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News and Comment February 2020

Index: 200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020

29 February - How popular are Bexley’s EV chargers?

The post bag and Twitter comments suggest that Bexley’s 13 new electric car chargers and the consequent loss of 26 parking spaces right outside Post Office’s and Dentist’s Surgeries etc. are not very popular among the general population. Bexley Council said that the sites were chosen because the parking bays were little used. That simply isn’t true.

Today’s phone screenshots obtained by interrogating the chargers via their web interfaces suggest they are not yet of much use to electric vehicle owners either.

One or two were in use yesterday and Danson Lane said it was last available two weeks ago but did not give a last charge date. I’m not absolutely sure what that message means.

As an EV owner I do of course welcome the recognition that the number of electric vehicles on the road is increasing at a much greater rate than any other class of vehicle - but from a very low base line. Why anyone would use the Picardy Street charger I have no idea when the same thing is available at Sainsbury’s a mile away at no charge. Two Nissans, a Renault, a Hyundai, a Tesla and a Black Cab (hybrid) were seen there charging today leaving another six charging points available.

EV Charger EV Charger EV Charger EV Charger

Not used for up to a week or Out of Order for two weeks.

 

28 February - Five years in the planning, 15 minutes discussion. Abbey Wood changed for ever

I only go to planning meetings if the application is of interest to me, selfish I suppose but there is no time to go to all of them. Despite my presence being a rarity the Chairman, Peter Reader, always goes out of his way to make me feel welcome. He’s always done it even in the bad old days when Bexley Council was playing all sorts of anti-democratic tricks.

The attraction for me last night was Peabody’s plan to build a ten storey tower accommodating 66 flats where the locally listed Harrow Inn public house stood until 2009. It was my nearest pub and I have only the vaguest recollection of going into it just once with a work mate in the late 1980s.

Peabody was talking about putting in their application as long ago as the summer of 2017 but they took their time and made sure that most local residents and businesses were broadly in favour.

They first exhibited their plans in March 2018 but they didn’t go down with residents as well as Peabody had hoped. In particular the building was too tall at 14 storeys. Peabody went back to the drawing board.

Nearly a year later they were back with four storeys lopped off the tower and most commentators approved. The Abbey Wood Traders’ Association is wholly in favour and looks forward to more retail space becoming available and is confident that one of the big names opening an ‘£xpressֹ’ style store will benefit the whole area which is badly in need of some sort of uplift.

Would the Councillors see things the same way?
Harrow Inn
Peabody TowerVice-Chairman Val Clark (Falcon Wood and Welling) was pleased to see an application that included affordable homes but was worried for the occupiers of flats that would look out on to the flyover at the same level. Unfortunately none of the available photographs and diagrams showed exactly which floor might be affected; the second looked most likely but the design would put them quite a long way back from the road behind the car park.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s and St. James) was less than enthusiastic about the development saying it was going to stand out like a sore thumb and said straight away that he didn’t like it. “It is rather too large and has a horrible overbearing impact on the area”.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) “echoed those concerns. It is positively over-powering and if I lived nearby I would feel completely swamped by its extent. It is oppressive in its bulk and its height”. She was also concerned about the health implications of a building with roads on all four sides. “They will never be able to open a window and Manorside Close will be completely swamped. I have enormous concerns about the height of the building and the living conditions.”

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) made similar comments.

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) thought the building looked “quite attractive and perfectly fitting for the area”. He had the foresight to see that the area needs a new look and building something in keeping with the run down Wilton Road is exactly what is not needed there.

Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst) thought the objections by residents had been “reasonably well” addressed by planning officers. He too recognised that “the area is changing. It is in keeping with the developments going on in that area and the height of it does not distract from village life It will be a very good addition to the area. It ticks all the boxes”.

Approval of the plan was proposed and seconded by Councillors Clark and Jackson. The number of objectors was probably two but not very clear from my seated position and not revealed by the webcast either.

Car parking will probably become an issue; the 66 flats (18 affordable) will be provided with only six spaces for disabled use only, all of them cabled up for electric car charging with only two bays fully equipped at the outset. Everyone but the disabled will be expected to find a space on the surrounding streets. The estimate is that only 15 flat occupants will own a car and Council officers said that sufficient spare spaces are available in the Gayton Road car park and on Abbey Road or further away beyond the CPZ boundary. With the likelihood of a CPZ extension after Crossrail services commence it would seem reasonable to assume that the aforesaid Council officers are a bunch of optimists.

 

27 February (Part 3) - Longer pub hours in Abbey Wood

It’s been the plan for a long time now but the Abbey Wood Village market is finally going monthly with the full support of the Abbey Arms which will open early on market days and show films. This time, March 7th, it will be non-stop Harry Potter.

The market organisers are very pleased with the support that has been given by both stall holders and visitors over the past 18 months and they rate it better than the markets in Welling and Hall Place. Their aim is to put Wilton Road back on the map after years of neglect.

As you will see from the leaflet below, the emphasis is switching from crafts to more and more food. It’s a very long time since Wilton Road saw a butcher and greengrocer, now it will have one every month.

Please support local traders, they have had quite enough of the Crossrail and Bexley Council inspired disruption in recent years.
Abbey Wood market Abbey Wood market

 

27 February (Part 2) - Zap Map App

Charging pointsBy chance I was browsing around a phone App called Zap Map last night to see if it included Bexley’s new electric car charging points. Zap Map aims to list every charging point in the country and sure enough Bexley’s new ones were there.

As they are all internet connected they can be interrogated to see if they are in use and if not when were they last used.

None I looked at had been in use over the past 24 hours and one had not been used in the last six days.

One was reported as being completely out of order.

The fee is £1·20 to make the connection after which the electricity used is free. That makes an hour’s stay not much more than charging at home on a standard rate which is not at all bad but obviously it would be best to stay connected longer. What are the parking restrictions, I have not seen a live one yet to be able to check?

Click image for Bexley Council’s announcement. Good to see that more are planned.

 

27 February (Part 1) - Council Tax. It’s up by 3·99%. Did anyone believe otherwise?

Once again I didn’t manage to be at a Council meeting in person but maybe the excuse is a better one than usual. A family funeral. I was driven to it by a cousin and she was in no hurry to get away.

The meeting had been called to rubber stamp a maximum possible Council Tax rise of 1·99% plus a 2% Adults’ Services Precept. Bexley has no chance of rising above it’s rather shameful 8th most expensive borough in London.

Finance Director Paul Thorogood began the formal proceedings with his report.

Most of it was a reference back to earlier reports so there were no surprises. A previous assumption had led to an imbalance of just over £2 million for the coming year which had to be addressed. “The 2021/2022 budget is currently forecast to have a significant deficit.”

Cabinet Member David Leaf (Resources), said the budget proposals had been in the public domain since last November; “residents and partners had engaged constructively”.

He went on to tell an amusing story about a Labour supporter he had met on a doorstep who liked everything that Bexley Council had done. Libraries, bins, potholes etc. and he hoped he had won her around to rethinking her local vote.

He thought a 4% Council Tax was entirely reasonable. Despite speaking for eight minutes there is nothing else of any note worth bringing to your attention.

ReadCabinet Member Philip Read was next to speak reeling off a list of claimed successes. “Better services at lower cost.” He again referred to the high cost of looking after “unaccompanied asylum seeking children with the cost falling on Bexley’s Council Tax paying residents”.

He said that his department (Children’s Services) had been “a significant element in this administration’s success and dealing with the reduction in funding”.

Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services Brad Smith said his budget for the past year was just over £57 million but he ended up spending nearer £58 million. The demand was hard to predict and the provision of suitable housing had slipped. The next three years commits £10 million into that housing project which will reduce out of borough support.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske (Places) referred to the “huge logistical exercise of delivering 160,000 new wheelie bins” and distribution is now complete. The only reference to next year’s budget was that the scheme should save £500,000 a year. Early indications were that the recycling rate will go up by 10% or more.

He laid the ground for future criticism of the opposition party by saying he could not believe that anyone would ever vote against the Conservatives’ budget proposals.

