley Councillors Daniel Francis and Louie French - probably (†)- in being James Brokenshire’s successor. I imagine that Daniel is fairly happy about the intervention. Richard took over his party from Nigel Farage whose candidate did rather well in Bexley in 2015. Catherine Reilly, UKIP, took 18·2% of the vote. (Labour 19%.)

For former Tories like me who will never vote Conservative again - what is the point of voting Green Labour? - Richard Tice might well be worth a punt.

I doubt I will be placing any bets though.
Richard Tice Bet

† Confirmed a couple of hours after publication here.

 

30 October (Part 1) - Not a Silent Order at Lesnes Abbey

Just two weeks before the Consultation about destroying all hope of a quiet visit to Lesnes Abbey closes, Bexley Council has revealed the times at which partying in the park will be allowed which were strangely missing from their original notice.

It is all day every day.
Lesnes licensing

Click to see a lot more.

Whoever it is who drafted this notice should be dismissed from Bexley Council, except that they can’t. It will be some prat in Sevenoaks who not only cannot spell Neighbourhood but thinks it is possible for objectors to visit a P.O. Box number to inspect his ill-considered proposals.

The ‘consideration’, such as it is, will have been by Cabinet Member Craske who for the past ten years or so has been on a mission to destroy the quality of life in Bexley except for kids on skateboards and BMX bikes.

 

29 October - Unseemly haste

Local Conservatives were widely criticised for commencing their electioneering in Old Bexley and Sidcup on the day of James Brokenshire’s funeral but now that a week has passed politics has to resume - even before a by-election has been declared.

Last night Councillor Daniel Francis was selected to be Labour’s candidate. He was Labour Leader on Bexley Council until earlier this year and my understanding at the time was that he stood down for the sake of a quieter life. Clearly I was misinformed or life is dull when not fully occupied by politics. I wish him luck and support, if that is possible from far away Belvedere.

According to this morning’s Daily Telegraph Conservative haste goes beyond the local Association, it is national too. The Telegraph reports that Conservatives who submitted their application after James’s funeral will not be accepted on the short list of candidates. Because of that, early bird and former Eltham General Election candidate Councillor Louie French is the front runner.
Telegraph Telegraph
Louie was briefly Deputy Leader at Bexley Council but just like his predecessor quickly headed for the door when it became only too obvious that Bexley is an unmovable one woman dictatorship.

 

28 October - Jubilee School

Despite the head mistress at Jubilee School telling my friend who put in a Subject Access Request that “the Trust will not tolerate the making of repeated requests for information” a pile of heavily redacted papers has landed on his doormat.

The covering letter emphasises that he should not show the contents to anyone but I read through it yesterday and can understand why the Trust would not be wanting the contents known more widely. The final page had unsurprisingly been endorsed “Absolute lies” which may well be fair comment.

Among them are several accusations that my friend, allegedly a bad parent neglecting his child, gets annoyed when faced with teachers who are unable or unwilling to help him. It looks to be more than a little contradictory. Would such a parent care?

I will spare you the detail of every accusation false or otherwise and relate only the big one which Bexley Council’s Social Services found to be completely untrue.

It was that my friend’s bad parenting extended to a failure to co-operate with medical professionals such that the boy was not being treated for his autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Throughout his son’s eight years of life I have watched my friend chasing various pediatricians looking for help from the best of them yet a failing inadequately managed Trust reported my friend to Bexley Council for investigation for not providing medical care.

Obviously the pediatrician and the GP gave my friend a good, almost glowing, report and far from not administering medication had given full co-operation when new courses were proposed. When he asked me what to do next I could only suggest seeing a libel lawyer.

Quite clearly the best course would be to find a new school. Jubilee might improve on its current Inadequate rating if pupils it is unable to handle were not there and the child might benefit by receiving at the very least a rudimentary education.

More easily said than done.

Three special schools have been approached so far. Two said the boy’s condition is not bad enough to warrant attendance. Throughout my visit yesterday he was playing quietly with his toys and only once becoming tearful when things did not go right for him.

The third school had no vacancies.

A proposal to find a fourth school has been languishing with an unresponsive Bexley Council for several months. What good does bragging about funding two new SEN schools in the borough do while they do nothing to fill them?

Maybe it is something to do with the nearest of them in Halt Robin Lane being run by the same inadequate Trust as Jubilee School.
Trinitas

if you say so Beverley…

The CEO of Trinitas Academy Trust was invited to speak at the recent Communities Scrutiny meeting but preferred to pass the job to a subordinate. Sounds about right.

 

27 October - Pay, pay and priory partying. Pay again!

Sometimes there is simply no time for commenting on local events, in the meantime here are a few items of relatively minor interest. More substantial things are likely to have to wait until next week.

Council pay rates
From within the Civic Centre comes a complaint about miserly pay increases. It says that the Leader has circulated a message to all staff to say their pay will be going up by 2·75% but scratch below the surface and it is really only 1·75%. The extra 1% applies only to a very few people. if any.

A further complaint, one that I have heard many times before is that Bexley Council is cramming staff back into the office paying no regard whatsoever to Covid infection control.

Whether these complaints are fair or not is hard to tell. If the Leader has sent an email to all staff it would be simpler and more authoritative to forward a copy instead of having to second guess what she may or may not have said.

Hall Place
A similar message said that the idea of charging for access to Hall Place gardens has been resurrected following a Consultation. There is no Hall Place consultation listed on the Council’s website for the past year so again it is second guessing time.

No one would be surprised if a money grabbing Council charged extra for everything possible but there was no mention of charging for the garden when Hall Place was last discussed at a Council meeting. Only car park charging was discussed.

Lesnes Abbey
There may be no Consultation at Hall Place but Lesnes Abbey is the subject of a slightly different one, it is proposed that the monks should be allowed to get drunk.
Lesnes licensing

Click to see a lot more.

If you look at the complete document you will find that the Council has made it as difficult as possible to make comments.

Currently Lesnes Abbey events must end by 5 p.m. and not more than twelve of them a year. The Council gives no details of their new proposals and ask that you phone 01732 227004 if you are worried about the likely impact of what yet another money making scheme will have on your life.

Probably the occupants of New Road, Monk’s Close and Abbey Road will suffer most with noise and parking problems spreading at least as far as the railway line.

Just two weeks left to object.

 

25 October - Crap Mayor

Crap MayorA family funeral today so nothing much will appear here. I have decided to go by train, not because of the Mayor’s ULEZ charge but because the return trip would likely hit the Blackwall Tunnel rush hour queue and I can’t avoid doing that tomorrow albeit in the other direction. Once a week through Greenwich’s ridiculous bus lanes and 20 m.p.h. limits is quite enough.

You can be pretty sure that by the end of 2025, the date by which the exemptions on the current London Congestion Zone are removed, the new ULEZ will become a congestion zone. With cars going electric at Carrie Bozo’s planned rate the ULEZ will not be making enough money and that is what ULEZ is all about.

I slightly know a man who long long ago advertised a job and Sadiq Khan applied. He didn’t get the job because as described to me, the London Mayor is entirely about “Me, Me, Me”. Nothing else matters.

The only purpose of Sadiq Khan is to remind us that however much further Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Co descend into insanity one can never risk voting Labour in anything other than a local Council election - and even then only if you know the candidate well enough to be sure that no dictatorial tendencies lurk blow the surface.

 

24 October (Part 2) - Councillors condemn Primary Care Service in Bexley. “It is rubbish”

Councillor NewtonThe first to question medics last Wednesday after the rather shocking revelations about the state of Primary Care in Bexley was Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) who said she would be making no apologies for being “resident focused”. She said that businesses generally had found different ways of working during the pandemic; “how is the NHS going to serve residents better following their adaptations? eConsult has delays as long as pre-pandemic waiting times. It is tricky [to use] even for someone like myself who is computer savvy. I have to second guess eConsult”.

The presentation did not give a breakdown between the use of Nurse Practitioner and Doctor on face-to-face consultations. Caroline asked the obvious question which the medics had tried to dodge. Her own experience (not seen by a doctor over ten appointments) and ward case records indicated that there was “not a sensible approach”. Councillor Newton thought it might be “just me” but most of us will know that it is not.

There was no immediate rush to answer the questions.

A representative of the Thamesmead Lakeside surgery again blamed communications and patients had to recognise that they don’t always have to see a doctor. Another problem was hospitals off-loading “an enormous amount of work” on to GPs and only the Doctors can do it. “It is a significant problem.”

Mr. Rowbotham, Council Director of Adult Care and Health, admitted that “there were services that people want which we are not able to deliver and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has let GPs down in terms of communications. There are simply not enough GPs in Bexley - or the country - to meet demands”.

Nobody answered Caroline’s question and she appeared not to notice.

Councillor Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) said that “eConsult needed to be changed, it is very very difficult to use and the questions go on and on and on”. He also asked how it is that patients can go and see a dentist face-to-face but not a Doctor. “It is really not on.” He personally has been made to wait nine months for an urgent appointment with a Consultant. If there was an answer to his questions it was pure waffle. Reviews etc. and Bexley is following the best advice. “The message is being heard.”

Councillor Newton came back to repeat her Nurse Practitioner Doctor split question which the medical team seemed to be unusually keen to dodge and said that residents did not like the commonly found “doctor knows best” attitude found in surgeries. There was still no answer but much later in the meeting it was admitted that the data is not available.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said she held the same views as Councillor Newton but turned her fire on to receptionists. Residents wait for an hour and there is no empathy. She also touched on a subject near to my own heart, the interminable wait for test results. A Doctor chipped in that there are far too many tests, typically more than 200 a day, to allow patients to be informed of OK results. Councillor Ogundayo’s experience was that residents with significant test results are not informed either. The system is broken. Her concerns were not met by the Doctors at the meeting so she said she would have to pass the complaints to the CCG. (And with my experience of taking the same route I can only say Good Luck with that!)


" Councillor DowningCouncillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) always one to call a spade a bloody shovel when residents are being seriously let down thought “it was time we admitted that Primary Care is not working. All we do is sit around this table saying the same things and I don’t see how anyone can say it is due to Covid. It takes a long long phone call to be told that in a week’s time a Doctor will call you; even if it is urgent. The whole thing is an absolute shambles and I don’t care who I upset by saying it because it is. Even when you see a Doctor in 99% of cases you are referred to another service”.

“If we cut out the middle man who doesn’t seem to be available - ever - and used the Triage nurses and specialised nurses who seem to know their business we could cut out a lot of waiting time.” (This is a remarkably similar but more humane attitude to that of my correspondent who wanted to see non-working Doctors strung up.)

“I have yet to see a Doctor who has done anything for me apart from refer me elsewhere. What a waste of time and money! Honestly, it is not working. It is all absolute rubbish and nonsense and should not be happening.” (Alan Downing for Heath Secretary please.)

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) said that health care provision in Bexley is “a GP lottery. There are areas where GPs are poor performing and they aren’t changing. What is being done about failing GPs?”. She alleged that eConsult is causing long term health problems by pushing people away and it should be an option not the sole route to care (as it is at my own practice).

Nicola was told that eConsult is not the only option despite at my practice the telephone sends callers to eConsult and email is not answered.

Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst) said that GPs had “withdrawn behind the fortress of eConsult and residents feel it is not the only barrier. Dentist have helpful receptionists” implying what most of us think. Mr. Rowbotham said he is listening.

The Chairman said he had heard enough and concluded the discussion by saying that Bexley has the worst doctor to population ratio in South East London. The Councillors made it sound that what we have are not very good at doing the job they are paid for.

