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Bonkers Blog August 2011

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31 August - The month of the Craske - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Townley Road - no parking!There’s no doubt about who has been August’s little Ray of Sunshine, it’s the unappealing councillor Craske. Gaining fewer than 2% of the borough’s votes in 2010, he has laboured valiantly to overcome his lowly beginnings to achieve 55 mentions here in the past 30 days and impact the lives of nearly every Bexley resident and some beyond its borders. 3,000 plus people are now paying three times the election date price to have their car occupy a few square feet of road outside their homes - much the same level of tax as it costs to drive it anywhere in the country. As we saw at the beginning of the month the increase was ‘justified’ with figures which were totally false. Not a single one could be substantiated when the council’s accounts were examined and the staff questioned. One man in the accounts department said when the figures were being examined “you are questioning my integrity aren’t you” and the honest answer was of course “yes”. If you find that all the figures have been made up to suit Craske’s revenue raising exercise you know that integrity has flown out of the window.

Councillor Craske has raised parking charges to the point they are between 25 and 100% more expensive than in the nearest comparable shopping centres, so whatever possessed him to put his name to a publicity stunt that claimed Bexley has the lowest parking charges in South East London? It is so very easily disproved. Adolph Hitler‘s propaganda minister Goebbels is credited with first saying “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. First Goebbels and now the Bexley gerbil. I just don’t understand the constant need to lie exhibited by too many Bexley councillors. Political spinning I can understand but what Bexley does is not clever. Have they achieved nothing that can’t be sold without lying?

Craske’s arrogantly imposed ‘Pay and Phone’ parking scheme doesn’t seem to be going down too well either. The majority against it is 9:1 in a mini-poll conducted by The News Shopper and a resident of Townley Road who has been keeping his eye on things for me said he has yet to see more than two cars parked there, when previously it was often packed. The photograph of Townley Road was taken at 13:23 this afternoon, I didn’t have to wait to get it, there was no one parked there and I left a minute later. Except where interrupted by residents’ drives the whole road is equipped for Pay and Phone parking.

Another reader responding to Craske getting into bed with Gary Wayne’s Pay by Phone company, BemroseBoothMobile, tells me it is not just the Daily Mail that has taken him apart for dubious business practices, The Times has done its bit too.

Bexley council’s constant need to cover its tracks has attracted the attention of the Information Commissioner. He has within the last day or two and had some interesting things to say. One is that Bexley council is unbelievably trying to tell the Commissioner how he should be doing his job. Can you believe that? Bexley council claims to know the law better than the Commisssioner! I rather suspect Bexley will be reluctant to comply with another of the Commissioner’s rulings too. He has asked for an enormous cat to be allowed out of its bag within the next ten days. More details should be available before long but that requires Bexley council to comply with the law; so no guarantees.

 

30 August - Cheats never prosper

I appear to have got into the habit of winding down at the end of the month and short of spare time as I am today I am not going to let my new ‘tradition’ die.

A reader who used to live in Welwyn has put me in mind of the old saying that school children of bygone years would chant at their friends who had been caught offending against the norms of the day - “Cheats never prosper”. I don’t suppose they say that anymore especially after seeing so many politicians with their hands in the till two years ago. How many finished up in jail? Was it four or five? I'm sure my colleague Mick Barnbrook will know, for it was he who was responsible for putting most of them away.

The norm for too many of Bexley’s politicians seems to be to cheat and lie and one wonders where it is going to lead them; my new ex-Welwyn friend gives a clue. He says his council there played fast and loose with the planning of two shopping complexes, one developer took his complaint to court, the judge called the council liars and awarded damages against it of £48 million. Ouch! But it was the council tax payers who footed the bill. It should have been like forty years ago in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, where eleven councillors were made to pay back £6,895 each that they lost their council over a rent irregularity. That was in the days when councillors weren’t able to award themselves large chunks of tax payers money. Now the cheats prosper all the time.

The Welwyn case is still on record at The Lawyer website.

 

29 August - “Town hall chiefs are the real looters”

Will Tuckley Looters“Town hall chiefs are the real looters” was a headline in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. Quite strong stuff but perhaps not undeserved. The voters in council leader Teresa O’Neill and councillor Craske’s wards seem to think the same with close to 100% of residents ready to sign the petition in favour of government Minister Eric Pickles’ plans to slow the gravy train.

The Telegraph went on to say “Our prisons may be bulging with teenagers who walked off with trainers and TV sets which didn’t belong to them. But while our government is still having to borrow £3 billion every week to cover the shortfall in paying for our bloated public sector the most blatant looting epidemic of all appears to rage on wholly unchecked”.

In the preceding week The Daily Telegraph shed a little light on the mysterious organisation behind the chief executives’ pay bonanza. It is called SOLACE which doesn’t stand for Society of Looters and Criminal Extortionists as you might expect and exists to hike up local government pay rates. Not only that, it is partially funded by local councils. Grant Shapps, the Housing Minsister is reported to have said a few days ago “I fail to see the business case for the public funding a body that has acted as a broker for local authority chief executives helping to bump up their pay as they move from council to council. There is an urgent need to rein in excessive chief executive pay packets and exercise some restraint, which is why I am calling on all public bodies to cease funding SOLACE.” Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill, as we know from her numerous statements on the subject, strongly disagrees with sentiments like that. But probably Mr. Shapps will prove as toothless as ministers Eric Pickles and Bob Neill have been in tackling councils that do the opposite of whatever they recommend. (And will minister James Brokenshire prove any less toothless in combatting his local police force when they are intent on covering up a crime, one might ask.)

SOLACE : Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.

 

28 August (Part 3) - Craske’s dodgy dealing

Phone and Pay websiteHave you visited this (see image on the left) website yet? It's the one you reach if you click through the advert currently on the front page of Bexley council’s website or go to the address shown on the street signs. If you do and keep your wits about you you will se that it fails to identify anything about the company that operates it. No name, no address, no company registration number. Nothing. If you were shopping on the web you would avoid a site like that like the plague.

If you want to contact them they demand a mobile phone number, an email address and your car registration number, all compulsory. If you have only one or two or none, stuff you! Enquiries not welcome.

The only useful link is ‘Operators’ which brings up a brochure about the service and the name of another company, BemroseBoothMobile. No company ID on that either other than a phone number bearing the Beverley (Hull) area code. The provided web address (www.bemroseboothmobile.com) goes nowhere. It was off line last Thursday when I first tried it and it is off line today. If the alarm bells aren’t ringing by now, they should be. So where do you go from there when wearing a private eye’s hat?

You can Google it. You will see that a year ago BemroseBooth was on the verge of bankruptcy and it was in dispute with Marks & Spencer. But it seemed to survive.

Over to Companies House. Ah, I see, some parts of BemroseBooth are in liquidation, some not, the surviving components seem to have been farmed out everywhere. The director of the parking outfit is one Gary Wayne. Sounds like a cowboy. Google tells me a Gary Wayne exhibited at ParkEx, a parking company’s convention, in 2009, using the name Creative Car Park Ltd. Creative Car Parks have been labelled bad boys all over the web. From the Daily Mail to the Dunoon Observer and the Isle of Wight County Press the net is awash with criticism of the practices of this group of companies. Not good at all.

The Mail revealed that the company operated in a way outlawed by the Companies Act of 2007 and that company boss Gary Wayne went to inordinate lengths to protect his identity and when uncovered said he did it “to protect the identity and security of the senior administration of the company". The Mail claimed the company was a one man band.