Cabinet Member John Fuller (Education) proudly mentioned the not inconsiderable achievement of providing two new schools. Cleeve Park later this year and another in Hawke Road which is the site of the old SEN school off Halt Robin Road, Belvedere.

The meeting ended with Cabinet Member Leaf criticising the Labour opposition for not coming forward with any proposals or suggestions over the past four months. A source of frustration he said while making the almost inevitable “back of a fag packet” comment. It took him only two minutes.

The written Agenda reveals that all the Council’s fees and charges, with the exception of selected car parking fees, are going up again.

 

26 February - Where’s a CEO when you need one?

Gayton Road Gayton Road Gayton RoadParking enforcement by Bexley Council in Abbey Wood is getting to be as poor as Greenwich’s has traditionally been. Locals are getting used to having cars parked all over the footpath and leaving five or ten minutes laterr but the BMW GY60 KYU shown here was there before eight o’clock this morning and still there after six this evening.

It is barely possible to walk between it and the wall and anyone with a buggy or similar has no option but to push it into the road.

Is this further evidence of Bexley Council neglecting the north of the borough?

An occasional evening patrol along Fendyke Road might prove to be quite lucrative too.

 

24 February - Weeding Bonkers

As time permits of I have been trawling through old blogs. I have been shocked by what Bexley Council used to get up to. For example hiring bouncers at a cost of £1,320 and getting 27 police officers to frisk elderly members of the public who wished to get into a Council meeting. Their excuse was that one of them might attempt to video proceedings. Pressure from residents has definitely dragged Bexley Council into the 21st century.

However the main reason for doing so was to check that all the outdated stories that BiB announced in March 2018 and June and July last year had actually gone. With more than 5,000 blog items and 96,000 internal links hunting down the remnants of outdated stories except by examining each one has proved to be impossible.

Several pages relating to departed Councillors and outdated stories have been discovered hiding in plain sight but hugely more cross references to those stories which are embedded in countless more blogs. Without rewriting the whole site it is impossible to get rid of them and to simply remove pages would result in too many Page not Found errors and a server log file large enough to bring the whole site down.

So in the main those pages and their old links must remain but any page that contains significant detail of Councillors’ ‘offences’ are replaced by a short explanation of why the item has gone. It might very well confuse new readers who follow those old links but it's all that can be done practically.

If anyone doesn't think that is good enough then I am always in listening mode.

 

22 February (Part 2) - Anonymous messages

I suppose it is reasonable to be suspicious of the anonymous messaging facility but it really is anonymous. Only the provided information comes through, nothing is collected or added by the web form or the transmission system.

If I could be bothered, and until today I haven’t, an old fashioned email client such as Microsoft’s Outlook can check the routing of an email. That cannot be suppressed. Outlook reports that the email below came from an email server called github whatever that may be. Beyond that I know nothing about the source. The same would be true if it included attachments.
Anonymous

22 February (Part 1) - What took them so long?

I was promised a tip off of the old Harrow Inn site redevelopment going before the Planning Committee but it didn’t happen, instead I was alerted to it by the 853 blog. It has been a long time coming for it is eleven years since the old pub was demolished. (Pictures from 2010.)

I first saw Peabody’s plans for the long derelict site in July 2017 when it was said that the planning application would be submitted in the following November, but it didn’t happen and a few months later the public made it very clear that they didn’t like Peabody’s proposals.

Peabody went back to the drawing board and came up with revised ideas which were exhibited in Abbey Wood in January 2019. Much better was the verdict and a whole year later Bexley Council is asked if it agrees. The plans will be approved next Thursday.
Harrow Inn

High resolution image. Expand to see full detail.

 

20 February (Part 2) - We told them so

Coming through Abbey Wood station at around six o’clock on the last two evenings I saw the surrounding roads gridlocked. From the Knee Hill roundabout to the station and back up Florence Road it was a sea of red lights and the occasional horn blast. The Florence Road traffic was going nowhere fast because it was blocked by the Abbey Road traffic which was in turn blocked by drivers unable to turn right into Wilton Road. It’s not a completely unknown phenomenon but two nights on the trot is unusual.

Probably it was due to people driving in from the Bexleyheath line while it is closed for nine days but it may be a foretaste of what will be an every day event once Crossrail becomes operational. Bexley Council has once again miscalculated the parking provision. There are just two authorised bays (four spaces) with a waiting time limited to five minutes. As Photo 1 below shows, it isn’t possible to get two cars into the bay nearest the station because of its poor design.

In December 2014 this situation was forecast on Bonkers and by The Murky Depths.

In the best traditions of Murphy's Law a special trip equipped with the camera this evening found traffic, bad though it might look, relatively light.
Gayton Road traffic congestion Gayton Road traffic congestion Gayton Road traffic congestion Gayton Road traffic congestion

Gayton Road traffic congestion Gayton Road traffic congestion Gayton Road traffic congestions Florence Road traffic congestion

 

20 February (Part 1) - Councillors on the case

No one seems to like the plans for the Foresters Arms and that includes the three ward Councillors. Below is Councillor Hall's comment under the News Shopper's report.
Leather Bottle

 

19 February (Part 2) - We have trees!

Gayton Road plan Gayton Road trees Gayton Road treesIt’s not quite the 16 plus we were promised (Photo 1) but yesterday Gayton Road was blessed with three new trees. They have been given no protection and with the adjacent parking bay being so difficult to get into it’s not going to be long before someone strips the bark from them.

Some better protected specimens have been planted in Felixstowe Road too.

Is it too much to expect that the 100 metre long Gayton Road will be completed only a year late? Probably, there is no sign of the stairs to the flyover being brought back into use.

Gayton Road trees Gayton Road trees Gayton Road trees Gayton Road trees

Will wonders never cease? Three new trees in Gayton Road!

 

19 February (Part 1) - Another Leather Bottle?

Leather BottleA reader suggested I take a look at the News Shopper and its report on the redevelopment plans for the car park at the Foresters Arms in East Wickham. An application to build four three bedroom houses on the site has been submitted by the Wellington Pub Company.

The reader also suggested I search Bexley Council’s planning portal for similar applications from the same developer. After going through several documents both The Drayman (planning permission granted in 2013) and Fanny on the Hill (2016) were linked with the Wellington Pub Company. There may be more.

So why might that be interesting?

Well in both cases Balmonza Ltd took over the sites and Balmonza is the company famed for its association with Ye Olde Leather Bottle and Lesnes Abbey Woods.

Is history about to repeat itself?

Note: Following the above publication another reader referred me to the White Hart in Erith which became the Potion Bar and notorious for the wrecking of a historic facade. Bexley Council’s planning portal again leads to the Wellington Pub Company and Balmonza’s associate company Dhadda, a link also noted by From The Murky Depths in October last year. One of my political sources doesn’t understand why “Bexley Council seems to embrace Mr. Singh”. Many of us share that same puzzlement.

 

18 February - Scrutinising Children’s and Adult’s Services

ChairmanThe 80 minute long Children’s and Adult’s Services Scrutiny meeting last Thursday did not provide anything particularly newsworthy. Maybe the most interesting bit was when Cabinet Member Read said that Bexley’s Social Workers are now so highly regarded that they are snapped up by other local authorities and once there, those that do not want to come back, are on the phone trying “to poach even more staff”.

 

17 February - Scrutinising Bexley’s Budget

ChairmanCouncillor Andy Dourmoush makes a good Committee Chairman and he is a caring Councillor too; but he asked me not to mention why I say that, so I won’t.

Last Tuesday he was in charge of looking over the budget due to go before the next Full Council meeting - that’s Council Tax setting - when Bexley will vie with others for being 25th highest taxing borough in London. He asked for ideas that would help the Council make better decisions.

Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect (Northumberland Heath) kicked off proceedings by asking three questions. The biggest expenditure in Children’s Services is staff costs and the budget doesn’t fully cover those costs because it assumes vacancies of 8%. “Shouldn’t the figure be brought down?”

One of the biggest costs within the Children’s Education Directorate is caused by those leaving care and going into temporary accommodation. “Shouldn’t there be more money in the budget?”

The schools grant deficit is £7·2 million this year. “What will it be in 2021?”