 

24 October (Part 1) - Just a little crass?

Within 48 hours of James Brokenshire’s funeral service at St. John’s Bexley, local Tories were out popping leaflets through letter boxes across the Constituency. They look suspiciously like pre-election leaflets.

From what can be seen from the rather poor image extracted from Twitter - does no one own a decent scanner these days? - this is surely in poor taste.

To me it has the word Craske written all over it and I shall be hunting down a better copy.

Capitalising on the untimely death of a former colleague… Not a good look.

Disgusting electioneering Disgusting electioneering

Little respect.

Danny Hackett Tweet

Respect!

 

23 October (Part 2) - Primary Care Services in Bexley. (Whisper it but it barely exists)

Agenda item 7 at the Communities Scrutiny meeting dealt with Primary Care and began with a slide presentation and a commentary for those unable to read.

Slide 1 Slide 2 Slide 3
Slide 4 Slide 5 Slide 6

Click image to expand and step through one by one.

A survey had been conducted locally on access to GPs and 685 residents responded. The summary was said to be “that there is a lot of public support for the NHS and people came out and clapped.”

“There has been lots of media coverage on protecting the NHS but residents have seen very little communication from Primary Care which has caused confusion. Pre-pandemic problems like long waits for the phone to be answered and long waits for appointments have all been exacerbated and made worse. Primary Care has remained open and people have been seen face-to-face but it is not the view the public has had.”

“The perception and the experience has been very different. If someone waits on the phone for an hour and repeatedly rings back they aren’t seeing that the practice is very busy.”

Here I feel compelled to interject. I sat in a surgery and watched a ringing phone for a very long time while two receptionists were doing nothing but chatting to each other. I was sent for an X-ray that day and I am still in ignorance of the result.

The speaker claimed that surgeries have been getting up to one thousand calls a day. (If two receptionists were on duty for eight hours, say 500 minutes that is a call a minute. You may speculate if that 1,000 call claim is true.)

“You don’t understand that” the speaker proclaimed with the supreme arrogance typical of too many health professionals, “especially if it is a repeated pattern and you have been trying every day to get an appointment. It was a problem pre-pandemic and has only got worse since then.”

“76% of survey respondents were very or fairly dissatisfied and many added everything else is open, why not GPs? Why do we have to wait out on the pavement” or as in one case I know of made to use cars in the car park as a waiting room and undergo a consultation through an open window.

The speaker went on herself to describe the most awful lack of service dished out by Bexley Primary Care Services. It is little wonder that the most extreme comment received here about GP services is that those not providing a service and therefore no use to man nor beast should be taken out and hanged. GPs should take note of the extent to which they have lost the trust of the public and in some cases are despised.

The survey showed that patients did not feel things had improved since the ending of lockdown, presumably because they haven’t. “Satisfaction rates [about getting an appointment] were poor” but better once one had been obtained.

“27% of respondents who failed to get an appointment simply gave up” hence the increased number of deaths in the home presumably but “I expect the changes are here to stay”. In summary, the new system is not working well in Bexley but we will most likely stick with it anyway.

Questions followed but this report is depressing enough already.

 

23 October (Part 1) - Education in Communities

Richard DimentTwo Scrutiny meetings this week and I was a long way from home both days so the following is once again courtesy of the webcast. Communities was chaired by the usually capable Richard Diment without the benefit of the Cabinet Member’s presence. Perhaps like me Councillor Gower had unavoidable commitments elsewhere.

It was a long meeting at 164 minutes but maybe not a terribly exciting one. Education and care issues followed by the disaster zone known as housing. The Cabinet Member for Education was missing too. One must wonder how seriously they take their responsibilities.

For the record Cabinet Member Sue Gower did not have anything to say when I suggested to her directly that the tale told by Councillor Nicola Taylor “looks to be incompetence on the grand scale to me”.

Councillor Gower was to the fore in defending Bexley Council during the Serco strike fiasco but presumably found nothing with which to defend roofless houses. In her own defence I can only offer the fact that the basic mistake of this case would have been made before her time in Cabinet and the overbearing hand of the Council Leader would have been hovering over her.

On education the CEO of Trinitas Academy Trust spoke first; you may remember the name in connection with the Thamesmead school that refused to respond to a Subject Access Request. The CEO not only said nothing worth reporting, in fact literally nothing was said except to introduce one of her colleagues.

Councillor Sybil Camsey said that as a former teacher she was able to access a local school website for meeting minutes and other educational material and “some of it was superb”. She requested that the same be made available to other Councillors so that they could see what their own ward schools were doing.

She was told that sometimes comment had been critical of the Council and teachers ought not to feel inhibited and there were safeguarding issues too. Councillor Camsey said the policy risked duplication of effort by schools and Council.

Councillor Brian Bishop was concerned about teacher vacancies and was told the absence problem was mostly due to sickness.

Councillor Alan Downing felt that Councillors “were not too welcome in schools” and thought their help should be sought more often. The response included a request for more affordable housing for teachers. “Bexley is not a place that teachers can buy a property any more on a teacher‘s wage.”

The only Councillor genuinely interested in education came back for the final comment. Sybil Camsey said that local schools were producing very good documents and they should be marketed beyond Bexley. She was pleased to hear the views of teachers but given that most are reported above they didn’t amount to much. Just to be clear, the final comment is mine and not the Councillor’s.

 

22 October - Khanage everywhere

There has been little time for Council watching this week, sometimes there are other things to attend to, like replace old computers. None of them mine fortunately as they get ever more expensive.

Why does the Government think that everyone is IT literate and if you are not please go away and die?

Monday’s job should have been simple enough. “Can you please change my email address and password on Amazon?”

It took all morning. The ’address is not recognised” despite it being in use for years. I forget some of the details but on three occasions I received the “Success” message but still couldn’t log in. I was asked to answer their CAPTCHA question and the font was so fuzzy and covered with scribble that I couldn’t read it. Then suddenly it worked. At least two hours down the drain.

Next it was “can you set up this brand new laptop please?” It took exactly three and a half hours. Laptops have not had optical drives for a long time but the owner had stored everything he thought he might want to save on an SD card. The new laptop did not have an SD card slot.

I tried to network to an old and barely usable PC which had a card slot for file sharing but it refused to do what I have done many times before. Later I discovered that file sharing the way I have always done it was withdrawn from Windows 10 when version 1803 came along. Eventually that problem was overcome but Microsoft and the laptop manufacturer had fixed the new machine so that it would only install programs downloaded from its own App Store. Another circular obstruction because to solve that one it was necessary to have a Microsoft account! Enough of this but I hate Microsoft even more than before.

Much better was building a new desktop PC from mail ordered component parts. They cost £850 and in retrospect it could have been done a little cheaper without impacting performance. From a collection of cardboard boxes to a fully working Windows 10 computer equipped with the latest 11th Generation i9 processor was a little less than two hours, mainly because Windows 10 Pro allows the installer to circumvent all the obstructions put in the way of laptop users. From switch on to usable Desktop in six seconds! For how long will that last?

I have acquired a new Nigerian neighbour who has foolishly come to London from the north of England. I have explained the complexities of Bexley’s refuse collection services and put their excess into my bin. Tidied up their garden and set them up with free ‘Guest’ access to my wi-fi until they get their own sorted out. Not bad for a racist!

One thing that has shocked them is that they cannot drive their car further into London than the Woolwich Ferry thanks to the cretinous Khan. I found it impossible to answer the enquiry about being able to pollute to your heart’s content if you can afford the £12·50 bung with which to bribe him.

Maybe they are not the only people to never have heard of ULEZ. (Ultra Low Emission Zone.) Below is bit of what has been distributed across the river in Newham but Khan presumably thinks that Bexley residents are unaffected. We don’t get any advice. UEZ Leaflet
Petrol cars must meet the Euro 4 standard and Diesel Euro 6, if not it will cost you £12·50 to visit your aunt in Newham or cousin in Chingford and for goodness sake don’t stay late because after midnight you pay again

The Dartford crossing will be enormously cheaper but the longer distance and extra pollution is perfectly OK. Sadiq says so.

Somewhere on Facebook I saw someone reporting that you could cross the South Circular to get to Queen Elizabeth Hospital without paying the the new tax. This is not true.

There are exceptions to the North/South Circular boundary which you can find at here To save you the bother here is what TfL has to say about Greenwich.


Woolwich High Street
John Wilson Street and Woolwich High Street are outside of the ULEZ. The Woolwich Church Street roundabout is outside the zone but the Woolwich Church Street exit is inside the zone. All exits facing central London, including for St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church and St. Mary Magdalene C of E Primary School are inside the zone.
Royal Artillery Barracks
John Wilson Street and Grand Depot Road are outside of the ULEZ. All exits facing central London, including for Artillery Place, the Royal Artillery Barracks, and Mulgrave Primary School, are inside the zone.
Barrack Field
Grand Depot Road, Woolwich New Road and Woolwich Common are outside of the ULEZ. All exits facing central London, including for Ha-Ha road and Barrack Field, are inside the zone.
Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common and Academy Road are outside of the ULEZ. The Circular Way exit for Woolwich Common is inside the zone.
The Academy
Academy Road is outside of the ULEZ. Any exit for Woolwich Common is inside the zone.


I am really proud of my veterinary surgeon friend who has swapped her diesel engined Beetle for a 1973 MGB GT which is exempt from the ULEZ tax.

It holds no attractions but there is a nearly three hour Scrutiny meeting to report over the weekend.

 

21 October (Part 2) - James Brokenshire R.I.P.

St. John's Church BexleyJames’s funeral was held in St. John’s Church Bexley this morning. This website’s banner has been returned to normal. i.e. the random selection but it now includes the image of James taken in Sidcup in December 2019.

Note: Information from Bexley Village resident Mr. Elwyn Bryant who went for an early morning stroll and noticed unusual police activity.

 

21 October (Part 1) - Failing London’s Transport

One of the things that helps keep Bonkers on the road is a collection of political leaflets which I suspect most people put straight into their bin. It is a very useful resource with which to prove broken promises and political lies. It is probably why I rarely get pre-election material poked through my letter box. The main parties have cottoned on to the fact that it may be used against them in years to come.

Storage has become a bit of a problem and I looked into getting rid of some of the oldest stuff but in doing so stumbled across a Department for Transport booklet published in March 1991. Some of the predictions actually came true.

The Jubilee line extension arrived only three years late. It opened in 1999 but the Woolwich Arsenal branch has been quietly forgotten.

Crossrail was predicted without a date but set to terminate at Stratford with no Abbey Wood branch.

The third Blackwall Tunnel was due for completion in the late 1990s with no hint of a toll. The ill-fated East London River Crossing to Thamesmead was due to open “mid to late 1990s”. Since then three more crossings have been planned and skillfully killed off by malicious politicians who seem to believe that South East London should be forever cut off from the North East.

A further crossing somewhere West of Blackwall was also under consideration but it remains the case that no one has put a spade into the ground since Isambard Kingdom Brunel did so 195 years ago.

London will die under the restrictive thumbs of successive short sighted incompetents. 

London transport map

Click to see a bigger area.

 

20 October - By your leave

FootpathA resident whose house backs on to the footpath come access road that used to run across the Leather Bottle site and is now apparently lost reminds me that it led to an electricity sub-station and in all probability a Wayleave is being paid to Bexley Council.

Has Bexley Council given up on a modest source of income he asks. Goodness knows, there is now a long history of kowtowing to favoured developers and handing over an income source may be seen as no big deal.

The planning applications shows the electricity facilities to be within the site boundary.