The current web page of Creative Car Parks shows the close links between them and BemroseBooth and it owns up to the fact it operates BemroseBoothMobile; so the circle between the dodgy operator exposed by The Daily Mail and the dodgy operator who lies about Bexley council’s parking facilities is squared. Would you expect anything less of councillor Peter Craske than to enter into a contract with a company with such a distinguished history?

With acknowledgements to ex-blogger Olly Cromwell, in particular the Companies House details.

 

28 August (Part 2) - A lucky escape

email from BBCBexley council has had a lucky escape. I have long thought that sooner or later their law-breaking tendencies and shunning of almost every government guideline would get them into trouble, so when an email arrived bearing the signature shown to the left I thought the day might have come, as sooner or later it will.

It would appear that the Radio 4 programme, Beyond Westminster is planning a feature on “armchair auditors” blogging in support of the government’s Big Society and presumably reporting on the obstacles put in their way by councils hell-bent on operating under the cloak of secrecy. Unfortunately as negotiations progressed it became clear I was not able to participate in this particular programme (†) and without a great deal of thought suggested they contacted Mrs. Angry of the Broken Barnet blog instead. Naturally I don't think that blog is anything like as incisive as Bonkers but maybe the broken borough of Barnet doesn’t provide the blogger with the daily stream of wrong-doing as kindly provided by Bexley council. So with some reluctance I passed the baton to North London and I hope if the BBC made contact with Mrs. A. she used it to good effect. I have lost contact with the BBC on this issue now, but my recollection is that the programme was scheduled for next Saturday at 11:00.

Meanwhile we have the TV to look forward to.

† For personal reasons I would prefer to keep from Bexley council; but next time, they won’t be relevant.

 

28 August (Part 1) - Pillaging Peter

A reader from Petts Wood has taken issue with my report that parking there costs only 30 pence an hour, she says that a quick visit to a shop using the street bays costs only 20 pence. The cheapest parking I can find anywhere in the borough of Bexley is 50 pence for half an hour. Hands up everyone who thinks councillors Peter Craske and Linda Bailey have been lying again.

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday. According to Bexley council’s website their car parks will be free. Their on-street pay and display parking bays are said to be operative Monday to Saturday (†) with no exemptions shown for Bank Holidays and for parking meters their website gives no clues at all. Confusing eh? I expect that is the general idea. It will be safer to shop outside the borough. Maybe the meters themselves make things clearer, though the new pay by phone notices don’t. However if the phone system works correctly it won’t let you pay when you need not, so the best bet there if you are one of the “almost 200” motorists so far registered on the system, is to try to pay and see if you get blocked.

Things were so much easier before the clown Craske was allowed to rape and pillage the borough.

† Bellgrove Parade, Welling, Monday to Friday. Starting times vary across the borough, 8:00, 8:30 and 9:00. Finish times also vary. 5:30, 6:30 and 7:00. Parking for councillors and some council employees is free in designated Bexleyheath car parks.

 

27 August - Newsreel

Council inspired obscene blog


My colleague Elwyn Bryant received two letters last week only a day apart. The first was from the Minister for Crime and Security to assure him that Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police was taking the matter of the obscene blog very seriously indeed, and the other was from Bexleyheath police, unsigned and bearing an incorrect reference number, saying that as the blog was no longer on Google’s servers there was nothing they could do. That is why I sought witnesses the other day to the fact that the blog address and the place-holder still exists at Google.

Mr. Bryant phoned the number on the letter to see if he could find out more but was told the computer file was marked ‘RESTRICTED’ and no one except senior officers could access it. He was promised one would call him, but that was three days ago and he has heard nothing. Someone is going to enormous lengths to protect a corrupt council aren’t they? The Minister for Crime and MP for Bexley has said that there must be no safe haven for cybercriminals; Elwyn will no doubt ask him to prove that it wasn’t just a sound-bite.

Meanwhile, Elwyn has composed an enquiry under the Freedom of Information Act which if answered honestly will expose the police for fools or worse. They said they were going to employ the services of a “Data Specialist” but their letter was written by someone who hasn’t a clue about the net which is why anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of IT procedures can drive a coach and horses through it. My suspicion is that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing but it does illustrate how for “the old school” of Bexleyheath police, if not the new Borough Commander, the priority is to turn a blind eye to the criminal activities of Bexley council. Law enforcement can take a back seat.


Subject Access Request to Bexley council


My SAR is seven weeks overdue. Chief Executive William Tuckley must be very keen to cover something up. My complaint to the Information Commissioner is a month old and had received only an auto-responder message with no case ID and bearing a wrong (two numbers transposed) contact number. When I spoke to them yesterday it became clear that the complaint was in the system and I was given a reference number. As yet the case is still in their In Tray. The wheels of justice turn slowly at the ICO but at least it is better than in Bexley where they have seized up.


Telephone parking


One of my regular correspondents referred me to some mobile phone stats which told me what I knew already. All the young and middle-aged have them and old timers like me much less so. But if my conversations with young people are typical they have run out of credit on them. And do they have credit on their bank cards too? I have been poking around Companies House about the company that runs the phone parking scheme for councillor Craske. It seems to smell a bit in there. Birds of a feather flocking together perhaps? Report coming soon.


Ombudsman rules against Bexley council


I mentioned a month ago that Bexley council’s parking department sent in the bailiffs without just cause to someone who had incurred a parking penalty. The case has now been listed on the Local Government Lawyers site. Bexley’s uncaring attitude to residents is being spread far and wide. A Canadian blogger refers his readers to Bexley is Bonkers as a prime example of all that has gone wrong with government in Britain. The reputation of the council run by Boris Johnson’s favourite council leader, Teresa Ann Jude O’Neill, is being trashed across the globe.


Bexley on the ball


I reported a subsidence in my nearest main road on Friday afternoon and within fifteen minutes someone was out in the rain effecting a temporary repair. So Craske manages to turn everything he touches into dross despite having people on his team who know what public service is and pull out all the stops. That magnificent effort is not the first, it has been much the same every time I have reported a problem of that nature.


Keeping schtum - almost


I bumped into an ex-councillor in the street at the beginning of the month. I was quite very impressed and picked up a few gems. Unfortunately there is not a single one I can tell you about. Well maybe just a hint…

When I was a kid in the nineteen fifties my mother insisted that no one must be called a liar and thanks to her I still find it uncomfortable to use the word. But when Craske and Bailey go on a publicity drive and get themselves in the papers by claiming they have given Bexley the lowest car parking charges in SE London and you only have to click through to Bromley or Greenwich’s websites to see that it’s untrue, you not only wonder about their sanity, you cannot avoid thinking “liars”. I know mother would prefer me to refer to mendacity but the revelations I heard in the street give me every confidence that the four letter version isn’t wide of the mark.

Browse around the Bromley website and you will find that their lesser shopping centres like Beckenham and Petts Wood are only 40 and 30 pence an hour respectively. Sidcup, Erith, Northumberland Heath, all smaller than Beckenham as shopping centres, are all 80 pence an hour. Welling is 90 pence. We have elected mendacious fools incapable of managing the borough’s budget effectively. Bromley is not only cheaper for parking but has the third lowest council taxes in outer London, Bexley is twelfth on a list of only 20. Council leader Teresa O’Neill claimed we were “one of the lowest”. Lying. It’s what they do - all of them.