Finance officers said that there was always a vacancy factor in the Children’s Services budget. It is about £2·3 million and is absorbed and offset by other Children’s Services expenditure. To assume 0% would increase the budget by £2·3 million. The anticipated deficit in 2021 will be £11·2 million.

All the budgets are under constant review and there are discussions to see how the needs of care leavers can be met.

Cabinet Member Read said that housing pressures are increased by the number of “unaccompanied asylum seeking children who very often appear to be 17 or 18 and we have to take care of them. It makes it difficult”.

Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked about the cost of “pay awards to exceptional staff”. The figure was unavailable at the meeting. Undeterred, Councillor Munir asked about the use of pool cars that staff are encouraged to use and currently costing £500 per month. “How may cars should there be to make that [more?] effective?

The Human Resources Manager said the contract is flexible so can be changed at will, the car booking software determines the optimum number of cars.

Councillor Munir commented on the £400,000 expenditure on staff overtime. Which departments are responsible for it? Once again the information was not immediately available.

Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) said that “we are told an overtime review is being done. Possibly it would have been more helpful for it to have been done so that we could put meat on the bones of the [budget] proposal”. Ouch!

She was also concerned about consulting with staff and specially mentioned the use of pool cars instead of their own. She was told that the consultation documents were nearing completion and would go out soon.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green and Northend) queried whether the revamped Hall Place would open on its most recently revised date. Cabinet Member Craske was very hesitant as if he was far from sure but said the planning application wasn’t approved until November and the Environment Agency wasn’t entirely happy with “certain issues”. Stefano’s question went unanswered but I suspect it should have been a No.

Councillor Borella asked about moving more libraries to voluntary status and a further reduction in opening hours. Cabinet Member Craske said “there is a review going on at the moment and nothing has been decided”. Councillor Borella reminded Councillor Crake that Belvedere Library is now closed for an extra day as a result of cuts made last year. He went on to list a number of instances of deteriorating library services but was stopped in his tracks by the Chairman because he considered it not to be a budget issue.

Cabinet Member David Leaf was asked why or how “the consultancy spend was being reduced by 10%”. “It is a prudent figure as a starting point” is all he had to say. A figure clutched from the air.

Councillor Borella said that the Council was introducing three additional automated vehicle traps but Cabinet Member Craske was less than forthcoming as to their location. There are eleven such sites at the moment. Councillor Borella went on to ask if parking charges could be pollution level based to encourage greener motoring. Councillor Craske’s reply neatly avoided mentioning the word parking but he did look forward to having more electric charging points.

Councillor Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) said that there are recycling companies willing to sweep our streets for nothing to gather precious metals that fall from vehicles, catalytic converters and the like, but he cannot get any Council officer to show any interest.

The budget proposals include expenditure on infrastructure which is frequently mentioned on Bonkers…

Last year £2·6 million was spent on Harrow Manorway (another £2 million next year), £1·8 million around Abbey Wood station, £40,000 on the Abbey Wood Controlled Parking Zone, £50,000 on bus lanes, £96,000 on electric vehicle charging points, £662,000 on pot holes, £61,000 on additional cameras to catch motorists, £2·7 million on wheelie bins and - very topical right now - £200,00 on flood risk management.

 

16 February (Part 2) - That’s the way to do it!

Gareth Bacon is still a Councillor in Bexley and the GLA Member for both Bexley and Bromley. He is giving all that up in favour of Orpington where he was elected MP on December 12th.

It seems to me he has made a good start. A maiden speech about his constituency and not about himself.

Below is a small extract from an article he wrote for The Orpington Magazine, a glossy freebie which can be picked up in all the expected places in that town.

You can read all he has to tell his new constituents at www.orpington1st.co.uk.

When I find something similar from Bexley’s MPs the link will appear here too.
Gareth Bacon

 

16 February (Part 1) - The Metropolitan Police’s aversion to seeing justice done

Two months ago reference was made here to what family members were telling me about the skullduggery organised by the Metropolitan Police in their continuing effort to cover up the murder of Private Eye Daniel Morgan who was on the brink of exposing police involvement in burglary and drug running in SE London.

I felt unable to reveal all that I knew but it was presumably clear from what was written that I am firmly of the opinion that there is no way that Teresa May should have appointed the current Commissioner to her position. From earlier events she must have known exactly what sort of individual she was dealing with.

Today what I knew two months ago has entered the public domain via Byline Times. The police are preventing the only honest Daniel Morgan murder investigator they had from giving evidence to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel. Byline Times reports that they are doing so in collusion with the CPS by accusing him of a crime for which he has already been found to be innocent by the Met Police’s Professional Standards Directorate.

The Met’s propaganda machine is working well. They are fooling the Home Secretary and they have fooled the newspapers into reporting that the only honest officer involved is corrupt.
Byline Times
The one police officer who collaborated with Daniel Morgan on his enquiries was found dead six months after Daniel was killed.

Note: Daniel Morgan was the younger brother of my daughter’s long term partner.

 

15 February (Part 2) - BexleyCo or another BexleyCock-up?

After twice making a complete hash of developing Wilde Road - two rejections by the Planning Committee, BexleyCo appears to have thrown in the towel. Bexley Council is going to sell it off to see if there is anyone out there more competent than BexleyCo who can deprive existing residents of their green space and further congest the surrounding roads.
Wilde Road
Click the announcement extract above to see the original on Bexley’s website.

Note: All the old Wilde Road reports have been restored to Bonkers but they may be difficult to find.

 

15 February (Part 1) - Gayton Road. More Bexley Council stupidity

Gayton Road stairs Gayton Road The regeneration of the 100 metre long Gayton Road was scheduled for completion in February 2019 and has still not been completed.

Men were working on the stairs to the flyover yesterday or to be more precise there was a van parked where I stood to take Photo 1 this morning and they were carrying lengths of timber to a higher level, however there was no sign of any progress this morning.

Last Wednesday I was a little critical of someone who parked in the middle of the station stop off parking space and the lady driver who drove into the adjacent ‘flower bed’ and sunk into it nearly to her axle.

I take it all back. I used that space to stop and take these two photos. A Nissan Leaf was neatly tucked into the first available space - these electric cars get everywhere - and I went to reverse into the second space in front of the Leaf.

I couldn’t easily get into it because the kerb seen in Photo 2 juts out at 90° towards the road. Impossible to see while driving so I gave it a wide berth. I could get in if I blocked the Leaf into its position or pull right forward and risk being blocked in myself.

Once again proof that whoever designs Bexley’s roads really hasn’t got a clue.

There is no reason why the bay could not have been made just a few feet longer and the bay ends angled at 45° but that would have required intelligence and a desire to be helpful to motorists. As everyone who drives in Bexley both commodities are sadly lacking here.

 

14 February (Part 2) - Some people never give up!

Concrete blockWith many of the old news reports currently off line this image may need some explanation. It is a huge concrete block built without planning permission in a garden on Woolwich Road, Abbey Wood.

The developer who has been linked with many other sites around the borough got himself into quite a lot of trouble with Bexley Council. Undeterred by an order to take it away the developer is attempting to compromise with a new planning application. 19/02706/FUL.

There are various things afoot so I will refrain from further comment.

 

14 February (Part 1) - My Old Man’s A Striking Dustman

It’s Dust Bin Day for me, just a small bag of cellophane and similar after two weeks. Nothing else. I was going to say that the Dust Bin Men who collect in DA17 are as near perfect as anyone has any right to expect. One incident in 30 years when I was asked for money to take away the cardboard that had protected a new mattress, or maybe it was a bed. Far too long ago to remember.

Then just as I was mentally writing this piece on my way to the newsagent the refuse collector just in front of me in Abbey Road where it meets New Road lifted a blue lid (Paper and Card) and found a small bottle lying on top. Maybe a passer-by put it there on his way home from the pub last night. The Dust Bin Man simply picked it out and threw it into the road where fortunately it did not smash.

StrikeAnd why was I thinking of writing about Dust Bin Men on my way to pick up a newspaper? Because the demo at the Council Offices a couple of weeks ago, marred by someone who thought it amusing to disrupt the Cabinet Meeting, has developed towards planning a strike.