 

19 October - Ruthless and roofless

When you hear Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor say at a public meeting that she knows of a resident forced to live in a house with no roof you would be forgiven for thinking “Come off it Nicola even Bexley Council is not that uncaring” but you would be wrong and thinking back a bit you realise it should not really come as all that much of a surprise.

I have been reporting on the house which has been progressively destroyed by L&Q for four whole years and no one at Bexley Council has taken a blind bit of notice.

Exactly a month ago one of Bexley’s housing bods told me that “the [housing] rot in Bexley has truly set in” and asked “does Bexley Council care about the homeless?”

The answer must be a resounding “No”.

The budget cut housing posts by 17 when the demand was rising. Is Bexley’s Cabinet mad? The answer has to be a resounding “Yes”. It can’t be incompetence, even a numbskull cabinet must be able to see that cutting jobs is not going to help. Doesn’t that make them callous and inhuman?

In August last year a list of houses was published here that were all bought on the same day. Some believed that Bexley Council was behind the £10 million shopping spree.


42 Coleman Road, Belvedere, DA17 5AN, £450,000
41 Coleman Road, Belvedere, DA17 5AW, £450,000
8 Claytonville Terrace, Belvedere, DA17 6AQ, £450,000
169 Halcot Avenue, Bexleyheath, DA6 7QA, £573,333
82 Halcot Avenue, Bexleyheath, DA6 7QD, £573,333
83 West Street, Erith, DA8 1AG, £450,000
1 Winifred Road, Erith, DA8 1AJ, £450,000
16 Winifred Road, Erith, DA8 1AJ, £450,000
37 Alexandra Road, Erith, DA8 2AX, £450,000
12 The Nursery, Erith, DA8 2EZ, £450,000
300 Bexley Road, Erith, DA8 3HB, £450,000
153 Birling Road, Erith, DA8 3HR, £573,333
140 Birling Road, Erith, DA8 3HS, £573,333
18 Halstead Road, Erith, DA8 3HX, £573,336
10 Elmstead Road, Erith, DA8 3JA, £573,333
12 Stelling Road, Erith, DA8 3JH, £573,333
8 South Road, Erith, DA8 3RA, £450,000
22 South Road, Erith, DA8 3RA, £450,000
97 Lensbury Way, London, SE2 9TA, £573,333


The house currently in the spotlight must be a different one because it was purchased for £301,500 and the owner presumably went laughing all the way to the bank, the most expensive sale in the road by a margin of around £50k.

An amazing price for a house that was found to have dry rot and a chimney stack which could fall down at any moment on to the unsuspecting lady and her children moved into it by Bexley Council. Maybe they should employ her as a surveyor because she spotted the problem which the Council didn’t - or maybe did but didn’t care as alleged by the housing officer mentioned earlier.

Temporary housing Temporary housing Temporary housing Temporary housing

Temporary housing Temporary housingIt is not yet clear how long the lady was forced to live in a roofless house but Councillor Taylor negotiated her removal by last Saturday.

Unlike Newham Council (the only other Council I know a little about) which allows three rejections of “suitable” property, Bexley Council in its own inimitable way only allows the one. Say no and you buy a tent.

To ask what the hell was Bexley Council playing at is not really doing the horror justice but I have asked the Cabinet Member if there are any excuses. All I have so far is that “it is not quite as it seems”. Maybe, but I don’t think many would go along with the lady’s children wrecked the place as if it was a John Lewis insurance advert.

Councillor Sue Gower cannot possibly be held directly responsible for what appears to be another Bexley housing fiasco because she was elevated to her Cabinet post only five months ago. However she has a good record of answering questions from the public. If she answers my enquiry it will be the first time any Cabinet Member has contributed to this blog. Will she feel able to break with tradition?

There are more and bigger pictures in the Photo Features pages.

 

18 October (Part 2) - What’s their Lidl secret?

From BBC website Hugh Neal’s blog yesterday drew my attention to a not very interesting BBC webpage that included the reference to Bexley Council which you may read here and that was what made it slightly more interesting.

Bexley was said to be the primary authority for Lidl UK stores. What? A Council that has not always been very friendly towards the opening of new Lidl stores is in charge of them all?

Hugh was asking if anyone knew anything. I went to Bexley’s website and typed Lidl into the search box. Something very weird happened. I told Hugh and he found the same. Why is Bexley Council keeping its relationship with Bexley secret? Type in Waitrose or Tesco etc. and you find things relating to planning but type Lidl and you go shopping. Why?

 

18 October (Part 1) - Who are the ‘Fools on the Hill’? Us probably

Probably everyone knows who the principal villain of Heron Hill has been, the secondary one being Bexley Council itself, but there were heroes too, viz. Belvedere Councillor Daniel Francis aided by his Councillor colleagues.

AwardThroughout his six year battle to ensure the law was upheld Daniel represented residents’ concerns to Council planning officers and a fat lot of good it did him. When Ye Olde Leather Bottle was being demolished without notification to the Council he and others advised them without seeing any response. Bexley Council stood aside while saying they could do nothing about it. When the building was demolished in a dangerous fashion Bexley Council took no action to secure public safety.

When the Health & Safety Executive was persuaded to take an interest and asked for Bexley Council’s assistance with evidence they got none. It was Daniel who was interviewed by the H&SE and required to sign witness statements as I was myself. The development company was fined £20,000.

The only thing that Daniel Francis didn’t do was suffer a roughing up at the hands of the demolition gang, however his colleague, the former Belvedere Councillor Gill MacDonald did not get away totally unabused.

Even after three rejected planning applications Daniel objected to the fourth in January this year. Well hidden on Bexley’s website is evidence of Daniel’s final shot in the Battle of Heron Hill. He and Councillor Sally Hinkley wrote to the Head of Planning setting out their objections and concerns and an addendum to the planning officer’s report was put before the Committee.

They ignored it and another bit of old Belvedere is consigned to the scrap book of history.

Heron Hill planning

Bexley Council rolls over again.

Not for the first time this developer is accused of appropriating a little bit of public land for himself, the other was at 238 Woolwich Road, and true to form Bexley Council looks the other way.

A footpath crosses the Heron Hill site. In September 2015 the Council promised to ensure its survival but now it is a case of “a planning condition of this nature is not required”. The sign has already disappeared.

Note: Is it just me but does writing letters of that length and complexity begin to justify Councillors’ £10k. allowances?

Index to related blogs.

 

17 October - Nothing but crossings

It can be a little disappointing that one can spend several hours listening to a Council meeting and then have to listen to it once or twice more in order to summarise the occasional interesting bit, but mention Bexley’s failure to provide promised pedestrian crossings and a good number of people rush to comment; so here’s more crossing news.

2012 was a good year for messing around with Bexley’s crossings. The Council inexplicably removed the central refuge from a crossing in Long Lane in the April and it is still causing accidents. A learner driver hit a pedestrian at that spot quite recently. The width of the crossing is excessive.

Six months later Bexley Council did the opposite and made the crossings in Lower Road, Belvedere much shorter by building out the pavements while retaining the pedestrian refuge. (Photos 1 and 2 below.) Two Zebra crossings right next to each other and a third not far away. Maybe it pays to vote Labour. Dave Putson was instrumental in getting that one installed long before he became a Councillor.

However the political theory falls down in Main Road, Sidcup where it runs slightly down hill past a busy car dealer with vehicles entering and exiting constantly. The crossing did not give much reassurance to pedestrians where adjacent bus stops can restrict the view and TfL was not interested in converting the Zebra to a Pelican.

It was Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) who worked with his residents gathering evidence, photos etc. until eventually Bexley’s highways people were persuaded to leave their ivory towers and see the real world for themselves. A light controlled crossing was beyond their remit but a raised platform did not break the bank.

That was a couple of years ago, since then of course someone did get pretty close to breaking the bank. Maybe Bexley needs more Andys?
Lower Road crossing Lower Road crossing Main Road crossing Main Road crossing

Lower Road Belvedere (1 & 2) in 2012 and Main Road Sidcup (3 & 4) today.

 

16 October (Part 2) - All pals together

Guardian report Guardian report
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime MOPAC did not even have the decency to contact Alastair Morgan after the Home Office published its damning report on the Metropolitan Police’s Institutional Corruption which covered up the failure to properly investigate his brother’s murder.

Guardian Newspaper report.

 

16 October (Part 1) - Public Cabinet. The Local Plan

The final bit of Public Cabinet last Tuesday was a review of the Local Plan and the lead speaker was Cabinet Member for Growth Cafer Munur. “It is the vision of how the borough will grow supported by more than 10,000 pages of evidence collected over four years. It was an extremely complex process.”

Joe FerreiraLabour Councillor Joe Ferreira (Erith) said “the plan gets plenty right and the 50% target for affordable housing is really welcome but we see it as a minimum and not a maximum”.

The plan envisages 23 sites delivering 7,000 homes mainly in the north of the borough. “There are none in Welling and none south of the A2 road. The housing density in the north will be increased markedly with tall building and there must be a corresponding growth in infrastructure. Doctors, dentists, shops, restaurants, schools and, nurseries.”

He went on to ask if there were any specific plans to ensure the social and service infrastructure requirements can be met and the affordable housing target is achieved.

Councillor Ferreira was told that “new infrastructure was absolutely central” and that already existing would be protected. “The funding gap would be one of the biggest challenges. It is not all in place yet.”

“The small sites are relatively large, quarter of a hectare, so you can get 25 or 30 units on them. Most will be under ten units.”

Most under ten units but 23 sites provide 7,000 homes? Some units must be very big, presumably very tall.

Did that answer Joe’s questions? I am not sure it did. Maybe it is just as well that no one else asked any.

 

15 October (Part 3) - Murder most foul; of the English language

Khan TweetAccording to London’s disgracefully complacent Mayor Sadiq Khan, Sir David Amess MP has “passed away”. Peacefully in his sleep? After a long illness? At the ripe old age of 97 surrounded by his family?

No; from a frenzied knife attack by Khan’s favoured minority. Neither of them are words that he can bring himself to say. “It is just part and parcel of living in a big city” he said in 2017 following a bomb incident in New York. He went on to say London should be prepared and vigilant.

The alleged terrorist murderer travelled from London to Leigh-on-Sea by train.

 

15 October (Part 2) - How does he do it?

Leather BottleIf at first you don’t succeed…

Not long ago Bexley Council refused an application to build a care home on the site of the Leather Bottle public house because there was quite enough of them in the borough already however the rules appear not to apply, or at least not last very long, when applied to their favourite developer.

The one who knocked down Bexley’s oldest pub while the Council stood around doing nothing. The one who was prosecuted by the H&SE for dangerous demolition practices and went on to build the monstrosity which blighted gardens on Woolwich Road but wore the planning department down until they gave up on protecting residents. The one who likes to attract the attention of the police with impromptu car chases.

He was granted permission to build his 70 bed care home yesterday. 20/02852/FULM. The care company Astoria Healthcare based in Hounslow argued that there was a demand for care homes in Bexley and they would be willing to run it. Our Council took their word for it.

Index to similar blogs.

 

15 October (Part 1) - Public Cabinet. Status report

The report from the Finance Director covered the first quarter of 2021, that is April May and June. He said nothing apart from describing the subjects reported before handing over to Cabinet Member David Leaf who can usually be relied upon to say something in every conceivable circumstance.

We learnt from him that there were more than 90 such headings and some were a bit negative while others were more positive. Response times for customer care and complaints is an area of concern and the Chief Executive is on the case which will reassure everyone that things can only get better. It was later confirmed that she had chaired one meeting so far.

Philip ReadDisappointingly, Councillor Leaf was not his usual voluble self and soon handed over to Cabinet Member Philip Read. He said he wished to concentrate on the good things and not “the more concerning”.