 

26 August - Don’t mess with the Notomob - Click any image for photo gallery (12 images)

BBC film in Bexley BBC film in BexleyMy lips are sealed (by request of the production crew) on this one, but let’s just say that some phone calls with the BBC pay off better than others. Martin Peaple is on the right of the second picture. Maybe Bexley council won’t be so keen on sending the police to residents’ doors in future. You never know where such lunatic ideas might lead.

 

25 August - Do the right thing

Daily Telegraph report“I urge them to do the right thing and lead from the front.” It sounds like the sort of thing that one of my associates might say but these are the words of Local Government Minister Grant Shapps as reported in The Daily Telegraph last Monday speaking about excessive council pay rates. In fact they are also the words of my associates who "Appeal to the leader of the council, Teresa O’Neill to support her Government and do the right thing” in the petition they have been taking from door to door.

Teresa O’Neill you may remember has frequently gone on the record to say that her Chief Executive, Will Tuckley, on a salary far above that of the Prime Minister in a borough that has contracted out all its main services and can’t have much left to do, is “good value for money”. She did so most recently at Boris Johnson’s Bexley Roadshow. Few residents agree with her. Yesterday evening members of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group descended on councillor Craske’s ward with their petition and scored 84 signatures and just one refusal.

Walking the streets is a slow business especially when so many people have a tale to tell as to why they do not like Bexley council so maybe you can help. If you download and print the petition form and get it filled (or nearly so) with signatures, a member of the BCMG will come and collect it from you. Just let me know when it is ready. So please take it to the pub or to your neighbour’s BBQ (if we ever see the sun again). Just make sure everyone is a Bexley resident. The target is to reach 2,000 signatures.

In similar helpful vein a volunteer has come forward offering to distribute a leaflet based on the Craske Catalogue to roads in his constituency to maximise the number of people who know exactly who it is who is fleecing motorists, lying about parking charges and gleefully fining people £110 a time for offences that the Parking Adjudicator for London has said is not an offence at all.

The petition is also available from the Politics menu of the main site. Alternative Word 2003 document.

 

24 August (Part 2) - Parking 4 Free

Parking 4 FreeToday’s News Shopper (Page 6) repeats Bexley council’s lie that the borough has the cheapest parking facilities and most parking spaces in SE London. I do hope that now that Linda Piper has left the paper it will not become a council mouthpiece - on the other hand if it does there will be more to write about here. Bexley council hasn’t yet learned the lesson that lying does not pay.

Councillor Linda ‘I can do what I like’ Bailey acts as the council’s spokeswoman behind the ‘cheapest and most’ claim and goes on to say Bexley is cheapest because she “wants people from outside the borough to come and support our shops and businesses”. Lies, lies, lies. The three nearest “outside the borough” rivals to Bexleyheath for shopping are Woolwich, Bromley and Dartford. 80 pence, 80 pence (†) and 50 pence (††) an hour respectively. Bexley £1 per hour; all night long and every day of the week too. How does that encourage business in Bexley? Does councillor Bailey (councillor Craske claims credit for the same work of fiction on their website) think the entire population is too stupid to see through her lies?

The accompanying picture was extracted from one of the Conservatives’ leaflets distributed only two years ago. Park 4 Free. You have to laugh don’t you?

Today’s News Shopper includes yet another letter about councillor Craske’s parking gestapo. Once again we have someone fined £110 for stopping for nine seconds. The Parking Adjudicator has pronounced such misdemeanours as too trivial to be an offence, but Craske is running amok in the borough. Where is NotoMob when you need them?

The letter writer goes on to say there should be “a campaign to stop these ludicrous parking fines”. I thought there already was; the biggest one of course comes in May 2014 when with any luck even true blue Bexley will realise that it is better off without the liar Craske.

† One central car park is 90 pence an hour. †† Central car parks : two hour minimum charge.

 

24 August (Part 1) - Obscene blog - update

Obscene blogFor legal reasons it is important that I establish that the obscene blog inspired by Bexley council still exists as of today, albeit with the content removed. It would be appreciated if some of my influential readers click through to the site and see the message for themselves. This will provide witnesses to the fact that in the latest developments someone who should know better is lying again. The blog (with no content) still exists on Google’s server and is as easily traceable today as it was when it was first created. Click the image or here to see the message live on line.

I am not a lawyer but as council leader Teresa O’Neill and chief executive Will Tuckley were together or separately able to get the obscene blog removed within hours of being officially notified of its existence, are they not guilty of perverting the course of justice in not volunteering their knowledge to the police who are investigating the crime?

 

23 August - Councillor Craske - making more enemies

“When the rebellion reaches a certain tipping point the evil dictator is finished.” William Hague the Foreign Secretary said that or something very like it on Sky News earlier this evening and my mind switched from Tripoli to somewhere not so far away, so once again I’ll let another rebel have their say about our own local tyrant…


I would like to join the growing army of people, objecting with their steering wheels to payment of parking fees by telephone. I shall also now simply take myself off to Bluewater with its all-day free parking, entertainment, banking, excellent shopping etc. etc. I see from the notices that have appeared in the local streets that one can receive confirmation of payment “by e-mail”. I consider myself well up-to-date with current technology but I absolutely refuse to receive the internet on my mobile phone as it is so expensive. How else are they going to send the e-mails referred to on one of their signs as an alternative to SMS? I suppose we should be grateful they are not using an 08xx number from which they can generate unlimited revenue!! (and which costs a fortune from a mobile) or is that too close to giving Craske ideas?

You have my total support for your website and consider THAT LETTER to be nothing more than a complete waste of time, money and public resources. The police obviously have nothing better to do than send out stupid letters like that!!


For the record, Bexleyheath police never did respond to any enquiry about the Harassment Letter either from me or their own Professional Standards Directorate. I suppose that confirms that Commander Stringer’s outfit is not professional. If I had to guess, I would point the finger at Craske for leaning on the police and providing the site with such a welcome boost to its hit rate. Whilst allowing yet another reader to write the blog I wasn’t entirely idle, I made up a Craske Catalogue as a permanent record of his problems in the truth department.

 

22 August - Councillor Craske - hitting traders hard again

Much of today was taken up with researching a new and somewhat complicated story about Bexley council’s dirty tricks department and blogging has taken a backseat. To the rescue has come an email from Ian of Barnehurst who, with councillor Craske’s assistance, has come to the end of the road as far as doing his bit towards keeping Bexleyheath going as a thriving shopping centre is concerned. This is what he says…


For 35 years my wife and I have done our food shopping locally and used Bexleyheath, more often than not, for banking and other shopping. We’ve watched parking fees grow over the years from zero to £1 per hour but still stuck with the Broadway - TILL NOW!!
I’ve just been to Bexleyheath for a five minute visit to the bank. For short visits like that, I use the parking meters in Victoria Road so you’ll understand my reaction when I turned into Victoria Road today. The meters have gone and I find I need to get myself a mobile phone!!!
No way!
I went to the Broadway multi-storey car park, did my banking, paid my £1 and left - for the last time.
Bexleyheath has lost another customer.
I’ll be driving to Bluewater in future, where I can park for nothing and stay as long as I like.


Ian isn’t alone, his is the third such message received here, and there were others in last week’s News Shopper.

 

21 August - Craske’s delusional parking statistics

Councillor CraskeI was reminded by readers that my comment on Councillor Craske’s misleading statistics on car parking did not include a reference to Bexley council charging for central area car parking for 24 hours a day and seven days a week, so I thought I should look into Craske’s figures again. In doing so I immediately made a mistake, I gathered information about Bromley’s car parks. It was an easy mistake to make, Bromley is much more comparable with Bexley. If you visit Greenwich, Newham or Lewisham you will see they all look totally different to Bexley with a different character. They are, as Craske was keen to point out, Labour controlled, and like it or not, Labour areas tend to be poorer, older and more run-down. Which is chicken and which is egg I am not getting into.