I wonder who will be singled out as being the worst Councillors? (See associated text.) Maybe I will be exempt from strike action as my Councillor is the Labour Leader in Bexley. If not it may be that me generating next to no rubbish will pay off, the strike is to be on Friday 13th March.

As usual a certain amount of the planning is being done via Social Media.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10103534643787680&id=36904471

I went on strike once. Just for an afternoon. I had become disenchanted with BT who were something like 18 months late paying a promised pay rise. So just for once I joined the strike along with most of the managing grades.

BT put out a press release to say the strike had been very poorly supported - which was a lie - and had little effect on the business - which may have been true.

However to cover up the lie BT did not dock anyone’s pay. To have done so might expose their lie. Are all big employers that crooked?

 

13 February - Wet excuses

I think we all know that the lower parts of Belvedere can be a pretty wet place, you only have to Google for the images of people rowing themselves around town in 1953 and 1968 to see for yourself. Network Rail found out the hard way when all their holes filled up with water while building Abbey Wood station, sometimes when it wasn’t even raining. Keep well away from the Asda car park too on wet days.

Network Rail solved their problem, or at least worked their way around it, by putting up a Tide Table in their offices.

The subject came to a head again during and after Storm Ciara last weekend. Floods everywhere especially along Abbey Road. Following up complaints on Twitter Bexley Council seemed to be surprised. Why I do not know, they have been told about them often enough.

On 31st August 2011 Wilhelmina Drayton wrote to me and after introducing herself continued as follows…


I am investigating flooding reports within the borough.

I have looked at flooding reports for Abbey Road, and we have very few of them, so I am interested in understanding more about where the nuisance water occurs, along with the frequency and severity of the issues. We are looking to build up a borough-wide picture of areas prone to flooding, so that with the limited funding available we can prioritise schemes in those areas most at risk.

I have added Abbey Road to my list of streets to visit when we have the next heavy rain, so that I can see the issues for myself, but if you have any information that you can share with me before that, it would be really helpful. The majority of the flooding reports we have for that road were made before 2005, and I believe that the road layout has altered since then, due to a narrowing scheme in 2009.

If you have any information you could share with us - particularly photographs, dates of flooding, or the extent of the water along the road, I’d really appreciate it. I can send you a paper copy of a map for the area for you to mark on where the ponding occurs if you wouldn’t mind doing this? If so, please let me have your address. I have included an image of the area if it would be easier for you to describe it instead.


The correspondence continued until November 2011 when Wilhelmina thanked me for various reports and said the Council had logged them, visited the flooding sites and had photographic evidence. She copied the correspondence to six Council officials. I know that Wilhelmina was still working at the Council recently and probably still is. She has probably been let down by her bosses because absolutely nothing has been done that addresses the flooding problems except that the Crossrail works appear to have solved the problem in Gayton Road which regularly made the station inaccessible.

Video sent to me by ֹ‘Konradc’. It gets better the further into it you get!

 

12 February (Part 5) - Loopy

There is a bug in the slimmed down Bonkers which sometimes sends the underlying support code into a loop creating a large error file which eventually brings the whole site down. It has to be watched and deleted frequently but that is not always possible - like when I am out all day. If things go off line completely for a while that will be the reason why.

At the weekend there will be some extensive backtracking and quite likely there will be no new blogs until then.

Maybe I should have retired the damned thing!

 

12 February (Part 4) - The police wrap up their report to Scrutiny

There were just a few more police related issues that might be worth a mention before the book is closed on the recent Scrutiny meeting


• Police response vehicles roaring out of Bexleyheath sirens blaring will very often be heading to Greenwich giving the impression to Bexley residents that there is more crime than there is.
• “People are heavily influenced by what they read and Social Media is a space that is very very difficult for us (Police) because of the immediacy of it and the lack of context provided.”
• “We must learn from the British Transport Police who after a fatality on the lines will often have the lines open and running again within a matter of hours. We (the police) will often have a crime scene open for three or four days. The result is that it increases the fear of crime because tape etc. is seen for much longer.”
• “Over half of knife crime is robbery but not all robbery involves a knife.”
• Response times are improved compared to last year. 82·4% (I have no idea what that figure means and no Councillor asked.) Cars are controlled from Lambeth and from there cars are mapped and optimum response times calculated.
• 300 officers are now dedicated to response in Bexleyheath twice as many as not long ago.
• There is a variety of gangs in the borough with different motivations and they are targeted with good success.

 

12 February (Part 3) - Does anyone know?

Bexley BypassMaybe you have wondered about that unnecessary roundabout at the northern exit of North Cray Road. When I moved to the area and that road had a 60 m.p.h. limit I looked forward to the planned Bexley Bypass. I suspect some were against, there was bound to be someone who would lose a house or garden or suffer noise pollution.

On the other hand a lot of village dwellers might have been delighted by the plans.

Then it all went quiet and I forgot about it, I expect most people did - but not everyone.


I wondered if you had an update on the Bexley By-Pass?

It was due for removal from the borough plan in January 2020 but I can get no one in Bexley Council to give me any info. Do you have a way to find out?


Ask Highways Department or a local Councillor I suppose. What are the chances of any of them sending an answer, via the Anonymous Contact if preferred?

 

12 February (Part 2) - Will they ever learn?

Restricted Parking Zone Restricted Parking Zone Parking bayI never cease to be amazed by the way motorists park, says I so cautious that I have never had a parking ticket in very nearly 60 years of driving.

In Wilton Road, in the bit nearest to Abbey Wood station, there is near constant pavement parking and yesterday someone had parked right in the middle of the dual five minute bay. (Photo 3.)

A lady squeezed in behind and reversed right into the space which may be reserved for a tree - around 20 were promised and if we are lucky we will get two - such that her back wheel sunk deeply into the soil and the kerb threatened to squash her catalytic converter.

I had my camera with me but thought it best not to risk creating a scene.

Abbey Wood drivers also appear to have no concept of the term Restricted Parking ZONE. They are still parking within it and where there are no road markings all day.

Very soon they will be making a massive contribution towards subsidising my Council Tax.

 

12 February (Part 1) - Electrifying news

ChargemasterLocal electric vehicle users have said on their Facebook Group that Bexley’s 13 charging posts are all now operational. If they are I have not seen a Press Release from Bexley Council.

At your domestic tariff these charging points will deliver about a poundsworth of electricity per hour, good for something between 15 and 30 miles depending on which car you have and how aggressively you drive it.

The chargepoints are part of the BPchargemaster network, it used to be called Polar until the BP takeover and the original name lingers on.

To use these new charge points you must sign up for a Polar Plus card which costs £7·85 a month after a three month free introductory period. Having got one, Bexley’s chargers are free to use. Not a bad deal if you have no charger at home, can’t easily go to Sainsbury’s or Lidl (totally free) and live within a very short walk of one of the 13 public charging posts.

If you satisfy those conditions and have only a short commute each day they may be useful however if for any reason they are already in use when you arrive there you may have to book a day’s leave.

 

11 February - The poshest cells in town

It is not only Councillor Diment who can be relied upon to ask a decent question at a Scrutiny meeting, we have Councillor Mable Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) too.

OgundayoShe picked up the point made by the Chief Superintendent that “the cells are moving from Plumstead back to Bexleyheath and I just wanted to know why that is and if they are up to standard because I thought I heard something about they are a bit older in Bexleyheath, so if that is the case why are we moving them?”

Another question was what does a 27% success rate on Stop and Search really mean and finally a question on Domestic Violence which according to the very latest statistics “it has increased again and the more dangerous, more at risk, Domestic Violence has gone up quite a steep amount. Why is that not going to be on your priority list next year?”.

The reasons for the cell transfer were many.

Of the three boroughs it was “Bexley which historically always had cell provision co-located with the officers who were based at Bexley. It closed a number of years ago due to a reduction in budget and there had been a reduction in arrests.”

Provision of custody facilities “has to be to a certain standard so Bexleyheath was shut a number of years ago and officers utilised the cell space at Plumstead alongside Greenwich based officers.”

With the move to BCU it was decided there should be two stations “providing the main response function”. The most efficient arrangement was Bexleyheath and Lewisham. The main users of cells are the response officers. Co-located cells saves a lot of prisoner collection time.