His own portfolio, Children’s Services, was a positive story but unfortunately domestic abuse, mental health issues, alcohol and drug use by parents had all worsened and most likely Covid related. Some care leavers had found themselves “in custody” but most are in suitable accommodation, more so than the national average. Residential care accommodation is in short supply and very expensive.

Councillor Perfect asked how much extra home care had cost because of the failures in reablement during the year 2020/21. The answer was said to be impossible to calculate precisely but an additional £500,000 had been extracted from the NHS in compensation. Discharge funding could rise as high as £3 million in the coming year. The NHS is recruiting more physiotherapists to support reablement services.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella referred back to the Council’s budget statement that it would not impact on services but the Status Reports, on customer care for example, suggested otherwise. If you remove 200 full time equivalent posts with more to come “there must be an impact on service delivery”. The Finance Director confirmed that there had been but blamed any perceived problem on there being more complaints and in his own area there were more about Council Tax levels.

Councillor Nicola Taylor while referring to the performance indicators report on housing standards, drew attention to a family in her ward, Erith, who lived in a Council owned property which had no roof. Delays on planning applications were said to have become a problem but two extra planning officers have been recruited this week. The rise in demand may be Covid related and perhaps temporary; home offices etc.

Once again, Conservative Councillors remained mute.

 

14 October - Public Cabinet report. Budget monitoring

LeaderAfter Councillors stood for a minute in tribute to James Brokenshire MP who died last week Council Leader Teresa O’Neill launched Public Cabinet with her announcement that Bexley Council won’t be needing its Capitalisation Order or “overdraft” as it was called. It has sacked enough staff and cut enough services to get by without needing it which is a good result for anyone who has never worked for the Council or required anything more than a bin emptying and enough street lighting to avoid falling down a pothole. More seriously it is “a good achievement” and better than the alternative.

The Leader confirmed that a claim will be made against Serco for its failure to provide adequate services.

The Finance Director said the Council was currently on course to overspend by £142,000 this year. There was £11·3 million of Covid related expenditure (including loss of income) but £7·2 million was funded by Government. The balance came from the Council’s contingency budget.

Financial risks remain, social care and demographic changes in particular. The Capital Programme is underspent by 7% which is £6 million; it relates to lack of progress on the Erith Regeneration programme and various Highways schemes. Not taking up the Capitalisation Order will save £176,000 in interest costs for this year alone and up to £397,000 in following years.

Cabinet Member David Leaf said he was assessing the impact of the Serco strike. There was a loss of income on recyclables and the cost of the mitigation measures taken by the Council. He referenced “Members who chose to cheer from the picket lines to criticise those who worked during the strike and called for the strike to last until the 3rd of October should reflect not only on the impact on our residents but also the environmental impact and the potential financial pressures industrial action cause. They should care about climate change and should care about actions that help us divert waste to recycling and help our residents to recycle more”.

Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller said the estimated £5 million deficit on the Dedicated Schools Grant has been reduced to £3·4 million. Not so good is that “it projects to over £15 million”. The DofE has visited five London boroughs with worse deficits and will come to Bexley soon. Bexley has done some good things in this area and the DofE expects to take the ideas to other boroughs.

Councillor Wendy Perfect was critical of the Designated (sic) Schools Grant saying that Bexley “was not doing very well compared to other boroughs”. The SEN costs are rising and there is a large turnover of staff. She was told that the situation has been reviewed and it - whatever that might be - has been approved.

Councillor Nicola Taylor said there were 1,166 households in temporary accommodation. Residents are still being moved out of the borough with families losing their support networks and children their schools. More money should be directed at solving that problem. She was told that £3·227 million had been.

Councillor Joe Ferreira wanted to be sure that brown bins would be included in the Serco assessments. The extended residents’ contracts will have a financial cost. The Leader said she could “assure Councillor Ferreira that absolutely will be included.”

Labour Leader Stefano Borella was concerned about the collection rate on Business Rates being so low. He was told that it would take “at least between three and five years” to get things back on track.

Stefano reminded his colleagues that the various financial controls in place were put there before March 2020 and are not Covid related. The Leader said introducing the controls was “absolutely the right thing to do and to continue them until today”.

No Conservative Councillor asked a question.

Note: Following the report from Councillor Putson of how residents used to go about getting the Council to install pedestrian crossings may I repeat that his story dates back to nineteen eighty something and the reported Mayoral throwing out of the public from a meeting was not the work of James Hunt? It is possible that back in 1980 James may have occasionally indulged in throwing toys out of his pram, but he is most definitely not that way inclined any more.

 

13 October (Part 3) - The Covid only National Health Service

Last night I missed the Public Cabinet meeting in favour of meeting a friend who had let the side down somewhat by being my first to be struck down with Covid. He spent two weeks in hospital, delirious at times, but was released ten days ago and the only after effect is some loss of energy, but nothing I noticed.

His whole household caught the bug but none was particularly unwell and the NHS looked after him well. Since release a nurse has visited daily and yesterday was the first on which she was happy to see him leave home.

Track and Trace proved to be a nuisance if not actually totally useless. Each day they phoned his wife to make sure she was quarantining at home and issued threats when they were unable to speak to my friend even though they had been notified he was in hospital.

If only so much attention could be lavished on another friend. He is due a procedure later this week which is likely to cause internal bleeding. Not usually a problem except that he is on Warfarin, a blood thinner.

Because of that he was prescribed an alternative that has to be injected. He was told to get it himself. Five pharmacy visits later he obtained what he needed and called the hospital to arrange the twice daily nurse visits. He was told they had changed their minds about visiting and could he get his doctor to do it.

His doctor is one from the burgeoning useless brigade and he refused to have anything to do with helping a seriously unwell man.

The hospital said that in that case they would have to cancel the urgently required possibly cancer related procedure.

A compromise has been reached. My friend will have to visit the hospital twice daily for the vital injection.

Next time a Government minister tells you that the NHS is functioning normally don’t believe him.

My own relatively minimal and trivial NHS involvement requires a check up every six months. For the past two years the interval has been stretched from the specified 26 weeks to anything between 28 and 30 weeks.

It doesn’t sound much but it is a 10% reduction in NHS services which once again has the potential to worsen cancer rates.

 

13 October (Part 2) - More truth stretching by @bexleynews

LieA quick correction to Bexley’s latest bit of propaganda.

The only people to blame Covid for the Council’s financial predicament were Conservative Councillors.

Why would any opposition group give them such an easy get out? Not without some reason they blamed Tory incompetence. Once again @bexleynews publishes illogical nonsense.

 

13 October (Part 1) - ’Twas ever thus

Below is a list of zebra crossing sites in Bexley which the Council thinks are necessary but are not being provided. The list has been grabbed from Bexley’s published list of Freedom of Information responses.

Bexley Council has no money.

It was much the same 30 odd years ago when parents campaigned for a crossing outside Belvedere Junior School on Lower Road, Belvedere. That’s the one adjacent to Picardy Manorway immediately to the east of the Adsa store. At the time Mitchell Close on the other side of the school was Crabtree Manorway and a major lorry route.

The Council of the day was unhelpful but the parents set their target high. They asked for a Pelican Crossing and went to Council meetings. To capture the attention of the local newspapers - there were three at the time - the parents called themselves SKID. Save Kids in Danger.

At one of the meetings the parents exhibited photographs of the dangerously high traffic levels and the Chairman (the recollection is that it was the Mayor) chucked them out for their pains and Councillors continued in secret session.

Thanks to the bad newspaper headlines Bexley Council caved in and a compromise Zebra crossing was installed. The same one as can be seen today.

The leading parent campaigner carried on campaigning and he is now Councillor Dave Putson. Despite what it might seem like at times, Councillor Hunt was not Mayor in the 1980s. Don’t blame him.
Zebra crossings required

 

12 October (Part 2)- ‘Fibre to my wall’

Ultra fast fibre internetWay back in March the Murky Depths website carried a feature on Abbey Wood’s Telephone exchange (BT calls it Thamesmead) in which the author cast doubt on Greenwich Council’s failure to… well, get anything right with their plan for the area.

It spurred me on to find out what I could about the future of the Wilton Road telephone exchange and I concluded it was not going anywhere soon.

At worst it would survive five years after the last copper cable became redundant and might well go on beyond that as the local digital hub.

The next stage of the conversion is under way and Openreach refer to it as Fibre To My Wall. Most if not all roads served by the Thamesmead exchange are now provided with fibre cabling and now it must be run from the street to somewhere inside every house.

You may get a letter like that shown here. It is not BT hoping to take over your internet connection, it is Openreach offering to install the infrastructure Free of Charge.

Copper wired landline phones are on the way out, I already have one plugged into the router and when I am able to get fibre internet that does not rely on the last 400 yards (in my case) being copper I will be able to ditch my BT landline rental.

I cannot see any obvious reason why anyone would refuse Openreach’s offer although I hope most do. That way my house might be converted first!

 

12 October (Part 1) - Governance by Crass Diktat and whim

It is exactly 40 working days since I asked Bexley Council to provide me with the documents which led to the imposition of the odd/even restriction on attending recycling centres from soon after the pandemic began in the Spring of 2020. 40 days is twice the allowed period and there is still no answer.

It is not as though I make a habit of sending in FOIs, the previous one was submitted in October 2017 but only because there had been no response to a simpler enquiry a year earlier. Guess what, that one wasn’t answered either and the Information Commissioner had to intervene.

And guess what again. Cabinet Member Craske had been involved in the decision to put a stop on the FOI being answered. The subject matter was fly tipping.

History appears to be about to repeat itself.

A couple of days before the recent FOI was submitted, Bexley Council posted what turned out to be the last of its Tweets on the subject.
Tweet Tweet

Three days after the FOI was acknowledged the message was changed to the restriction applying only before 4 p.m. A realisation that Bexley residents had been inconvenienced for nothing perhaps and a quick experiment?

If so, that too was abandoned a couple of weeks later and normal service resumed.


Tweet40 days after I asked the awkward question I have had an apology for its delay and separately, one to tell me the obvious. That the irrational scheme had been abandoned.

In return I have told Bexley Council that I will be satisfied with an acknowledgement that there are no documents relating to the odd/even scheme and that no one sought the advice of a statistician, but that would be to acknowledge that someone sanctioned the inconvenience without knowing what he was doing. A Councillor told me that the only person who could have done that was Cabinet Member Craske.

A decision must now be reached on whether to leave things as they are, it is already pretty much certain that odd/even was another Bexley Council mistake, or waste taxpayers’ money by taking the ICO route and maybe getting Bexley Council to recognise it is not above the law.

Councillor Craske has an unenviable record for making things up without thinking. I had been caught “masterbating” (sic) over Councillors’s photos in the Civic Offices and “shagging” in a car park. (Police traced the source computer to his address.)

Bexley had the lowest parking charges in South East London (far from true), and a £4 million contract had not been placed with a firm specialising in highways consultancy. (Councillor Craske had placed two £2 million contracts.) He also claimed that there had been a consultation on the public’s attitude to Controlled Parking Zones and they were in favour. Bexley Council later admitted there had not been any consultation on the subject.

For how much longer will Bexley be governed by thoughtless, sometimes dishonest dictat?

 

11 October (Part 3) - Worth singing about?

I am pretty sure that everyone will be overjoyed to learn that Bexley Council has refused permission to extend 95a Woolwich Road. 21/02083/FUL.Refusal
…and no I won’t be going to get photos of it. Things did not turn out too well when I walked by without my camera.

 

11 October (Part 2) - Cross about Zebras

While a controversy rages on Twitter about Bexley Council’s irrational policy on Zebra crossings, a blast from the past.