So having gathered Bromley’s figures in error; how many car parking spaces does Bromley provide? 4,859 (excluding motorcycle bays) against Bexley’s 2,830 (Craske’s figure). So that’s why he didn’t want to mention Bromley. Bromley is third on the list of Outer London council tax rates too. Bexley is a miserable twelfth. Perhaps it is worth repeating that Bromley charges £35 a year for a Residents’ Parking Permit (up to £75 in a few central locations) and Craske has trumped up figures to justify £100 (£120 in some places) across the borough blighted by his presence.

Craske wants you to believe that his car parking spaces are not only more numerous but cheaper than elsewhere and claims Bexleyheath centre at a £1 an hour is a bargain compared to Greenwich’s £2.50, but central Greenwich is a tourist area not a shopping centre. Let’s compare like with like. Greenwich’s shopping areas peak at 80 pence an hour, much the same as in Bromley where some are 80 pence and one is 90. Councillor Craske must like his reputation for lying to the electorate and at council meetings. (Numerous examples provided on request if “the cheapest parking, and the most parking in South East London” claimed on his web page is not enough for you.)

Craske criticises Lewisham for expensive car parks, which is true, and for providing only 1,795 spaces against Bexley’s 2,830. 63% of Bexley’s total; but Lewisham borough is heavily built up and only half the area of Bexley. Look at the figures in terms of the size of the borough and Lewisham trounces Bexley’s provision. Similarly Newham is 59% the area of Bexley but it has two (that I know of) ‘out of town’ shopping areas on the site of the old Beckton gas works and the docks with extensive privately provided free car parking. Bromley and Greenwich have some ‘out of town’ shopping but if there is any in Bexley I’ve not noticed, apart from the odd DIY store.

Comparing car parking facilities is fraught with difficulty, to do it properly one would have to include levels of car ownership, distance between residential and shopping areas and public transport. On its own admission, Bexley has poor North South transport links and it being much bigger than the boroughs Craske chose for comparison suggests the distances involved may be greater. Greater affluence may mean more car ownership. All of those things lead to a greater car parking requirement but on borough area alone, Bexley council has nothing to be proud of. The fact that Craske is crowing about carefully chosen statistics smacks of desperation and he has good reason to be desperate. The most recent petition statistics to come my way showed 42 doors knocked on and 40 more eager to sign.

On the subject of shopping centres, the BBC put a new page on their website yesterday illustrating the history of shopping malls in London. Bexleyheath’s Broadway gets a mention (fifth image) as it is said to be typical of a 1980s shopping development. And speaking of the BBC; yes I did have a long conversation on Friday with the BBC journalist about the lack of transparency and obstacles put in its way by Bexley council. Always nice to be able to spread the word about the ’funny business’ for which Bexley’s Conservatives are becoming well known.

 

19 August (Part 2) - Broadcasting Bexley’s Crimes

This is going to come as a surprise to my colleagues on the Bonkers team because I forgot to put it on the agenda for our meeting last Wednesday, but a West End marketing company wants to place adverts on Bexley-is-Bonkers. Its readership is now so widespread that they want to pay us for cluttering up the pages with ads. I’m going to stick my neck out and say no one on the team would want to accept advertisements, they would compromise the site’s integrity and we might be compared to councillors, constantly maneuvering things so that the maximum amount of money falls into our pockets; but it is flattering just the same to think the popularity of the site attracts advertisers. For the record this site costs £5 a year (domain registration fee) to run plus the electricity to run my computer. My ISP provides unlimited space and band-width free of charge as a token of support.

Google has been kind to us too. A new layout not only puts Bonkers’ listing right under Bexley council as it usually has done, but the change almost makes Bonkers look part of the council. It all helps to spread the word. It’s a shame that Linda Piper has left the News Shopper, she used to read the blog and twice asked to ‘borrow’ things from it. I hope she enjoys her new island life.

Moving up a step or two from the News Shopper, a couple of the Bonkers’ team were interviewed for BBC Radio 4 recently - I have no idea when that will be used or whether it will be at all - but it may have led to other things. One of them has since met a producer from Panorama but he is reluctant to appear on the programme. The meeting has nevertheless provided confirmation that this site is read in influential places. Yesterday another BBC producer emailed to ask if I knew of any similar group to ours in the west of England. I asked why the west and was told it would be convenient for the production team at present - so if you come from Bath or points west of there and are engaged in similar scrutiny of your council or other public body, and whether you blog it or not, please let me know. I’ve been told to expect a phone call about the planned programme. Sooner or later the spivs and charlatans who run Bexley council are going to make the mainstream media. Will the BBC be issued with a Harassment Letter too?

 

19 August (Part 1) - Councillor Craske, fiddling with statistics again

You may have forgotten councillor Craske’s imagined survey on Resident Parking Permits. He claimed at a council meeting to have conducted a survey to determine whether Bexley residents were happy with their Controlled Parking Zone scheme. A Freedom of Information request revealed it to be a complete lie. No survey had been conducted. In the face of constant criticism he is now claiming to have conducted another survey. It’s not exactly unbiased; he and his Tory cronies did it. This time the claim is that parking charges in Bexley are cheaper than elsewhere. Among the gems he has come up with is that it costs more to park in Stratford (Newham council) by the Olympic Park and their new shopping centre and the railway station that has more interchange facilities than any other in London, with the place his policies have nearly driven to commercial extinction; Sidcup. Not exactly like for like is it and he overlooks mentioning that Newham doesn’t charge residents for parking outside their own homes nor their visitors, whereas Craske charges residents here an astronomical £100 a year based on figures he conjured up out of the air.

He attempts to run down Newham for being Labour controlled and by implication inefficient, but somehow they manage to take all residents’ unwanted items away, beds, cookers, sofas etc. at no charge whereas in Bexley the fee is, what has it just gone up to? £29 an item I think. Newham is much cheaper for council tax too, £183 a year cheaper on a Band D property,

In similar cretinous vein Craske has discovered that to park in the tourist centre of Greenwich costs more than anywhere in Bexley. Well, well, what a surprise. Where is Bexley’s equivalent of the Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House?

Craske has posted his survey on the Conservative’s website - I’ve not checked yet if it is the one hosted on The Arts Council’s website. If you have five minutes to waste go and look at it. It’s the same stupid lying website that alleges that one of Bexley’s Labour councillors didn’t know there was a railway station in Bexleyheath and another doesn’t know where Erith is. It is the same stupid lying website that claims that Bexley has one of the lowest council tax rates when it is 24th out of the 32 London Boroughs. Bexley Conservatives: they just can’t stop lying; and to think I gave them my votes!

 

18 August - Turning their backs on democracy and the law

Teresa O'NeillThe children get six weeks holiday in the summer, MPs get seven but Bexley’s cabinet isn’t going to meet for 13. The interval between full council meetings has been stretched to 16 weeks, but the information blackout goes further than that. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are being held well beyond the legal dates. One in particular is intriguing and it could, if only it had been answered honestly, possibly have revealed electoral fraud. The fact that the FOI was made in April and four months later Bexley council is refusing to talk about it only reinforces the view that their first priority is a cover-up.