The cells needed refurbishment and had Health and Safety issues which is why their reintroduction has been delayed by about 18 months. “There has been significant investment and it will open around April time.”

27% success rate is simply that “the item being looked for was found. It also includes things like if you are looking for drugs and you find a knife” and other such variations on that theme.

“Domestic abuse features in the MOPAC priorities around tackling serious violence. It is one of the four key bits alongside child sex exploitation and serious violence. We are seeing an increase in domestic abuse and I am not going to stand here and say it is all down to additional reporting but I do like to think some of it is down to additional reporting and I will quote the statistic I often use here which is, and it is true, that it is not the first time that someone experiences domestic abuse that they report it to the police, it can be the thirtieth occasion before they contact the police, so more reporting hopefully means earlier reporting.”

Domestic abuse is one of our absolute priorities and we invest a huge amount of resources in safeguarding in order to arrest individuals wherever we can.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said a Strategy would soon be out for consultation “to get on top of the scourge of it”. Bexley Council employs a Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Manager.

 

10 February (Part 2) - Bonkers has been to Weight Watchers

A little bug showed up this afternoon which for a short while put Bonkers off line and is still not fixed (†), but basically the site is ready for further development as and when any Bexley news comes along.

Why did I bother? Well those 40,000 files and 100,000 hyperlinks were getting to be beyond practical management and the limited software tools I have were not up to fixing it, in fact occasionally they screwed things up further.

The home made code was getting into a right old muddle and there was lots that was simply a hangover from the distant past and was ripe for the chop. The routines that at one time put up little advert panels (no longer required) also grabbed the current date and used it for page titles. (Definitely required.)

The code that allowed users to change font size which was incompatible with use on Mobile devices was still there but disabled. So was the code that would wipe the banner image clear of text and icons for a clearer view. More recently the Facebook links were still there but not in use. It was a big haystack and there was no knowing what might be lurking there.

Not long ago I found a page that referred to a Cabinet Member who had reported me to the police for allegedly harassing his daughter. At the time I wasn’t even sure he had a daughter, I certainly didn’t know her name and she didn’t get a mention here but I had somehow harassed her. A report from a neighbour had pointed a finger in her direction, again without names so how could I know? The police climbed down after six months with me on tenterhooks but he left the Council last May so I removed references to that incident from the site.

Recently I discovered one page remained. I know how, I removed all the pages that were linked from an Index page. One had been missed off that Index page.

Manually hunting around I found a few other errors. The Menu is produced by a free utility. The code is not complicated but there is a lot of it. Sometimes I use the utility, at other times I merely tweak what it generated last time.

I found that because of that, a Menu item was coming and going. Or rather going and coming. It went when I tweaked the code and came back when I auto-ran the utility. Maybe not the biggest of problems, it would have given a Page not Found error.

A few folders which I felt might be useful one day were password protected and the links removed. A utility I used rarely and which is supposed to clean up the site managed to put some of it back. A page devoted to the worst of Cabinet Member Craske’s excesses came back while I was convinced his reputation had been protected.

How could one trace any more among 40,000 pages? Reading them all would take a month of Sundays. I hit on a quicker way. Take them all off line. For a while I considered leaving things that way but enough messages came in to encourage otherwise. “I see you as a sort of Public Service Broadcaster”. And from a Councillor, “I use it for checking back on old things, better sometimes than the Council’s website.”

Hence the decision to continue but with very much slimmed down code and a whole load of pages disappeared completely instead of just being hidden and the danger that someone would remember where they were.

Council LeaderDo we really want to know about the Chief Executive who engineered a £300,000 sickness pay off, a £50,000 pension which we are still paying and who promptly got himself a similar job elsewhere? Similarly the Council Leader who enjoyed his Council provided credit card rather too much.

Is anyone other than me interested in an archive of old Home pages going back ten years? What about the page that displayed all the various banner images as a list and with the press of a button allowed the overlaid text to change colour? I bet no one but me knew it was there.

Does anyone care any more which Mayor wrote to a member of the public to reprimand him for not clapping her loudly enough?

The old Blogs, now renamed Comment which may allow more off-topic material, will gradually return. The very oldest already have. There is nothing controversial in them because I didn’t go to a Council meetings until the end of 2010. Then they accused me of Harassment for “criticising Councillors”. Probably that one will come back as will all the meeting reports.

Old blogs are now going into a new folder named comms - just to be both different, short and alphabetically more or less unchanged.

I had thought I would leave it that way to break old Google links but a switch has been introduced just in case. Currently links to folder /comms/ reroute to /comms/ but that is easily switched off. Auto update of pages is also turned off at the moment which is a bit of a pain but it was that sort of thing that led to the muddle in the first place

Normal service or something near it has resumed on Bonkers.

† Fixed a few hours after writing the above. A simple typo in the code.

   

10 February (Part 1) - Police question time

There was a Scrutiny meeting last Wednesday which provides an opportunity for Councillors to ask difficult questions, although sometimes they appear to be somewhat superficial and non-answers are happily accepted. This time however one or two of them rose to the occasion and made the Chief Superintendent earn his keep.

DimentCabinet Member Alex Sawyer made his dissatisfaction with the current BCU model (three boroughs in one) very clear adding that “the public may not see the problems day to day but Bexley and many London boroughs Councils have significant issues. We are very aware of them. I do not believe the BCU model works for Bexley. We have gone from the safest borough to the seventh safest borough, to the sixth and to the fifth safest borough. I simply don’t think it works”.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) said that detection rates for burglary, robbery and violence were all very low, “single figure percentages”, leading to miscreants thinking they can always get away with it. “The numbers do not look impressive, are they typical, how does Bexley relate to other areas?”

The Chief Superintendent said he shared those concerns. He said that “victim cooperation” and follow through “drops off a cliff edge after a time and it is a really difficult area. They fear how they will be treated by the criminal justice system”.

IT evidence creates a lot of difficulty too because of the amount of data to be seized, analysed and disclosed. Home CCTV is often not good enough. OK for corroboration perhaps but not to charge.

None of this comes as a surprise to me, the police have spent 20 years alienating law abiding members of the public and now they are reaping the reward. For me it all started around 30 years ago when a lady stationary in a traffic jam on the M3 was charged for eating a Kit Kat bar. Now arresting the victim has almost become the norm.

The CPS is also less willing to charge than it was because of limited resources.

“The majority of vehicle crime does not actually get any police attendance.” No witnesses plus no forensics equals “very unlikely to detect that offence. It is a national phenomenon”.

If robberies are not reported immediately, “the chances of detection drop away”. It is true “that arrests rates have dropped. They are the reasons why detection rates are dropping. Demand exceeds capacity.”

 

9 February - Bonkers update. A running commentary

Bonkers is undergoing a transformation today, much of it under the surface. I know a very small number of readers like to know what is going on and it is quite useful to keep notes for myself; so here they are.

Phase 1
For a long time I have disliked the terms Blog, it sounds far too twenty noughties to me and it is being changed to Comment. Folders that were labelled ‘blogs’ have been renamed ‘comment’. It is a name that conveniently sits in the same alphabetic position as blogs so I won’t have to scroll down a long list every time a new one is written as would be the case if it had been renamed ‘notes’ or something even further down the alphabet.

The change will break all search engine references and possibly your own preferred link if you are reaching Bonkers via an unusual route.

Placing blogs - old habits die hard - on the front Index page of the site will mean that the .info and .com domains can be ceased which will save a decent chunk of money.

Readable text will be changed from ‘Blogs’ to ‘Comment’ or ‘Comment and News’ in some places.

The first snag was hit when my file transfer program baulked at the idea of uploading tens of thousands of revised files in one go so they have been going up piecemeal. The 2020 URLs to blogs - here I go again - should already be displaying /comms/ rather than /comms/.

For the time being both are on-line but if you find yourself in /comms/ it may be that you need to clear the browser cache.

Phase 2
The automated processes which Index old comment (was blogs) require at least one entry per month if site failure is to be avoided. The Index back to 2009 will shortly reappear above each comment and will arbitrarily only include old comments dated 1st of each month.