A few weeks ago a pedestrian was injured on the crossing in Long Lane, something that was predicted nearly ten years ago when Bexley Council in its wisdom removed the central refuge.

There were a number of reports about the stupidity of it here at the time.

 

26th February 2010.
6th March 2012.
2nd April 2012.
12th April 2012.
7th December 2012.
8th December 2012.
Photos.

 

11 October (Part 1) - From Lord Hore-Belisha to Lord Haw Haw

On reflection Bexley Council’s Highways Manager’s fascinating assertion that the average Zebra in the borough sees 2·5 rear end shunts for every pedestrian involved in an accident on a crossing is an even bigger nonsense than I believed yesterday.

Leaving aside the fact that a car impacting a pedestrian might have very serious consequences and a rear end shunt will most likely only bend a couple of bumpers it is not even comparing like with like.

What Andrew Bashford should be doing is looking at the pedestrian accidents that would have occurred if the Zebra wasn’t there. A difficult comparison to make perhaps but his statistic with which he hopes to fool the gullible i.e. Councillors, is totally worthless. If his was a sensible viewpoint Zebras would be being withdrawn country-wide.

Maybe the comparison should be between the total number of pedestrian accidents in the borough and the total rear end shunts. Which exceeds the other? But it would still be a nonsense unless you think a bit of scuffed paint is as calamitous as crushed bones.

But then pretty well everything road related in Bexley is a nonsense. Several impossible to navigate roundabouts. Abbey Road too narrow for buses to pass each other. Pedestrian controlled traffic lights at all new roundabouts which lull drivers into believing they have right of way when green and which can block all four roads when red. The narrowed exit at the northern end of Penhill Road which causes an unnecessary polluting queue. The 20 m.p.h. limits on unpopulated dual carriageways. The unexplained nonsense in Bowness Road.

Idiocy almost everywhere you look.

If you read through the Penhill Road comment you will see that Bexley Council was arguing that you cannot put pedestrian crossings adjacent to roundabouts. They have a different lie with which to support every bad decision.

 

10 October (Part 3) - Lord Hore-Belisha is turning in his grave

Zebra crossingsThe afternoon has been whiled away exchanging Twitter comment about Bexley Council with like minded residents and much of it centred around road crossings of various types.

Bexley Council is reluctant to install Zebra Crossings because its mismanagement has bled the coffers dry. To justify its position the Highways Manager told Councillors that they cause more accidents than they prevent. I heard him give the figures myself and the report of it was referenced on the Twitter exchanges today.

I have probably mentioned it too many times before but my son used to be Chairman of the European Union’s Committee on road safety which I think probably trumps Highway Manager Bashford’s position. He has moved on to autonomous vehicle design since but nevertheless I sent him a cheeky text message.

The response is probably self-explanatory. Once again it is a polite form of Bexley Council is Bonkers.

Don’t forget that after he BS’d me with more idiocy ten years ago Bexley Council promoted him. It’s little wonder that Bexley Council has been steered ever closer to the rocks.

 

10 October (Part 2) - The best of Belvedere

Bad parkingTo counter the negativity shed on Belvedere in recent days, some pictures from this morning’s market held in the grounds of the Lottery Fund refurbished Lesnes Abbey. The market, and others across the borough, is organised by Chris Molnar and his wife Cat under their company name of CC Events UK.

I first knew Chris in his role as the neigbourhood Bobby, maybe the only one ever to have done any easily noticeable good locally. He once told me why he decided not to be a Police Sergeant any more and it is something that won’t be shared here. If I say he is a really good chap and shares many of my own views on the police it is all you need to know.

No longer a policeman he continues to do his best for Belvedere and the wider borough, if only the weather was more often on his side.

Despite the lack of sunshine he attracted nearly 30 stalls this morning and a few minutes after opening time there was a reasonable number of visitors. The market closes at 3 p.m.

I have heard complaints that Chris causes parking mayhem but it is simply not true, at least not alongside the main Abbey Road entrance. There are plenty of places to park, if there is a problem it is caused by the idiots unwilling to walk an extra 50 yards who would much rather prevent a fire engine getting by. Maybe they are escapees from nearer the station.

The blue car belongs to a resident and it is often parked where shown. The visitor is LS10 GZB.
Lesnes Abbey Market

Chris Molnar in black on the extreme right.

Lesnes Abbey Market
Lesnes Abbey Market

 

10 October (Part 1) - What Sally said

The former Belvedere resident who didn’t like what he saw when he passed through a week or so ago and asked why, wrote to me again.

It was good to hear that he was pleased with my edit of his long email but not so good that he asked me more questions. Hadn’t his previous ones got me into enough Twitter Trouble already?

“Will they sit up and take notice or shoot the messenger” he asks. ‘They’ is not defined but if it is Bexley Council then the answer will be ‘No’ and ‘Probably yes’.

However Belvedere Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour) had a few words to say on the subject. Correction, quite a lot of words.

Sally has lived within a couple of minutes walk of Belvedere station for the past 24 years. Her opinion of the area will be that of the frog in the bucket slowly brought to the boil while my correspondent is that of one dropped straight in. I have seen Sally and her family litter picking the streets several times, presumably in recognition of Bexley Council’s neglect of the area.

She doesn’t think the area has changed much and in terms of buildings, apart from the supermarket and pub closures, she is right, but the shopping area always instills slight apprehension when I walk by.

Sally’s principal comments follow…


There has been a multi agency meeting about the Belvedere Station area and Network Rail are going to undertake an assessment. I would imagine that better lighting will be an issue.

Railway Place has suffered a huge amount of fly-tipping. The land is multi owned (Bexley, Network Rail & Orbit) so it has been difficult to organise clearing it. (†) The gate and barriers have helped but the weeds still grow at the edge. Previously not noticed behind piles of rubble, mattresses, sofas etc.

The Belvoir pub was briefly a restaurant before being granted permission to be a church. (18/02926/FUL.)

The Belvedere Hotel is a beautiful building, but will become flats. (20/00311/FUL).

The library was where Park Vets now is and next to the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society shop.
Belvedere Library
One thing I think is impacting Belvedere right now is the amount of weeds in gutters, pavements etc. When did you last see a man with the bottle on his back going along weed spraying? This was raised at Places Scrutiny and hopefully the new contractor, CountryStyle, will do better.

There is currently a consultation on a borough wide Public Space Protection Order to address street drinking and the like. The police have been eager to implement this in Wilton Road and Picardy Street but the Council did not accept that and instead have gone for the borough wide approach.

I don’t think Belvedere is all bad but there are certainly issues and I am hopeful of improvements. Belvedere is undoubtedly becoming busier, which is having an impact and where it was once a quieter area, it is now very much more an extension of the London sprawl.

Clearly on all these issues I am keen to do what I can to improve the area; it’s my home.
Picardy Street

Belvedere before climate change. Library to right of RACS.

I don’t think we are any nearer answering the former resident’s question as to why he perceived Belvedere as having gone downhill, Sally may not even agree with him.

The correspondent is clearly about the same age as I am so maybe he will remember that in the 1960s, soon after we had left school, there was pressure to strip teachers of their ability to discipline the unruly. I recall being in Scotland at the time and a school teacher (Matt McGinn) had achieved fame and a record deal by singing in pubs; his best known song included a line about issuing every teacher with a gun.

At the time the fear was expressed that undisciplined children would become parents and the social problems would become endemic. Some of those children are now great grand parents. As usual, politicians are to blame.

† Right chaps, how do we clear this fly tip? Oh I can do it if you like, can you both stump up a third of the cost? Right, done!

The RACS got everywhere, there was one in Farnborough Hampshire where I lived from 1949, raising two fingers to the local Portsea Island Society.

 

9 October - Catching up

James Brokenshire R.I.P.
Cressida DickheadThere was an enormous outpouring of grief following the death of James Brokenshire on Thursday. It came from all quarters, all day and from all shades of political opinion. All genuine and sincere.

With one exception.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick claimed to have worked with him when he was MP for Canterbury. A strange spelling of Hornchurch or Old Bexley and Sidcup, or maybe she didn’t really know him but saw an excuse to jump into the limelight.

Just what was she thinking of? Not poor James that’s for sure. I have never seen Twitter so full of heartfelt tributes.


Country Style
Getting off the train at Abbey Wood yesterday after a two hour return journey to Greenwich - there for barely 20 minutes - I spied a refuse truck in Gayton Road and when nearly home I looked back along Fendyke Road to see an orange jacketed man dragging brown bins into the road.

I was still outside my house chatting when the truck hove into view and backed towards me. I warned the two men that my bin was very heavy but one dragged it effortlessly away and said it was a lightweight.

A neighbour asked how the new management was. “Worse than Serco, they don’t know anything”.

The brown bin collection was a week late, the white bin from last week is still waiting and hoping. (Note: The white bin was emptied at 07:45 this morning.)

If the brown bin gets back on schedule next Friday Bexley Council will owe me five collections and even that is not very fair. I only have a week to fill it up again or I am short changed once more.

Belvedere
The correspondent who started the Belvedere controversy (see Twitter) has sent further comment and so has my local Councillor. My request for information fell into her Junk folder or she might well have been bending my ear sooner.

Meanwhile she reminds me that there is a Public Space Protection consultation going on right now.

Sally Hinkley must be hot stuff on consultations because she was pushing the Abbey Wood Post Office one too.


Joined up thinking
I have to be in Richmond for most of today, hence the minimal blog and not expanding on what Sally had to say yet. I checked that trains would be running to Waterloo East and all was well - but not Sunday.

What I failed to do is check the main line trains to Richmond. Too late I find there are none. Never mind, I have used the District Line for that journey often enough.

Think again, the District Line Richmond branch is closed beyond Turnham Green too. 30 minutes on a bus. Thanks TfL.

Bonkers
I don’t suppose many will care but the alternative routes to www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk which used to have subtly different purposes are gradually disappearing. www.bexley-is-bonkers.info will cease to exist on 2nd November. £89 plus VAT to keep it going is just silly. Registration fees seem to have more than doubled in recent years and there is no bottomless pit here.

 

8 October - In happier times

Below is my friend Elwyn giving his MP James Brokenshire a thoroughly hard time a week before the 2019 General Election.

As everyone will know by now James died in Darent Valley Hospital yesterday evening. Life is very unfair. 53 years of age and never did anything to deserve that.

It was another friend, Michael Barnbrook, who was responsible for James being a Bexley MP. He was the recognised complainant who worked to bring down the previous incumbent Derek Conway who had been a very naughty boy. (Confirmed including the Barnbrook reference on Wikipedia.)
James Brokenshire
The black banner above is not down to my bad web coding. It will stay that way until after James’s funeral.

 

7 October (Part 2) - The decline and fall of Belvedere

It’s usually nice to receive emails but not always so nice having to answer them. Some don’t get answered at all especially those about national politics which might lead to a protracted correspondence.

Those on local issues are always answered eventually, at least I hope they are.

There have been quite a few emails over the years asking for an opinion on whether Abbey Wood and Belvedere is a nice place to live and I try to paint an optimistic picture. Despite what you sometimes hear I have witnessed very little street violence in my 34 years at this address. Three times I think.

Never once has my carefully written reply been acknowledged so I may not attempt to be an estate agent in future.

A few days ago I received a similar sort of email but from the opposing viewpoint. From someone who used to live here but doesn’t any more.

This is an extract of what was said edited to remove some personal stuff and rejigged a little to make it read fluently after chopping bits out.