When I was trying to get hold of councillors’ addresses one of my colleagues thought the easiest way would be to FOI the electoral nomination papers and sent one in as a sort of test. As it happened I found the address that FOI should have revealed the same day and mentioned my success here. Mr. Chris Loynes who is one of Bexley council’s most senior officers and whose job it is to nanny councillors phoned my colleague and said “you won’t need this form now will you?” but didn’t get the answer he hoped for. He was asked to pop a copy in the post. Four months on he still hasn’t done so. In fact when chased for it he said he had destroyed the nomination form. Wearing his other hat of Deputy Returning Officer, Mr. Loynes was entitled to destroy the form one year after the election it referred to. The Electoral Commission recommends the forms are kept but it is not illegal to destroy them after twelve months. Bexley council doesn’t abide by recommendations or guidance; it is a law unto itself and destroying the form prevented any electoral fraud being uncovered.

It is illegal for anyone to destroy evidence requested under FOI and the offence is punishable by a £5,000 fine or imprisonment. Since the form was destroyed various FOIs have gone in seeking copies of the correspondence that flowed between various council officers involved with that failed FOI. None have been answered. Mr. Loynes appears to have gone AWOL. There are complaints outstanding against councillors for their bad behaviour and it is Mr. Loynes job to oversee them. Once again the only response is silence.

Getting closer to home; when a well-wisher (thank you Mr. Fuller) suggested to me that I submit a Subject Access Request to Bexley council (under the Data Protection Act) to reveal what they have been saying about me I naively thought it was a brilliant idea. However as Bexley council is refusing to obey the law of the land my Request is getting nowhere. I last asked the council “why the delay” two weeks ago and their same day reply said “Thank you for your reminder about the outstanding response to your Subject Access Request. I have chased up the response today”. It is five weeks overdue. I suspect it is Will Tuckley and leader Teresa O’Neill who are intent on being the law-breakers.

I have sent a full report to the Information Commissioner but their inbuilt delays suggest I may hear nothing until the end October. It seems a long time into the future but it’s sooner than the next public council meeting.

 

17 August - Would you credit it?

VisaWhen the first credit cards made an appearance in this country in 1966 I thought they were the invention of the devil and that if the idea caught on the 2% (or thereabouts) commission would make the bankers very rich and that living on credit would make everyone else poor. I wasn’t far wrong although maybe not for the right reasons and there is no getting away from the fact that ‘plastic’ is very convenient and it has become essential for buying on the net. As such I am not one of those who think that councils shouldn’t use them. Sometimes they might help to buy more cheaply or obtain a specialist item required urgently. On the other hand maybe some of the credit card expenditure made by councils will raise a few eyebrows.

Here’s a selection that I found on a list of Bexley council’s credit card expenditure that dropped into my Inbox…

 

Annual Membership of Club Toyota £68 per year
Passport Office. Several at £98 each
EasyJet £105
The Leather Bottle (public house, Belvedere) £66
British Airways £624
Rail Europe £928
Ryan Air £815
Ten Pin Bowling £1,350
Surfing equipment £1,288
Canoes and kayaks £2,434
Crayford Greyhound track £228
Air France £602
Alton Towers £215
Aer Lingus £404
Eurostar £506
P&O Ferries £217
Harrods £401
Zleep Hotel (Denmark) £388
Hotel Escurial (France) £193
British Canoe Union £1,351


There are hundreds of similar entries, my guess is that a lot is for reforming young criminals and maybe for entertainment for disadvantaged children, however the list also provides little insights into how Bexley council spends our money. The mayor’s office staff for example seem to have acquired the habit of nipping across the road to Sainsbury’s and blowing up to a hundred or so on bits and pieces for parties.

The above figures are extracted from credit card payments (over £50) totaling £737,383 over the last two years. The higher priced items are the total of several individual payments. Sums to nearest whole pound.

 

16 August - Bexley council’s mission to make shopping more expensive - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Pickford Lane Brampton RoadBexley council’s slogan used to be “Working to improve your quality of life” but it was too easily discredited. “Please can you tell me how [insert idiocy of the week here] has improved my quality of life?” would trip them up every time because almost nothing a council does improves quality of life. The old slogan was replaced by the bland “Listening to you. Working for you”. It’s complete nonsense but it has the merit, from the council’s point of view, of not being quite so vulnerable to direct questioning.

If Bexley council was working for us there might be fewer complaints. One I had today was about the new rule about what shops can place on their own forecourt. From 1st August small shops must pay £75 a month to display a few goods outside. They don’t get much for the money, just 30 inches beyond their window. Any more and the price doubles. Bexley council hopes to raise £65,000 a year from the fees which is just enough to cover the leader and deputy leader’s allowances. To ensure that shopkeepers don’t put things outside the council will be sending round their Enviro Crime Officers who don’t work for nothing, so this imposition on shopkeepers and the prices they have to charge is not going to be a big money-spinner. Councils don’t have to charge at all, but Bexley likes to strangle businesses if it can.

The photo was taken today in Pickford Lane; Teresa O’Neill’s territory where house to house calls seeking signatures for a petition against top salaries is still getting 95% support. The charity shop is keeping its forecourt clear, the flower shop probably has little option but to have an external display. It must be hard being a shopkeeper in Bexley but I’m sure they will be happy to know that a councillor on £36k. a year doesn’t have to attend another council meeting until 2nd November. Not Listening. Not Working.

A few days ago someone asked why Bexley council kept having short sections of road resurfaced for no obvious reason and implied something fishy was going on. Whatever the scheme is it is a regular occurrence, Brampton Road got the treatment yesterday. The new surface extends only as far as the traffic island. New Road, Abbey Wood has been done too.

 

15 August - Craske’s mission to make parking more expensive; or even impossible - click any image for photo gallery and to read the sign (3 images)

Phone parking only Phone parking only Phone parking onlyToday is the day the parking meters around the centre of Bexleyheath are no more, replaced by parking by mobile phone only. To use the system, you must have a credit or debit card and a mobile phone with credit on it. It helps to have registered yourself with the company operating the scheme but for many people unfamiliar with the system it will be difficult to park legally today as the large number of windscreens bearing penalty notices bear witness. Maybe I should add, if the notice in Chapel Road is typical, it would be an advantage to be eight feet tall so that you can read it.

If you don’t own a mobile phone, then buzz off, Bexley council doesn’t want you doing business at the local shops.

If you do own a mobile phone - I don’t think I am alone in not having one - you will have to pay for any phone call that may be required at the appropriate rate, the usual parking charge and ten pence on top of whatever that adds up to. The notice (click to read it) speaks of SMS, iPhone Apps and Android. I think I know what an SMS might be but Android is something I had lo look up in the dictionary. It says “automaton in the form of a human being”. So that’s Craske himself then. A heartless machine shaped a bit like a human being.

Soon after publishing the words above I received the following from a resident of Townley Road…


Have seen your blog about parking in Chapel Road. Craske will need to order his gestapo to issue as many penalty charge notices as possible to make up for the loss of revenue elsewhere. Townley Road used to have a long line of meters which were mostly occupied all day long by a succession of parkers. Today there have been periods of none, sometimes one and a maximum of two at any time. Drivers have been arriving to park, been thoroughly bemused by the new arrangements and driven away again. I await with interest the reaction to the new arrangements from Bexleyheath Broadway traders.

 

13 August - The obscene blog. First sign of movement

Letter from Commander StringerThe police nationally appear to be upset with the politicians for implying it was their idea to change the strategy for tackling looters and arsonists, locally our Members of Parliament are far too modest but I cannot help thinking that it is their intervention which has resulted in the first significant sign of movement with the obscene blog investigation.