There is currently corruption of displayed dates on some Index pages the cause of which is proving to be elusive.

The Menu on the Contact page will remain hopelessly out of date until the transformation is completed. Meanwhile use Menu>Home to navigate away from it.

Phase 3
The various support files named 'blog' will be deleted. They are getting in the way of tracking down bugs.

A small number of old comment/news items have been restored to allow various Index pages to be tested.

Phase 4
The shell into which old comment files may be dropped is completed so in theory restoration of those not totally out of date can begin.

An idea for further code simplification will put the site out of reach or at least error prone for a short while. The new folder ‘comment’ has been abbreviated to ‘commsְ’. It will save a lot of typing over time but more importantly it is the same length as the word blogs so various arithmetical process will not need to be changed.

This news item will be updated as things progress.

Phase 5
The technical basics should be completed now. I have not managed to break the site for the past hour or two. Very few of the daily comments from the past remain, just enough to keep things functional.

A great deal of the historical stuff will reappear,

 

8 February (Part 6) - All change at Bonkers

Tomorrow should see some far reaching changes to this website, a rebirth to rid it of the mistakes that have gradually accumulated over ten years.

A few tests have indicated that one of the biggest changes for me as coder should not be as traumatic as I’d expected but there are usually unforeseen consequences. If you find Bonkers off air tomorrow you will hopefully understand why.

What the reader sees will eventually not be very different to what has gone before - but with fewer errors.

Already I am pleased to see that the number of entry points has been reduced to one and what used to be called Blogs now come up on the front page without further navigation. Some of the changes will deliberately invalidate old and unwanted search engine references. They will gradually build up again and any that may have gone wrong over the years will have been eliminated.

 

8 February (Part 5) - Not so Smart Motorways

Every couple of weeks I meet up with some mates so that we can put the world to rights. Just recently the subject of Smart Motorways has been high on their list of concerns.

I don’t like them, the Motorways that is not the mates, nobody seems to like them. Why would they when 38 people have been killed while broken down on what used to be the hard shoulder?

Smart MotorwayThe government is being blamed and rightly so for extending the gap between refuge points from 500 metres to 2,500 metres. That’s more than a mile and a half.

More refuges will help but it is not the complete answer, people will still break down in between.

I have a friend who lives in Norfolk where roads are wide and straight and largely empty by local standards. His electric car is identical to mine and he tested hitting the ‘emergency’ Neutral button at 70 m.p.h. and free wheeled for two whole miles but that won’t work for a tyre blow out and not everyone will remember the Neutral button. I tested mine once and it has remained untouched ever since.

I have seen suggestions that the old hard shoulder lane should be permanently limited to 50 m.p.h. which is a two-edged sword. You might be banged up the rear end at a lower speed but your rolling distance would be a lot less. It might force faster lorries into Lane 2 which may possibly be a good idea

There is a petition against the whole idea of Smart Motorways but I have not signed it so I might not be very popular with the aforesaid mates. (I never sign any petitions; it’s a good way of having your email address sold on.)

It’s the unthinking speed restrictions that annoy me. I had a towed caravan in front of me a few weeks ago which was weaving around all over the place at around 65 m.p.h. I decided to get by in a hurry and as I drew ahead spotted a camera gantry a few yards on. I glanced at the speedo, 76, and instinctively jumped on the brake.

Smart MotorwayThere was probably no need as I suspect I was doing no more than 73 and less when I got within camera range, but the sudden slow down could have caused an accident. I doubt the Highways Agency cares, it’s the revenue that counts.

I asked a road safety expert for an opinion.

Whilst the 38 deaths were not in dispute the other statistics you may have read about in your newspaper were likely all made up because the Highways Agency appears not to have the requisite columns on their spreadsheet. They don’t even know when the restrictions are in place and when they are not making accident statistics difficult to analyse. The suspicion is that what statistics there are have come from nothing better than an opinion poll among staff.

I doubt we will see the end of Smart Motorways although I would like to see more refuges. The best way of achieving that is for all breakdown services to refuse to attend breakdowns on an unprotected running lane. I believe the AA has already done so.

Meanwhile it remains a fact that Motorways are the safest roads and restricted speeds and hard shoulders as running lanes has only resulted in motorists being killed in different ways - but fewer of them overall.

Refuge intervals need addressing but as usual, he who shouts loudest grabs the attention of the authorities.

 

8 February (Part 4) - Gareth Going Great Guns!

Below is Bexley Councillor Gareth Bacon making his fine maiden speech to Parliament. Gareth is moving on from being our representative at the GLA, a position that will shortly lapse, to being Conservative MP for Orpington.

I think he did a good job of holding Sadiq Khan to account in City Hall and I suspect it won’t be long before his talents are noticed in Westminster.

There will be a by-election in Longlands ward timed to coincide with the GLA elections in order to keep the costs down.

 

8 February (Part 3) - Turning over a new leaf?

It used to be the case that Bexley Conservatives’ blogs provided a rich seam of half truths and deceptions which were fun to analyse and occasionally ridicule but in recent times they have been far more honest.

Today's is a case in point. It talks of parks and trees, recycling, litter picking, LED lighting and electric vehicle charging. In other words all things Green.

It goes on to cover the allegedly improved road schemes said to have reduced congestion and improved air quality.

One could pick holes in it. The LED lighting is by their own admission dimmer than the old Sodium Vapour. I have received reports to the effect that additional trees are the result of selective statistics and the road ‘improvements’ are not to everyone’s taste.

In my experience the two new roundabouts on Gravel Hill have reduced congestion. The occasional long queues have gone and red light jumpers have been thwarted.

Instead we have congestion every time a pedestrian crosses any of four roads. However the resultant gridlock means the dangerous situations that arise are at very low speed which in turn might lead to fewer and less serious accidents.

The pedestrian crossings are indisputably in damned fool positions but I have been seeing the same thing introduced in Greenwich so it is likely the latest TfL fad.

But the fact remains, we are beginning to see a more honest Bexley Council. It is no longer easy to pick holes in their propaganda and that can only be a good thing.

 

8 February (Part 2) - Are we done yet? Not quite

In October last year Bexley Council announced that the road works that have been in progress around Abbey Wood station since March 2017 would be completed by Christmas with just the odd bit of tidying up to be done in the New Year.

They were almost right; there were only a couple of carriageway pinch points left after December but photographs show that nothing much has been improved since then. Not in Harrow Manorway anyway.

Gayton Road is a lot less cluttered with building materials and work recently restarted on Felixstowe Road. Presumably the negotiations with land owners blamed for the delay fewer than three weeks ago have been resolved. Even on its revised schedule Felixstowe Road is running five months late and 19 months late on the original estimate.

Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Gayton RoadAround the station parking is severely restricted by ever more draconian rules; maybe they are needed given the behaviour of some motorists.

In Photo 3 the dark area to the right is provided for station pick ups. There is another out of sight on the left.

Five minutes maximum waiting time is not enough given that trains are very often late but the restriction is not likely to be strictly enforced and drivers should stay with their vehicles.

It is an OK sort of compromise given the demand for parking space and the lack of it nearby.

However there is no end to the laziness of motorists, they have to park as close as possible to the station. Can’t have someone walking a few yards more than absolutely necessary can we?

I have so far only seen one parking ticket issued for pavement parking where shown in Photo 3.

There is a better solution for the terminally lazy. Park in the bay provided and get the passenger to use the station lift. Even less effort and it empties straight into a correctly parked car.

 

8 February (Part 1) - Good cop, bad cop

At last week’s Communities Scrutiny Committee meeting in Bexley Chairman Councillor Alan Downing asked the police to report on the local crime scene, particularly violent crime and knife crime. As is increasingly the case I watched from home and the webcast was reasonably well behaved. The police Chief Superintendent however didn’t think much of the audio quality and twice complained about it, but he was clearly heard at home.

PoliceHe began by talking about gun crime in Bexley (the other two boroughs he covers were excluded). Lethal Barrel Discharges he called them. There were four last year and nine the year before. In additional there were 18 non-lethal discharges, twice as many as in the year before. Despite the surprising - to me - high numbers it was said to be “not a prominent issue on the borough”.