I was brought up in Greenwich and moved the family to Belvedere fifty years ago. I felt like we were living in the country. Surrounded by woods, Ye Olde Leather Bottle a short walk away, a Co-op shop, a library for the children’s studies and the brilliant Davis Electrical on our doorstep. There was a good primary school and a church in St. Augustine’s Road with a lovely vicar. Our MP was James Wellbeloved who would never treat you as yours has done you and a local Councillor called Joe Delaney.

In 1983 we moved away.

Last Saturday I passed back through. My wife and I parked on the old football pitch, I mean the B&Q car park, and explored a little. The pub opposite the station had gone and wandering a little further found that we could no longer get a drink at the Leather Bottle.

The bigger shops have gone and remaining doorways are filled with apparently homeless men drinking beer from cans.

The streets are neglected and full of rubbish and fences strain under the pressure of weeds. The roads were in poor condition. We left feeling so very sad about what Belvedere has become.

Maybe it is what comes from having an MP who cares more for black issues than her constituency.

I wonder when it all changed. Has it been gradual? Who can change it and how?

Sorry if I have gone on about it but it has been on my mind ever since I went back there.


Belvedere StationWell there’s a question and I have thought about it quite a lot including the middle of the night. Lucky that the returnee appeared not to know about the murder that took place a week before he looked by.

My first thought was that there was nothing much wrong with the place until the new millennium. The rot had set in by 2008 but such a comment will land me in political trouble. Was it the fault of Bexley’s Labour administration of 2002-2006? But that would pre-suppose that the decline was confined to Bexley and I doubt very much it has been. The Tory takeover in 2006 can be similarly dismissed although their obvious neglect of that particular area would not have helped.

Maybe it is the fault of the succession of London Mayors which began in 2000? Two of them have failed Bexley totally and the third did nothing for it other than cancel its Thames Crossing.

Was there a connection with the decision to flood the country with cheap foreign labour without providing them with housing, medical facilities, pretty much everything such a scheme demands? Is it even right to pin-point the years to 2008 at all?

One could probably argue that the decline has been going on for much longer, the Thatcher era perhaps, or alternatively only much more recently when Bexley Council realised it was running out of money. Answers on a postcard please.

 

7 October (Part 1) - Promises promises

Tory TweetThe Tory spinners were out in force yesterday. Boris Johnson was spouting non-Conservative policies in Manchester which even if I supported them I wouldn’t believe given the Prime Minister’s relationship with the truth.

Here in Bexley similar things were happening.

The Conservatives were claiming to have kept all their 2018 manifesto promises. If so that is because they made so few.


• We will keep Council Tax low. (It has increased by the maximum permitted and and only seven other London boroughs charge more.)
• We will generate commercial income. (Don’t mention BexleyCo.)
• All Bexley Schools will be rated as Good or Outstanding. (Jubilee Primary is still rated Inadequate. Any more?)
• We will maintain three weekly cleaning of all residential roads. (Serco!)
• The welfare of children will be central to everything we do. (Closure of Children’s Centres.)
• We will deliver at least two extra hectares of green space. (Uncut grass verges presumably.)
• The Elizabeth Line will be opened and there are plenty of other big transport projects coming. (The model train at Hall Place?)
• We will prioritise social housing. (The inaction is largely responsible for Bexley’s financial predicament.)
• We will create a strong local economy. (Does anyone feel any richer?)


And the claim yesterday


• We have planted 1,000 street trees. (Has anyone seen them?)
• Bexley named number one recycling borough 16 years running. (Close but not actually true.)
• Children’s Services judged Outstanding (The transformation predated 2018.)
• Lesnes Abbey transformed with a £4m investment. (Another one that predates 2018 and paid for by the Lottery Fund. The final touches were made to it just after the 2018 election but only because the project ran a year late.)
• New Park in Sidcup. (Because they sold off half the old one.)
• Free Internet in town centres. (Paid for by someone else and would you dare get your expensive phone out in Broadway?)


2018 Manifesto : Promises fulfilled - possibly.

 

6 October (Part 2) - Don’t do it without a lot of thought

Guardian newspaper reportI have seen headlines like this all over the place over the past ten days and it is understandable. I have checked out the nearest petrol station for three consecutive days and it has no petrol. Maybe coincidence but the roads locally are empty and the reports from Bromley today are the same.

An electric car may seem like the obvious solution but they are not immune to being held up by petrol queues. When all vehicles are electric those queues will disappear and probably be replaced by queues for public chargers. They have proved to be notoriously unreliable.

In September Teslas were by far the most commonly bought electric car, nearly 7,000 units compared to also ran Volkswagen at 2,000 in September. Even my old model sold more than 1,000. Keep your eyes open and you can’t get away from them these days.

Charging speeds are increasing but the very best and for the most part unattainable peak is around quarter of an hour for about 150 miles in the tank.

But it is not cheap.

Those 50 kilowatt hours of electricity at a hard to find ultra fast charger would currently cost £34·50. That’s at least five gallons of fossil fuel and you will probably get 250 miles out of that.

Charging as fast as that is rare at the moment but barely a day goes by without me being notified of a price increase. From 39 pence to 42 pence from one of the cheaper operators only yesterday.

Long distance electric motoring can be very expensive. 150 miles on a free charger at Tesco etc. would take all day and probably land you with a parking fine. Useless apart from something for nothing while you do a quick shop.

My three year old electric car is now among the slowest charging but there is nothing more efficient on the road and it can be coaxed into going about 50% further than most given a light foot.

With free solar charging and not driving too far I seem to remember my first year’s motoring worked out at 0·39 pence per mile. If that is not you (solar panels and not too many miles) the only economic way forward is cheap overnight electricity from the likes of Octopus Energy. Four hours at only five pence a unit.

On a home charger you might be able to put in 100 miles for not much over a pound. How long that will last is anyone’s guess.

Unless everything is going in your direction, few long journeys, your own car parking space close to the electricity meter or consumer unit, then you have missed the cheap electric motoring boat.

They are easier and much more fun to drive and probably greener overall but few people will save much compared to the price of ‘gas’.

Miles per kilowatt hour varies considerably dependent on driving style, speed, weather conditions and car efficiency. Most will give you at least three miles per kilowatt hour, in favourable conditions some will give six. The figures given above take a middle course.

 

6 October (Part 1) - Not all Councillors tolerate injustices

Every time I am asked to intercede in or publicise a local dispute I warn the victim that it is impossible to embarrass or shame those who seek to control our lives, and sometimes they will retaliate. It will probably prove to be true of inadequate school teachers just as it has been with Bexley Council.

It has been on my mind ever since I last visited the lady forced to live in an L&Q slum. I have been visiting on an off for four years and things have only got worse. Not a single Councillor has shown the slightest bit of interest. I was beginning to think it was the norm and it very nearly is.

Royal Horticultural SocietyIt was the same with another lady, this time in Sidcup, who I have visited on and off for ten years. She complains of being abused by neighbours who persuaded Bexley Council to persecute her over her unorthodox garden habits. Habits that had won her an award from The Royal Horticultural Society.

Not only did the Council persecute her they attempted to prosecute her too. Fortunately the judge taught them a lesson and Bexley Council backed off. Unfortunately her neighbours didn’t and she is still the subject of abuse.

This is a complicated story for which there is no time right now but once again no Councillor ever took an interest in it. My guess is that a contributory factor was that the lady concerned was part of a a pressure group that persuaded Bexley Council not to sell its allotments. As part of that campaign she stood for election, stealing enough votes from the Tories to ensure their candidate, Ms. Priti Patel, did not get elected despite the Tory landslide in 2006.

So generally speaking Councillors in Bexley do not ordinarily respond positively to anything they might read here. Then yesterday two things happened.

Firstly I remembered that some years ago Councillor Dourmoush contacted me out of the blue to ask for more details about a particular case reported here. He went off and did his best for yet another lady. He managed to sort a few things out but it transpired that the lady had not related the whole story which made it impossible for him to go the final mile. But he tried.

Probably that is the sort of thing that happens to Councillors, complainants will sometimes be economical with the truth.

The second case yesterday was similar. Just one Councillor showed an interest in Jubilee School and asked who the victim was. Our lone Independent Councillor. I gained permission to pass on the details to Danny Hackett and I assume the two will liaise.

I have since seen the father’s written response to the head teacher’s intransigence. It was in my opinion a really good one, polite and to the point. If you hear a small explosion coming from the Thamesmead direction you may safely assume that the postman has done his job.

For completeness I should probably mention that Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath), after a variety of Twitter protests has very recently taken a close interest in Orbit Housing. Another landlord that allowed tenants to live in slum-like conditions.

 

5 October (Part 4) - Bexley Council drops the financial ball again

I have not been inside a Post Office since Christmas 2018 when I bought a load of stamps calculated to last me two years. The local SE2 Post Office closed a month later and now I do not even know where there is a nearby Post Office. I suppose I could find one if I needed to but the stamps lasted me into the middle of this year since when I’ve cadged a few from a friend. It will be the reason why the nearest Crown Office is 35 minutes away on a train.

Not only have I given up on Post Offices so it would seem have Bexley Council. A year ago I noticed that Erith Post Office was on Bexley’s Asset Register. Wickes in Fraser Road and the Bexleyheath Job Centre too. They spent rather more on the Post Office than I did on stamps, £925,000.

But it is not on the Asset Register any more.

Sure enough the Land Registry suggests they have sold it.
Post Office sold
The Council sold the Erith warehouse at a loss to plug one of their financial gaps; now it seems they slipped another loss making sale under the radar. £25,000 down the drain. Marketing and legal fees extra!
Post Office bought
The overpaid whizz kids who run Bexley really are wonderful aren’t they?

 

5 October (Part 3) - GPs. It’s not cricket

My six monthly blood test was due at QEH yesterday and I turned up around 4 p.m. to find the waiting room empty. I have been there lots of times and sometimes been in and out very quickly, occasionally catching the same bus back to Woolwich as took me to the Hospital. (The terminus is only one stop away.) But there has never been no one there before.

I took off my pullover and didn’t notice that my mask fell to the floor. I asked why no queues and was told there would never be queues again as GP referrals had to book an appointment. Consultant referrals like me could walk in at any time.

I facetiously asked what a GP was. The phlebotomist got the joke straight away. They are people who for the most part refuse to see patients and hide themselves away while we have to see dozens of patients every day.

I noticed my mask on the floor. “Sorry”, I said, but was told not to worry as “we are vaccinated but put it on as you go out because the corridor is full of strangers”.

This is worrying on several counts. There is the absence of GPs which is a well known phenomenon but how can an empty blood test waiting room cope with the demand? The requirement for blood tests surely hasn’t changed? But maybe it has with some doctors effectively being on strike.

What does it say about vaccinations not stopping transmission? The hospital staff seem to have a different opinion to the Health Secretary, but he is a Conservative Cabinet Member and almost by definition, a liar intent on spreading fear as a precursor to his vaccination passport scheme.

I am a Member of a Cricket Club that can accommodate more than 10,000 people at its ground, well over. I told them this week that if the Government goes ahead with its latest tyranny my membership will have to end. They were very sympathetic and worried . Consocialism will hit their pockets very hard. You will need one to get your hair cut if the country descends further into dictatorship.

10,000 is the threshold above which there is no get out clause for dodging the passport requirement.

 

5 October (Part 2) - Facebook

FacebookI must have said before that I don’t like Facebook. I don’t like the way it operates, I don’t like the company ethics - what ethics? - and I don’t like Zuckerberg. Is that his name? Can’t be bothered to check the spelling.