Today I received a personally signed letter from Borough Commander Stringer to assure me that “the matter is still under investigation”. I am naturally very pleased that the Commander has written a very nice letter but it comes just a week after my MP, Teresa Pearce, and Elwyn Bryant’s MP, James Brokenshire, Minister for Crime and Security, both contacted the Commander having been persuaded that the stalling had gone on long enough. In the circumstances I am going to assume that this is the first time Commander Stringer has become personally involved and that up until now the ‘old school’ at Bexley police may have followed the old rules; ie. look the other way if Bexley council should, in the words of councillor Katie Perrior, “find a way around the law”.

Mr. Bryant received an identical letter from Commander Stringer and is going to write to his MP to thank him for his assistance. I think I shall let Ms. Pearce read my thanks here.

 

12 August - One broke the law, the other wants to

Ian Clement and Katie Perrior I switched on the TV just after 21:30 this evening and who should be filling the screen but councillor Katie Perrior, the one who claims she couldn’t afford to be a councillor if it wasn’t for her £22k. allowance because of the cost of child care, so how she could justify being on Sky News late at night I have no idea. With her was Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North. At the moment I tuned in the discussion was about Wandsworth council issuing an eviction notice to a woman whose son has been charged with violent disorder in Clapham. Mr. Pound explained how it could never happen because the law did not allow it whatever the council might say. Ms. Perrior maintained all the integrity and honesty for which Bexley council is renowned; she said on national TV, “Councils must find a way around the law”. Whatever one’s views on whether eviction is a sensible policy or not, Perrior neatly sums up Bexley council, she thinks evading the law is the thing to do.

She went on to implore viewers to “shop people who are ripping off the state”. I think I know what she meant but bearing in mind what Bexley council tax payers are being ripped off for by Bexley councillors, I couldn’t suppress a wry smile.

The picture is of Ian Clement, one time leader of Bexley council, now a convicted fraudster and Katie Perrior, another politician ready to trample all over the law of the land.

 

11 August - CCTV. To keep us safer or poorer?

CCTV Survey Townley Road resurfacing Oakland RoadThe Bexley Times said that council officers would be conducting a survey about CCTV in “Crayford Town Centre” today and as I wasn’t far away a quick look seemed to be in order. They were hard to find. I asked in the Library and they knew nothing of it. The caretaker in the old Town Hall said that the council referred to the Waterside Cafe as the Town Centre now but I drew a blank there too. I was beginning to think it was like the last council Road Show I tried to attend, but then I spotted some yellow jackets in the far distance, outside Boots.

CCTV can be divisive; I know someone who thinks the entire country should be covered but my views are far more mixed. Public safety is one thing but councillor Craske telling us that he wants to extend CCTV use to watching moving traffic (and issue fines) to get more value out of them is a sign of his true (illegal) intention. The staff conducting the survey seemed to think that writing to Craske would solve all the problems.

There is an on-line survey on the council website. The Crayford link on the right of the page is currently broken.

Later in the afternoon I looked at Townley Road where a resident had said a perfectly good bit of road has been dug up and replaced and wondered if I knew why when roads still in a bad state after the hard winter are neglected. Afraid not. My correspondent describes the work as “dubious” but I really haven’t a clue. Experimental anti-skid surface perhaps?

From nearby Oaklands Road where traffic is now forced to the centre of the road comes news that traffic is now, guess what? Going faster straight down the middle of the road. As the EU safety man said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

 

9 August - Better safe than sorry - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Wilton Road, Abbey Wood Wilton Road, Abbey Wood Wilton Road, Abbey WoodI thought long and hard about whether to comment on the disgraceful scenes that shamed London last night, but decided it was not what this site was all about and that the perpetrators should not be given the publicity - and in any case, the web did not reveal any similar problem closer than Woolwich. But all that was before I slipped out to get some milk in Wilton Road (the last outpost of Bexley on the Greenwich boundary) and found the shops closed before 3 p.m. Only the pharmacist was open, albeit with half of it protected by steel shutters. The lady in there told me that closure was a local initiative rather than on police or council advice, none had been forthcoming from them.

According to a man standing outside (I can’t vouch for the accuracy as he had clearly partaken of a beer or two) the problem was that some of the mob that wrecked Woolwich had taken the five minute train journey to Abbey Wood and lingered around Wilton Road. The Community Centre in Thamesmead burned down last night. Possibly that event is linked to the problems not so far away. However when I phoned a friend who runs a shop in Wilton Road he said that too many people were spreading rumours, he had closed because of them but later came to believe them all to be false.

From other parts of the borough come similar stories of premature shop closures and that the largest shops have been contacted by Bexley council as one would hope. Perversely a council staff member says that within the Civic Offices they have received no advice at all. The top item on Bexley’s website today is ‘Fun in the Sun’. Let us all hope there is no ‘fun’ again tonight. Keep safe.

Nearby news blogs…

The Charlton Champion
Greenwich.co.uk
e-ShootersHill
The 853 blog


The Brockley blog reports that Lewisham council had their shopping area cleaned up before 9 am this morning. Impressive!

 

8 August - The shame and the sham

Extract from letter to Ian ClementWith Bexley council only a quarter of the way through its 16 week holiday from meetings, there is not a lot going on, which on balance is probably a good thing. I received an email over the weekend from someone who was interested to see that Tony Dawson (at the time, Commander of Bexleyheath police) had been dining with Maureen Holkham (which was an abuse of a council credit card) who is a Deputy Director at Bexley council with responsibility for CCTV.

The email explained that a crime reported to Bexleyheath police looked as though it might be linked in some way to the council’s CCTV system. Neither Ms. Holkham nor Commander Dawson wanted to investigate if the CCTV system had been used in an unauthorised fashion - every letter went unanswered. The email correspondent says that the cosy links between Commander Dawson and those in charge of Bexley’s CCTV “explains a lot”. I have no idea whether the complaint was justified or not and whether there was collusion or not, but it does perhaps illustrate how these inappropriate relationships will be interpreted. I still harbour some hope that the new police Commander has not been in the borough long enough to be subverted by Bexley council, although with the Harassment letter issue unresolved after nearly four months and the obscene blog report being two months old without sign of progress, maybe I am too much of an optimist.

Craske's non-consultationSomeone who does not take 16 weeks holiday is Olly Cromwell who is blogging again after only two weeks in sunnier climes, but maybe it has made him forgetful. He is complaining that Bexley council is claiming to have consulted him about traffic calming measures but didn’t do so, at least not in any serious way that might reach him, and councillor Peter Craske has dismissed all the comments submitted out of hand. Olly, I’m sure you haven’t really forgotten after two weeks in the sun, but that is what Bexley council does. It is so like the situation which caused me to start this website. One of Craske’s minions told me that as a local resident I had been consulted about changes to a road close to where I live. I had not. Eventually I discovered that a small number of residents who live on the road had been consulted and a larger number who lived further from it than I do were consulted. Naturally few of those far away were inclined to answer the consultation which helped reduce the percentage said to be actively opposing the changes. Craske and co. know every trick in the sham consultation book. Every single objection was over-ruled by Craske and the road changes went ahead. The result is a much increased accident rate. I know it is much increased because Bexley council admitted it had not previously been on their radar for accidents, now I see them every month or two.