Knife crime involving injury is fourth lowest in London, Sutton, Kingston and Richmond being better. “More than 50% of robberies involve the use of a knife but not all knife crime is robbery.” Some of it is burglary.

Victims of knife crime fall mainly into the 18 to 24 age group and when older people are involved it is often domestic violence “but the picture is fairly well weighted toward younger cohorts”.

Last year there were 22 knife injuries among the under 25s, once again 4th lowest in London and the year before the figure was slightly higher at 25.

Of the known violent gang members 16 are currently in custody and 67 are “under some sort of control measure, the highest in London. Richmond has only two”.

Robbery is a problem. “The other day we arrested three young offenders, all juveniles, and 19 similar offences are being connected to them.” [The Broadway Asda phone robbers perhaps?] None of the three were previously known to the police. They have been released on bail.

The number of officers tackling serious violence has been increased this year, about 100 across London and eight in Bexley. Additionally a Sergeant and six PCs will be doing more visible open spaces and transport hubs patrols. They have apprehended a good number of wanted offenders already and just a day or two ago four more who had been prolific with robberies across all the nearby boroughs were arrested. Once again, all juveniles and the new police team recovered property.

Very soon there will be a ‘Violence Suppression Unit’ doing weapon sweeps, more stop and search, home visits and proactively moving into where offenders are known to congregate. Broadway again! Very often the officers will be ‘plain clothes’.

Several operations are underway right now which are expected to have a beneficial effect on violence. Such operations have already seen a reduced number of burglaries compared to this time last year. About 22% lower.

Bexley has been a hot spot for ‘Family Gold Burglaries’ which is a national problem but a lot of effort is being focused on Bexley to combat it.

Of the 4,000 plus stop and searches last year, 60% were for drugs, 14% stolen goods, 12% for weapons and 8% “for going equipped”. A 27% positive outcome, higher than the Met. average.

There was only one Section 60 order imposed on Bexley last year.

The custody suite currently located in Plumstead will move to Bexleyheath in April.

The Chief Superintendent, who was probably Simon Dobinson but his name was never mentioned, came across as a man on top of his brief which is as you will recognise is high praise coming from me. But I am as you know influenced by events in Bexley over the past ten years and not many of us have had a, somewhat distant, family member murdered by the police for doing what in some ways is not very different to what I have done on Bonkers over the past yen years.

I very much hope I am never placed in a position whereby I am asked to help the police, even make a crime report, as I fear I would be inclined not to.

Last week was my daughter’s 50th birthday and a family gathering provided an opportunity to get an update on the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel set up by Theresa May as Home Secretary about eight years ago. I learned that some years behind schedule their report on a series of Metropolitan Police cover-ups of Daniel’s murder is pretty much done but it cannot be published due to trickery in high places.

Every time I hear a high ranking Conservative Minister spout out on the radio what an exemplary police officer we have in charge of the Metropolitan Police the aforesaid radio is in grave danger of coming in contact with a high velocity house brick.

 

7 February - A frosty response

Venturing into the subject of electric cars is always guaranteed to provoke more feedback than a Cabinet meeting and yesterday was no exception.

From petrol heads to greenies readers had something to say. I am neither of those things and if someone’s life ambition is to drive on diesel until the last oil well dries up that is their business, I almost said “it’s a free country” like kids would say defiantly 70 years ago, but of course it isn’t free anymore.

I was told that only a chump would buy into first generation electric cars to which I might reply, mine is at least second generation and at the end of one’s eighth decade on this earth there is not a huge incentive to wait for the next big thing. Blow the lot, you can’t take it with you!

FrostBut I missed another advantage of driving electric. We all woke up this morning to a heavy frost and on my early walk along Abbey Road and return via Fendyke Road there were people out with scrapers.

Boxing Day 2018 in darkest Hampshire I found my car heavily frosted. The heater switch was flicked and just over a minute later every window was clear. No scraping, no waiting for the engine to warm up, just summon the power of 20 three bar electric fires. I wasn’t the only one.

It’s both an advantage and a disadvantage. Combustion engines waste oodles of heat all the time while electric ones require extra power to generate heat. From a heat pump on all but the cheapest cars so pretty efficient but either way it is a small additional cost which will reduce range somewhat.

Best of all you can use a phone app to begin to heat an electric car while having your breakfast. No need to go out in the cold to start the engine and risk attracting a thief.

Yesterday I met an old friend in Bexleyheath and afterwards we needed to get to Bexley Village where she lives. “Shall we walk” she said brightly and the very long way around too. Along Townley Road and Bridgen/Parkhill Roads. I soon learned why I had been invited. It was to carry her shopping and buy a coffee in the village.

Fortunately another friend offered to drive me home in his year old Vauxhall rather than get a 229 and maybe swap to a 301 at the Clock Tower. He went the long way around too, Blackfen, Welling, Plumstead all to avoid the Mayplace Road gridlock.

It reminded me of why I wouldn’t ever go back to petrol. He drove it perfectly well but all that noise and farting about with power interrupting gear changes every few minutes made for a far less smooth ride. No thank you. At least I wasnֹ’t a pedestrian soaking up his exhaust fumes.

 

6 February (Part 2) - Is your garden safe from the London Mayor?

He wants to build on back gardens and he wants to ensure you have no practical way of running a car.

 

6 February (Part 1) - Another thing that’s Bonkers

You can’t say you weren’t warned, I am going to go off on one about the Government’s new policy on electric cars.

I love mine, no way would I want to drive anything else. I love the way it sails along with just a murmur from the tyres and the joy of having continuous power on tap instantly with no messing around with gears, manual or auto. All of it there from a standstill with no revving of an engine. I like it being an anonymous SUV which does not stand out in the crowd as would a Tesla. I do not regret emptying the piggy bank for it 18 months ago, not one bit.

Yesterday I picked up my Daily Telegraph and found the front page, a handful of inside pages and the Business Section (one Tesla Share is now priced at £5,400!) devoted to the Government’s decision to ban the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035. I think they may have gone off their collective rockers.

It’s true that I don’t like hybrids and several European countries (both in and outside of the EU) have banned Toyota’s outrageous advertisements. No hybrid car qualifies for the Government subsidy - which will likely go at the next budget - because none meet the minimum electric distance requirement. It is 70 miles.

I know of a rural doctor who drives a hybrid just a few miles around his surgery each day and charges it mainly from his solar panels. His driving needs are met by a plug-in hybrid but most are not. How often have you been on a hybrid bus which pulls away from the stop silently and heard the engine cut in seconds later? What is the point of lugging around a heavy battery and motor that is not used for most of the time? Statistics show the majority of plug-in hybrids are never charged

The Government is probably right to say fully battery powered vehicles (BEV) is the way forward, but by 2035? Cloud Cuckoo Land most likely.

In Norway more than 50% of new car purchases are already fully electric. Look at what the Norwegian Government did to achieve that and then look closer to home and you will find the exact opposite.

When I bought my BEV there were not many to choose from. The choice is not much better now. Mine came with a large battery. In good conditions I have done 320 miles on a single charge although belt it down the motorway into a ferocious head wind as I did last weekend and see that knocked down to not much over 250. In practice less because no one wants to empty the battery completely.

Newer cheaper cars don’t get near to that. I have a 400 mile return trip to do soon and I am planning where best to stop to charge just once. Not much fun in a car with much lower range which has to stop three times. Will the average non-enthusiast want the hassle?

On the other hand the fastest systems being rolled out in the USA will pump in 250 miles of electric range in 15 minutes which is much more attractive.

There are at the moment plenty of chargers overall although there are too many localities where they are few and far between and the Motorway Services are very poorly equipped, Tesla specific units excepted. 2010 technology by Ecotricity which doesn’t always work and not at all on some makes of cars.
Charging Hub National GridWhat is needed is not just the one or two units that might be found on or near a Motorway, we need what is being called a Charging Hub. Apart from Tesla specific units there is barely a handful of them in the country. Milton Keynes, Dundee, recently Stratford and that’s about it.

Contrast this one soon to open in Braintree, Essex with Bexley’s pathetic efforts.