I have an account only because it is the only way to keep in touch with car owners who believe Hyundai is a crap car company who sold defective cars from 2018 through to March 2020 and wrote to owners this week that the spare parts required to fix them will not be fully available until October 2022. Two years after they first admitted there was a problem.

Just before five yesterday afternoon I pressed Send on my twopenn’orth of contribution to the debate and the little circle thing went round and round for ever. I was amazed to wake up this morning to find my input safely on line.

I was disappointed too. I was really hoping that some malign foreign power had hacked Facebook and wiped the whole lot of it. I can live without knowing the name of the most recently lost cat and have little interest in why the police helicopter is circling overhead.

 

5 October (Part 1) - Trinitrash

Trinitas TrustThe refusal to respond to a Subject Access Request by the head teacher of Thamesmead’s Jubilee Primary School (“The Trust will not tolerate the making of repeated requests for information”) came on notepaper bearing the crest of Trinitas Academy Trust.

Their website’s proclamation of “compassion and desire that every person flourishes” can in the light of my friend’s experience best be described as total balderdash - or worse.

One thing that came as a surprise to me is that Trinitas is supposedly a Trust for schools espousing Christian values. There doesn’t seem to be much of that on display in Crowden Way.

My friend now banished from contacting the school is a practicing Muslim - don’t try to phone him over a Friday lunchtime!

Perhaps we need a Councillor Mardner in Bexley to administer one of his tellings off?

I think my friend’s next move is to ask for copies of all the letters and emails in which he has abused any member of staff. At present they, and specifically the one I vetted before it was sent, are being used as an excuse to restrict his requested permission to view the dungeon in which his son is incarcerated all day.

 

4 October (Part 2) - Wrapping up Audit

The Auditor made a very brief statement on the Pension Account last week. It is barely audible but it was not especially remarkable despite swallowing up enormous amounts of money. There was a £3·7 million understatement on an obscure investment but no Councillor had a question on anything. It had, to be fair, already gone before the Pensions Committee.

A few highlights from the remaining sections of the meeting were…


• A benefit fraudster had been successfully prosecuted and should eventually compensate the Council to the tune of nearly £80,000.
• There had been no Blue Badge prosecutions in the past year. The Council relies on snitches and there had been none. Covid had prevented street level investigations.
• Councillor Stefano Borella presumably conscious of the fact that he was at the General Purposes and Audit Committee and not just Audit asked if the Council would consider buying electrically powered dustcarts as the existing vehicle fleet reached the end of its life. Naturally enough he did not get an answer to his question. He had others. (Cabinet Member Leaf attempted to shift the climate change reference to tree planting and complained that the Labour Leader appeared not to be aware of it.)
• Was the Council prepared for a cyber attack on its facilities? He did not want Bexley to become another Hackney or Redcar. The question was referred to the Head of IT but the issue was said to be “high profile”.
• He understood that Heritage Assets had been audited. Where was the report and where were these assets? He whistled for an answer.
• The Council’s financial interests in the shopping centres were under threat from changing habits and Councillor Borella was concerned about it. He was told that “the team is well on top of that.”


Once again it was left to Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) to deliver a well aimed kick.

Internal Audit recommendations should be implemented come what may and should be checked after an interval of six months. “But you say that sometimes they are not implemented. Why? Are we just wasting Council money by re-auditing situations again? How many [internal audit recommendations] are not implemented and why? For example, how many in the last year have not been implemented?”

He was told that there are no re-audits and there is an attempt to follow up recommendations that are considered high risk. There have been some partial implementations. Service Departments “self-assess”.

It was the sort of answer that might satisfy a lesser Councillor but maybe not Councillor Andy Dourmoush. Will he be back?

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) took issue with the practice of dismissing people who were on long term sick but he was assured that such people were always and without exception pleased to take their money and go.

 

4 October (Part 1) - Jaw dropping stupidity

A month ago it was reported here that a friend’s son with Special Educational Needs was being abused by his Bexley School. Hidden away all day with a teaching assistant and not being allowed to mix with fellow pupils. A totally inadequate head teacher unable to face up to her responsibilities reported the loving parents to Bexley Council’s Social Services. They made them jump through the usual hoops and I have not heard a single word of complaint about SS from the parents.

As expected they were given a clean bill of health.

The father put before me a number of ideas he had considered aimed at getting the head teacher to provide his son with some education. I suggested that he started off at the lower end of things by submitting a Subject Access Request to see if it revealed anything of interest.

He drafted a covering letter and showed it to me. It was longer than I would have written myself but I have never believed in altering other people’s letters if they make the point reasonably clearly and do not include anything that one may later regret; aggression, threat, bad language etc. I said it was quite harsh and maybe hard hitting but it was truthful and justified in the circumstances. He has subsequently showed me the final copy which from memory I would say has not changed very much.

So how did this pathetic specimen of a head teacher react to the Subject Access Request?

“The Trust has reported you to the police for harassment. It will not tolerate repeated requests for information.”

It goes on at length with threats and bans from various things. All future emails will be rejected by the school server etc. and he will not be allowed to comment on any letter the school may choose to send. “The Trust will not engage in further correspondence about it”. Not a word about how she will address the parents’ concerns for their son’s education except for the trite response that “education, wellbeing and welfare are of paramount importance”.

In all the time that this school has failed their pupil the father, except for hand overs at the school gate, has been allowed to speak to a teacher only once. The headteacher remains invisible behind a wall of threats.

A lot more details to come once my friend has consulted his lawyer. Meanwhile a question. How do absolute morons rise to the top of so many professions?

Reported to the police for harassment for making a Subject Access Request. Whatever next?

 

3 October (Part 3) - Lies, statistics and Bexley Council

There was a bit of a kick back on my criticism of Bexley Council’s odd - in more ways than one - rubbish dump rationing.

How could I have explained it better? You have six dice and six numbered rubbish dumps. You throw the dice in the air and you would not get an even distribution of numbers one to six and applying the numbers to the dumps you would get uneven queues. Throw a million dice in the air and you would very likely get a perfect distribution of queues. Reduce the dice from a million, to 100,000 or 10,000 and you would probably still get a good distribution but take the number down too low and the ‘queues’ would become uneven again.

Bexley Council chose to reduce the dice to two and make them coins. Heads or Tails. Just two possibilities and two dumps but the theory is the same. Now they won’t say why they did it and refuse to demonstrate what good the scheme did. But am I wrong?

This morning I remembered that I have two cousins who have First Class Honours Degrees in mathematics while I stalled at A level. I rang the one whose career was teaching Maths teachers. The other became a partner in one of the the big accountancy firms before motherhood took over.

I explained that like most Councils Bexley suffered extra pressure during the early part of the pandemic while people passed the time tidying houses and there would be sickness at the dumps. The Council tried to ration dump availability. Then there was the bin strike. She was surprised as her Council didn’t restrict her but I accept that many did.

My cousin said that the odd/even scheme would only have an effect if it deterred some people from visiting dumps altogether. I had not thought of that but on the other hand long queues are a deterrent too.

Why did Bexley cause its residents so much inconvenience for no mathematically valid reason? My sister’s Council introduced on-line booking slots as did my son’s. You can see some sense in that.

The issue now is of course nothing to do with statistics. It is a matter of honesty, the commodity that is always sadly lacking in this borough.

The Council has more or less admitted that their scheme was valueless, they are refusing to show me (FOI) any correspondence on the subject or their back of a fag packet calculation and if it is such a good idea why was it abandoned before the strike ended? The collection service is not back to normal even now. Why can’t Bexley Council simply admit they cocked up once again?

It reminds me of their ill-judged and illegal decision to close a public meeting in 2014. The blatant lies to excuse that caused the police to send a file to the CPS - who after a year’s procrastination and still stuck for an answer claimed to have lost it!

 

3 October (Part 2) - I’m still a racist!

OK, you can stop emailing now, I have got the message that I misidentified Clive the Councillor yesterday. I felt sure he was introduced as Efford but photographs show him to be Clive Mardner who represents Abbey Wood. God help them.

The earlier blog is corrected.

 

3 October (Part 1) - I’m a racist

I went for a look around the Abbey Wood Village monthly market yesterday. It was disappointingly quiet what with the rain and the fuel shortage. Some regular stall holders were missing, in part because they had no fuel themselves or more seriously their supplies had not been delivered for the same reason. Additionally the general HGV driver shortage affecting the whole of Europe. Even the market organiser’s stall was looking a bit sparse for the same reasons.

Probably that is why my garden waste bin was not emptied last week. One collection in the past three months. How much compensation is going to be on offer?

Needing a few oddments from Sainsbury’s I ascended the station steps. At the top was a gaggle of six or eight or ten people but I didn’t even look up to see who they might be. I continued over the flyover, past the BP petrol station with a queue that didn’t even reach the roundabout, grabbed my stuff, got in a right old mess trying to buy a cabbage at the self-service till and with two well filled shopping bags, headed home.

As I got to the station entrance I became of aware of a fellow leaning against the wall with leaflets in his hand. I tried to give him a wide berth but he came across to intercept me. He asked if he could drop a leaflet into my bag and introduced himself as a Labour man. As we stood with legs straddling the borough boundary line I asked if he was from the Abbey Wood side or Bexley. He said Abbey Wood and mentioned Councillors Hyland and another whose name escapes me. Not to be outdone I said Belvedere and name dropped Sally and Daniel and Dave.

He was a decent enough bloke, no complaints whatsoever and he summoned across his colleague whose face I instantly recognised from Facebook and the like. I was not aware of his name but It was Councillor Clive Mardner. (I could have sworn he was introduced as Efford but maybe I jumped to conclusions.)

Clive asked something designed to extract my political leanings and I said I was a Tory “thoroughly pissed off with Johnson and all his cronies and I would never vote Conservative (nationally) again while any of them remained in the Cabinet”.

Fertile ground for a political campaigner I would have thought and maybe he thought so too because he summoned another of his colleagues standing around 40 feet away who I had not until then noticed. It was Abena Oppong-Asare MP. I told Clive that she would not want to speak to me and I was right. Clive asked why.

Abena“I have known her for a long time and I am very disappointed in her.”

He asked why again. I could have said anything, like one of the first things Teresa Pearce did when elected - and even before - was to make friendly gestures in my direction but that seemed to be a bit too self-centred so I fell back on what became obvious as soon as Abena was elected in December 2019. “She is not really interested in anything other than black or women’s issues.

I went on to say that after her election I analysed her first 25 Tweets and from memory 22 were on her two favourite subjects. It is a good job that I did not mention the BLM knee bending episode because Councillor Clive Mardner responded by calling me a racist, or to be more precise, what I had said would be considered to be racist. (The old blog shows my memory to be slightly at fault but not by much.)

It was of course a waste of breath but I objected. Earlier the same day I had welcomed my new Nigerian neighbours and helped out two more earlier in the week when their car was stolen. My last two phone calls were to a Pakistani and a Turk, there had been an early morning WhatsApp message from a Muslim and an email to an Indian. I had spoken to the Sainsbury’s assistant who helped me buy the cabbage but apart from her and the Nigerians the only other person I had spoken to that day is half Hungarian. It would be very hard to be a dedicated racist these days but Clive Mardner was pretty sure he had encountered one. He said so twice more.

It is a very funny way of going about recruiting disillusioned Tories to the Labour cause.

As for Abena, she might not think so but I consider I have gone very easy on her Parliamentary performance up until now in consideration of her time as a Bexley Councillor. In one of our friendly conversations many years ago she was even angling for an invitation out for dinner. I suspected at the time it was not a serious proposition and I still do but it is part of why I had no particular wish to be critical of the new Labour front bencher.

The kid gloves have been thrown away.