 

7 August - Political censorship in the UK - Click the YouTube button to see the video full-size

When I was last with my hospital consultant we spent more time discussing Bexley council’s obsession with secrecy and their dubious methods of enforcing it than matters medical. Following my comment last Friday that August is devoid of significant council activity and there is consequently a shortage of news he sent me a link to how the British government censors news. It’s not Bexley related but if you have come here expecting to find something new, I don’t like to be a complete let down, and if I don’t use the doctor’s link he may start lecturing me on why I’m not taking statins again or find something else to complain about!

His link takes you to a site which shows a video in which it is explained that the UK government is getting YouTube to remove videos it doesn’t like. Not because they are libellous, or pornographic or anything remotely like that, but purely because they show people exercising their legal rights in a way that government doesn’t like - err, on second thoughts maybe there is a Bexley council connection.

It is said that about 2,000 videos are being removed through UK government intervention every year (latest period available, 2009), far higher than in any other European country. My doctor is a little out of date, whilst the link he has given refers to a particular video that has been censored and shows only a short extract, web users are a resilient lot and so of course the video keeps popping up again. Currently it is available in full from a new source but as it says beneath the video, “Please download the video, because it will be blocked”.

The video shows a disturbance within a Courtroom in Birkenhead while someone is challenging the legality of council tax, but things get out of hand when it becomes apparent that the council has not followed the Judge’s directions. The explanation of the case, such as it is, is given at the end of the video; but the real question is why are we not supposed to watch the video? At least no one tried to stop camera users entering the building as would be the case in Bexley where our council’s form of censorship is imposed before the event, not after it.

 

5 August - Catch 22?

The last public council meeting was held on 13th July and there is not another scheduled until 2nd November. One must wonder if it is part of the general clamp down on transparency within Bexley council. Is a 16 week interval a further attempt to restrict questioning? There will be a 13 week wait for another cabinet meeting but questions aren’t allowed there. Cabinet members draw a minimum allowance of £22,615 a year.

While Bexley council is busy doing not a lot at the moment, so too it would seem is the Chief Executive, Will Tuckley, for there is every indication that it is he who is responsible for the failure to answer my Subject Access Request. (SAR). It is unanswered after eleven weeks; 17 working days past the statutory final date. Bexley council has got itself into an unwinnable situation here; it is legally obliged to provide copies of all the documentation relating to me and they cannot do that without revealing information about the Harassment Letter and the obscene blog. Exposing the culprit(s) might precipitate a by-election once the media are informed, the alternative is to provide Subject Access data with the useful information redacted and find themselves in breach of the Data Protection Act. To complete an SAR on myself without reference to the Harassment Letter and the obscene blog would prove Bexley council’s dishonesty and provoke an instant complaint to the Information Commissioner. Not producing the SAR leads up the same path.

Not exactly ‘doing nothing’ but slowing down, first due to the rain, and then the 30º heat and ultimately holidays, is the petition. There is only a small window of opportunity after people get home from work and before they wouldn’t welcome being disturbed after settling down for the evening. However the completion rate remains around 95% and some of the comments have been most encouraging; amazingly about a third of householders when asked to sign already know about the petition. It hasn’t been mentioned anywhere but here on Bonkers so the site visitor statistics must be translating into a widespread local readership very satisfactorily.

I must say a special thank you to the lady who thought the blog was more interesting than watching TV which makes it even more difficult to say what must be said today. The lack of public meetings and the council’s reluctance to accept or answer questions impacts on what can be reported here, so August looks likely to be a thin month. Unless anything very unexpected occurs I am going to take the opportunity for a weekend off. If, like the lady says, there is nothing on TV there is bound to be a DVD bought on impulse that I have never found time to watch.

 

4 August - Free parking

Bexley Times reportCouncillor Linda Bailey said recently that she had made a bid for funding from Boris Johnson for, among other things, “free parking in council-run car parks for four weekends in the lead-up to Christmas” and that would be “an excellent opportunity to give Bexley’s town centres a real boost. If we are successful the Mayor’s funding will make a real difference to local people and traders at a very important time of the year”.

It is good to see councillor Bailey acknowledging that councillor Craske’s policies of racking up parking charges at well above any inflation rate is damaging to business and to hear that the Mayor has today come up with the money. £207,500 to rejuvenate the town centre by revamping street furniture, replacing bins and giving it a deep clean. There must be a Mayoral election due soon.

 

3 August (Part 3) - Not biting the hand that feeds it

Commander Dave Stringer, Bexleyheath police (Ex) Commander Tony Dawson, Bexleyheath police “As a newcomer to Bexleyheath you have the opportunity to clean up the relationships with Bexley’s dishonest Council and I look forward to rapid progress on identifying the criminal who set up the obscene blog in my name and confirmation that you have interviewed the Council Leader and the Chief Executive.”

And two weeks after that concluding sentence of an email to Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police one might be forgiven for thinking that the dubious tradition of Bexleyheath police Commanders being very ready to be at Bexley council’s beck and call but less responsive to the general public is continuing under the new management. Not a word has been heard by way of a response to that email, not even an acknowledgement.

Bexley council has always been very generous with donations of ammunition to be fired back at them at will, all without fear of contradiction. Those pictured on the site banner particularly so…


• Council leader Teresa O’Neill claimed that under her control Bexley had one of the lowest council tax rates in outer London, when we don’t even make the better half, thereby allowing the thought that she finds telling the truth to be an alien concept. The false claim is still on the Bexley Conservatives’ website.
• Councillor Campbell was a director of the Thames Innovation Centre when its board decided that it shouldn’t sack a paedophile manager from a position that sometimes brought him into contact with children, but that it was best to let him continue for seven months before, on his own initiative, he decided to resign and leave with a job reference. Campbell has also been an enthusiast for curtailing the use of the Freedom of Information Act to ensure greater levels of council secrecy.
• Councillor Peter Craske will always be remembered for various statements at council meetings which weren’t truthful and for coming up with justifications for imposing huge increases to parking costs without any means of accounting for them.
• Michael Tarrant is the tyrant councillor who defended the prosecution of residents whose refuse bins were vandalised with no evidence whatever that they were themselves at fault. Recent government guidance has been that minor infringements of refuse regulations are not appropriate for prosecution and only major fly-tipping incidents should be pursued.
• Councillor Philip Read cannot deny that he was stupid enough to buy the internet domain bexley-is-bonkers.com and Tweet nonsense about his MP and insult residents.
• Councillor Katie Perrior pleaded poverty in a letter to a local newspaper when she is founder and director of one of London’s top PR companies and is forever condemned as a hypocrite.
• Councillor John Davey cannot deny he was behind a planning stunt involving temporary election offices and parked Conservative Party websites on the Bexley Arts Council web space.


Extract from letter to Ian ClementSuch facts and many others have been a boon whenever it has been necessary to illustrate how Bexley council is prepared to lie and confuse. Perhaps Commander Stringer is determined to offer a similar level of assistance.

Another embarrassing fact is that an earlier Bexleyheath police Commander, Tony Dawson, was in hock to Bexley council because of the hospitality heaped upon him by the previous council leader Ian Clement. (See inset panel). Accepting hospitality was one of the things that led to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation. Maybe it is why Commander Tony Dawson isn’t around any more. It is looking increasingly likely that it will soon be possible to state that his successor allowed three months to go by and achieved nothing towards solving a crime so heavily laden with clues that even his most junior detective could have done so if the political shackles had been lifted. The inevitable conclusions will be drawn.

Images : Commander Dave Stringer. Commander Tony Dawson. Extract from letter to ex-council leader Ian Clement. Click it for complete letter.