If units like that do not start springing up everywhere very soon there will be problems from the growing band of BEV drivers. It is perhaps fortunate that the number is growing very slowly although it was three times greater in January 2020 than in January 2019.

Old school car manufacturers can make a fat profit from their tried and tested technology and not much if anything from electric vehicles. They won’t be encouraging BEV sales when they have traditional motor cars sitting on their forecourts and a shortage of BEVs. The waiting list has been frequently best part of a year although some might be nearer three months. Mine made in South Korea is now also being manufactured in Czechoslovakia to better meet demand.

Where will the electricity come from the sceptics ask? Renewables mainly, the grid is already heading in that direction. The engineers at National Grid don’t think there will be a problem - see Tweet. Others say the batteries will fail and present a recycling problem. They are all being recycled now and they last a lot longer than the sceptics tell you. Some BEVs have driven over one million miles on the original batteries and who is silly enough to think we will be using Lithium for ever? There are lots of alternatives in development.

I think we will see Smart Meters playing a part, there are already trials - which I opted out of - that allows household car chargers to be throttled back or closed down remotely if there is a supply problem. That will be popular I am sure if you need your car to get to work in the morning!

In my opinion there is a huge infrastructure and sceptics problem to be overcome and it probably can be overcome eventually but will the car manufacturers and the public be willingly going along with it? BEVs do not at the moment suit every driving requirement and are of course far too expensive to buy.

The running costs can be low but already one European charging company has hiked the price up to 80 Euros (69 pence) a unit of electricity. It throws the whole financial model for BEVs into disarray. At that price it is cheaper to buy a diesel if you can get hold of one. They are soon going to be very cheap.

And how long will it be before the Government finds an objectionable way to replace fuel duty? Isn’t that the reason the French started rioting more than a year ago?

I won’t be too unhappy if no one buys one, I can have another few years of driving around in silence feeling superior to everyone else.

 

5 February (Part 2) - A little less Bonkers

A little bit of progress since the earlier blog.

The Quick Link icons are restored to the banner area. I think I will lay off the overlaid image and use it only for special events, Remembrance Day etc.

The first attempt to make the Index page at www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk go straight to the blogs failed miserably and put the whole site off line for a few minutes but a different and in fact much simpler approach did the trick. No more Intro page, no more Home page, it goes straight to the most recent blog. Why didn’t I think of that before?

There are of course always unforeseen consequences, in this case the Home item on the menu becomes redundant. I think the Quick Link Today icon is present on every page apart from Today itself and the awkward Contact Form and Today is much more easily accessible. However for practical reasons Home will remain for a bit longer.

Incidentally the RSS icon is there mainly for my benefit. Practically all modern browsers Chrome included, do not support it without a plug-in. I sometimes wish Internet Explorer was still around, it could play so many more useful tricks. Pity about the alleged lack of security.

Right! Off to do something more useful!

 

5 February (Part 1) - It’s Bonkers

Readers who looked at the website yesterday and found it gone deserve an explanation of what is going on, or at least a partial one.

Bonkers is ten years old and has grown far too big. Even though redundant pages have been progressively weeded out there are close to 40,000 files and very nearly 100,000 hyperlinks, It may be a conservative estimate because the Menu is a separate entity and the file counter excludes pages linked only from the Menu.

On top of that there are 30,000 images and that is after deleting a great chunk of them last year and again recently.

The site is hand coded, no Wordpress or anything like that so the housekeeping tools are primitive. I can no longer keep on top of it and it is time to start again.

I might also add that with increasing age and having lost my original team of helpers I frequently lack the energy and enthusiasm to follow up leads and attend meetings. (Nearly 77 and generally flu ridden in case you are wondering.)

For the future Bonkers probably will not die completely but I expect Council meetings will more often be reported from the Webcast - when it works properly - rather than driving to the Civic Offices and very occasionally running the gauntlet of people I would rather not. In the streets, not in the Civic Centre I hasten to add.

I also genuinely feel that Bexley Council has improved immeasurably, there are things I don’t like but it must be five years since a Councillor or Senior Officer became involved in something which was criminal and caused the police to investigate and refer cases to the CPS.

Readers like scandal and while that was going on I could count on more than 10,000 unique visits per month to the site from Bexley people and far far more individual repeat visits. With nothing very special going on those numbers are well down, 5,000 unique visits would be a good score in 2020. One wonders whether it is worth the effort but I do get a huge amount of encouragement to continue from the loyal few.

One thing that surprises me is that when I indulge in wildly off topic subjects and perhaps rant about something or other the number of visitors goes up so I may do more of that sort of thing when Bexley news is thin on the ground.

You will have probably noticed that the Menu is now much smaller than before. Every page sources its Menu from the same file so they are all identical except for the Contact form pages which are compiled from a commercial package which is not fully compatible with the main Menu system. It is a pain to construct separately and it will not be updated in line with the gradually expanding Main menu until the latter becomes stable.

The banner icons which allowed quick access to blogs, Today, Month and the rather obscure Any Day will be restored as soon as possible but until then the Menu is the main navigation point

As you should notice - well you are here! - the 2020 blogs are restored but any references back to previous years will fail because those earlier blogs are not on line at all, not even in some hidden form. If I ever find the time the backward references will gradually be restored. but there are more than 5,000 to trawl through. Council meeting reports will probably be the priority but many older blogs may never be seen again.

Finally because Bonkers was never designed to be a blog the main entry pages do not directly access the blog pages. The tail wagged the dog of the original plan and it has always annoyed me. I am not sure how yet but the plan is that www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk will display the latest blog page immediately. For a long time www.bexley-is-bonkers.com always has but almost no one uses it and it costs quite a lot of money to maintain!

So there it is. Thank you for your patience and I hope the occasional visit to Bonkers will continue to be rewarding.

 

1 February - Bins, Bulb and Bollox - again

We may now be on the way to being a sovereign country but blogs must continue, especially on the 1st of the month when an absence causes technical problems - even on days when there is little material and no time. So just a quick one, a catch up on a couple of things that have been neglected.

Bulb
BulbMy friend’s Bulb complaint never was resolved properly. Bulb had removed his Economy 7 meter without permission, indeed they eventually conceded it was a mistake but their remedy was to formalise the situation. They changed their website so that it no longer requested Economy 7 meter readings.

They seemed bemused by my complaint that that was not a satisfactory solution but they never fixed it. No reply, no emails; nothing!

The complaint was resolved only because I recalculated all of my friend’s bills for 2019 under the current Standard and Economy 7 tariffs and found they were always the same within a few pennies, so we did no more about it and Bulb has obviously forgotten about us. I can only conclude that Bulb’s Customer Service is abysmal when things go seriously wrong.


Danny Hackett
DannyYou may recall that the Independent Councillor for Thamesmead East was on the receiving end of a formal complaint to Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee from his former Labour colleagues who were miffed that he could no longer tolerate being a member of their party. There was a long report on his hearing on Bonkers back in September.

Danny was promised a ruling within two weeks on his reaction to the most appalling Labour inspired baiting. He had replied to it with ‘Bollox’. Three times if you are intent on pedantry.

It is the longest two weeks ever. Not a sausage from any quarter. A pity because I am sure some interesting background correspondence would have come to light if the verdict was Not Guilty.


Bins
A regular correspondent told me that he ordered both his green and white lidded waste bins in the smallest 180 litre size as I did myself. (They are still a damned nuisance and I continue to think about what to do with them.)

My correspondent however was not as lucky as me, his plastic/glass bin was delivered in the large size. He spotted it immediately but the delivery men were unable to do anything about it.

The Council’s Contact Centre told him it might take three months to correct the mistake (re-order in March and anticipated delivery up to two months later) and it mustn’t be used because if there was anything in it it couldn’t be taken away. He was told to store all his glass and plastic “somewhere else”.

Not exactly helpful.

My resourceful reader was not happy with that and took his bin down to Foot’s Cray where the bins are stored. It was confirmed that he had been given the wrong one, the giveaway was the sticker with his address on it and marked 180 litre, the small one he had ordered.

A helpful Bexley Council employee fetched the right size bin, swapped the label and wheeled it to one very grateful Bexley resident’s car.

 

News and Comment February 2020

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