I was going to hold on to this report to give more time to see what the reaction of some local Labour members who I know just a bit would be, but I have some already. “Jesus! While campaigning?” “He's a bloody idiot.” “It’s how they deflect criticism. You are either a racist or a bully.”

Good to see that local Labour is just as divided as their Tory counterparts.

 

2 October (Part 3) - The standard of Accounts questioning goes up a notch

Councillor Stefano Borella the Labour Leader asked a number of questions at the Audit Committee meeting relating to the Draft Accounts for Bexley Council.

He suggested that the Council might be being complacent; the country and the Council faced several problems and locally one was that the Auditor had noted that the reserves remain low and the “resilience was high risk”. The reserves may well have increased but where did the money come from?

BexleyCo was rated as “a medium financial risk” because of the challenges faced by the construction industry more generally. Councillor Borella had carefully noted the small print buried within the Accounts. He was curious about the introduction of the new financial system, the one that was thrown out by oneSource if whistleblowers are to be believed.

He noted that the less than timely response to the Auditor was the product of staff cuts. Neither was Stefano at all happy about the additional accounting costs attributed to the poor quality of work submitted.

The Auditor said that the level of reserves was a matter for the Council but her opinion of them was based on “stress testing”; worst case, no income and massive expenditure etc. It was the Council that had assured her that the resilience was there. Auditors do not recommend a minimum level of reserves but will “benchmark them against other similar Councils”.

Some of the response delays were blamed on staff sickness but vacancies also played a part. The reserves came “from a movement of insurance funds”. (There may have been other sources but the audio is indistinct.)

Councilor Richard Diment who is I think an economist by profession went into staff thank you mode but only very briefly. He was concerned that the Council had “missed the statutory deadline” for publishing the accounts. He was told that Bexley Council was some way from being unique.

Councillor Diment was also concerned that “housing had been flagged up as a high risk area”. For him “the alarm bells do start to ring”. The Auditor said that due to the unpredictability of homelessness it is always high risk “but Bexley is at a higher risk than other London boroughs”.

The ending of the Covid ban on evictions is making things worse and Bexley “is one of four local authorities in London that does not have its own housing stock. A £110,000 [housing] overspend is forecast for the current year”.

Councillor Diment had raised the level of questions above the earlier sycophantic level and Councillor Andy Dourmoush took it up another notch. The accounts had been signed off in July, an extension was granted until the end of September “and we are still not ready to sign off although you’ve [the Auditor) said we have a couple of weeks. We had these papers a week ago. Are you now saying we will be complete in a week or is it two weeks, three weeks, a month and what is the problem?”

“Previously it was oneSource that was the problem but we haven’t got oneSource now, so I don’t understand what the problem is now. We have had all this time and there are things that haven’t been completed without [you] giving us exactly what they are and how long they are going to take and you are also saying it is subject to no material finding. What if there are some material findings? What are we going to do then? Are we going to have the meeting come back again?”

“To me, what we are doing is just moving the goal posts year on year and what is the implication of missing the deadline? You say that other authorities [are running late], to be quite frank that is their problem, we are concerned with Bexley and should not be running the yardstick by authorities all around London, that really is not our concern. Members here tonight want to see the audit completed on time so that we can satisfy ourselves - or not - before we agree. What is the hold up? It seems to be happening every year. What is going to happen next year, will we be asking for an extension to the end of December?”

You can begin to see why Councillor Dourmoush was chucked off Scrutiny. Asking awkward questions is a total no-no. Rocking Bexley’s boat is never a good idea.

He was told that the hope was that the Accounts would be approved by the end of October. If material findings came to light it would be normal for the Committee Chairman to approve and sign.

The Chairman expressed optimism that the new financial systems “will resolve the problems we have had this year”.

Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor asked the Cabinet Member about the “significant risk with BexleyCoְ”. “A considerable amount had been invested in BexleyCo, what is in place to ensure residents get the value for money which this report says is at risk?”

David LeafCabinet Member Leaf read out the more favourable parts of the report relating to BexleyCo and the first people are moving into the Old Farm Park development which, he said, Labour had voted against. More truthful would have been a statement that recognised that Labour was against the sale of 27 parks and green spaces to fund the mowing of the grass in the remaining parks and to prevent them becoming jungles.

He ended by saying that reserves were higher than they would be if Labour was in power.

Councillor Taylor said she might have been more inclined to vote for the Old Farm Park development if it had provided an acceptable level of affordable housing. The meeting moved on to its next subject.

 

2 October (Part 2) - Labour strikes first

Labour Party leafletNo that headline is not a throwback to the 1979 General Election campaign but a reference to the fact that the Labour Party locally seems to have landed the first blow for the next election campaign. Local next May probably but maybe Boris Johnson will own up to the mess he has created and run away.

Stumbling out of Sainsbury’s this morning, heavy bag in each hand, still in shock from passing a BP station with its tanks full and not more than four or five cars queued in the road, a man with a bundle of leaflets in his hand stuffed one into my bag.

It has been added to my collection of political leaflets.

To be honest, if I had been writing that leaflet I would not have bothered with the final six words.

 

2 October (Part 1) - E&Y eyes up Bexley. Are its finances back on course?

On the very last day that a Council could legally publish its 2020/21 accounts, Elizabeth Jackson, an Associate Partner at Ernst & Young addressed Bexley’s General Purposes and Audit Committee. Unfortunately she only had the draft available because staff cuts and an antiquated finance system had delayed the Council’s input. (There are apparently no sanctions against late publication.)

There was still “a long list, and it looks quite scary, of work still outstanding”.

The delay beyond the statutory cut off date was not mentioned and given that a quarter of a million pound auditing fee will soon be winging its way to Watling Street you can understand the need not to be too critical of the paymasters. Last year the Auditor publicly announced the damning prediction that Bexley Council was about to run out of money which would not have gone down well.

As such among the first words uttered were that the accounts were “a good news story, an improvement on the previous year and everything was within the expected range”. (Short of Croydon levels of incompetence everything has to be an improvement on last year.)

Referring back to the 2019/20 report “prepared by our predecessor” (accompanied by a slip of the tongue when E&Y was referred to as Grant Thornton), 2020/21 was said to be “far more stable and [the accounts] are as robust as your Officers have indicated they are”. (Note: Checking back to both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 accounts shows them signed off by Ernst & Young so I do not understand the significance if that comment.)

“No concerns” were expressed about BexleyCo despite it proving to be an occasionally incompetent money pit up until now.

An accounting error of £0·39 million had been discovered but was judged to be unimportant and not corrected. No fraud had been detected. The definition of fraud was not hands in the till but manipulating the financial statements to make them appear better than they are.

Questions followed.

Audit Committee meetingCabinet Member for something unstated on the Council’s website [Growth], Cafer Munur, immediately pulled his usual stunt of profusely thanking everyone on the Finance Department’s payroll for doing their job. The turn around has been “fantastic and no small feat” which may be an acknowledgment of just how dire things were 18 months ago.

Pursuing the same theme “it is testament to how fantastic the Officers are here in Bexley”, the very same Officers who steered the ship on to the rocks and who provoke so much adverse comment from staff that lands in my email Inbox.

In a serious lapse of memory Councillor Munur referred back to Grant Thornton “who always praised [us] on our track record. Our track record is strong.” And more thanks followed. One or two of his colleagues were visibly cringing.

Just when everyone thought he had finished back he came again. “Thank you Officers for what you have done and across the board, not just Mr. Thorogood and his team but every Directorate.”

Eventually the question came, quite a good one as it happened. He wanted to now why the promised independent financial review following the Government offer of a bail out was still not available. The answer boiled down to some administrative cock-up between the Government Department (MHCLG) and the Council which may be resolved by the end of October but on the other hand it may not be.

Councillor June Slaughter changed Cafer’s tack slightly by thanking the Auditor, Ms. Jackson, for “her encouraging comments”. She questioned the Finance Director on why the Auditor had to report that “there had been delays in receiving some key working papers and supporting evidence” which had led to the Audit being behind schedule. Mr. Thorogood said he had “struggled to get information from the system” which is 26 years old but now replaced. The Council has just employed an Accountant which it had not done for the past five years so there should be no repetition of the current failures.

The next question came from the Labour Leader and maybe that is an excuse to draw a line across Part 1 of what looks like becoming an overly long report. More to come.

 

1 October (Part 2) - There is a better than evens chance that the answer would have been very odd

Part 2 for today should have been less of a brain teaser than this one but it relied on documentary evidence which was promised but failed to arrive. The fall back was going to be the Auditor’s report on Bexley Council’s accounts but that was scuppered by the petrol gridlock situation. I had to run the battery powered car around 26 miles of fuel avoiding back streets to rescue a damsel in distress; and time for listening to recordings evaporated.

Please bear with me this; I fear it may be easy enough to write but be difficult to follow.

The odd/even date/number plate farce imposed by Bexley Council for regulating dump attendance was in my opinion total nonsense.

If there were only two car owners in Bexley and they were trying to get rid of a whole borough’s worth of rubbish to two dumps the chances of them both showing up at the same dump on the same day would be pretty high. If 100 motorists had rubbish to get rid of the chances of them all deciding to dump it at the same place would be a lot less than if only two cars were allowed. Smaller but maybe still a significant chance of very uneven distribution.

However if the number of cars was 10,000 then the chances of every driver deciding to do the same thing would be pretty slim. 100,000 and the possibility pretty much disappears.

Car ownership in Bexley is high. 1·07 vehicles per household so that puts the 100,000 vehicle estimate into the right ball park. What Bexley Council did was effectively halve that number to 50,000 vehicles while reducing the dump capacity by half. It places the chance of everyone trying to dump rubbish at the same place on the same day somewhere along the scale between ‘very slim’ and ‘pretty much non-existent’. With half the cars and half the dumps available the chances of everyone showing up on the same day would be ever so slightly increased compared to leaving well alone.

On 28th August I asked to see the arithmetic that justified Bexley Council’s decision and went down the FOI route. On the 25th working day I reminded the Council that they were a week overdue and later when nothing happened I told them I would refer them to the Information Commissioner on Monday week, the 11th, thus doubling the legal time limit.

The ‘answer’ which came today merely said that the ill-judged scheme had been abandoned. No arithmetic, no justification for the inconvenience; nothing.

CraskeWhat puzzles me is that the order must have been signed off by Cabinet Member Peter Craske who worked in the gambling industry for years but he appears to know nothing about games of chance.

The amount of rubbish to be disposed of in total remains the same whatever the rules and If the scheme made life more convenient why has it been stopped?

 

1 October (Part 1) - A return to the Chamber

The last time you saw a decent Council meeting photo here was on 5th March 2020 but when the pandemic struck the Council Chamber became a no-go area. The webcasts were useful but as things returned to normal so did the webcast schedule and Transport and Audit Committee meetings became no better than gatherings of the Bexley Secret Society. I decided that it might be worthwhile to hear what the auditor had to say about Bexley’s Houdini-like escape from bankruptcy. The auditor said that 2020/21 was “a good news story, an improvement on the previous year and everything was within the expected range”.

Once questioning got under way things seemed to be a little less rosy and a more comprehensive report will appear here before long.
Audit Committee meeting
On the way in I spoke to Labour Leader Stefano Borella for the first time in 19 months and discovered his enthusiasm for trains and buses is undiminished. As for the others, some may have grown older and others simply grown wider while another has disappeared behind an extravagant beard and moustache. Beard apart I have done the same.

After a two hour meeting I left in a hurry always conscious of the fact that me speaking to Conservatives may not go down well with the Teresa supporters. Apologies to any I may have offended.

 

News and Comment October 2021

Index: 201920202021

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