 

3 August (Part 2) - Bexley First

Westminster City Council is getting a lot of bad publicity in the national media for introducing 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. parking charges on Sundays from next December, religious groups being particularly critical. As blatant money-grabbers Westminster has a long way to go to catch Bexley where parking charges are in force all week and all night. Councillor Craske has no equal.

 

3 August (Part 1) - Ombudsman criticises Bexley council over parking fine

In condemning Bexley council for its inflexible attitude to enforcing parking fines the Local Government Ombudsman recommended that Bexley council “undertakes a review of its automated PCN recovery procedure, ensuring that correspondence is considered even if received outside the statutory notification period to ensure it considers its discretion based on the individual circumstances of each case”. A Bexley council spokesman with the supreme arrogance one has come to expect from it said that “changes to procedures would have to be balanced against efficiency and cost”. Yet another example of Bexley council deciding that the rulings of Adjudicators , Ombudsmen and Judges don’t apply to them.

 

2 August - Welcome to Bexley

Buckingham Avenue Buckingham AvenueLast month Bexley council got into trouble with the Parking Adjudicator for fining a motorist who parked on the pavement when the signs encouraged him to do so but failed to mention that it was permissible only in marked bays. In any case the marking on the bays had long since disappeared. The Adjudicator said that in the circumstances "the contravention did not occur" and that it was necessary to ensure that “the bay markings could easily be seen at night by a stranger”. Source : News Shopper, 27 July 2011.

You would think that a ruling like that would make Bexley council mend its ways, but Bexley is not a council that believes the law of the land applies to it; it is carrying on fining motorists regardless.

The photographs are of Buckingham Avenue where a newcomer to Bexley has had an unfortunate encounter with an identical parking sign and just like others before him, felt able to park anywhere on the pavement, there being no mention of bays. Can you see the bays in daylight, let alone at night as demanded by the Adjudicator? Where Bexley’s new resident parked there is a tiny remnant of a white line at one end of the supposed bay, nothing else. Result; a Penalty Notice. Bexley council knows it will lose if the case is appealed, but it tries it on in the hope that some will pay and its coffers will be swollen by what is in effect theft.

Good to see a newcomer to Bexley becoming another blog reader, not so good that Bexley council welcomes him in its trademark fashion.

 

1 August - Resident’s Parking Permit price increases. No justification

This month the price of a Residents’ Parking Permit rises to £100. Just over a year ago it was £35 and making a profit but councillor Peter Craske wished to raise revenue and needed to prove that the permit scheme was making a loss. To this end he made up a host of fanciful figures. Among his figures and the conclusions that can be drawn from them are…


• The permits ran up £258,000 in total staff costs. That’s nearly 60% of the whole office - for about 5% of total activity.
• It cost £49,000 to print 3,081 permits.
• White line painting within Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) cost £36,000 a year.
• On-street enforcement costs for CPZs is £328,000 a year. That’s 45% of total enforcement costs according to an FOI response - for what is generally a two hours a day restriction, compared to all day outside the CPZs over a vastly wider area.
• Computers for Parking Permit administration amounts to £11,000 a year. That’s exactly half the total office computer costs according to an FOI response - for about 5% of the total work.
• Accommodation overheads related to CPZ admin. amount to £71,200 and the FOI says that premises costs for the whole office adds up to £110,000. 65% for 5% of the activity.
• Craske said that every cost related to Residents’ Parking Permits adds up to £783,200. That’s more than a third of the entire parking enforcement office to deal with 3,081 permits and around 12% of the total PCNs issued.


That expenditure is offset by income from fines but it formed the basis for councillor Craske’s claim that the price needed to rise steeply. He emailed the numbers to several enquiring residents. When asked why he couldn’t reduce costs he never replied. When asked to justify individual figures, he couldn’t and when pressed said he wasn’t going to comment any more. The figures looked wrong to anyone who thought about them for five seconds and many came to the conclusion that Craske was simply lying to the electorate. And now there is more evidence that the councillor really didn’t know what he was talking about.

At this point I shall hand over the blog to Bonkers‘ accounting friend who went to Bexley’s Civic Offices a week or so ago (†) to inspect their accounts…


One of the basic fundamentals of accounting is to allocate costs in order to establish where money is being spent. Bexley council tried to do this when it told residents in July 2010 it estimated the costs to run and enforce Controlled Parking Zones across the borough was approximately £780,000.

As the council had only issued 3,081 Parking Permits and an unknown number of visitors tickets – yes that’s right, they have no idea how many are printed and issued – this was then used by councillor Craske to justify raising the price of a Residents’ Parking Permit from £35 to £70 in September 2010 and then hiking it up to £100 this month.

A reasonable person would assume that there must be a cost code within Bexley’s accounts to which all the CPZ costs can be allocated. Only then might it be possible to make any sort of claim about subsidising Controlled Parking Zones and decide whether there is a need to raise more funds to cover the supposed costs, and indeed in any organisation fit for purpose it would be the norm. However, if the real purpose is to justify a preconceived premise and the sole goal is to ‘Maximise Income’ - as the council has stated in its own documents - then the last thing you actually require is a real breakdown of what was spent and where. The priority becomes making up numbers to suit the objective. If good accounting practice can be used against you it makes perfect sense not to know what the true figures are as then you can claim in your defence that you believed the estimates were reasonable.

So it won’t surprise you to know that there appears to be absolutely no verifiable basis whatsoever for the council’s own figures as no cost code exists within Bexley council’s accounting system to which any CPZ related expenditure can be allocated. So how did the council arrive at their numbers?

Bexley council has refused for over nine months to provide any sort of justification for its estimates. Any normal organisation would fall over itself to do so and prove its integrity, but Bexley council is neither a normal nor a reasonable institution and is an integrity-free zone.

I was able to inspect an analysis of relative activity of the Controlled Parking Zones and the Controlled Parking Account for on-street parking and this indicated that there would have been a surplus during 2009-10 (the most recently available figures) if permits were charged at £35 each - as they were that year. Bexley council knows this, they have been in possession of the figures for many months. They will not comment on them and the Parking Manager, Tina Brooks, claims she finds some of the numbers hard to follow! Well if she is incapable of working out and applying percentages then I guess they are.

So now I know unequivocally that the council has plucked its costs from outside of the published accounts and wishes to avoid at all costs sharing any rationale with concerned residents about how it arrived at them in the first place. Par for the course at Bexley council who once again demonstrate that they are not working for us and most definitely not prepared to listen either!


When I asked what sort of things had been loaded into the costs for operating CPZs I was told that they not only guessed the proportions of the overall parking costs to apply to CPZ in the outrageous and unrealistic way indicated in the opening summary, but they lumped in chunks of library operating costs and disproportionate amounts for building maintenance. Not once could they refer to documentation to substantiate their figures because Bexley council had failed at the first hurdle, there is no accounting code for CPZs. Councillor Craske couldn’t tell the truth because he doesn’t have a clue what the truth is. Telling residents that they must pay more for Parking Permits because the cross-subsidies must be stopped when the truth is totally different, is exactly what you might expect from a council that elected Ian Clement to be their leader and without exception never noticed the financial abuses going on right under their noses.

If when paying £100 for your next Parking Permit you feel you are being cheated by a council not untainted by fraud then you will have the consolation of knowing that your grasp of accounting is on an altogether higher plane than councillor Peter Craske’s.

† From 4th to 29th July councils had a statutory obligation to open their accounts for inspection.

 

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